9 Peaks, a night at Panther Gorge and a 7-hour bushwhack from Gray Peak to Marcy Dam.
‘Twas about 8am on a chilly morning when Sylvie dropped me off in front of the Adirondack Mountain Reserve’s clubhouse in St-Huberts, New York in the heart of the Adirondacks. I had been awake for several hours already at our car-camping site at the end of Meadow Lane. It was cold, windy and raining and I sat under our tarp sipping coffee and feeling uninspired while my wife, Sylvie slept. Then I got in the car and listened to a weather forecast, which called for great improvement throughout the day and sun-shine for the morrow. That was all I needed and in spite of the chilly weather I found myself ascending 2700 steep feet towards Lower Wolf Jaw in a long-sleeved shirt. Near the notch between Upper and Lower Wolf Jaw a chill wind sawed at me so I put my jacket, bala-clava and shell mitts on. I dropped my pack and scooted up the final 700 feet to my first of the 7 summits I would wind up doing before camp.
After picking up my pack and beginning my all-day nibbling I crossed over Upper Wolf Jaw, Armstrong and Gothics before arriving at the wall of Saddleback. When I hit the summit I was hit by a very strong blast of cold wind, which caused me to stagger. When I descended to the first difficulty there was a traffic jam and an elderly oriental gentleman was belaying his team-mates one by one down the first two tricky sections. Also, a group of 6 was ascending. The wind was very cold so I put my long pants on and waited my turn. Just below the difficulty and around a corner was the rest of the group of elderly Chinese, who I assumed were tourists being guided over the Great Range. I chatted one of them up and learned they planned on camping (they had very big packs) at the same spot as I: Snowbird Campsite. From the looks of things they would be getting in a lot later than I would and when I arrived there after the 6th summit of the day, Mount Basin, it was only 3:30 and the plateau was swept by an insistent and cold wind so I decided to keep moving.
I ascended Mt. Haystack in strong winds and I wore my jacket, bala-clava etc. until I crossed over the summit and began down the other side. Now there was no wind and the sun was hot so I peeled down to shorts and a t-shirt for the 1700 foot steep drop. The views were stunning!
The next morning it was sunny but the woods were soaking wet from the previous night’s rain. My plan was to ascend Gray Peak and to bushwhack all the way out to Marcy Dam but I didn’t relish the idea of being soaked when I would bushwhack through the coniferous vegetation. It’s not unlike walking through a car wash I would think. I decided to head up anyway from Panther Gorge to Gray and decide what to do then. The woods were pretty wet so I sat at Lake Tear for 30 minutes and when I got to Gray at about 8:30 the ridge was in full sun and the wind was very strong. The vegetation looked dry so I turned north and began to bushwhack down 1000 feet to the two parallel headwater streams of the Opalescent River. Within 30 seconds my pants were soaking wet because the vegetation was still wet after all but lower down the woods were sparse and I dried out quickly.
Between Gray and TR Mountain (one of the ADK-Hundred Highest peaks) there lies a long boomerang-shaped ridge of 4400 feet elevation, and which is part of Mount Marcy. It runs right into Little Marcy in fact. I climbed up to the central part of the ridge where there is a neat little dike, which I walked down the middle of to the other side. Next, I bushwhacked down to the base of TR Mountain and 45 minutes later was on top. The distance as the crow flies from Gray to TR is 2.3 miles and it took me nearly 5 hours to cover it. The fifth and final stage of the ‘whack was the 1.2 mile segment from TR to Marcy Dam and this took another 2 hours so my average speed was 0.5 mph, a little slower than average bushwhacking speed in the High Peaks Region.
I was descending the steep ridge towards Marcy Dam and had another 600 feet of descent left to go when my phone rang. Sylvie was just leaving Mt. Colden and asked if I’d walk up and meet her on her way down. From Marcy Dam to our campsite there is a 2.8 mile dirt road, closed to public vehicles, and we would stroll down it together instead of an hour apart. When I made it out to the trail I dropped my pack and slowly walked towards the Avalanche Pass-Lake Arnold trail junction and there I sat in the sun for a while until Sylvie showed up. We walked down the Marcy Dam-South Meadows road hand in hand.
I’m afraid I have no pictures of this hike. 😦