Climbing Giant mountain in winter

Climbing Giant mountain in winter

Page Type Page Type: Trip Report
Location Lat/Lon: 44.16093°N / 73.72008°W
Date Date Climbed/Hiked: Mar 3, 2013
Activities Activities: Hiking, Mountaineering
Seasons Season: Winter
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Trevor on the summit of Giant

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!)

Happiness in the mountains
Me on the approach to Giant

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 assault

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.

Basecamp Area
Area next to Roaring Brook, where we set up our camp.

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!

Roaring Brook Waterfall
300 feet high! Can you spot the climbers?

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.

Trevor's hammock
No loss of heat through the ground here!

My Trusty tent!
Comfort in the mountains!

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.

Sketchy looking crossing over Roaring Brook
Sketchy looking crossing over Roaring Brook

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Trevor getting a first look at ''the void''
As we made our way ever higher, lookouts became ore and more frequent, and it was evident that we would not see much : a sea of fog and clouds envelopped the mountain. I nicknamed this white abyss ''the void'' (Touching the Void references were forthcoming).

No view, but great atmosphere

Catching a break in the clouds
Catching a break in the clouds

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!

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Beautiful view as the clouds were giving way

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Moments like this are the reason I climb
As we continued, the temperature progressively got colder, and we donned more layers to be comfortable. The wind was also starting to pick up quite a bit. We eventually reached the top of the ridge and only had a long ridge walk ahead of us, nothing overly steep.

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.

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Finally on a summit in winter!

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.


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Trevor on the summit

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Trevor's grand-mother will surely enjoy the view

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Summit of Giant Mountain

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Obligatory summit shot
One of my initial objectives was to link Giant mountain with Rocky Peak Ridge, a neighbouring mountain about 1.2 miles distant, in the same day. However, it was already at the very tail end of 3pm and even though we had headlamps with us, I decided that it would be better for us to call it a day. Trevor was cold and one of his legs was sore ; nothing bad, but very annoying. I was also very tired from our day (we had woken up at 4 am that morning!).

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.

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Mountain cuisine!

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.

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Breakfeast of champions!

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Basecamp in the morning of the last day

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.

Happy adventures!



Post a Comment
Viewing: 1-13 of 13

Jfaub - Mar 11, 2013 8:02 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Dig it.

Thank you for your kind words! It's nice to know the ADK's inspire many people!




Bajumbug - Mar 10, 2013 10:06 am - Voted 10/10

Great Report

I agree with Catamount--lots of enthusiasm, and good as a piece of writing , too. The images your words create aided by the photos really let us share your day. Kudos, also, on your decision to skip the other peak. There is no place to go but home at 3:00 in a snow storm, right? Getting to the top is fun, but living through it to write the report is way better. Winter camping has a unique set of challenges as well as rewards--you have to take 2-3 times as much gear as in summer, you travel 2-3 times slower, usually farther because of road access, struggle with frozen lashings, and have to do it all in half the daylight hours. As for the rewards, you experience solitude, beauty, sense of accomplishment and many other intangibles. As you pointed out, it's hard to explain, but easy to understand


Jfaub - Mar 11, 2013 8:04 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Great Report

Thank you very much! Winter camping/climbing (as you pointed out) is very challenging in different ways, but I do welcome that challenge, and the rewards it offers!

Thanks again,



mike_lindacher - Mar 10, 2013 4:48 pm - Hasn't voted

keep ripping

jealous of that MSR tent


Jfaub - Mar 11, 2013 8:08 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: keep ripping

Thanks for reading! And yes, that tent is bomber! Would definitely recommend it as a 4-season tent for full on winter conditions. I set it up pretty high on the approach to mount Colden once,and it was great in rediculously cold (-30C) temperatures. My one complain is that the vestibule opening is a tad bit small. But nothing too serious.



Bark Eater

Bark Eater - Mar 11, 2013 10:49 am - Voted 10/10


On your first winter peak and a nice trip report!


Jfaub - Mar 11, 2013 8:09 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Congrats.

Many thanks! I'll be writing more TR's for sure. I was extremely excited at finially suceeding!

Happy adventures,



MudRat - Mar 13, 2013 3:16 pm - Hasn't voted


Nice report with great atmosphere and pics! The clouds rolling over the ridge remind me of a climb up there in 2006...good memories. Thanks for posting!


Jfaub - Mar 24, 2013 10:26 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Nice!

Thanks for the kind words. I have to say your fantastic trip reports inspired me to write about my own adventures! Happy climbing!




pookster1127 - Mar 13, 2013 4:59 pm - Voted 10/10

Comfort in the cold

Great TR


Jfaub - Mar 24, 2013 10:30 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Comfort in the cold

Thank you very much! I'll keep writing!



david  stewart

david stewart - Mar 18, 2013 10:18 pm - Voted 10/10


I like your trip report a lot! As said in an earlier comment you share a lot of enthusiasm for the mountains. I really like that, attitude.


Jfaub - Mar 24, 2013 10:32 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Great

It's really great to see so many people that have the same passion for mountains and climbing! Thanks for the feedback.

Happy adventures,


Viewing: 1-13 of 13