Thank You!

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Could not have done it without Sylvie.

This is the most important and probably final post for Project Full Deck. Click any picture for a full-sized version.

 

I would like to thank some people for their support and belief in this, the most ambitious outdoors project I have ever done.

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What a couple! Big Slide 2009.

Tom and Doreen. You have always been there for me in so many ways throughout the years. Whether it’s a cup of coffee, a mailbox, a car spot or a floor to sleep on I know I can count on you. Tom was standing by throughout PFD ready to drop everything and pitch in for re-supplies if anything went awry. He provided Glen with a lift from Averyville to Coreys and dropped my stuff off at the hostel. Thank you Tom for all the car spots and thank you Doreen for your hospitality and baking!

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Tmax-n-Topo’s Hostel. Without the support of the hostel in letting Sylvie stay in the tent trailer she could never have done the incredible job she did managing the moving parts of PFD. You guys are the best and the hiking public is very, very lucky to have you. Thanks Tmax and TopoGothics! Long may you innkeep!

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Mastergrasshopper Glen. The word titan comes to mind when I think of Glen’s role in this whacky scheme. Right from the get-go when I began to make the plan he was totally supportive and sent me e-mails with suggestions and ideas. He came on many of my training/fact-finding hikes and figured out the best way for me to break the trip into more reasonable segments. He was totally there. Glen hiked with me for about 8 days and ran in and out several times for re-supplies so that my pack weight would be easier to manage. On the bushwhacks he was very strong and a huge help in solving some thorny navigation problems. When the going got very, very tough he was always bouyant and cracking jokes. Thank you very, very much Glen! You are an inspiration to all hikers.

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Boghollow Tom. The words generous and light-hearted come readily to mind when I think of Tom. Also, a monster of a hiker and a very quick study in the finer aspects of off-trail navigation. Tom e-mailed me and offered to feed me during his 4-day stint. I took him up on that and as a result enjoyed his excellent culinary abilities. (dehydrated suppers, hot coffee in the morning, some sort of addictive chocolate peanut butter cake, pastrami sandwhiches and best of all he carried a liter bottle of Mountain Dew up the Wright Slide. On the roughest whacks imaginable (Adams, Henderson) he never once complained or uttered a discouraging word. Tom was always 100% right there with a smile and a joke. (it’s wide open ahead but has a fair bit of blowdown!!) Thank you Tom!

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Happy man in the Sawtooth Range circa 2008.

ADKJack. I can’t say enough good things about Jack. No Jack would mean no Foundation, it’s that simple. Jack has been a rock ever since our family tragedy. Sawtooth E and NE_0053Both on P-46 and Full Deck Jack did and is doing everything in his power to help out and to completely run the fund raising arm of the hike. His support has been priceless and without his being there these projects would lose their luster. He and I have e-mailed and messaged countless times and his wise counsel I know to heed well. Thank you Jack!

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The King of IT!

Kyler (Geoff). Geoff handled the posting of the daily spot tracks as maps and put them on-line nearly every day. A thankless task for which I thank you now Geoff. Than you too for your solid IT work over the years.

People from the forum I met on the trail. Thanks for the boost! It always lightened my step!

LASAR. Thank you good people for doing what you do. I thought of you often while on the hike and did my best not to become one of your search subjects!

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My wife Sylvie. Saving the biggest and most important thank you for last. First of all, if it weren’t for me being such a lucky guy and being with her this project would never have come to fruition, let alone ever have been conjured up in my brain. Two years ago Sylvie offered me the opportunity to do something “big” and I let it slide. Then she came back last year with the same offer and I thought I had better seize the chance. I could have gone anywhere and done anything but this project is what resonated with me. She quickly got on board and was totally supportive but was very busy with work. What she put up with at first was my absence. I was absent while I was there at home (always thinking, planning, cooking, training and scheming) but I also went on three-day training back-packs nearly every weekend for 4 months taking our only car with me each weekend. When her summer vacation started she totally geared up her support. We also went to the Dacks as a real couple. However, for two of the 4-day weekends that we shared she camped uncomplainingly alone at South Meadows and hiked mostly alone for two days out of the four. I bookended these weekends with a hike with her on days 1 and 4 and took off on an overnight in the middle two days. In addition to sharing in the food prep, she set about learning the itinerary: ie. the who, what, when and where of a great many moving parts. Her pages and pages of notes that she wrote, studied and fussed over re-assured me as to the efficiency and accuracy she was bringing to the table. I was able to free my mind for other things. She also advertised my project on her Facebook page and shared all of my posts. Once my feet hit the ground on day one she ran Project Full Deck with a master’s hand and seized every opportunity to talk about it to whoever was in earshot. Of the funds we have raised Sylvie is directly responsible for a significant portion. Throughout the months leading up to the actual hike I was aware just how much this project was impacting on her quality of life but she never complained. I know she’s relieved it’s over but she keeps congratulating me and saying how impressed she is with what I have done. Thank you Sylvie – for everything.

And it’s a wrap!

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Sentinel-Kilburn-Slide for the grand finale.

