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Neil

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Everything posted by Neil

  1. It all started Thursday morning at 3:30 am when my alarm went off at home in Laval. By 7:30 Joe and I began the long approach to Saw-4. It was 0 degrees and would never get any warmer all day. The approach I used from Averyville is long and very pleasant with no issues, no thick areas. The first 90 minutes are on the Pine Pond Rd. and an old woods road, which ends at a lumber camp. Joe and I hiked at my 100 peak pace, knowing I would be hiking on the morrow as well. Our goal was to do 4 and 2 for sure and see about 1. Near the end of my route you ascend south towards the 4-2 col along a drainage and then make a sharp turn west towards the summit. We were able to save time and energy by walking directly on the frozen surface of the drainage for a lengthy spell. The ice was very thick. We made the turn and gradually the slope became steeper and steeper. At about 3100' where the slope becomes very steep we dropped our packs. I have a string of waypoints for this final section and whenever I use it the way is surprisingly clear. Whenever I don't the route is a difficult time and energy sink. I kept calling out the bearing changes to Joe who would stop and dial the new bearing into his compass. It took us 6 hours to make it to the top and observed aloud that my best time was 4h30. The descent to our packs was very quick of course and the walk to my favorite campsite in the 4-2 col was pretty quick too. We already knew that Saw-1 wasn't happening and this relieved some pressure. I had us ascending 2 a bit too far to the left and we encountered a series of cliffs until I had us deviate further right and from there on in it was just steep. However the cold played on us and keeping it all together in such rugged and forbidding surroundings was key. You looked up and saw a massive wall of granite plastered in tannin-stained vertical ice. Then you looked up even higher and saw frost-encrusted trees branches in the wind and you knew you had to find a way up. Joe really needed to see the summit saddle blowdown field so we took a look at it before scuttling down to the east side and side-hilling then climbing steep slopes to where you turn for the true summit bump. Once again we left the packs and the final bit was straight up and grueling in the extreme. The wind was bone-chilling and when Joe asked if I wanted a picture I said “no, it's too cold” and down we went. It was 4:30 and daylight was fading. My brain knew just how beautiful the view was but this wasn't the time to sit back and enjoy it. I had the route from 2 to 1 in my gps but not the route we would be taking to pick up our inbound trail, some 2.5 miles distant. This made the navigating a bit more fastidious but I could look at the paper map, project the gps cursor in the general direction we needed to go and then we used our compasses to hike in a straight line. It wasn't dark yet so we could also use the surrounding ridges as landmarks until it became pitch dark. Luckily, we had open woods the entire way and the headlamps easily picked out the open lanes. Whoever was in front checked their compass nearly every minute and I would check the gps and map every 10 minutes or so. We were happy to (finally!) step onto our inbound tracks and turn our navigating brains to the off position. It was -9F back at the car. Total time was 13 hours and change. I did not open my pack once all day. Didn't change any of my clothes, did not drink any water at all and only ate the food that was in my jacket pocket. I never felt thirsty all day long. The coldest part of the day was the drive back to 'Scoots where Jean and MJO had been following the Spot. I got in at 9:30 and once I was wearing dry clothes, and while I was feeding we discussed the plan for the rest of the Sawtooths. Pictures 02/02/2018 – Sawtooth #4 & #2 – Start: 7:46 AM Finish: 8:35 PM Wake-up was at 4:30 and we began hiking from Averyville at 6:18 on the button. Took us 2 hours 30 minutes via the “Old NPT” to get to the lean-to at Moose Pond and another hour finding and losing the trail south to our jump-off point. We walked right on the creek for about .5 miles and then we entered the woods and began what started as an easy ascent through open woods with firm footing. That ended abruptly and I believe it took us over an hour to cover a half-mile to the summit due to steep slopes combined with thick woods and less than ideal snow conditions. It was past noon when we departed the summit and descended the steeps slopes of #3. Route picking was a constant challenge and all 3 of us participated whether we were in the lead position or at the back. The ascent of #5 is only 600 feet but it is very steep and it really kicked my butt. We stopped on top for 10 minutes for food and pictures and I was so cold I had to get out of there and move as fast as possible through the deep snow to the low point. Just before our departure Jean said 2:30pm. We had