Thank you Hannah Clarke

Thank you Hannah Clarke

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Early winter Adirondack trip

I'm sure that everyone has a couple of friends that tend to get them in over their heads. I mean we always have a crazy good fun time, and it's always worth it, but lots of lessons are learned along the way. There was of course the last Adirondack trip, or the impromptu obstacle race, and now backpacking in the snowcovered Adirondacks again. It was another one of those Thursdays, you're not quite sure what you're doing this weekend and you get the call. We had been thinking of doing a trip to the Adirondacks, but there's that transition season between when it's cold, but still traversible with regular gear, and when there's enough snow that you an grip the mountain side again. That window in between is just icy, and not ideal for a big trip.
Luckily for us, the Adirondacks were just getting tons of snow, and conditions were prime for a winter camping and backpacking trip in the mountains. My friends came up Friday night to Kingston and did the responsible thing of going to a party and being DD. After a late night, we got up quite early that morning and headed straight for the border in Kelsey's new car. The border guard was less than impressed with the vomit all over the side of the car (by-product of being DD), but I guess that really wasn't a good enough reason to keep us out of the country.
Cleaning off the side of the car upon arrival just outside of Lake Placid
The first day of hiking we managed 3 different mountains, and had fantastic conditions. Sure it was quite windy at the top, and the fresh snow led to a soaker only an hour in for me, but at least it wasn't too cold to manage!
Nicer conditions when you're still in the tree cover
Hanging out in these winds at the tops of the mountains was fun, but cold!

Coming down these trails was some of the most fun and hard to control hiking/running that I had ever done. The goal is always speed, and the trails are so steep that running down the hills ends up being almost like freefalling down the mountain, planting your feet where you get the opportunity to steer yourself and slow down a little bit. Then having a big pack loaded on your back puts you a bit off balance, so it's all about calculated risks and trying to keep up I guess! 

Walking up the creeks made for extreme danger of soakers

the trails that we had planned to tackle to get up the summits of the mountains had a general trend: they were partially frozen creeks. The area that we were is a conservation area in the mountain range, so as opposed to cut a lot of nice big trails up the mountains, some trails follow creek beds. This makes for the added challenge extra steep and unpredictable trail, as well as the odd wet foot hole. But the views were always worth it.

Stretching it out on the mountain top in front of the stunning scenery

After a couple of different mountain climbs we were all still smiling, not really wearing out too much yet, and Kelsey mentioned how we had had such a great, relaxed day. Matt reminded him that we had been almost running through snow for about five and a half hours, wow, time flies. 

We hunkered into a "lean to" for the night, and I wasn't sure what I was expecting. I knew what I was afraid that a lean to would be, but surely it wouldn't be so bad. 
Cute, right?
And with a view! 
We were starting to get cold after close to 8 hours of hiking in the snow, stopping only to eat chocolate bars, and this didn't seem like a very warm place to be. Luckily I had some dehydrated food and Jack Daniels to warm me up.

It turned out that I was sorely unprepared for the sleeping part of winter camping. JD led me into a false sense of warmth, but my sleeping mat had a hole in it which didn't help, and my sleeping bag was a 3 season bag, plus I only brought stuff that keeps you  warm while you're running, and a flannel shirt. We hunkered in for sleep around 6pm, and got up at 7:30, which is a long time to be in the cold without moving. Precautions that one must take when they've sunken a boot into water, or are doing crazy endurance stuff is to make sure that the boots are not a frozen block in the morning, and to do the same for your water bladder. This means that inside my sleeping bag was me, my boots, and my water bladder. Outside my sleeping bag was the great outdoors, and something like -20C.

By the time the dawn came up I had waited patiently, contemplating every possible piece of gear that I would bring to the next winter camping trip - or just to go bury myself in the snow for the night. I got us up a the crack of dawn, and we got ready to make some oatmeal and get moving. Unfortunately we forgot the oatmeal, so it was another day of eating chocolate bars, my favourite!

We walked down to the nearest creek, broke through the ice and started filling our bladders with water for the day. my hose froze in a couple of minutes, so in order for e to have access to water that day, I had to keep the whole bladder inside my coat next to my body. Once we got moving, it took several hours, but my right foot stopped being so numb! This was a bonus.
Watch the ledge! Cool canyon that we hiked alongside in the morning.

It took us more than 40 minutes to hike to the sunlight, but it was a beautiful clear day!
The thing about such a wonderful, clear day is that it is inevitably cold. And windy. It was so exciting to actually see around me this day, and not have whiteout conditions, and the 100km/h gusts at the top of the mountains were something that I hadn't experienced either.
Kelsey leaning into the wind, Matt looking the other way

Bros on the top of a mountain

Looking forward (we climbed this steep stuff for an hour)

Looking back (so steep of a slope that the trees aren't really in the way of nice pictures)

I seriously enjoyed this trip, and the frost bite and lost toenail are a small price to pay to be introduced to such a great winter passtime. I've invested in some proper stuff to camp with and backpack in the winter, and next time, I'll be ready! 

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