The forecast was calling for rain and temps in the low 40's. Santa was not broken out and Henderson gave us a small sampling of what to expect whacking to L. Santa. I had a reduced team (MJO and Mayasoleil were my fresh horses from Quebec) holed up in a motel in Schroon Lake and Alistair was too beat up to join us. I made the call (ie. a phone call) and informed my, now two only, partners that the Santas were out, MSG was in. This would normally be an “easy out”, which was good because, thanks to Marshall, I was feeling the previous 2 days a fair bit. Turned out to be really hard due to cling-on snow that piled up thickly under our snowshoes. After Gray and Skylight we crossed Marcy in incredible conditions but we were totally prepared and loaded. Visibility was the poorest I've ever done it in. Wind was about 40 mph. and freezing rain drove at us sideways. Our worst-case scenario was to use recorded tracklogs to go back to 4 Corners and exit via Lake Arnold.
We navigated with a cell phone and not one but two gps's. Mine has become unreliable and a new one is on order so I carried a spare from Tom. But the best tools were my memory and my compass. The descent of the Van Ho was mentally very sketchy in the roaring wind. We only saw the first two cairns so we stopped regularly and I verified my gps, got bearings from projecting the cursor and followed the compass. Some familiar landmarks were familiar and we saw a paint blaze through some ice. Below the cone we picked up a ski trail that dead-ended in the gully and with relief followed it to the Phelps junction.
The rest was a long, long walk. We were soaking-wet and our packs weighed a ton with sopping wet gear that we had shed continuously and strategically as we progressed throughout our day. In falling darkness and clearing skies the wind positively roared as we walked out from Marcy Dam. I kept checking the tree-tops for signs of snapping trunks but no such worries came about.
Marie-Josée and Maude were awesome partners as were Alistair, Glen, Jean and Matt. In fact, one of the best things about this project is all the amazing hiking partners I've been blessed with so far.