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Everything posted by Neil

  1. The weather forecast was of intense interest the night before and the morning of this hike. We had settled on Whiteface-Esther and Morgan as a good foul weather hike. Indeed for Project 46 Glen, Geoff and I did Giant-RPR in the morning of a foul weather day followed by WF-E and it was an excellent combo. At 8am (leisurely start time!) we began working our way up the 800 foot ascent of the old Marble Mountain ski lift “trail” In warm but damp weather. No rain yet and we were down to base layers pretty quickly until close to the Esther junction. We were going at a 100-peak pace and I was mindful to never feel like I was straining. This allowed for a rate of ascent of 30 feet per minute according to my altimeter, plenty fast to get the job done and yet slow enough preserve precious muscle glycogen. At this rate we made Whiteface mountain in two hours and fifty minutes, the final 500 vertical feet after the road were done in a whiteout with rain lashing at our faces. The snow was quite heavy and we switched leads often. No time was wasted on the wind-blasted summit and when we got back at the Wilmington turn wall, we put our packs back on, swapped out wet mitts etc. and strolled over to the Esther junction where we shed our burdens and enjoyed a relaxed out and back. The rain was light but never let up. We were back at the car after five hours and forty five minutes. It took a full hour to do a complete change of clothes, including socks and begin trudging up the trail towards Morgan Mountain. The trail nearly climbs the peak and we were 185 meters from the summit (gps verified) when we donned (still unlit) headlamps and dropped our packs. The rain had switched to (fairly dry) snow and it was a somewhat magical bushwhack to the summit in rapidly fading daylight. The snow was a foot deep and quite wet. The shoes hit bottom and had excellent traction. We were back on the trail before the headlamp hour (days must be getting longer!) and the snow was coming down pretty good. But, it was only after we had switched the lamps on that we realized just how hard we were getting pounded. It was a very slow and slippery drive down the hill to Wilmington where it was raining. Back at “Scooterville” Glen and I both felt that Project-100 was off to an excellent start. I am indeed lucky to have great hiking partners. It's not easy to find people who cheerfully put on a headlamp at sunset after a day of hiking in the rain and begin a bushwhack just as the rain turns to snow.
  2. A gang of hiking friends on Killburn, #100. If I was lucky enough to succeed with my recent hiking project it was because the task was lightened by many pairs of hands (and legs!). I often felt as though I was being carried on the shoulders of an entire community of hikers. Many of which were better and more knowledgeable hikers than myself. The project would never have gotten beyond the dreaming stages had it not been for Sylvie Cartier, my wife, who agreed to live through nearly nine months of it. When I broached the subject, she knew exactly what the impact on her life would be but rallied to the idea and was nothing but supportive. We found some compromise in going camping regularly and doing some hikes together. Our summer vacation was a hiking trip! We camped often in the Adirondacks and hiked some days together and on others she caught up with her work in the library and followed me on my Spot device while I trained. hikes. Without her uncomplaining accommodation, sacrifice and unwavering support the project would never have happened. Thank you Sylvie! I don’t believe the project would have succeeded had it not been for Tom Haskins and Doreen Heer, who opened not just their home, but also their hearts to me and Project-100. I didn’t just sleep at the Loft but completely invaded their space and used it as my own as often as 4 nights per week. Some of my hiking partners slept on their kitchen floor, used the shower, got fed and in general were made to feel right at home. It was obvious they were always cheering for me and were generous in so many ways. My pain was their pain and my joys and triumphs they shared. They were unhesitatingly generous and enthusiastic all through the project, including the long preparatory phase. They supported me totally, whether it was preparing a hot supper, loaning me gear, reminding me to call Sylvie when I got back from a hike, motivating me and dispensing counsel and opinions regarding my peak groupings. It felt as if they were every bit as invested in the project as I was. Tom pushed me when I needed pushing and was quick to bust on me jokingly when he thought I was slacking off. I can never come close to thanking you two great people enough! In the earliest stages of