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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.

Random PFD thoughts.

Project Full Deck2_0043Pacing. Of the many things I learned I quickly realized the importance of pacing. In fact, pacing is everything. I settled into a rate of effort that I found I could sustain all day every day. This rate was just a fraction below that which I couldn’t comfortably hold for more than 10 seconds. Whenever I had to furnish a harder effort, say to get up a steep rock pitch on Basin, I would pause and count 3 or 4 deep breaths before continuing. I quickly learned to keep my eyes on the road at all times and to use foot placements and control my body weight balance so as to conserve energy. I made full use of my hiking poles. Going down, I always held back, one foot on the brake and used the poles to their utmost so as to spare the cartilage on the back side of my knee caps. I am convinced that humans evolved not to do extensive ascending/descending but to walk/jog for many miles on gentle terrain. Just think of the difference between ascending and descending 10,000 vertical feet as opposed to walking 10,000 feet on the flats.

Not getting ahead of myself. At first I found I had a tendency to think too far ahead and when I re-focused on the current mountain (getting up it or off of it), or even just the current pitch, I got into the present moment and really enjoyed the hiking, rather than think ahead, stew and calculate.

I liked knowing. In spite of what I just wrote I found that it was a lot easier when I was fully informed as to the upcoming and remaining ascent/descent in vertical meters by following my progress on the altimeter. My readings into the neuroscience of endurance running and “wanting” it badly enough has led me to believe that an informed brain leads to a stronger and more enduring hiker or runner.

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Weather is king. The difference between high pressure, dry air and blue skies versus rain, wind and chilly and clingingly wet clothing is huge. I found that even with temps in the mid-sixties that being soaking wet and exposed to wind was enough to risk hypothermia. Boghollow and I ascended Henderson Mountain (2000 feet of gain, no trail in pouring rain most of the way) and we gained the summit ridge and crossed over to the blowdown-free west side to side-hill towards the summit. The wind was blowing west to east and I instantly grew cold now that we were no longer working hard to gain elevation out of the wind. We had to put on our shells and hats immediately.

Weather when bushwhacking is a bigger king. The difference between whacking through dry woods as opposed to soaking wet “car-wash” woods with slippery and sloping tree trunks and branches, having dry feet versus squishy and slippy-slidey shoes and socks is beyond description.

Suck it up buttercup.  I did all the bushwhacks except day 15 in the Sentinel Range with map, compass and altimeter only. No GPS. I had previously hiked most of the whacks beforehand and felt I could nail each route. However, this was not always to be. I had a much rougher go of it than I was expecting on a few of the whacks. In these situations it was important just to suck it up and keep moving- no whining allowed! After all it was what I had signed on for. Using a previously recorded GPS track log or even just having my position on the display map would have simplified things greatly but that wasn’t how I wanted to do it.  Getting hit hard by rain was another thing to suck up. Going out for 15 days straight you have to expect rain and deal with the discomfort.

Off-trail navigation.

As mentioned just above I only used GPS on the final day. I have nothing against technology or GPS and am not a Luddite. I could care less what other people do but my personal preference on whacks is to use map, compass and altimeter. This is not to make it even harder but to produce a richer and more “mindful” experience. When you can’t look at a GPS because you don’t even have one you learn to see a tremendous amount of terrain detail and you really learn to associate the subtleties of the terrain with the map. You find you can squeeze out huge amounts of information from a tiny sheet of paper with squiggly lines on it. It never ceases to fascinate me.

Navigation errors.

I made several but don’t know if anyone caught them. Descending Wallface towards Lower Wallface Pond, between the col after Moose Pond LT en route to Lost Pond Peak I got totally lost and had to force myself to calmly estimate my rough whereabouts and then to hypothesize my way to Roaring Brook. Ascending Street I turned north too late and got caught in the fir waves rather than come out just above them.

Being done for the day nice and early. When multi-day backpacking getting into camp early (two hours or more before sundown in August) is a huge pleasure. You have time to relax totally and to sit quietly and chill out while your brain switches itself off. After a while you can leisurely and slowly prepare for the night and get ready for the next day.  I often was in bed by eight or even earlier and lay in my bag thinking aimless thoughts while I recovered.  I discovered that this type of “absolute zero stimulation” was very relaxing and was never bored.  In fact, it was just what I needed.  How often do we do that in this day and age, ie. experience absolute zero stimulation?

Ouluska Lean-to on The Cold River.

Lean-to’s versus tarp tenting or camping. I love lean-to’s for their ease and convenience. Especially if it’s raining! Compared to camping it’s like staying in a hotel room. Some lean-to sites (as well as designated camp sites) however are kind of slummy. Ie. Panther Gorge = very low rent district. Also, if you have neighbors you don’t choose them and they don’t choose you. You find yourself being brought down to the lowest common denominator of backwoods technique and etiquette.

