Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Mt. Tecumseh - 8/3/13

WOW! I can't believe how much of a surprise it was to have such a nice day while hiking Mt. Tecumseh - a day with views! I'll admit, this changed my mind a little on Tecumseh. On August 3rd, a little change in some plans opened up the chance for me and my brother to take our long-time friend Jack on his first ever 4000-footer. Coming along for the adventure too was my niece, who was seeking her 6th 4000 footer! This was my 5th time heading up the mighty Tecumseh and the first ever time without snow on the ground, so I was ready to go.
Already a great view, and we're not even started
Everyone ready with a little hop in the step!
Mt. Tecumseh Trail 
A mile in, we crossed the Tecumseh Brook again, which was a beautiful little crossing. From there, the trail ascends gradually all of the way to the summit. We made it to the viewpoint at the ski trail, and took a nice break to enjoy it. It was the best view I had ever seen from there. 
Crossing Tecumseh Brook 
Mt. Tecumseh Trail nearing view point 
The viewpoint
Jack, let us know when you're ready to hit some more peaks. 
Enjoying the view!
After our break, we pushed onward and upward. Everyone did great, and we enjoyed every minute of the hike up. What intrigued me was some of the really nice trail work and the rocks that are under that snow in the winter! I can't believe I fly down this on my sled!
Steps on Mt. Tecumseh Trail 
We arrived at the summit to an overcast sky but still a really great view. Jack's 1st 4000-footer, Kiara's 6th, and still plenty meaningful to Bill and I, it was a great day to be in the mountains, and a fun day too!
Mt. Tecumseh summit view 
Summit picture!
Hike Stats
Trails: Mt. Tecumseh Trail
Distance: 5 miles
Elevation Gain: 2,200 ft.
Actual Book Time: 4:40

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Crockers & Redington - 8/4/13

On Sunday, August 4th, my buddy Mike was continuing his NE 4000 footer journey, and I was lucky enough to be heading back to Carrabassett Valley to hike the Crockers & Redington with him. Last time I was here was last October, and everything was covered in wet snow. Although not far off from snow in Maine, it was a beautiful summer morning with a little bit of that autumn coolness in the air as geared up at the parking lot at the metal bridge on Caribou Pond Road (also called Caribou Valley Road).

This was the same Sunday of an intensified search for the missing Appalachian Trail hiker in Maine. We started up the road towards the AT crossing after a couple of searchers on horseback passed by. Without the snow, quickly the ruggedness of this section of ascent on the AT to South Crocker made itself known. As we passed the open slide area, the views were great, and we powered right on up to the summit. This may not be the case unless you've been hiking a lot like Mike trying to get this done. He was ahead of me most of the way, as I was a little tired from the day before. (The header photo above shows the small pond near the Crocker Cirque campsite, and the great view I was pleased to witness this time around)
Appalachian Trail to South Crocker at Caribou Pond Road 
Rugged, rocky trail from crossing to South Crocker summit 
Gotta love hiking in Maine
The Bigelows and Horn from the side of South Crocker
South Crocker summit
After that it was pretty much smooth sailing all of the way to North Crocker and back, but the trail is rocky, and it can be tiring approaching North Crocker. It was nice to have a view from the summit outlook rather than clouds and falling snow. Back we went, getting excited for the bushwhacking!
North Crocker summit  
The view from the North Crocker outlook
Since I had done the bushwhack to Mt. Redington before, I let Mike take the lead, and off into the trees he went. He did an awesome job using no skills to follow the flags to our next 4000-foot destination. It was still an adventure though. The last time that someone had been to the summit was 8 days before. Last October, it had been a few weeks between the prior summit, so as summer ends, you can see how seldom this peak is climbed.
Mike begins the Redington bushwhack 
In addition to this little guy we came across one small spruce grouse 
The view from a clearing along the bushwhack 
Looking back at N. Crocker and the back slope of S. Crocker 
North Crocker with a patch of some mountain berries 
The logging road which the bushwhack follows to the height of land 
Turn right at the cairn and continue the whacking 
Mike and I on Redington summit - my names in here 2 times in a year! 
Just as we were finishing up writing our names in the summit register, the cloud pictured below let out some of the closest and loudest cracks of thunder I've heard in a long while. We waited for lightning to appear after one of them, but thankfully it wasn't happening. We quickly closed up the bag, and sort of nervously started to get ready to scramble fast should the need arise. As we walked back out into the clearing next to the summit canister, that dark gray sky opened up in a heavy downpour, and on went our rain jackets.

Our plan from the beginning was that we were going to take a shot at leaving the bushwhack and taking the route along the logging roads that leads to the outlet at Caribou Pond, which is further down Caribou Pond Road. Somewhere in the next 10 minutes or so after leaving the summit as we scrambled to pick up the pace, we ended up on a straight line path that couldn't have been the AT boundary, and then it also widened to a road, and then eventually came to an intersection. At one of the logging road intersections that followed, I felt I knew where we were, but there was a road that we should have taken that didn't appear to be on the map and we didn't see anything physically. We ended up realizing that we were heading around the pond. This was not a big deal because at that point we knew it would be just a little further until we rounded Caribou Pond and made it to Caribou Pond Road.