my planning I sent countless messages to Spencer Morrissey asking him for information regarding many of the bushwhack peaks. Route ideas, approaches and permissions to hike on private property were well-informed by Spencer who never failed to respond to, yet another, of my requests. Here’s to you Spencer, fountain of Lower 54 knowledge and hiker extraordinaire! Tom Haskins was also big help in the planning, both pre-project and during it. He is one of the few who have done a HH-Winter round and did the entire Lower 54 with Pinpin in a single winter of 2001-02. I picked his brain every time I saw him and often by e-mail. Many of the routes I used were informed by Tom. During the project he kept a very close eye on the weather forecast and made excellent suggestions that helped me match the immediate hiking objectives with the conditions. Thanks again, buddy! I also leaned on Taras Dejneka (Trail Boss) and his high level of competence of mapping and use of satellite imagery to inform my route choices. I would send him an info request and in very short order he would e-mail links to imagery, and his commentary of the information they contained. Also, he and I have done a considerable number of Lower 54 peaks together and he sent me all the track logs he had recorded. Taras was always very generous with his time and efforts. Thank you Taras! Also, thank-you Charles Langlois for sending me the Elk Lake and other tracks as well as the time spent in helping me choose a new GPS. When I re-visited many of the Lower 54 peaks I had only done once or not for a long time I had the pleasure of making a new friend in Lucas Labarre, who proved to be a very strong and enthusiastic hiker and an excellent off-trail navigator. Luc and I did a number of exploratory hikes together and he was always generous in letting me decide where and when. During the project itself Luc was a beast when it came to breaking trail and navigating. He did Saddleback-Jay, Wallface-McNaughton as well as Phelps, Tabletop and TR Mountain with me. Also, while I was recovering from two extremely hard days of hiking he broke out Willmington, which I vultured the very next day! Thanks Luc! Glen Bladholm has for more than a decade been a staunch hiking ally for all of my hiking projects, be they big ones like this or day-hikes. His enthusiasm never wains and no matter how grueling and never-ending some of our days have turned out be, he always remains upbeat. Glen has been a mentor and my principle source of inspiration and knowledge ever since we met. Some of his areas of expertise that he has selflessly and copiously shared with me over the years include training, nutrition, navigation and of course gear. Glen’s knowledge of the High Peaks and the outdoors in general results from greater than 25 years of steady and frequent visits to the Adirondacks. Glen was all over Project-100. After our off-trail exploration hikes he would send me many maps on which he drew ways in which we might want to tweak the route we had followed. He even found gear for me and sent me the links. Glen was there for the opening two days, which included a rainy second day doing Whiteface, Esther and Morgan. He kept saying what a great cool-down hike it was after a tough first day. He was there for Dial, Nippletop, Colvin and Blake in spite of a major blizzard being forecast, he broke out Couch from Times Square while we were doing Henderson and came back for more punishment for Little Santanoni and Santanoni on what turned out to be a long and tiring day. Thanks Glen, for so much! Joe Bogardus has always been a solid help. Besides sharing his vast store of distance and elevation data Joe regularly sent me conditions reports of his own hikes while he did his 9th consecutive single season winter 46 round. Joe hiked more of the 100 with me this winter than anyone (18 peaks I believe) and I benefited greatly from his vast experience especially in the Dix and Seward Ranges. Joe also accompanied me on some bushwhacks, including the surprisingly tough Lost Pond Peak and the monumental Sawtooths 4 and 2. It seems it was almost always very cold when Joe came with me, including the -30F start for Redfield, Cliff and Colden! I can’t thank you enough Joe! Alistair Fraser and I go back a long ways and were Adirondack newbies together, learning at the school of hard knocks. He made sacrifices to help me and was with me for 15 peaks, including the Giant Mountain Rescue episode and the incredibly tough North River. On several days I watched him give of himself selflessly as gave everything he had to helping me reach my goal. Thanks for all of that and much more Alistair! Marie-Josée Ouellet gets a special mention for her humor and unceasingly up-beat presence and support of Project-100. MJO is a moderator on the French hiking