|View From Giant|
Most of my winter hiking has been concentrated in areas closest to my home, including the White Mountains of NH & Maine, southern NH, the Catskills, the Berkshires, and super-locally, the Blue Hills and Middlesex Fells Reservations in MA. When my friend Emily started planning winter trips to the Adirondacks last year, she invited me along, allowing me to gain further knowledge and hiking experience in this vast, beautiful park and it's surrounding towns.
The Adironacks provide a challenge in winter (and really any time of year), with it's changable weather, steep descents between peaks and often ledgy, rocky areas that often require scrambling, ice axes, crampons, a short rope, or a mix of it all. Access into the mountains can also be a challenge, and this is where the Adirondack Mountain Club's Camps come in handy. While difficult to reserve due to their popularity, the cabins provide a heated base camp for which some of the more challenging High Peaks mountains can be reached without having to camp at the various lean-tos in the area. This additional comfort of heat and shelter makes it well worth the low price ($99 pp for 3 nights, less if at max capacity), and 1 year advance trip planning needed to secure a spot for a few weekdays.
Last year I went on my first winter trip to the ADKs and our group consisted of 5 hikers from the Boston area. We stayed at a motel in NY before hiking our way into the difficult-to-reserve Grace Camp, a rustic, one-room cabin that sleeps six, located 3.6 mi in from the winter parking lot in Keene Valley, NY. The cabin includes propane powered heat and lights, as well as a full kitchen where we cooked dinners and breakfast together. Our group's hiking goals included various 4,000 ft mountains within a day hike of the cabin, including Big Slide, Upper Wolfjaw, Lower Wolfjaw and Haystack. We had a great time in generally fair weather, and I was ready to commit for another winter ADK adventure.
This year, Emily reserved the larger cabin, the Peggy O'Brien Camp. Located just a few hundred feet from Grace Camp, it provides beds for 12, features an indoor toilet as well as a full kitchen, separate bunk room, and several fantastic clothing drying systems on pulleys lowered from the ceiling. With the extra cabin space, our group grew this year to 7 hikers in all, which allowed for lots of extra elbow room in the cabin.
Whiteface & Ester
That Sunday, four in our group day hiked together to Whiteface and Ester. It was a cool, windy day up high, and while we saw many people on the sheltered trail to Ester, we saw no one else on going up or coming down from the summit of Whiteface that day.Hiking up Marble Mtn and Ester was relatively simple, both summits were fairly wooded, but if there was a view from Ester, there was none to be had that day. The way up to Whiteface was more interesting, as we passed a chairlift and skier, finally popping out to the wind-whipped road to the summit and hiking along the ridge to the summit in 30 mph winds. The summit surprised us with its cluster of building, including its tall, shuttered observation tower and a mountain-shaped sign with the summit marked in feet. We hurried around for photos and movies and made our way down to the cars.
Giant & Rocky
|Hiking up Giant|
|Peggy O'Brien Camp|
|Dutch Apple Pie|
Basin and a Bonus
The first morning we hiked together to Basin Mtn. The weather was warm with light rain, which quickly changed to snow as the winds increased. The hike started with a gentle uphill slope over the course of ~4 miles. After that we faced a decent uphill climb, a short downhill, and back up steeply, over a wooden ladder and ledge, and finally to a rocky summit. At that point we gathered for pictures and summit cookies and hid from the wind and blowing snow. Two of our group continued forward to tackle 4 additional peaks, including Saddleback via the cliffs, Gothics via the cables, Armstrong, Upper Wolfjaw and down. All the snow on the ground had benefited their hike where ice or exposed rock had thwarted other hikers. Their success was a great one and we were happy to see them just an hour or two after we returned from the slightly longer, easier way down.
|Hiking to Basin|
|Emily up the steeps|
|Alex and the apps|
Our last day and night
Our final day took all of us to Upper Wolfjaw and for some, Armstrong and LowerWolfjaw. It was a bitter cold day with strong winds, though the hike was mostly sheltered to all 3 peaks. We had some steep climbs over small ledges and our ice axes were useful though the trail was buried in snow drifts from the snow and wind the night before.
|Bundled up on Armstrong|
|Toast with dinner|
Emily cooked everyone a pancake breakfast on our last morning at Peggy O'Brien Camp. We cleaned up, packed out and were soon bounding down the trail with feather-weight sleds and lighter backpacks. It was a beautiful sunny day, a great day for more hiking (Jeff and Karine) or for a leisurely drive home (everyone else). Thank again to everyone for making this such a great trip from the food to the company and camaraderie.