|View From Giant|
Most of my winter hiking has been concentrated in the 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 from which the High Peaks can be reached without having to brave the cold in lean-tos. This additional comfort of heat and shelter makes it well worth the low price and 1 year advance trip planning needed to secure a spot for a few weekdays. (We paid $99 pp for 3 nights, but it would cost even less if the cabin was at max capacity).
Last year was my first winter trip to the ADKs. Our group consisted of 5 experienced winter hikers from the Boston area. We stayed at a motel in Elizabethtown, NY before making our way into the difficult-to-reserve Grace Camp, a rustic, one-room cabin that sleeps six. The cabin, located 3.6 mi in from the winter parking lot in Keene Valley, NY, 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 afterwards I was ready to commit to another winter ADK adventure.
This year, Emily reserved the larger cabin, named 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 still allowed for lots of extra elbow room in the cabin.
Whiteface & Ester
That Sunday, four of our group mt up in NY to day hiked to Whiteface and Ester together. It was a cool, windy day up high. 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, with wooded summits and no view to be had on 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 in 30 mph winds. The summit surprised us with its cluster of buildings, 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 soon made our way down to the cars.
Later we gathered at the ADK Cafe in Keene for one of the best meals you can get in the area. A credit card only place, the food was fantastic and prices reasonable for the quality and portions. Not only do they offer lunch and dinner, but also baked goods all day and night long! After dinner, we picked up muffins for the morning and made our way to the hostel. Do not pass through Keene hungry without stopping at the ADK Cafe (the ADK Market is great too)!
Giant & Rocky
|Hiking up Giant|
|Peggy O'Brien Camp|
|Dutch Apple Pie|
Basin and a Bonus
The first morning of our cabin adventure we hiked together to Basin Mtn. The weather was warm with light rain, which quickly changed to snow as the winds increased and the temperatures dropped. 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 back at teh cabin just a few hours later. Our group went back the way we came, the slightly longer and easier way.
|Hiking to Basin|
|Emily up the steeps|
|Alex and the apps|
Our last day and night
Our final day hike from teh cabin took all of us to Upper Wolfjaw, and for some, to Armstrong and Lower Wolfjaw. It was a bitter cold day with strong winds, though the hike was mostly sheltered on all 3 peaks. We had some steep climbs over small ledges and our ice axes were useful in spots.
|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.