forum, Fousderando, and she plugged the Project on the forum continuously. She was with me on some of the most brutal off-trail hikes and no matter how dire things looked, or how thick the woods late in the day with the summit still not in sight, she never uttered a discouraging word. She also posted some of the most entertaining trip reports I have ever read. MJO shared 15 peaks (12 whacks) with Project-100. Marie-Josée orchestrated the Fishing Brook hike with the “Verbies” and Spike from Fousderando. She knew how tired I would be after North River and suggested I sleep in and start late. I caught up with them on the summit of FB-2. They had broken trail in deep snow for several miles and all Sean and I had to do was leisurely follow it until we caught up. It was thanks to this effort that I was able to finish on Sunday with great company. Un très grand merci à toi Marie-Jo! Jean Roy was a powerhouse on the hikes he joined me on. He is a perfect example of what I said in the introductory paragraph of feeling like I was riding on the shoulders of a community of hikers. He was often on the same hikes as MJO and when I knew I had those two on my team I got a huge boost in my confidence and felt like anything was possible. On more than one occasion when I was waning I hung back and let Jean lead the way up through difficult terrain. I observed his methods and once I had rested, took my turn on point with renewed vigor. Jean was with me on 15 peaks, nearly all bushwhacks, Merci infiniment Jean! Sean (autochromatica) Carpenter put me up in Mercy Cabin for a few nights and was a very willing partner when we did the Lower Great Range in sub-zero weather. That early hike (peaks 9-13) was an eye-opener that made me realize that this Project was going to be very, very tough and that either I rise to the occasion or fold my tent and go home. Besides being extremely cold we broke trail through very deep and completely unconsolidated snow. But, the crux of the day came at the ladder on Armstrong, beside which were ascending. Without Sean’s heroic efforts in the freezing cold helping me at that section I have no idea how I would have gotten up it. What a great day that was! Sean helped break trail up Wallface and he also accompanied me and set the pace in the Fishing Brook Range the day after the North River suffer-fest. Thanks Sean, looking forward to our next hike! (nice eyes by the way!) Julie Chevalier who I have hiked with going back more than ten years was an excellent partner for Avalanche. That proved to be a colossal bushwhack where it took us two and a half hours to go a quarter mile!! She smiled the whole way, just like in the picture. Nancy Labaff who has always been a big supporter of the ADK High Peaks Foundation is no stranger to tough hikes. A huge favor, she and Claudia Warren with friends, broke out McNaughton for me from Upper Works. This was so awesome! Luc Labarre, Sean Carpenter and I first did Wallface following in their footsteps to the low point between the peaks. After our challenging hike of WF we were treated to a well-packed and broken trail to the top of McNaughton. Nancy came with me on Lost Pond Peak and most notably she joined me for the 3 Elk Lake peaks, whose combined distance and elevation were equal to Allen! For everything, thank-you Nancy! I wanted to hike alone as little as possible for safety, company and trail-breaking reasons. Many other people joined me on hikes and whenever I was organizing a weekend and someone communicated to me that they were available it gave me a boost. Brian Merriam joined me on several peaks, including Saddleback, Jay, Lost Pond Peak, Calamity, Adams, Panther, Buell and Brown Pond. Bill Brizell helped Glen and I break out the Santanoni direct, hiked the Dixes, Blue and Panther, Buell, Brown Pond with me. Christina Nash brought her cheerful self to Calamity, Matt Marsh was a huge help in the McIntyre Range, especially on Marshall. Maude Langlois was a strong partner on a tough hike of Gray, Skylight and Marcy. Butch Braun and Mike Spranger came on the Twin Blue Ridges (90 and 99). Cory Delavalle was a great route finder for Blue Ridge-Hoffman as well as the Twin Blues and surprised us all when he ran up Killburn in just over an hour to join the party. I know David Gomlak would have loved to get out on the project more but he had a very full plate this winter. He was on the opener of Moose and McKenzie and on the roughest hike of them all – Stewart and Sentinel. I was very glad to have Kevin “Mudrat” MacKenzie and Allan Weschler as partners for Haystack, Basin and Saddleback on a very icy route. (Thanks for the lift Allan!). I finally got to meet Adam Crofoot who joined me for a very wet hike of Averill. Adam refused to let me break trail on the short but soggy bushwhack from the tower to the summit, he