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Posts Tagged ‘HPIC’

Gray Peak  |  Sat, March 28, 2015  | 4840 ft.  |  45th peak
Mt. Redfield  |  Sat, March 28, 2015  | 4606 ft.  |  46th peak

Now that we were so close, we were determined to fit our 46r finish in before the spring thaw, when the trails will get muddy and delicate.  So, for our 4th weekend in a row in the month of March, we were up at 4am on Saturday 3/28 to head to the high peaks.  Specifically, we were headed for Adirondack Loj and the HPIC trailhead to do Gray and Redfield, our final two peaks, via Lake Arnold.

As we noted last week, we tried for Gray five days earlier, and couldn’t find the entrance to the herd path.  This time we were better prepared; we searched for photos of the herd path location on other hikers’ blogs, read narrative descriptions in trail guides, and reached out to 46rs who have done it before us.  Thanks to all those folks for the help!

It had snowed quite a bit on Friday, and was still snowing when we left for Marcy Dam from the HPIC trailhead around 8:30am.

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HPIC trail register

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Bridge over meadows at the beginning of Van Hoevenberg trail

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Birch trees along Van Hoevenberg

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Birch leaves covered in snow along Van Hoevenberg trail

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Replacement water bridge bypassing Marcy Dam

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Marcy Dam

As was evident at Marcy Dam, we would have none of the views of last Monday’s hike today, although it did get a little clearer as the day went on.  Once we crossed the dam, we signed in to the 2nd trail register and headed out along the yellow trail toward Avalanche camp.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFrom there, it was a little bit of deja vu as we picked up the blue trail to Lake Arnold and Feldspar lean-to (for the 2nd time in 5 days).  We saw a few folks out on skis as we chugged up the ascent to Lake Arnold.  As we passed Lake Arnold and hiked down into the Opalescent River valley between Marcy and Colden, the sky brightened a little, although it didn’t exactly clear. We could just make out Gray between the trees.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA little over 6 miles in, we passed Feldspar lean-to, and the blue trail ended at a junction with the yellow trail that runs up along Feldspar brook.  We took our left and headed (what felt like straight) up to Lake Tear of the Clouds.  When we got to the outlet of Lake Tear into Feldspar brook, we started looking for the herd path entrance.  The snow on Friday had obscured any traces of footprints that might have been there, but we had a lot more confidence this time.  We took an educated guess at this opening in the trees and went for it:

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Entrance to herd path to Gray from Lake Tear outlet

We were relieved and pleased to find that the opening seemed to keep going … and going.  We took it up a little ways through some spruce trees, and then it curved left though a somewhat more open area.  From there (now heading roughly parallel to a downstream direction of Feldspar brook) it crossed the same ravine we’d been exploring last week.  We stepped carefully, because while we could not see any indication of the herd path, we could feel the difference between stepping on the herd path snowpack under the fresh powder, and stepping off into the deep powder.  After crossing the ravine, we came through a section that was a little trickier, and fell into a few spruce traps.  There was a little feeling our way around to find how the snowpack spine made it through the spruces, but up and up we went.  It wasn’t too long before we had views of Lake Tear over our shoulders, and the area was getting pretty exposed to the wind.  We knew the summit had to be nearby when the steep terrain flattened out; Gray has a bit of a domed summit.  Then we saw it – the summit marker disc! – a little after noon.

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Gray summit disc

We had expected to find a yellow-lettered sign on the summit, but couldn’t find it.  It might be under the snow.  We were satisfied with having found the disc.

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Gray summit – #45

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Gray summit – #45

Gray’s summit is only about a third of a mile (as the crow flies) from where the herd path meets the trail, and it’s a steep third of a mile, so we butt-sledded our way down our own tracks and were back to the trail in 10-15 minutes.

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We figured we earned ourselves some good trail karma, having correctly found and broken out the herd path.  When we left to head back down Feldspar brook toward Redfield, the Gray herd path was pretty easy to find:

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Looking toward Lake Tear – the dead tree points the way to the herd path.

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Looking downhill, away from Lake Tear – again, the dead tree points the way to Gray

Now we were at 45, and the prospect of finishing seemed real.  We headed back downhill along Feldspar Brook to where it meets the Opalescent, to Uphill Lean-to.  Across the trail from Uphill lean-to was our herd path to Cliff/Redfield (hello again, old friend).  Unfortunately about 200 yards in, where the herd path to Cliff splits off to the right, to the left was… only a vague indentation where a herd path might be if you squint and use your imagination.  Like Gray, it had not been broken out yet since the last snowfall.  So onward we went, slowly and carefully, looking for the slightest of indents in the snow that might suggest snowpack under the powder.

Eventually the herd path roughly joins up with Uphill Brook.  Trail guides give a water fall as a landmark, but with everything frozen and powder covered, it wasn’t very helpful.  We knew we were looking for the herd path to branch off to the right away from the brook again around 0.6 mile.  We guessed wrong, and started up a little too early, and earned ourselves a few spruce traps.

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After a little trial and error we went back to the brook to have another look, and this time we thought we could verrrrrry vaguely see a slight indent in the snow going up the brook.  We followed it up a little higher, and found the herd path on the side of the brook again.  Turns out, the branching of the tributaries is probably a better landmark in winter than the falls.  From there we were also able to finally see where the summit was that we were heading for.  The herd path the rest of the way up was reasonably easy to keep track of, and the climb was not at all technically difficult, just a little long.  Eventually, finally, we found it!  The final summit of our 7.5 year long 46r adventure.

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46r finish on Redfield

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46r finish on Redfield

Since we might have been the only people on Redfield all day (we had to break the trail, and were clearly the first people on the summit – at 4:30pm!), we didn’t have the luxury of asking someone to take a picture for us.  Selfie had to do!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

There wasn’t much in the way of views from Redfield.  You could only barely make out a small pond between Redfield and Allen through the clouds.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAGiven the time, the miles left to go, and the cold wind, we didn’t stay long to celebrate on the summit.  We made pretty good time back down to the brook, at which point the clouds started to finally part.

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We were counting up hours and paces and time till sunset, and started our haul back to ADK Loj.  We stopped to change to dry socks at Feldspar lean-to, but otherwise it was a non-stop flight.  We made it as far as Marcy Dam before we needed to break out the headlamps, and finished the last 45 minutes by LED light.  Around 8:40pm, just over 12 hours after we started, we were back at the HPIC trail register to sign out.

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The whole route was about 19.7 miles:

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In celebration of finishing, instead of making the now-15 hour day an 18 hour day with a drive home, we spent the night at the Loj.  There we found hot food, hot showers, and bed (in that order) all within about an hour of getting off the trail.  It was fantastic.  In the morning we took one more picture

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before heading on to the next celebration:  a Noonmark Diner pie (peach/raspberry crumb).  MISSION ACCOMPLISHED.

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