both hoped for 2pm. Sawtooth #1 was still a long way away. It would probably be dark when we summited. We found a drainage we could walk in and it was going our way so we followed it until it became too narrow. We entered the open vly at the 2-1 col and walked along the east side. I was now checking the gps frequently and calling out compass bearings. We walked north until about even with the summit and then, following crucial waypoints I have painfully collected over the years, we circumnavigated the summit in an ascending arc. It was crucial that we avoid the cliff route, which would be solid ice, and that we avoid the “evil gully”. The ascending was extremely difficult and the wind blew very cold. We were rotating leads frequently. We arrived right at the head of the “evil gully”, saw the cliffs we had avoided studiously and I had Marie-Josée, who was leading, side-hill until past the gully and then the rubber really hit the road. We could see the summit bloc and in fading daylight with the wind blowing through us we looked way, way up and saw the snow-encased trees waving to and fro. The summit looked straight up above us. The slopes were ice-caked in many places there were steep channels of snow . It was intimidatingly steep and the cold wind sawed at us relentlessly. Long story short, we made the summit, M-J took a selfie of us next to the sign and then we got the Hell out of there. Following our tracks we got down the steepest section to our exit point in no time. It was about there that the battery case of my gps sprung open and the unit itself went flying into the snow while the battery cover dangled uselessly at the end of the lanyard. I found the unit, without its (white) batteries and Jean had a fresh set of Lithium batteries out in less than a minute. Then it was down, down, down through open woods and soft snow along a bearing that would serve us well for hours to come. The headlamps in the not-quite-totally-dark woods picked out the openings and we made excellent time until we hit wall after wall of very thick woods. We tried deviating but finally decided to push through along our compass bearing. After 30 very slow minutes we hit open woods again, which followed all the way out to Joe and my trail on the Old Woods Road from the night before. The night was jet black but we could see near-by treetops looming out of the sky. Back at the car I couldn't believe it when I saw the time. We had been out for 14 hours barely stopping, never sitting down and fighting the cold while expending energy continuously. When I finally lay my body down to rest and my head hit the pillow relief and contentment passed through me like a wave. 02/03/2018 – Sawtooth #3, #5, #1 – Start: 6:12 AM Finish: 9:40 PM
  2. The next morning found me all alone at about 6:45 crunching loudly on the ice of Big Slide. On the exposed parts of the Brothers the rock was mostly bare as I expected and past the Brothers the ice had given way to packed snow over a base of ice and this was great. I took tons of pictures of undercast and partially shrouded summits. I hung out on the summit for a while sipping hot tea and nibbling on biscuits and chocolate taking more pictures. The descent was very fast (90 minutes) and back at 'Scoots we popped the card into the TV and had an instant replay of my hike! Big Slide put me at 50 peaks but I estimate only 40% of the work is done. This project is one of the most amazing things I have ever done. So many experiences have been packed tightly into so few weeks. So many great people have hiked with me. The outcome is always in doubt but I'm inspired and motivated to succeed. Pictures Start: 7:00 AM Finish: 11:11 AM
  3. At 6:30 we bare-booted up the North Trail over the little col at Owl's Head Lookout and paused for some awesome (hopefully!) pictures before trudging for miles uphill to our pre-determined jump-off point for Green. We had already ascended about 1500 feet total and Green stood about 1200 feet above us. Glen Bladholm (mastergrasshopper on the forum) and I had hiked Green end to end from Owl's Head and had nailed a beautiful descent (thanks TCD for the beta!) free of cliffs and thick vegetation. I had this route recorded in my GPS and we followed it up painlessly and in a twinkling were back down on the trail. Initially I had thought we would exit those same 5-6 miles and drive around to Chapel Pond but at the last minute before heading out the door we decided to spot a car at Chapel Pond. So, we decided to press on and try our luck with the untravelled North Trail up Giant approximately 1700 feet above us. Turned out fantastic! With snowshoes on we never once broke through the crust and slowly and steadily made it to the top and then switched to crampons for the rest of the day. The out and back to RPR entailed another 1500 feet of elly gain, which we did slowly and steadily before donning our packs at the junction at 2:30 pm for an easy-peasy descent over packed snow that gave way to a river of ice that the K-10's killed in the afternoon sun that had softened the ice. The hike out was interrupted drastically when I witnessed a young woman falling down the ice and injuring her ankle. Full report of that incident is right here. Pictures Start: 6:20 AM Finish: 7:48 PM
