Ok, folks, it’s still Way Back Week here at Towns and Trails. And it turns out I lied the other day when I said our Roaring Brook Falls adventure was my first winter trip to the Adirondacks. I had conveniently forgotten about a quick little winter overnight hike we did over Thanksgiving weekend in 2004. It was supposed to be a 2-nighter, but we bailed after the first night because I was woefully unprepared for the cold. I’d like to think a few more years of experience under my belt has toughened me up a bit.
In any case, our original plan for this trip was to hike into Marcy Dam, camp for a couple of nights and bust out a few High Peaks while we were at it. We made it into Marcy Dam just fine on Friday afternoon. In fact, I’d say things were looking pretty good – the weather was great and we were having a good time. See?
We found a nice tent site, had a scrumptious dehydrated meal for dinner, and then proceeded to set up camp.
Everything looks a-okay in this photo. What you don’t see is that I forgot to pack a key piece of gear for my first winter overnight – my inflatable sleeping pad. I wasn’t too concerned about it; I still had my Ridge Rest and figured I could make up for the lack of insulation by lining the bottom of my 0 degree bag with extra clothes. Unfortunately, the clothing wasn’t nearly as insulating as I thought it would be. I spent most of the night shivering in my sleeping bag while the cold, cold ground sucked away any amount of warmth I managed to generate. Meanwhile, Dave was sound asleep and (apparently) warm as can be. He was in what we thought would be the colder of our two setups… a 20 degree summer bag with a 35 degree overbag. Eventually, my shivers woke him up and he took pity on me and switched setups. What a guy. If you know me, you’ll know that I don’t easily admit defeat – I had to be pretty dang desperate in order to switch sleeping bags.
The next morning I was pretty tired and sore from such a restless night. I tried to be a trooper, but after an hour or so we agreed that it would be best to hike out a day early rather than spend another miserable night outside. Instead of just hiking the 3.5 miles or so straight back to the car, though, we decided to tackle Wright Peak.
It was actually a great hike, despite my compromised physical and mental state. I had never hiked with crampons before, so it was cool to try out techniques and get a feel for them. There were a couple of close calls, as evidenced below, but I don’t recall going splat. I’ll call that a success.
There were excellent sights along the way as well, such as this awesome frozen waterfall.
Just below treeline, however, the wind really started to pick up. At times it nearly knocked me over. I made the decision to hunker down behind a boulder while Dave made a final push to the summit.
As disappointing as it is to stop just before a summit, I knew I didn’t have it in me that day. Dave later told me that he had encountered another couple on the summit – they were linking arms to keep from being blown around, and the other woman was in tears because the conditions were so bad. Once I heard that, I knew I had made the right decision. It wasn’t until a couple of years later that I learned that Wright Peak is notorious for its incredible winds.
Though not a roaring success, this hike was a great experience for me. I often have a hard time knowing my limits and, as backward as it sounds, I was proud of myself for making the decision to quit. Had I pushed on, I could have gotten us into a dangerous situation. Instead, I made it down the mountain in one piece, motivated to try it again another day.
Where: The Adirondack Park, High Peaks
Directions from Lake Placid: Take Rt. 73 south/east toward Keene. In about 3 miles start looking for the High Peaks trail sign on your right. If it is a clear day there are some amazing views into the High Peaks as you approach the turn off; I’ve been known to miss the sign while admiring them. Take a right at the sign and the Adirondack Loj is 5 miles down this road. From there you will find trailheads to Marcy Dam, Wright Peak and many others.
Difficulty: A moderate to strenuous day hike.
Summary: Wright Peak is one of the more accessible High Peaks due to its proximity to the Adirondack Loj trailheads and Marcy Dam. It is often far less crowded than some of its taller neighbors, and makes a fine day hike on its own or an excellent 1 hour side trip on the way to Algonquin.
- The North Face Ultra XCR Trail Runners – Dave wore his 3 season trail runners, and the crampons worked just fine with them
- Lowa Renegade GTX Mid Hiking Boots – Jess’ boots
- Grivel G10 Crampons – It is hard to find these classic trekking crampons now. I believe Grivel has scaled back their N. American distribution. The Mountaineer in Keene, NY still carries them.
- Granite Gear Nimbus Ozone – Our pack of choice for multiday hikes in both winter and summer.
- Kelty Vortex Tent – Solid 3+ Season tent that we carry in winter. Love the two doors, two vestibules, and easy setup. They no longer make this model.
- Big Agnes Horse Thief +35 bag – we used it as an overbag
- The North Face Cat’s Meow +20 – layered with the Horse Thief
- EMS 0 Degree Synthetic Bag – We have an older version of this bag. It is nice, but wasn’t as warm as the layered bags were.
- Big Agnes Insulated Air Core Pad – So comfy, and so warm.
- Therm-a-Rest Ridge Rest – An old standby, we like to pair it with air pad in the winter
- Jetboil Stove – Its efficiency takes a hit in colder temps, but still one of the best pieces of gear we have ever owned.
- Adirondack High Peaks Trail Guide – Amazon.com
- Trails Illustrated, High Peaks Trail Map – Amazon.com
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