Hail Shock in the Adirondacks

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Rain on it’s way from Mt. Marcy

My friend Glen had just left down the Haystack Brook (ie. Snakes and ladders) trail. I crawled under my tarp for a before-dinner snooze and heard the gentle pitter-pattering of a light shower. We had just descended from Haystack and had been pelted by rain for 5 minutes before the sun came back out. Over on Whiteface it was raining and we saw a beauty of a lightning bolt but everywhere else the sky was blue and summery. There was however one big cloud over Marcy and it was very tall and unstable-looking with a dark base. All the way to the Snowbird campsite the thunder growled there was an ominous crackle and peal or two.

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This was earlier, descending Haystack before the storm.

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The the sun came out on Mt. Basin.


Under my tarp I was nevertheless confident the pitter-patter would lull me to sleep and quickly pass over. But then all of a sudden the pitter-patter became a roar and the rain pounded down. In minutes rivulets of water snaked towards my sleeping mattress from both sides. The left wall of my tarp began to balloon inwardly and press against me. The ridge-line grew taught and I could have plucked it like a violin string. I looked out side and the ground was all white! Pea-sized hail stones coverd the ground and the temperature plummeted. Meanwhile my mattress had become a tiny and rapidly shrinking island and the tarp’s wall kept swelling inwardly. The storm raged on with no let-up and my “personal space” was diminishing alarmingly quickly. If the ridge-line failed all would surely be lost!

My mind raced, what to do?
Flee the flood and hunker down in my rain gear? Stay put and hope the rain stopped?
I chose the latter action step.
I grabbed a hiking pole and began puncturing the ground under the water in hopes of creating drainage holes. Desperate and ineffectual.

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Nice weather on day 1 descending Gothics’ cable route.

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On Big Slide day 1. Lower Wolf Jaw.

Flashback to morning: birds singing, blue skies, Haystack was beautifully lit up in an orange glow. I was ready to descend to meet Glen, who was hiking in over Sawteeth, at the junction of the Haystack Brook and Bartlett Ridge trails. I didn’t like the the looks of the slight depression my tarp was set up over but it was clearly the driest spot in all of Snobird-ville. The forecast was for no rain anyway so off I went. Glen and I hiked Sky-Marcy-Hay and he came in to check out my set-up. Then at 4 pm he descended to Shanty Brook, re-climbed Sawtooth and exited via the AMR road.

Back to pathetic situation, the water rose relentlessly and then to my immense relief the thunderous roar lessened and turned into normal rainfall. I sprung into action and hauled out the ground sheet and removed the sopping wet bug netting from it’s multiple attachment points on the tarp. I made sure all my gear was safe under the dry portion of my tarp. I checked out my friendly neighbors: the Wallaces and friend and their site was underwater as were all of the tent sites on the Snobird plateau. But then I saw a dry spot where I least expected it and where I never would have set up.

My neighborly neighbors helped me re-locate my tarp, the four of us walking it outstretched and re-attaching the ridge-line and 4 corners in a jiffy. I had folded my mattress inwardly and one side of it was still dry! The ground in my new spot had drained thoroughly and was barely wet to the touch. Other than my rain gear and base-layer shirt all my stuff was dry! The birds began to sing and I went and got my bear canister and got dinner on the road. Then I thought of poor Glen who must have got caught by the storm half-way down the Snakes and Ladders Trail.  He would have had a 5-hour hike out to his car through sopping wet woods after getting pounded with no shelter.

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Survived the storm!

The next day, I went back down the Haystack Snakes and Ladders trail to Shanty Brook and while waited for Glen I dried out my tarp, ground sheet etc. Glen showed up at 9:30 and we sat in the sun telling our stories to each other. His was the worst experience but the better story. Then hiked up the Elevator Shaft and did Blake and Colvin, which was plenty for each of us. Glen had hiked for 16 hours the day before and climbed Sawteeth twice. I had kicked off my final 4-day training spree with 10 x 200 vertical feet of interval training in Montreal. On day two I hauled my overnight pack over the Brothers to Big Slide before crossing over and hiking from Upper Wolf Jaw to Snobird. The toughest hill to climb was between the AMR road gate and the Golf Course in the blazing sun.


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