Thanksgiving in the Adirondacks (11/2002)


This Thanksgiving instead of a nice warm Thursday evening gorging on turkey and stuffing Margaret and I undertook an adventure in the High Peaks region of the Adirondacks.  The objective of this adventure was to climb the Trap Dyke on Mount Colden.  I made a deal with Margaret we'd be home Saturday night.We took a bus up Wednesday evening arriving at 12:30am.  We took a taxi out to Adirondack Loj.  We changed in the lodge then started our hike to Marcy Dam where we planned on sleeping in a Lean-to.  We probably hit the trail about 1:15am.  That night was the coldest night they've had so far this winter, 5F.  On the hike in the trees were freezing and popping like gunshots.  It was roughly 2.5 miles to the lean-to, with our packs and the snow we weren't moving very fast, I was carrying 60lbs and Margaret 30lbs.  We got to the lean-to around 3:00.   The night was crystal clear, a half moon and the stars lit up the snow so that on could get by without a head lamp.  The  tops of Wright, Algonquin and Mount Colden where a brilliant frosted white against the pitch black sky.  The view from Marcy Dam was breathtaking.  I wish I had more than the disposable camera.  I initially thought we could both fit in my sleeping bag and sleep under a bivy sack.  With all our clothes and the boots in the bag, there wasn't the room so we broke out Margaret's bag and sleeping pad as well.   This necessitated basically unpacking her sack which took some time.  I heated some water for tea and warm bottles for the sleeping bags and we hit the sack.  I must have slept, but I only remember violent bouts of shivering. It was really really cold.  We awoke around 8:00 and I started cooking Thanksgiving breakfast of Grits and cheese and coffee.  We packed up and were on the trail by 10:30.  The trail climbed steadily up to Avalanche Pass for about 2 miles.  The top of which is the very apparent 1999 slide through which the trail is literally hacked through with a chainsaw.  It looks as though 600ft  high by 400ft wide swath of land slid off Mount Colden into the pass.  Books say the slide raised the level of the pass by 20-30 feet.  From here the trail descends for about a mile to Avalanche Lake.   The ice was too thin to walk, so we had to follow the very rough trail around the west side of the Lake. The mountains to either side of the lake have shear cliffs coming down to the water.  The trail crossed about a quarter mile of very rough talus. House sized blocks with ladders and 15 ft deep crevasses, crossed by ladders and log bridges, with the snow and the packs it was a treacherous stretch of trail.   Margaret was very challenged by these, it brought back memories of the sun cups on Mount Shasta's glaciers which swallowed her up.  Once through the talus field we crossed a couple of bridges suspended from the cliff face directly over the ice.  I thought we'd be able to camp near the south end of avalanche lake.  Though I didn't see anything until we got to the Colden interior outpost, roughly 6.5 miles from the ADK Loj. We got in around 3:30 or 4:00, we had the tent up before dark but then darkness soon fell.  We spent from 5:30 till 9:00 cooking and heating water in the vestibule of our tent.   The tent was a balmy 50 F compared to the cold night before in the lean-to.   The problem this night though was moisture.  We introduced a lot of moisture by cooking, we also made the mistake of sleeping under out bivy sack inside the tent which being water proof trapped all our moisture and wetted our sleeping bags. 

We awoke the next morning around 6:00 and got out to survey the campsite.  We had had about 8in of snow during the night. After realizing the rate of travel with our loads in the snow and the extra time needed to set up and breakdown camp in a snowstorm and given our time constraints,  Thinking of our need to get into town for a noon bus back to the city and desperately trying to save a bit of climbing for our adventure I proposed to Margaret a quick run up Algonquin which would be a strenuous climb though not a technical climb.  Margaret very slyly suggested she was coming down with a cold, and cough a couple of times for effect.  A quick decision and our climbing trip became a winter camping snowshoe outing with 30 extra lbs. of climbing gear.  We had breakfast there, broke camp and began the hike out hoping to get a room in the Loj for Friday night, for an easy and sure return to the city.  After cooking and repacking we were on the trail by 11:30. 

We hiked the 6.7 miles out through a strong wind and heavy snow.  At the talus field at Avalanche Lake Margaret dropped her pack and we started our crossing.  On the other side I dropped my pack and doubled back to pick up Margaret's  she was making her way slowly but surely.  I got her pack and hurried back.  From here the lake was marshy and I tried to beeline across the lake to where the trail started up to avalanche pass but after pushing my foot through the ice a second time I headed back to the trail.  We continued with quick breaks for candy bars, after our last stop at the leanto we slept in Wednesday night I did the last 2.5 miles in one shot, leaving margaret about half way through.  I wanted to get to the Loj to arrange lodging for the night before the reception closed.  I made it to the end of the trail in twilight by the time I was at the Loj, it was dark.  After waiting for someone in line before me.  I got us a room, left my name and credit card then hurried back to meet Margaret on the trail.  I was thinking I was going to be heading back into the wood to find her but to my surprise she was just exiting the woods when I crossed her.  So we had a nice dinner Friday night, a dry if not warm room, but the blanket were sufficient.  That night we had a visitor who gnawed a hole in a bag of nuts we left on a dresser.  After chasing the critter into the heating vent from which he came I barricaded him with one of our plastic bags, a spare blanket and our boots.

I began to doubt if we would have anytime for climbing at all. 

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