My girlfriend, Rachael and I, have attempted "the easiest of the 46" peaks twice now with failure to reach the summits. Despite that, we enjoyed two remarkable and memomorable hikes.
The first attempt was just poorly organized but absolutely remarkable. Rachael, her brother Iaan, and I went to Cascade lake to fish in July of 2013. We were on the mirrored glass eastern lake, staring up at the impressive falls, when our ambitions grew and inhibitions fell. We all looked at each other and said, " lets do this", I quickly grabbed my day pack around noon on a perfect sunny day, briefly checked my ADK high peaks topo, and figured up the falls a ways, turn west and we can bushwhack to the trail. So off we went.
Up the slide, no big deal...up the first falls, a little dicey without ropes but not too bad. The first view was impressive especially realizing what we just accomplished. At the top of the falls visible from rt 73, there is a turn to the west and another set of falls. "Wow another one" we all said, took a sip of agua, and away we went again. These were little tougher just because of the precarious route I chose. Iaan went to the tree line to follow another of Irene's new slides, while Rachael and I took the face. We got stuck and decided to chase Iaans track. At the top another bend, and yet another set of falls. This all continued for a good 2000' until we reached a bald face 100 yards from the peak, and what I figured where we would find the trail which we would follow down simply. The bald face was impassable without ropes and we all decided to head down so our families wouldn't worry if we weren't home by dark.
Awesome climb, perhaps one of my most memorable without ropes. The views were incredible and indescribable. Pictures were nice but couldn't compare to the lithographs etched on our memories as we rose above Pitchoff and other surrounding peaks to see beyond to the Other 46 peaks. But we never saw the Geo marker giving us our first of 46.
Rachael and I decided to try again...maybe for her birthday in Jan.
Our second attempt was much more adequately planned, but the weather couldn't have been any worse. Fortunately we love intense adventures and the 40 degree temps with cats and dogs style rain would only fuel our ambitions and desires. I knew how icy the trail would be so we strapped on our spikes, dressed for wet weather and loaded the day pack with dry clothes and a garbage bag, plus the usual first aid kit and one meal.
The trail was two feet thick with glassy ice. Neither of us had ever used crampons before, and despite my years experience hiking the peaks of the desert, I was a little apprehensive. But after the first step I was satisfied and impressed. These stupid little rubber and stainless steel add ons were awesome. So we were off around 10 am, and prepared for whatever was coming from Mother Nature.
We climbed the trail off 73 for a few hours stopping and enjoying the views and being alone on a typically crowded trail. The only other people we saw were a marine and his girlfriend, one with yak tracks and one without who tagged along with us for a while. They were looking to top cascade, while Rachael and I looked to top Porter and Cascade. I took a small slip after the side of my boot brushed the ice where there was no spike, and I slid a painless 10 feet into the forest. I learned how fickle ice can be and unforgiving, but it was no big deal, and we were off again laughing as we went.
The climb was awesome and we were living the dream as the wind whipped around us and the rain pelted us, although I knew in the back of my mind that the higher we get the more sever the weather. But we didnt care. As we reached the junction for Porter and Cascade peaks, we stopped for some water and decided to get Porter first just bc we still felt great and it was a little farther. We didn't realize how bad the trail was, or the difficulties going down ice without crampon experience. Soon we were hugging the treeline and avoiding the ice. Also the rain soaked Rachaels waterproof Columbia jacket trough, and I made her a poncho out of he garbage bag to suffice for the remaining couple hours. And then tragedy struck.
Up to the Porter summit, again approximately 200 yards from the peak, Rachael slipped. I was 20 feet back down the trail and saw the fall. I planted my crampons as deep as I could in the ice, wrapped one arm around a tree and reached out with the other one to catch my girl. BOOM she hit me like a wrecking ball and we both were now sliding down the trail. As I turned to get my feet down hill, her head turned down hill. Forunately she was wrapped up in my death grip and I could steer us to a tree line with my crampons. About sixty feet from her slip we skidded into a tree harmlessly, but soaked through and through from the river flowing off the melting ice. She was banged up but okay, just cold, I was shaken but not stirred and quickly set out to warm her up. B
Because I only had one pair of dry clothes left after changing her earlier, she would wear mine, and I would tough it out. I knew the dangers, but as a good man, I sacrificed my own immediate safety and comfort for her. I quickly got her dressed taped the oversized clothes to keep out drafts, put her back in her poncho, and hand warmers in both our gloves as we headed back down to admit defeat twice. At the junction while heading down, she looked up at me and asked if we could still do Cascade? I was floored and enamoured with this woman who after narrowly avoiding a serious incident, she still wanted to summit Cascade. But I had to say no despite my own drives and desire. The weather was just too bad to have no more dry clothes and I was soaked to the bone, not cold just wet, and I know hypothermia can quickly set in and make matters extremely drastic, even if it was simply Cascade mountain we were on. So down we went.
Again laughing and giggling and enjoying our hike down. We quickly realized how undetered we were despite not reaching the summit. We had done something new, hiking an ice laden path in the winter, and were pretty satisfied with our progress. Already planning our next peaks with Cascade and Porter fitting in somewhere else on our 46 list, whenever we wre pressed on time and couldn't fit in a two day trek. We quickly and carefully crossed part of our trail that was now a raging river pouring over the icy slide that crossed our trail, captivated by the force of of the torrent. As we reached the trailhead we signed out and went to the subaru in looking forward to a pair of fleece long johns and a flannel shirt.
Driving back 73 towards Lake Placid we laughed like two teenagers in love, and decided to head into a bar for a quick beer before heading back to cottage in Saranac we were staying at. The beer was delicious, and I was entertained by our attire, me in a fleece pair of long johns, and simple long sleeve shirt, Rachael in my XXL flannel shirt and tights. She couldn't have been sexier to me as I sat looking at her falling in love again every minute. This was a truly beautiful trip that only the Adirondacks can provide.
Success...Say no more, but its up to you to read the report....
Started from Cranberry Lake at 3:30 AM for a High Peaks sunrise atop Cascade with Rachael and her cousin Jess. Too bad we didn't get out the door til 4:30, and as we drove down Route 3, I slowly watched the sun come up and my speed increase to 90. But it was no big deal when we reached Placid, as the sun broke the horizon over the Great Range and MacIntyres.
The morning had an Adirondack briskness to the morning air, and we were prepared for that. What I wasn't prepared for was the lethargy in my legs and endurance this morning. I was sweating miserably 200 ft past the trail head, huffing and puffing most of the hike up. It didn't help that I was behind Jess who continued polluting the air in front of me with the gas of a parade mule. I thought the trail was clear of travelers due to the early hour...in retrospect I know the truth. The hike up was very uneventful and I started feeling better by the time I reached the Porter junction. As I saw the rock leading to the Cascade summit, I felt fantastic and ran to the top, and that feeling didn't subside until coming back to Rochester 4 days later. Marking the geo marker with a 2 for Rachael and my 2nd of 46, we posed for pics and snacked on a few protein bars.
The morning couldn't have been any better