Before we even arrived at the pond on the descent, we took note that the logging roads we were on (which in places had vegetation grown back in taller than us) were recently traveled by ATV. It had rained until about 20 minutes before we made it near Caribou Pond. After that, it started to get warm again, and the blue skies started to return. The approximately 4 mile road walk back to the parking lot was pretty nice. While it was a little longer than expected at the end, we still nailed it pretty good in 7 hours flat, and Mike had completed up to #61 on his New England 4000-footer list. I'm looking forward to the possibility of joining Mike in September as he goes for the finale with Sugarloaf, Spaulding, Abraham, Hamlin, and North Brother remaining.  Another great day in the mountains!
A road somewhere on the slope of Redington in the pouring rain - FUN! 
An intersection somewhere on Redington! 
A man-made signal on a logging road above Caribou Pond 
Near Caribou Pond, but not on Caribou Pond Road, we crossed this bridge 
Caribou Pond Road
Hike Stats
Trails: Appalachian Trail, bushwhack
Distance: approximately 13 miles
Elevation Gain: 3,518 ft.
Actual Book Time: 7hrs

Great Range Traverse (Adirondacks) - 7/6/13

After about two and half years and hiking all of the 4000-footers in New Hampshire, Vermont, and Maine, on July 6, 2013, I finally ventured into the Adirondack mountains of New York by completing a Great Range Traverse.  Considered #3 on Backpacker magazine's toughest day hikes in America, the traditional Great Range Traverse takes you 29.4 miles and 9,500 feet of elevation gain over eight 4000 footers. Joining me on this hike was my friend Jeff from CT.
Roostercomb Trail
Just like most other crazy day hikes, it started with a four and a half hour ride through NH and VT on Friday night to get to the Roostercomb Trailhead in Keene Valley, NY. Here, I rendezvoused with Jeff, and we clocked in several hours of sleep before waking up at day's light on Saturday morning. With everything already packed and ready to go, we quickly spotted my car at the Garden Trailhead and returned to the Roostercomb parking lot where our traverse began.
Leaving the Rooster Comb trail head behind 
A picturesque pond at the start of the Roostercomb Trail
Immediately, I was struck and impressed at how different the terrain was compared to the White Mountains. The woods were just different, noticeably damp all around, with mud, roots and woods spread among the lower elevation. All I could think of was it was going to be a long day!

The first mountain on the traverse, which is not a 4000-footer, was Hedgehog Mountain. The spur trail to its summit rounded the cone of the mountain and ended at a ledge with a fine view into the wilderness, giving us a first look of the land from above.
Looking north from Hedgehog Mountain 
Looking south from Hedgehog Mountain
After about 5 minutes of enjoying the views, there was still the entire agenda of 4000-footers to tackle, so off we went to the Wolfjaws still 2 miles away and another 1,000 feet up.
Near Lower Wolfjaw summit 
Reminds me of the sharp turn on Lions Head :)
4000 Foot Elevation sign in the Adirondacks 
The view from Upper Wolfjaw summit
Though the Wolfjaws lacked slightly in excitement, it was a nice warm-up for what was still to come on this ridiculous up and down adventure.
We continued up....
....and down 
....and a little more up and up
The next 4000 footer was Armstrong Mountain, where I finally felt like I was on a 4000 footer, and had some really impressive views. What was impressive was looking at the ridge ahead. The clouds were still low and filled with moisture, but the breeze made that feel really cool on the skin. At the beginning of the hike, the clouds were pretty interesting and we were keeping a close eye for the need to get out the rain gear.
Gothics & Saddleback from Armstrong Summit 
Armstrong Mountain - my 3rd ADK 4000-footer.
The views from Armstrong were great and it provided a great sense of remoteness as we looked out. There was another down and up and into the Alpine Zone for the Gothics summit, which provided a very similar view and feel to that of the last peak, Armstrong. Still, thick clouds seemed to be lingering, but from the Gothics multiple incredible rock slides were still visible and appealing.