said he was going to be riding the ski lift the next day while I was hiking. I didn’t argue! Last but not least Thomas Penders was a bull on Saddleback-Jay. Tom would have been on many more hikes and I was very sorry to lose him when he was sidelined by surgery. To all of my partners, thank you from the heart! On the technical side Geoff Day came up with and implemented excellent ideas for allowing people (and myself) to follow my progress. I consulted the peak progress map dozens of times over the winter as the red balloons gradually turned to green! The routes map idea with the drop-down menu was perfect! Geoff also put a nifty map together that shows the peaks as they change color one by one in the order I did them. Thanks Geoff! Craig Joseph volunteered to take care of the blog and post links to it on Facebook and the forum. I sent him raw text, Tom Haskins uploaded my day’s pictures to Dropbox and with those materials Craig put the blog posts together. Craig was extremely helpful and willing to do whatever it took to get the word out. The fund-raising arm of the project was totally dependent on Craig’s behind-the-scenes efforts. A huge thank-you goes out to Craig for his consistent and always rapidly executed efforts. Of course without Jack Coleman there would be no Foundation. Jack has been the Foundation’s backbone now for years and has run the fund-raising arm of all three of my projects, which includes sending tax receipts to all who donated, compiling the statistics and appraising me regularly of the results. Jack (and Craig) read the drafts of everything I wrote that was related to the Project. This included everything from short permission requests to the LOCALadk article. They always made suggestions for improvements. Jack has always been my go-to person whenever I need to get feed-back for some idea I might have cooked up. Thanks Jack for being so solid over the years. And now a very special thanks to Sam Perkins, who I met by chance on Catamount Peak in the fall of 2017. He decided to make Killburn his gift to me and spent 9 ½ hours breaking it out all alone after a two-foot snowfall. I was flabbergasted by his generosity! I felt that his gesture epitomized the team effort I had hoped for when I first planned the project. He opened a beautiful route and it was obvious that he had worked very, very hard. His efforts made it possible for me to finish in grand style and I will never forget what he did. Thank you Sam, very , very much! Finally, although I have done so privately, I thank again here all those wonderful people who encouraged me by making donations to the Foundation. We raised greater than $6000, which will keep the Foundation afloat for another year!
  3. The Sentinel Wilderness Unit houses 5 Hundred Highest Peaks. Pitchoff is the only trailed peak and I did it on my first day for peak number 3. This map shows the Unit quite clearly. We started the hike of Stewart a bit late due to human (ie. me) error in setting the alram clock. However, the extra hour’s sleep after a 12h30m hike in the Santanoni Range was salutary. At low elevation the going was quite easy through hardwood forests. Just when we crossed onto state land we saw a hunting blind. The owner had sawed off about 100 trees in the immediate vicinity, I imagine to create shooting lanes and encourage the growth of browse. We followed a compass bearing and came upon an old logging road that appeared well-maintained. The road followed a drainage and followed our compass bearing exactly. Then it stopped suddenly and we bushwhacked to the summit of Stewart through mostly open woods. Near the end it became very steep and David did a fantastic job of showing Jean and I how it’s done. We wandered a bit on the summit looking for the letter S carved into a tree and then I looked up and saw I was standing right next to it. Our next goal was a col 500 vertical feet below down across moderate slopes with the occasional steep drop. It did not go as easily as the appearance of the terrain suggested it should have. This was due to a very hard crust of ice under ball-bearing snow. We took turns going sprawling. Getting a grip (pun intended) was difficult. One of us swore copiously and with great acoustic volume. I began to re-consider my route plan to Sentinel, which involved a mile of steep side-hilling under the Sentinel’s NW ridge. I have drawn my originally intended route on this map. I had done this side-hilling in the opposite direction in summer and I remembered it as being very steep. Just as we began to round the ridge I conferred with Jean and we decided to go up onto the crest of the ridge and take our chances with it. On the map it looks like a good route but in reality I knew it could be very bad. Up on the crest we were exposed to very cold and insistent