  4. Start: 5:29 PM Finish: 8:26 PM I drove to Tom and Doreen's in Keene and quickly changed into dry clothing and jumped back into the car. At 5:30, with a 5-pound pack on my back I switched on my headlamp and spiked my way up and down Cascade and Porter over many gently-sloped ice flows. The summit of Cascade was very windy and cold. The views of the valley lights all a-twinkle was nice but I did not linger long to enjoy it.
  5. I had just spent 3 minutes hacking 2 feet of crusty snow off of a log away with my ax so Joe could boost me over it. There was no other way to go. The woods were very thick with tight, snow-encased spruce trees closing ranks and blowdown barred the alternative routes. This was supposed to be a smooth-sailing opening day of the weekend but Lost Pond Peak was totally kicking our butts. I knew I was draining the energy tank too early in the game but all I could do was focus on the present task and keep pushing onward and upward. Joe, Nancy and Brian were excellent trail partners, never complaining, always helping and taking turns on point. I have been up LPP at least 8 times by various routes and most of them have kicked my butt. This route was supposed to be an easy route that I had done 8 years ago but I didn't have a GPS with me to make a record of it. I was now suspecting that the previous route had been further over towards Street Mountain. Nothing to do but keep pushing. To boot, the crusty snow was very difficult and we back-slid and broke through a lot. Then at one point I began finding seam after seam and Joe said, « I don't know how long it will last Neil but I'll take it ». Things improved steadily and we made the summit uneventfully after a final steep push that got my heart rate into Zone 5 I'm sure. We had killer views from the viewing rock and could plainly see the new « bald spot » that had been clear-cut on Wallface for the rescue. It was cold up at 3900 feet elevation so we didn't bask in the sun but vamoosed out along our trail, which of course was much faster and looked very easy. Pictures
  6. The following is the report of the rescue that Alistair Fraser and I were involved in. Had we been 5 minutes further down the trail at the time of the accident the outcome would have been a lot different because the victim and her partner would have been the last people on the mountain. Alistair and I were descending the Ridge Trail on Giant after a very satisfying day. We had started at the Owl's Head Lookout trail-head on Rte. 9N and bushwhacked Green before ascending the north trail on Giant. We had completed the out and back to RPR by 2:30 and I was looking forward to an early finish. Friends of mine were staying at Mercy cabin and I was envisioning a post-hike visit with adult beverages. Then an early start for Henderson and the Santanoni Range the next day to cap off day three of a weekend. The trail was quite good higher up, packed snow over a hard ice foundation and we made excellent time on the descent. We were both wearing K-10 crampons, which bit into the ice wonderfully. Gradually, snow gave way to ice and the trail became a river of it but the K-10's kicked butt. I was glad not to be wearing microspikes or Hillsounds. Then, just below the upper switchback section I saw a massive and steep ice flow, which gave me pause. Alistair was about 5 minutes ahead of me because I kept stopping to take pictures. I decided to use a protruding and angled tree trunk as a step and very carefully began lowering my foot down on to it. I knew I must not miss that 4-inch trunk or I'd go sailing. There were two young women on the other side of the flow, maybe 15 feet away. They were descending extremely delicately and were about 10-15 feet above the actual trail having traversed the ice flow. The one lower down wore micro-spikes. Just as I was lowering myself onto that trunk the one in MSR snowshoes lost her footing, fell and began to slide. She was instantly moving as if she had been shot out of a gun. It was a terrible sight to witness. She shot across the trail and flipped over and went out of sight but the sound of her hurtling through the woods and her screams were horrifying. And then, all was deadly quiet. Fearing something very bad I moved across the trail until I was directly above her and she was lying perfectly still, head uphill, face down. Then she lifted her head and I could see she was shaking and crying softly. I instructed her friend to stay on the trail and using trees to hang onto I carefully lowered myself to her. I crouched beside her and began asking questions. She was fully conscious and after I introduced myself, explained I was a chiropractor with wilderness first aid training I noted the look of relief that flooded her face and then I went to work. The only pain she reported was in her left ankle. What a