Arriving at the Loj parking there was very little human activity. A handful of cars, no attendant at the gate and one little light on at the HPIC. We signed in at the trailhead just before 8AM and the three of us (Deb, Glenn and I) bare booted our way along a frozen dirt trail to Marcy Dam. Glenn's participation in the day was questionable after a recurring foot injury had be re-aggravated before the trip and by the time we reached Marcy Dam his day was over and had to turn around.
Deb and I continued towards Colden and not long after Marcy Dam, we donned our new Hillsound Trail Crampons (we normally use Kahtoola microspikes but these are beefier) and continued up the trail that was a mix of rock, ice and snow. After passing the bridge and the junction that splits the trail towards either Avalanche Lake or Lake Arnold, the normally rockier trail became increasingly a hard packed snow/ice path. It was very evident up to Lake Arnold that in the milder temps the previous week that many hikers had post holed leaving the sides of the trail a bit of mess. The holes were sometimes 2 feet deep leaving me worried that one miss step could cause catastrophic injury. As long as you stuck to the center of the trail and were careful of your footing, you were fine. Time to increase focus and concentration.
We took one drink break in this gradual uphill section and reached a messy log filled junction that pointed to Mount Colden. We passed through the campsite area without a view of Lake Arnold as we were now hiking in a cloud with no views in any direction. The trail up to the summit had several ice bulges and and a couple of tricky steps. The trail is steeper here and I considered stopping and switching to the snowshoes we brought to use the heel lifts but decided that spikes were working fine and the transition time putting on snowshoes wasn't worth it. We continued on and before we knew it we were at the false summit. With no view to speak of, we didn't break but carefully descended a few icy steps into a mini-col and then zoned in on our final approach to the summit. I hadn't been to Mount Colden for over a decade and had forgotten what it's summit approach looked like. I did recognize two spots: One was a large boulder area that you have to hike through an opening to pass through and the second was another large boulder that is perched on the summit and serves as the summit marker.
We reached the summit around 11:20 AM. The winds at the top were up and it was snowing. We quickly removed our mitts and took a few summit selfies and then decided to descend all the way back to the campsite to have lunch. On the way down, we got a brief glimpse of a view and with my cellphone handy, I was able to catch it. We had passed one solo male hiker on the way up and on the way down we passed a group of 3 female hikers. We took a lunch break drinking tea and eating cheese, pepperettes and hiker cookies near Lake Arnold and then got back on trail re-tracing our steps from earlier in the day.
We saw more hikers and backpackers on the way out and about half of them had snowshoes and half of them didn't. There hadn't been clear communication from the NY DEC regarding if snowshoes were required or not after the huge melt and floods that had hit the area in late December. There definitely wasn't 8 inches of snow on the ground but being Canadian the $250 fine jumps to $325 with the exchange so we carried them the full 21km without wearing them. An extra 4lbs!
My 28th winter peak of the 46!
Distance: 21.12 km
Time: 6 hours 48 minutes
Ascent 1049m or 3441ft