winds. Throughout most of the distance the woods were fairly open but the tight areas were brutal. We were very cold and wet and the wind was cruel. In spite of having dry changes of clothing we didn’t stop to change because doing so would have meant exposing ourselves to the cold winds. So, we kept pressing on. If one was in the lead he managed to keep ahead of feeling hypothermic but in 2nd position it was colder. We had to stop often to verify our navigation and make route choices (the ridge is not an obvious knife-edge) and ensure we were taking the best lines. At these times we immediately began shivering hard, too hard, but we preferred pushing on at the edge to changing clothes. I kept a sharp eye on myself and my mental faculties and asked Jean how he was doing regularly. David, whenever I checked him was his usual self. Topo looked quite green. We were aiming for a mini-col to the immediate NW of Sentinel. Near the col the woods opened right up and being in the lead, I charged through at high speed. But, when I stopped and verified my compass I saw I had unwittingly veered about 150 degrees off-course in less than 5 minutes! I believe it when I read that there is no such thing as a “sense of direction”. We had no choice but to turn towards the thick woods and tangled blowdown and expose ourselves to those bitter winds. And the wind was very strong now funneling through the col. The final couple hundred yards required a lot of intense focus, patience and extremely hard work through hallmark ADK cripplebrush. David asked me if this was in my top ten of difficult hikes. I didn’t respond but had long since considered it to be the toughest hike I have ever done. We finally made the summit and saw the sign but did not break stride. The woods opened right up and the wind was at our backs. We made 500 meters fairly quickly but I made a wrong turn (I was paranoid of “falling” off the ridge) and we descended something wicked steep and David nearly bought the farm. I called out, “don’t go down there as he was lying on his back, sliding feet downhill towards a 10 foot vertical drop and yelling to me, “I’m trying REAL hard not too”. Straight ahead I knew we would run into cliffs and so I led us downhill to the south and then I decided to curl northward under the cliffs and set us up to descend towards the ridge that leads to the Cobble. Well, I curled too early and we ended up descending the valley to the immediate north of the Cobble ridge. This turned out for the best (once the guys got me to accept it) and we had about 2 miles of easy trudging through wide open hardwoods sloping gently downhill to Bartlett Road. When we paused to put our headlamps on I finally changed into a dry base layer shirt, put on my puffy jacket, a dry shell, new mitts and shell mitts and one more hat. It felt incredibly good and I mentally castigated myself for not having done so 2 hours earlier. David’s presence of mind and 2 bars of cell signal resulted in Tmax picking us up on Bartlett Road and delivering us to our vehicles. While waiting for her I privately mused that I had 5 peaks still to do. Me two days later on the summit of Wilmington (96). Very mellow hike following Luc Labarre’s broken trail!
  4. I had no idea what to expect regarding snow conditions. The temps were hitting the upper 50's all week and I was worried about overly soft snow. So, I chose a safe gamble thinking I could handle whatever Elk Lake threw at me. I recruited Nancy Labaff as a heavy-weight trail-breaker and at 6:00 I pulled in to Clear Pond. She was already there and in short order we were set to go. I had a friend's track log for Boreas, which I've done twice but never by the trail. I noticed that instead of going a 1.5 mi north then south we could cut directly across the brook and pick up the same trail with less than .5 mi of bushwhacking. Well the brook was swift, dark and deep and we wasted time looking for a crossing before going back out to the Elk Lake Road and following the track log across a 20T bridge. Boreas was a gentle, easy hike on very supportive snow all the way. We had superb views of the Dix Range before heading for Wolf Pond Peak. There was no snow on the ground, just icy moss, for about 400 feet of descent and then there was hard, crusty snow all the way to WP. We dropped packs in the col and after picking then up again we headed east and quickly entered an area that had been logged. This gave us spectacular views of Nippletop and the Dix Range from a unique perspective. We finished the day with Sunrise Peak and back at Clear Pond Nancy remarked that her wrist computer showed we had logged 19 miles. So, we had hiked the equivalent of Allen in both distance and elevation gain. 02/23/2018 - Boreas, Wolf Pond, & Sunrise Mtns - Start: 8:03 AM Finish: 4:54 PM
  5. Neil