miracle! I got her pack off and handed it to Alistair who had bushwhacked up and across from the trail. Luckily he was within earshot when it happened. I removed her snowshoes and in a difficult setting summarily evaluated the ankle. It looked like a grade two sprain of the ligament(s) on the outside of the joint. However, besides pain when I passively stretched those ligaments she had pain upon resisted eversion and extreme tenderness over the end of her fibula. She might have had a fracture. I informed her of what I was finding but was also shooting the breeze about where she went to school, how many peaks she had done etc. and she was obviously 100% functioning at the brain level. In such a setting my favorite combined neurological and orthopedic test is to instruct the victim to get up. This she did and I put her snowshoes back on for stability. I informed her that depending upon her ability to bear weight we had various options that ranged from our assisting her in walking out (assisted self-evacuation) to being flown off the mountain. It took 5 minutes to go ten feet and I did what I could to keep that left ankle in eversion when she bore weight so as to keep the damaged ligaments slack. Whenever she put weight on it with the ligaments under even moderate tension she winced in great pain. At this point a walk-out was looking impossible so Alistair and I discussed deploying the SOS function on my Spot device. I went down to a flat area next to the trail where the victim's friend was now waiting and Alistair took over in walking the injured hiker down towards us. Daylight was fading. I was about to push the SOS button when I saw the friend was looking at her phone! This would be much, much better and I called 911, got patched through to the DEC dispatch and was able to explain the situation in detail. Help was on its way! I then phoned my wife and Tom Haskins to let them each know why my Spot track would not be moving for a while. I told the friend to put all her warm clothes on before she got cold (as opposed to after) and went back up to help Alistair who was doing a fantastic job. We got her down and sat her on a big fallen tree and immediately got busy gathering birch bark, dry pine snaps and pieced of dry wood. I cleared away a few inches of slushy snow down to the ice layer and placed several pieces of wood down for a dry foundation. The girls had dryer lint and I had several pieces of the same mixed with paraffin. Between that and the birch bark we soon had a cheerful and warm fire going. Alistair had found a 16 foot long and 3 foot wide piece of durable plastic with bubbles like bubble-wrap at a clandestine camp while getting wood. The girls were sitting on it, the vic with her foot elevated. The fire required a lot of attention to keep going and threatened to go out a few times but we kept it burning brightly and nice and hot. It took about 90 minutes from the time of the 911 call for the ranger to arrive and she of course was extremely competent. After about 30 minutes she had the victim in a splint and an improvised webbing harness and she wore a similar set-up that she hooked to a carabiner that was attached to the rig on the victim. She wanted to get down to the Washbowl and she decided to use the tarp as a sled (brilliant idea!) and we folded it up and sat the victim down on it. The ranger, behind the “sled” and attached to the victim, acted as the brakes. I had a thin rope around the fold at the front end and I steered, pulled and cajoled the contraption as necessary. Alistair, wearing two packs, walked alongside and pushed, pulled and guided us as required. It was hard work but very effective. The victim was able to help maneuver herself over and through the steeper rocky sections with her arms and hands. It was raining and very windy. It had grown dark well before the ranger had arrived. As we arrived at the Giant's Washbowl a team of 4 more rangers was arriving from the trail-head. What a welcome sight! They had plenty more gear and a real sled. They wrapped the victim in a full body hot pack and prepared to evacuate her down to rte. 73, which was full mile of some extremely gnarly trail away. Alistair and I escorted the friend out and upon arriving at his truck realized just how tired and worn out we were. We drove around to the 9N trail-head and retrieved my vehicle and headed back to Tom and Doreen's for a cold beer and recounted our (mis)-adventure to them. We were scheduled to meet a hiking partner who was out of cell phone range at 6:30 the next morning at the Santanoni Range trail-head. But were now too worn out and tired to do the planned hike. Via Facebook I was able to contact someone who I knew was going to the same trail-head at 6am and she agreed to let our partner know what had occurred and explain why we would not be showing up. This saved me from having to get there myself at 6:30 the next morning. Finally, we went to bed thinking of what had gone before and what kind of ice we would find on Noonmark and Blue Mountain the next day.
  7. Neil

