A double Macintyre traverse with no Mount Marshall that is.
Continuing along with my training I got dropped off at the HPIC by Sylvie at 8 and she went to the library in Placid for two days of intense report writing. She would check my Spot track and come to pick me up the next day. The next day was a special one set aside to celebrate Topogothics’ 50th birthday. Hence only a single night out for me.
My plan was the following:
- Hike to the Kagel Lean-to and cross Marcy Brook.
- Drop the pack at 860 meters elly at, not in, the brook that comes down from the Algonquin-Wright col.
- Do an out and back to Avalanche Peak with a syl-nylon pack contining a few essentials.
- Grab the pack and rock hop up to the base of the Wright Airplane Slide.
- Do Wright-Algonquin-Iroquois
- Descend by Sheperd’s Tooth to the Cold Brook Pass Trail
- Spend the night at the Scott’s Clearing Lean-To.
- Return to the HPIC over the Macintyre Range (sans Slide)
- This would give me a good idea as to how long this segment will take this summer after adding an hour for Marshall. (turns out it took me 11 hours without Marshall)
I was pretty happy with my pack weight, which with only one night’s food and no water in it weighed about 20 lbs. I was careful to hike, not at an all-day pace but at an all-week pace. I ran into Old Goat and Mudrat at Marcy dam and we had a nice “hiking visit” until I bifurcated from their route and woke up two young people still sleeping at the LT as I got ready for the whack. They reported sleeping well but the night had grown a lot colder than they thought it would. (38F was the predicted low)
Day One. Phase One
I crossed Marcy Brook, ascended the steep opposite bank and ambled through open woods and quickly picked up the drainage than had water from the Avalanche-Algonquin catch basin as well as that of Algonquin-Wright. It was a rowdy drainage and it was an audible hand-rail that aided my navigation. I picked up a very old tote road for a decent spell, and this offered easy hiking with firm footing. It was very obvious where I would leave my pack, just above the confluence of the two streams where the understory was totally cleaned out by Hurricane Irene leaving a distinctive clear area in the woods, devoid of undergrowth. There it took me about 15 minutes to transition to my UL (ultra-light) pack, feed and water my person and deposit my big pack high up on a prominent rock. Then I headed off to Avalanche Peak, which I figured would be a piece of cake, having been up and down it only a year earlier. My plan was to ascend on the Avalanche side, just above the brook. When my altimeter would read 1000 meters, I’d make a hard left turn and ascend open woods due south to the top.
I watched my elevation closely and it increased very slowly until suddenly, it jumped a full 100 meters! I realized right away that the tiny holes in the back were clogged with dirt. I took it off my wrist and sucked away at it and succeeded at unblocking most of the holes. Now I was 75 meters above my intended turn. I had chosen this turning point because higher up the contour lines were suspiciously close together (think cliffs). Rather than back-track or continue all the way to the top of Caribou pass and nice fat contour intervals I did what any bushwhacker would do: I went up. Sure enough I encountered some beautiful and intimidating lines of cliffs that required some zig-zagging, searching and very steep ascending. I was treated to spectacular views of Algonquin and Wright (I was too busy to think about taking pictures) and before long got onto gentler terrain and stood in the summit clearing in the sun where I took a short food and water break.
I got back to my pack in 45 quick minutes (on my intended ascent route) and along the way found another old tote road, which was overgrown and had it’s share of blowdown across it. Still, for the 500 meters or so that I followed it the going was quick and easy. Thanks to the altimeter and the obvious appearance of the Irene-scraped woods I came out at the main drainage at the exact spot where my pack was.
Now I began phase two of my day and did a slow and easy rock-hop one kilometer and about 350 meters ascent up the rowdy brook. It was sunny, breezy and cool and I had changed out of my long-sleeve bushwhacking shirt into a t-shirt. No bugs in mid June! The brook I followed had been transformed completely by Irene. Instead of the enclosed green tunnel and a flat and easy walking surface it is now wide open and the banks were torn asunder. Thousands of boulders fill much of the stream bed and in places they are piled up and jammed together in a chaotic jumble. You have to pick your route through the line of least resistance and at times clamber over piles of deadfall. I wondered how stable the rock jams were. If you were unlucky you could get pinned under a pile of shifting rocks and that would be the end of you. A crushing defeat that would be.