    Calamity, Adams Mtn's

    Figuring this project out as I go along is like trying to fit 100 mosaic pieces into a whole. The best fit is constantly shifting and as you go, there are less and less pieces left over. You are continuously faced with a brand new mosaic to create. Day 1: Calamity and Adams. 01/19/2018 – Calamity Mountain – Start: 7:46 AM Finish: 1:34 PM I chose Calamity to kick things off because I was interested in Cheney Cobble and North River, which are close by and which would have similar snow conditions. I was interested in CC-NR because I had very strong and enthusiastic partners lined up and the conditions were looking good. Christina and Brian joined me for Calamity and it turned out to be a really easy, text-book whack. Of interest was the ¼ inch thick layer of blue ice on the snow-pack above 3200 feet. It was just right for a whack! 01/19/2018 – Mount Adams – Start: 1:54 PM Finish: 4:58 PM Adams I chose because it was close by. I eschewed the whack across from Cal to Adams in order to save time and energy. I’ve done it by 5 different routes and four were very, very hard. The easiest was done on a 5-foot snow pack. The snow isn’t deep enough right now. The round-trip via the regular trail took 3 hours including a 20 minute stop on the summit. I was happy to note that I was ascending at 30 feet per minute, breathing comfortably through my nose and feeling no effort whatsoever.
  6. Neil

    Cheney-North River.

    Day 2: Cheney-North River. 01/20/2018 – Cheney Cobble – Start: 6:30 AM Finish: 5:49 PM Jean, MJO and I were underway just before 7 and snowshoed on level ground for 3 hours prior to commencing the bushwhack up the north side of Cheney. As anticipated, the snow was firm (pretty much perfect) and up to about 900 meters elevation the woods were open. Then it got both very steep and very thick. As we homed in on the summit it grew extremely steep and we got cliffed out, back-tracked a bit and then Jean threaded the needle up through very steep terrain alongside cliffs that were plastered in yellow ice. The wind was ferocious and of course we were all soaking wet and the only way to keep warm was by exerting oneself very strenuously. It was noon! Exactly the time I wanted to be there. More importantly, I wanted to be in the CC-NR col no later than 2pm. so off we went. We decided to try and take an easier route down but the only other one I knew (from a scouting trip with Trail Boss in May, ’17) had a steep crux that turned out to be filled with ice. Long story short: we got cliffed out and had to re-climb steep terrain and lost a full hour. North River now had a question mark hanging over it. All the while the wind cut at us and we were cold. Our mental energy was definitely taking a hit but with self-imposed discipline we calmly ignored the cold as best we could and continued to stop and check the map and compass and also, from time to time, MJO’s Gaia map on her phone. It wasn’t easy! My GPS went kaput earlier during the day and using map and compass was decidedly slower work than navigating by GPS. MJO’s Gaea map was a very welcome back-up even if there was no tracklog in it. It was of paramount importance that we miss the cliffs that line the col by deviating north and this we managed to do. But, getting across the saddle to the SW shoulder of Cheney was a slow business and the wicked cold wind kept doing it’s work on us. Finally, we were lined up perfectly above the col and here the wind had died down. But, to our surprise the snow was completely unconsolidated on this side of the mountain. We fell continuously into spruce traps and when we didn’t the footing was treacherous and required tremendous muscle power. When Trail Boss and I ascended the same flank he said it was soul-destroying it was so thick. I looked at the time: 2:30 and were were still well above the col and our physical and mental resources were dwindling rapidly, including the remaining daylight. We were at a critical juncture and but making the turn away from the col down towards our inbound track 600 vertical feet below us was easy to do even if I knew I had just burned an eleven hour day. Getting down those 600 feet turned out to be a major struggle through thick woods and deep snow. Had we done NR and departed the col at 4pm, say, the exit would have been very interesting. Earlier on, while dodging cliffs on CC, I had said, “if we do NR I’m not doing Wallface tomorrow”. Again, the shifting mosaic pieces where every hike influences every hike. We got back to the car and between Lake Jimmy (gorgeous views!) and the Hudson I remarked that I felt pretty good, this was no death march. It was an eleven hour day and before parting ways we sat in my car and drank beer, ate chips and reveled in the heat and companionship of the trail. It had been a good fight.
