Why do I climb?
So here it is, my first ever trip report. I've been facinated by mountains my whole life, but it wasn't until May of last year that I realized that I could actually pursue this interest of mine. That first ever 3 day backpacking trip to Mt. Marcy in the Adirondacks was something i'll always remember. As soon as I hit the alpine zone, I knew I my life had changed. Since then i've felt a strong connection to the wilderness and particularily the mountains. I always thought of those things -- mountains -- as far away, exotic, dangerous, but beautiful places. I currently live in one of the flattest places in Canada (apart from the prairies) ; the Ottawa valley. As such, my access to the high places was almost impossible, as no-one in my immediate family had any interest in things such as backpacking, rock climbing, let alone mountaineering. The tell a long story short, it was one of my cousins who introduced me to backpacking (and indirectly to the mountains).
I climb (and explore the wilderness) because it is fun, because it is challenging, and most of all because it lets me go back to the basics. When I am in the mountains, only a few things matter (getting to top -- or getting down), keeping my body fed and hydrated, knowing where I am and where I am going... The stress (or monotony) of everyday life fades away as you plunge yourself into survival mode ; where only basic needs matter. I find this stripped down version of life extremely refreshing and satisfying. From going to the mountains, I get a feeling of freedom and hapiness that is quite difficult to explain. (But that many on SP can certainly relate to!)
Prologue to the trip
Since May 2012 I have hiked a total of 13 Adirondack High Peaks. Why the Adirondacks you ask? Well, they are the closest ''Big'' range of mountains within reasonable driving distance of Ottawa (approx. 4 hours) I have not been to the Whites yet but would love to! While this definitely isn't the Canadian Rockies, I can at least climb some real mountains without having to spend massive amounts of money to get there. (I hope to move out west after completing my university degree!) The attempt on Giant was the 3rd winter backpack I have done, and the best one yet. The other two were attempts to climb Mt. Colden. While they were not sucessful for a variety of reasons (partner getting very minor frostbite, our fuel freezing, not hydrating/eating enough, lack of daylight, late start, getting tired on long approches, etc.) they allowed me to learn important lessons so that would make our lives easier during the next trip.
I really, really wanted to have a sucessful summit in winter after those failiures. However, I still knew that if the proverbial feces hit the fan, our well being was way more important that some arbitrary elevation point. So I set about looking for an ADK peak that was easy to access : Not far from the traihead, not overly steep or difficult, but still challenging and with good views. Giant fit like a glove.
The plan was fairly simple : Trevor (A friend I met at a backpacking workshop with the Alpine Club of Canada - Ottawa Section) and I would leave Ottawa at 5:00 am to be at the Chapel Pond trailhead by 8:30 - 9:00am. We would then walk roughly an hour to a spot which had a good designated campsite. We would set up basecamp, empty our packs, and go alpine style (I just like to say that :p) to the top and then back to sleep that night.
As usual, we were running late. By the time we got to lake Placid and grabbed something to eat, it was almost 10am.
We proceed to the trailhead, park the car and then change into our gear, do last minute additions to our kit and we were ready to go by 10:20am. When we were preparing, I saw a good number of ice climbers using the trailhead as well. I thought that was odd, since I hadn't read anything about ice climbing near Chapel Pond (although learned that there are good climbs there as well).
We walked for about 10 minutes and hit a designated campsite right next to a huge ice covered waterfall. It was beautiful!
The area was perfect to set up camp, it was flat, and shielded from wind. As we set up we heard climbers yell ''ICE!'' AND ''OFF BELAY!'' at their partners below.
We had realized that this campsite was way too close to the trailhead to be the one we wanted. We looked at the map, only to find out we had parked at the wrong spot. Great. This added another 1.5-2 miles (3 km) to the top of Giant. We were already starting late, and we now had more ground to cover.
We promptly set up camp and decided to not waste any time ; we were on the trail moving fast by 11:00 am. I brought food, 2 liters of water, my stove plus a 325ml white gas bottle, my softshell, hardshell jacket, snowshoes, an ice axe, crampons and two trekking poles. Trevor brought more food, another little fuel bottle, warm and wind-resistant clothing, and most importantly, a rose he wanted to leave on the summit in honor of his grandmother (who passed away recently).
We made good progress, but the trail was consistantly at a steep angle and we started overheating. At one point we were both only wearing base layers! (Although I have to say that this particular weekend was exceptionally warm, being around -5C during the day)
We then proceeded to cross Roaring Brook (very apt name : a photo of the crossing is just under) And started climbing up steep trails. Snowhoes were soon required as we were sinking too deep and it was slowing us down.
It was now around 1:30 - 2:00pm. We would occasionally catch a break in the clouds, which made us hopefully for some type of view at the summit. We finally reached a pretty open and exposed section. Fortunately, there was no wind, and I was able to get by with only my softshell on. At this point, my ice axe became very useful, and made my life much easier!
Finally we were on the Summit. Finally my goal of a winter peak was fulfilled. I was extremely happy and content with our efforts.
My baselayer/shoftshell/hardshell + ski googles worked wonderfully in blocking the wind on the summit and I found myself to be extremely comfortable.
On the other hand, Trevor was starting to feel cold, and also tired from lack of food/water. We stayed about 10 minutes on top, just enough to take photos, and place the rose Trevor brought along for his grand-mother.
Happy with what we had accomplished, we started back down. It started to snow fairly hard, and the clouds took over once again.
The decent was uneventful, although by the time we reached basecamp at 7:30 pm, both of us were positively exhausted.
We made food, hot drinks and then promptly went to bed. We had decided not to attempt anything the next day, on account of our fatigue and Trevor's sore leg. I had fulfilled my goal and did not mind taking the last day very easy.
We cooked and ate our food in a snowstorm. It was actually quite enjoyable, as the atmosphere was quite different than that of a calm night. We went to get some sleep right after eating.
In the morning we woke up around 9:00 am, taking it easy and having a full breakfeast of oatmeal, hot chocolate and trail mix.
We took our time and ate, loving the fact we were in the wilderness. We talked alot about climbing (Trevor is an experienced sport and trad climber) and tips for me (I just started lead climbing indoors!). Again, we heard climbers on the waterfall next to basecamp and decided it looked so rad we had to give it a shot next winter.
Another great weekend in the mountains! Can't wait to be there again! I hope this TR was as entertaining for you to read as it was for me to write! Comments/suggestions are much appreciated as this is my first try at writing a TR. Hopefully the first of many.