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2008-03-01 Winter Hike 08

Last weekend was the date of our much anticipated Winter hike of 2008.

Instead of the White Mountains in New Hampshire, our normal "big hike" location, we decided to try the Adirondacks this time. Adirondack State Park is comparable in distance to the Whites, about 4 hours of driving for me and 5 for the rest of the guys (from Connecticut). We settled on Lake Placid as our base of operations, it being right next to all of the high peaks.

We drove up during the day of one of this season's few big storms - they ended up getting 5-10 inches in our area, but we left early so the roads were still passable and we were driving North, out of the storm. By the time I got to around Lake George, the snow had pretty much subsided. It started up again when I got into Lake Placid.

Lake Placid is an amazing place to be in the winter. Unlike southern NY, which pretty much shuts down during a big snow storm, the north country is entirely comfortable with snow. And in Lake Placid in particular, it seems like everybody is there for winter sports. Its also a small enough town so that the preferred mode of travel is by foot. During both daytime and evening there were hundreds of people out on the sidewalks, patronizing the many shops and restaurants.

The Hike

We got up early Saturday morning (although not as early as usual for our big hikes - the guy at the rental store where we got our snowshoes had advised us to hold off on hitting the mountain until a little later when the day had warmed up some). After a big breakfast, we drove out to the trail that leads up nearby Cascade mountain.

We were expecting a cloudy day with snow, but as we drove out of town I was pleased to see an edge to the clouds in the direction we were traveling, with brightness beyond. When we arrived at the foot of Cascade, we were exhilerated to discover the skies had mostly cleared - we spent the remainder of the day under bright blue skies.

Cascade is not a big hike - it takes about two hours to reach the summit and an hour to come back down on a winter day. We figured we'd probably venture out to the nearby peak of Porter Mountain. Net elevation gain was only about 2000 feet.

The temperature was in the teens for most of the hike, probably varying from 12 to 20 degrees Farenheit - considerably warming than our last such endeavor. Both Steve and I had to shed a layer early in the hike, but my hydration tube did start to freeze up at first - I stuffed it down my shirt and had no further problems with it.

Remembering our experiences from the previous winter hike, I had bought a pair of crampons from EMS the weekend before. When I saw how packed down the snow on the trail was, I decided to go with them right off the bat as opposed to the snowshoes.

Winter hiking with crampons is incredible. I was strolling up big sheets of ice at 30 degree angles as if it were dry dirt and rock. You can supposedly climb ice with them, but we didn't attempt any ice walls (I don't recall any along the trail).

That's me, trudging through the woods in my crampons.

A few shots at the first clearing, about half an hour from the summit. As as my custom, I sent one to Jenny's cellphone. Figuring they'd enjoy it, I also sent shots to Steve's wife Monica and Tom's wife Mona. Jenny always enjoys real-time progress reports. (thanks to Steve for the high resolution images - the crappy ones are from my cell phone)

My first sight of the rocky summit of Cascade.

Views from the summit - clouds and mountains and Tom and Steve and Mike.

After Cascade, we went to the much less impressive summit of Porter. It was worth doing if only to get this amazing view of the summit of nearby Cascade.

More views from the summit of Porter.

We made it down in excellent time. The mountain had been empty in the morning, but there were lots of people climbing up as we went down. We finally ended the hike shortly after 2PM. All told, about five hours in the mountains. Not too shabby for a winter day.

This is a shop in Lake Placid with a very cool sign. I really wanted to buy Jenny something from this place, but sadly it was closed the next morning. Filing it away for the next time I'm in the region.