Entering the Alpine Zone on Gothics 
Gothics summit marker 
Gothics summit
After Gothics summit, there is a rubber cable aid to help hikers up or down the side of the mountain. Standing at the top, its quite impressive, and the descent would be chancy without such assistance. We began the descent and it went relatively smoothly until about 1/2 of the way down the section. It is not one long cable, but two. With the cable feeling secure, I continued, but just a little further down the first one, with all my weight on the cable at one point, I fell completely backward into a patch of scrub to the side directly on my back, and for that one milli-second before my back landed, I thought I was in for a disaster. I got up and quickly realized that the cable ended two loop holes ahead, and the slack was coming completely out of the last two loopholes. Good thing I held onto the cable, which swing me a little. I was pretty surprised at this, but we laughed it off and continued the rappel without issue.
Jeff nears the end of the cable descending Gothics
It's really hard to digest what you're putting your body through until you're standing in between one these multiple cols, and you're looking back thinking holy shit I can't believe I just came down that and up this. After we had passed this part of the adventure and were on our way up to Saddleback, the skies had cleared and we were in the midst of a beautiful summer day in the Adirondacks.
Looking back at the trail descending Gothics 
The view ascending Saddleback from Gothics
After the Gothics, the views were getting better, and the difficulty was increasing. After the harsh descent and subsequent climb up Saddleback, we arrived at its summit to a great view of the Basin and the remaining peaks ahead. We took a break at the summits of the last several peaks. The Range Trail descends Saddleback by way of a steep rock face which was the most risky section of this entire hike. Jeff and I waited well over 10 minutes for the group in front of us to safely descend the section. It was causing difficulty to one in their group. Once it was clear to go down, we did so. You can see this section below.
Saddleback summit photo, with Basin next in the background 
A beautiful view of the trail leaving the summit 
Jeff navigates the rock face that has no climbing aids 
Looking at the Basin from the top of the face as we waited... 
Holy bananas, that looks like a lotta fun doesn't it?
The next summit, Basin Mountain, provided our first full-on view of New York's highest peak, Mt. Marcy and also Haystack, the final two peaks on our journey before a long 9-mile haul back to the trail head. It was getting to be afternoon, but we were always moving quickly despite our slowly diminishing energy which we kept up entirely by continuing to eat and drink water. There really is no other choice in a monster hike like this.
Mt. Marcy from the Basin summit
Basin summit marker in the Adirondacks 
Steep wet trail descending the Basin toward Haystack
Now just two more peaks remained on this 8 peak adventure, but after close to 20 miles of constant elevation change, the thought of two out-and-backs over a mile long is just one of those mental things that makes this endurance hike (and others) such a challenge. We continued on and when we got to Little Haystack, I was mighty impressed at the views I was witnessing, and it was the motivation we needed to keep pushing on. The views from Haystack Mountain were the most impressive of the entire hike. I cant describe how enjoyable it was for the 20 or so minutes we sat on this summit. It was a great day.
A little ways to go to bag Haystack, and then a little more out to Marcy 
From Little Haystack, Haystack lies 1/2mi. ahead after a short but steep col.  
Approaching the summit of Haystack Mountain 
View from Haystack Summit 
One of the best views, and favorite peaks of this summer 
Enjoying Haystack summit with sheer cliffs of Mt. Marcy behind
Looking at the picture directly above, even from here, and after the distance we've traveled it looked like an eternity to get to Marcy, but on we went. The slow gradual ascent that you see in the picture was pretty grueling. There was definitely a few groans let out, but a successful completion was our only option. As we neared, there was a short boardwalk section, and then after that we dropped our packs before heading up the final few hundred feet to the summit.
A boardwalk in the alpine zone on Mt. Marcy 
Looking at some other high peaks off to the right of Marcy 
Jeff hikes over an outcropping of rock before the summit 
Jeff on the summit of Mt. Marcy 
Me hanging on to my hat from the highest point in NY, Mt. Marcy 
Mt. Marcy clearly rises above all the rest - what an impressive range of peaks
With Marcy out of the way, there was no question what lied ahead, and that was a mind boggling descent of about 9 miles all of the way back to Keene Valley and the Garden Trailhead, where we had spotted my car. The descent is very gradual once down from Marcy, and on such a long hike this might have been even more annoying and tiring than the worst time ever on Lincoln Woods after my first extended Pemi Loop. All I could think of was that we successfully did the Great Range Traverse, and that we would make it. Despite the physical drain I describe, in the 20th miles we were moving at least 3mph. Eventually, we made it to the Johns Brook Lodge (operated by the Adirondack Mountain Club), which is 3.5 miles away from the end. This was the very last time we refilled our water and took a lengthy break for food as we shared our days adventure with some out-of-state backpackers doing a lengthy trip of their own. With about 30 minutes before darkness, we were off again. Between here and the end of the hike, we saw a total of 4 deer, which was pretty cool! After 17 hours 29.4 miles, and 9,500 elevation gain, we arrived at the Garden Trailhead feeling extremely satisfied at completing one of the most challenging day hikes in the USA.
This deer was very much closer than it appears in this blurry picture
Noises heard in the woods turned out to be several deer, not bears 
Arriving at the end, the Garden Trailhead which was jammed on a Sat. night
The Great Range Traverse was an incredible hike. Even though the trail conditions weren't as bad I've read and seen photos of, but it was still significantly wet and muddy trail for such a warm day.  That there is a little different than hiking in the White Mountains, and the woods, I thought, were pretty sweet. This is just the place I want to return to watch some wildlife, no wonder there are so many campsites on the map. It's a pretty different wilderness out there. For 4000 footers, the first few won't stick with me like the any of the 48, but I'm happy to have bagged them all as part of an awesome Great Range Traverse. Another challenging hike in the books, and another fun and long hike with my buddy Jeff. On to the next great adventure!

Hike Stats
Trails: Rooster Comb Trail, Rooster Comb Spur, Adirondack Range Trail, State Range Trail, Haystack Trail
Distance: 24.9 miles
Elevation Gain: 9,500 ft.
Actual Book Time: 17:10