    Big Slide

    The next morning found me all alone at about 6:45 crunching loudly on the ice of Big Slide. On the exposed parts of the Brothers the rock was mostly bare as I expected and past the Brothers the ice had given way to packed snow over a base of ice and this was great. I took tons of pictures of under cast and partially shrouded summits. I hung out on the summit for a while sipping hot tea and nibbling on biscuits and chocolate taking more pictures. The descent was very fast (90 minutes) and back at 'Scoots we popped the card into the TV and had an instant replay of my hike! Big Slide put me at 50 peaks but I estimate only 40% of the work is done. This project is one of the most amazing things I have ever done. So many experiences have been packed tightly into so few weeks. So many great people have hiked with me. The outcome is always in doubt but I'm inspired and motivated to succeed.
  8. At 6:30 we bare-booted up the North Trail over the little col at Owl's Head Lookout and paused for some awesome (hopefully!) pictures before trudging for miles uphill to our pre-determined jump-off point for Green. We had already ascended about 1500 feet total and Green stood about 1200 feet above us. Glen Bladholm (mastergrasshopper on the forum) and I had hiked Green end to end from Owl's Head and had nailed a beautiful descent (thanks TCD for the beta!) free of cliffs and thick vegetation. I had this route recorded in my GPS and we followed it up painlessly and in a twinkling were back down on the trail. Initially I had thought we would exit those same 5-6 miles and drive around to Chapel Pond but at the last minute before heading out the door we decided to spot a car at Chapel Pond. So, we decided to press on and try our luck with the untraveled North Trail up Giant approximately 1700 feet above us. Turned out fantastic! With snowshoes on we never once broke through the crust and slowly and steadily made it to the top and then switched to crampons for the rest of the day. The out and back to RPR entailed another 1500 feet of elly gain, which we did slowly and steadily before donning our packs at the junction at 2:30 pm for an easy-peasy descent over packed snow that gave way to a river of ice that the K-10's killed in the afternoon sun that had softened the ice. The hike out was interrupted drastically when I witnessed a young woman falling down the ice and injuring her ankle. Full report of that incident is right here.
  9. Neil

    Lost Pond Peak

    I had just spent 3 minutes hacking 2 feet of crusty snow off of a log away with my ax so Joe could boost me over it. There was no other way to go. The woods were very thick with tight, snow-encased spruce trees closing ranks and blowdown barred the alternative routes. This was supposed to be a smooth-sailing opening day of the weekend but Lost Pond Peak was totally kicking our butts. I knew I was draining the energy tank too early in the game but all I could do was focus on the present task and keep pushing onward and upward. Joe, Nancy and Brian were excellent trail partners, never complaining, always helping and taking turns on point. I have been up LPP at least 8 times by various routes and most of them have kicked my butt. This route was supposed to be an easy route that I had done 8 years ago but I didn't have a GPS with me to make a record of it. I was now suspecting that the previous route had been further over towards Street Mountain. Nothing to do but keep pushing. To boot, the crusty snow was very difficult and we back-slid and broke through a lot. Then at one point I began finding seam after seam and Joe said, « I don't know how long it will last Neil but I'll take it ». Things improved steadily and we made the summit uneventfully after a final steep push that got my heart rate into Zone 5 I'm sure. We had killer views from the viewing rock and could plainly see the new « bald spot » that had been clear-cut on Wallface for the rescue. It was cold up at 3900 feet elevation so we didn't bask in the sun but vamoosed out along our trail, which of course was much faster and looked very easy.
  10. Neil

    Cascade and Porter Mtns

    I drove to Tom and Doreen's in Keene and quickly changed into dry clothing and jumped back into the car. At 5:30, with a 5-pound pack on my back I switched on my headlamp and spiked my way up and down Cascade and Porter over many gently-sloped ice flows. The summit of Cascade was very windy and cold. The views of the valley lights all a-twinkle was nice but I did not linger long to enjoy it.
  11. 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. 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. 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.
  12. 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.
  13. 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.
  14. 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.
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    From the album: Dix Range Traverse

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    From the album: Dix Range Traverse

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    From the album: Dix Range Traverse

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    From the album: Dix Range Traverse

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    From the album: Dix Range Traverse

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    From the album: Dix Range Traverse

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    From the album: Dix Range Traverse

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    From the album: Dix Range Traverse

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    From the album: Dix Range Traverse

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