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Designated campsites are great because unlike “wild” camping you don’t have to search around for a flat spot. The flip side is that these level sites are compacted and water pools in them. Not a huge problem with a good bathtub floor on your tent but a very big issue if you are tarp tenting. The problem with wild tarp tenting on the other hand is that on sloping terrain any flat spots will be water sinks. One hopes that the ADK duff will soak up all the rain. I did not have to find out the hard way!

One last thing about the tarp: mine is a simple 8×10 rectangle and great care has to be exercised in setting it up so as to avoid water “balloons” in case of rain and to try and avoid being in a wind tunnel in case of misty rain combined with wind, which would result in a soaked sleeping bag very quickly. My next tarp will have triangulat closures at each end. My sleep system (tarp, guy lines, bag, mattress and ground cloth) weighed just over 3 pounds. Not bad huh?

When to fold.

Safety and fun trump numbers and peakbagging. After a wet hike from Ward Brook to the Sawtooth 2-4 col and bagging 4 in rain we got dry with a fire but then it rained and blew hard all night. Our decision to head to Moose Pond without doing Sawtooths 1, 5 and 3 was wise and safe. After all this was my vacation. The decision caused all the stress to drain away. That day’s hike was memorable and great fun with Glen and I partnering wonderfully as a navigation team. It took us about ten hours anyway (very slow and painstaking in wet woods). Arriving early at the lean-to under blue skies was wonderful.

The beauty of backpacking. I have almost always day-hiked in the Adirondacks, which severely restricts how deeply you can go in. But with a light pack you can go further and faster and if exiting to a car you can go a lot later. Also, a day-pack feels a lot better than an overnight pack. The best of both worlds might be to go for 2 nights and to go very light. Ultra-lite really just means going without a lot of stuff. You don’t have to go cold and hungry either. For sure you will go slower but why would you be in a hurry anyway? Hurry for what? To get back on the Northway? To get back to work?

Warm weather versus cold. As a flip side to the niceties of back-packing I will say that once the temps go below 60 and beyond the game changes pretty quickly. I have camped a fair bit in the negative 40’s and we had spend 18 hours a day surviving and only spent 6 snowshoeing. But, we were outside 24 hours a day.

Fastest Known Times and unsupported hikes of the ADK-46.  I find that my work challenges and stresses me enough as it is. When I go on vacation I don’t want to put huge deadlines and overwhelming physical challenges in my path. Maybe as I get older and my hormone levels decrease my drive discovers gentler outlets. That said, when I did Project 46 I had the time of my life and I really wanted to finish in 10 days.

Speaking of the 46.

In spite of being guided by the 46 for single season winter 46’s, doing a bushwhack round of the 46, etc. etc. I think the “46” is a blessing and a curse. People I meet on the trails seem to be blinded by the 46 and don’t understand that the Adirondacks are something other than the 46. On Big Slide I was asked if I had done “ all 46 ” and I softly and gently replied that there were a hundred peaks and yes I had done the hundred and another 30-40 peaks more. I said the 46 was just scratching the surface.

The trail conditions on the “trade routes” to the 46 are deplorable and the toilet paper and crap is disgusting. For the local region the 46 are a cash cow that draws in tourist money. It’s long overdue in my opinion that proper investments be made in that cash cow so as to clean up the GD mess. In fact, it seems to be getting underway now with planking and stairs, outhouses and thunderboxes being placed in critical areas. Good to see even if it takes the wilderness out a bit (dumbs it down). But hey, if you want wilderness à la pre-46 days then e-mail me and I’ll be happy to take you on a hike that feels like more wilderness than you might have bargained for.:-)

Signage in the High Peaks = increased SAR callouts?

I was cleaning up at Panther Gorge when couple crossed the stream having come down from 4 Corners. She came over and asked if I had a map. Oh-oh. They had turned left at 4 Corners instead of right and continued all the way down. Before you slam them let me say these were very intelligent people who would have turned right if the signage in the High Peaks was what it should be. (I sent them back over 4 Corners with some of my food, some batteries, water purification tablets and instructions recorded on her I-Phone on how to get back to the Loj. They made it the next day after someone loaned them a tent and extra bag for the night). On Santa we met a professor of Earth Sciences who thought he was on Couchie.

Something is wrong. The answer to reduced SAR callouts in my (not overly) humble opinion is proper and unambiguous signage – everywhere on the 46. Costs money but the 46 are a cash cow and SAR callouts aren’t exactly free.

Fund Raising.

First of all, on behalf of LASAR, I thank each and every one of you who donated to this cause. Keep your eyes peeled for a personal message from me but don’t be surprised if it takes a while. I chose SAR because I felt it would resonate with the hiking public and people would kick in the price of a tank of gas, a six-pack or a post-hike snack at Stewarts or more.   Once again,  to all who donated, thank you from the bottom of our hearts (Neil and Sylvie, who shall grieve eternally for Dominic).

Next?

Single winter hundred highest, hundred highest through hike and the biggest of all: Manitoba Lakes in Feb-March (Lake Manitoba, Lake Winnipegosis, Cedar Lake, north rim of Lake Winnipeg then straight south to the confluence of the Red and Assiniboine Rivers). Check that one out on Google!

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