It took an hour to get to the much smaller drainage that bifurcates right and I stopped to put my long-sleeves back on for the 20 minute bushwhack to the slide. This was my 4th time up this rubbly tributary and it was the first time I had seen it with water in it. I took on one liter in my collapsible water bottle (no need to treat it here) and drank copiously by sticking my face directly into the flow. The next good water would be found descending under Shepherd’s Tooth. After leaving the trib I whacked through moderately open woods until I saw the run-out from the slide.
The Airplane Slide (named for a plane crash that deposited debris over part of the mountain) ascends about 500 feet on clean grippy rock with spectacular views of Algonquin and Colden along with many other peaks and valleys. I wore very grippy trail runners on this trip (La Sportiva Raptors) because of the long rock-hop in the brook and the slide.
The way I climb slides is to pump uphill anaerobically for a minute or less then stop and admire the expanding views while I catch my breath, and take a picture or two.
After this phase was over I hiked across Algonquin, not even breaking stride, continued on to Iroquois and didn’t break stride there either. I descended towards Marshall to tree line and there I stopped and switched over to bushwhacking mode once again. I folded and stowed my hiking poles, put my long sleeves on, took a gulp of water, chewed some home-made beef jerky and disappeared into the thick and chaotic krumholtz to the base of Shepherd’s Tooth. There is a rudimentary path but it is very subtle and the gnarly branches will tear any exposed skin. From the base of the Tooth I explored a different way down to the Cold Brook Pass trail and wound up going too far to the east and in an attempt to correct my errant ways I side-hilled through thick woods. However, I gave up and came out at the trail. I had completely avoided the cliffs that line the pass. I was about 5 minutes from the height of land and I guessed I had lost no more than 15 minutes by wandering off-course. My wanderings had given me unique views of the top of Iroquois as well as blue Lake Colden far below (and way off-course). I decided that I would attempt to ascend to the “Tooth” the next day by this same route only with out the off-track deviation
Down on the trail I was ready for the final segment of my day – a 400 meter drop to Indian Pass Brook along an extremely rugged section of trail with excellent views up to a very rugged cliff-lined and gnarly area of Iroquois. I arrived at the lean-to at 7 pm so I had been hiking fairly steadily for eleven hours. A long but do-able segment for day three of Project Full Deck. Marshall will add one more hour. I was in my sleeping bag at 8:30 and sleep came easily.
The next day I was on the trail at 6:30 and re-climbed Iroquois but this time nailed the route. When I broke tree-line I was completely soaked by the rain that began as soon as I began the bushwhack segment. Every branch you brush against unloads it’s water on you. The wind was frigid and cut through my clothing like a knife. The only way to avoid hypothermia was to hike uphill as fast and hard as possible. I sped across the summit being pushed and shoved by the freezing wind and pelted by the rain. I got down as quick as I could to the protection of the woods and got dressed more suitably for the trip over the two Boundary Peaks and the biggy: Algonquin.
I crossed Algonquin without breaking my stride and did a pack-free side-trip up Wright in very strong winds. I sat on Wright (in a lee out of the brunt of the wickedly strong wind) with Jack Coleman, ADK High Peaks Foundation president and volunteer summit steward, for about 10 minutes. We watched the clouds as they tore across the summit and were shredded as they whipped down the other side to the valley below. Earlier, from Iroquois, the lenticular cloudscapes on Algonquin were to die for and so I had stopped, dug out my camera and took as many pictures as I could until my hands were totally numbed from the cold.
At the Wright junction I met forum member Christina who had generously arranged with my wife to wait for me and shuttle me back to hostel. The hike out to the HPIC was uneventful and it went by in a blink of an eye thanks to the interesting conversation with Christina.
Full picture set (each full-size picture is a live link to the next in the series).