Day 15, Sentinel, Kilburn and Slide. A trio of trail-less peaks in the Sentinel Wilderness.
Many people are unaware of the existence of this wonderful area, The Sentinel Wilderness Unit. Those who know of it are peakbaggers who wish to check off 4 more peaks on the Adirondack Hundred Highest list. Note that Pitchoff Mtn., a real hundred highest gem with a trail, also lies within the Sentinel Wilderness.
After leaving his truck at the Rock and River Boghollow and I got dropped off by Sylvie on Bartlett Road at 6:30 where Liscombe Brook crosses. We got right to it and followed a bearing northwest and ascended diagonally to the ridge on the north side of the brook. We had about 650 meters of ascent in front of us so we moved steadily. This was my last day so I knew I could hike like there was no tomorrow, so to speak, although of course there is a limit to how fast you can bushwhack uphill without maiming or killing yourself.
The aforementioned ridge blends into the mountain’s eastern flanks higher up and at this point (altimeter data and for this big day GPS assistance) we made a left forty-five degree turn to the so as to do an ascending traverse to the south-west. This got us clear of the mountain’s summit ridge while we were still well below it. I knew to make this important move from two previous forays. Those previous forays provided me with the knowledge to get us to the top with nary a tough section to push through. Gravy the entire way !
After a short break and keeping an eye on the time, which on a bushwhack ticks away quicker than you would think, we took the same route off the summit that Trail Boss and I used when we did a Sentinel-Slide traverse last summer. You wouldn’t think this route was any good but it’s the key to a Sentinel-Kilburn or Sent-Slide two-fer. There was only 10 minutes of very gnarly flat hiking across a blowdown field in the tiny col just west and 150 feet below the summit. From there we descended good woods down a drainage to 950 meters elevation. In the Sentinels the 950 meter elevation mark seems to be a magic elevation where the woods open right up and permit speedy whacking.
And speedy whacking is just what we needed for this ambitious three-fer. We literally crushed the traverse towards Kilburn and when the slope increased we began the actual ascent (250 meters worth). This portion was unknown to me as I have never done a Sent-Kil two-fer before. We switched leads every 50 meters of ascent,which has proven to be a very effective way to bushwhack up a mountain. When you are the follower your brain is at rest and it is also easier physically. We made several wide left and right deviations and avoided nearly all of the thick stuff.
With my eye always on the clock I said to Tom, «we should ie. need to reach the summit by 1 o’clock». This was so we would hit Slide by 5 and be sure to get out before dark, with a good solid hour of latitude. It was Tom’s 50 vertical meter stint on lead and he took right off. It was all I could do to keep up, panting and with burning quads. He chewed up those 50 meters so fast that he kept on going for another 50 and then it was my turn. 100 meters from the summit we hit blowdown but we were so intent on our goal that we turned on the steam even stronger and killed it. Then I remembered that if we deviated to the right we would arrive at a shoulder on the Kil-Kil East bump ridgeline. We checked the bearing to that point in the GPS and adjusted our compasses and took off again. Anyway, we made the top at 1:05 and took a 30 minute food and rest break on the magnificent viewing rock.
Kilburn was the crux of the day but Slide, I knew, was at least 4 hours away. When we got going our legs were like dead rubber for the first 10 minutes and then the food kicked in and we sped up again. We crossed a bump and turned east, towards Sentinel, which we could see and dropped down a chunky-rock drainage to the magic elevation of 950 meters. From there we turned south and hit a lot of blowdown, which I recalled from last time. Once we cleared it our pace picked up again. We had a long way to go but I was familiar with the very open terrain and led the way going very fast. Our next important landmark was the steep east end of Slide North under which we would side-slope at exactly 880 meters. The GPS, altimeter and compass were exploited. We checked the GPS occasionally, the compass every minute or two and the altimeter every 5 minutes or so. Once we rounded Slide North we took a break and I asked Tom to go first and to kill it (I used language that cannot be printed here but which contained the word mother). We rested 10 minutes and I slammed two Gu’s with 50 mg caffeine apiece. Time kept ticking away relentlessly and it became a game. I chose to finish on Slide because I knew we could exit from it most easily in the dark using the GPS (we only ran Tom’s but I carried mine as backup). Nevertheless, I was getting antsy because this was the big finish (in spite of having left Pitchoff as a straggler for the next day) and I could taste the beer already.
Tom nearly killed me with his blistering pace and the meters flew by by the tens. I knew all too well that there are massive blowdown fields near the top and we deviated widely so as to miss them (nearly) completely. Once I figured we were clear of it we turned towards the summit and hauled ass up those final 50 meters. I recognized the tiny clearing and sat down. Time of day : 4:55 ! Time for a quick snack and then good-by Sentinel Range. We were at Tom’s truck at the Rock and River at 7:30 cracking open celebratory brewskies he had put on ice.