  7. Neil

    MacNaughton & Wallface Mountains

    Day 3 Wallface-McNaughton 01/21/2018 – MacNaughton & Wallface Mountains – Start: 7:09 AM Finish: 6:49 PM Crossing Henderson Lake early in the morning was a special treat and I studied my previous (4!) routes up Henderson Mountain as we tramped along. I was feeling pretty tense after yesterday’s hike and inwardly fretted over how things would pan out once we got to the sharp end. I had “fresh horses” with me and both Luc La Barre and “autochromatica” are Clydesdales when it comes to pulling a heavy load. My legs were feeling heavy and I kept a medium pace as I warmed up. While I had been toiling away in the North River Range Nancy Labaff and her team of 6 (en route to a successful ascent of McNaughton) had hiked up the drainage that runs down from Wallface Ponds. As in, right in the drainage! I would never have thought of that and without their tracks would not have had the guts, having broken through ice into cold water on several occasions in my time. However, the 500-foot ascent was smoothly although there were three steep pitches up some blue-ish ice that I knew I would not be descending late in the day. Once at the vly at 800 meters elevation we made a decision we were very happy to have made. Remembering Tom Haskins’ advice, we chose the hardest peak first: Wallface. McNaughton is 300 feet higher but a team of six had gone up and down it so we could do it in the dark if need ever be. If you look at a map you will notice this very steep band https://mapper.acme.com/?ll=44.13745,-74.04516&z=15&t=T&marker0=44.13745%2C-74.04516%2C3.0%20km%20WxNW%20of%20MacIntyre%20Mountains%20NY right here. Ascending that was a combination of sustained mental will spiced with masochism and when we finally got above it the woods were so thick we could barely move. But, we moved left and found the open woods I remembered from previous forays. The ascent, while steep and demanding was going very well until we experienced a major gear failure. One of Sean’s snowshoe pivots broke. I got out a handful of tie-wraps and we improvised a quick repair job that I thought would get him to the summit and back down. Tie wrap repair jobs have a tendency to be short-lived. When we arrived at the summit we discovered that a 100 foot diameter clear-cut had been made. The summit rock was thus really easy to find. The clear-cut was made during a recent search for a missing hiker. I have to say, the views from the summit are such that before long Wallface will have a herd path going right up it. The ascent took 2h30 mins and the return trip to the vly: 60 minutes including a lengthy stop to properly patch up Sean’s snowshoe harness with a 6 foot length of shoe-lace. Next up: McNaughton. We of course followed Team Nancy’s tracks from the day before and we positively marveled at the work they had done. Our appreciation was particularly acute given that we had just done the same thing on Wallface. We were thus able to read their thought processes and route-finding decisions all the way along. It must have been crushingly difficult but then again, so was Wallface! From vly to summit took us 1h45 and on the summit I put on a dry base-layer shirt and then I threw my puffy jacket and down parka on with fresh mittens! Whoa! Serious bliss right there! It was now 3pm. I got the feeling that our outing was beginning to look like a study in gear depletion as I piled soaking wet clothing into my pack. I had hung my sopping shell up on the summit sign and when I put it back on it was glazed over with ice. I was cold everywhere when we left the summit and I said to Luc, “we want to go down very carefully and safely”. He totally got that and the descent went very well, much better than we anticipated. We were back at the vly at 4 and all we had left to do was hike out for 3 hours. The smartest move of the exit was to make a rest stop at the Wallface Lean-to and swap out wet socks for dry. The “ice-fall” descent of the creek went well but we detoured two of the steep pitches. The detours in the open woods on firm snow were very easy. Lake Henderson in the pitch black night (as verified by shutting off the headlamps) was an interesting experience in sensory deprivation where 30 minutes felt like 60. Getting to the car was fantastic but crawling into bed after a supper of bacon and eggs at Mercy Cabin was pure heaven. Sleep came quickly and was very deep. With one month out of three gone 41 peaks are over my shoulder.
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