We planned to head down to Keene Valley on Mountainfest weekend in mid- January. Due to a mix of bizarre circumstances with other adventure partners (injuries, winter storms, other logistics) I found myself planning a solo winter hike. This was to be my first solo hike in the Adirondacks but I felt I had the experience, fitness and proper gear to tackle it. My objective for the day was to hike to Gothics (4736') via the Beaver Meadow Falls trail over Armstrong (4400') and Upper Wolfjaw (4185') and then return via the Wedge Brook trail.
I signed in at the register at 7:30AM and started the march down the Lake Road. The road had been compressed with many snowmobile passes and that combined with the -17C temperatures, I was able to bareboot on the compact snow all the way to the junction with the Beaver Meadows Trail. The trail is immediately after the 2 mile sign on the Lake Road.
I have never ascended this trail before so it was a new approach for me. Upon arrival it was obvious that the trail had been used this winter but had been filled in with a couple inches of fresh powder that I would break to the col. I switched to snowshoes at this point and wore the snowshoes for the remainder of the day. It wasn't long on this fairly flat trail that you meet the beautiful Beaver Meadow Falls. Completely frozen, I would have preferred to ascend the blue line with crampons and ice axes (I am a climber) but this time I had to ascend the ladder to the left and snowshoe the vertical up the hiking trail. After a the quick heart pounding vertical, the trail grade eases and you fall into a nice hiking rhythm with views of the surrounding peaks in all directions.
The trail up to Armstrong was fairly straight forward except for one waist-high rock outcropping that was hard to ascend with about a foot of fresh powder on it. The hiker before me was travelling in the opposite direction and had slid down the rock. I had to resort to using vegetation to help me up and over. I was at Armstrong's rocky summit less than a minute later. Had a quick swig of water (that was partially frozen even in my insulated cozy). It was 11:48AM! I had time to spare so I put my feet up!
About half way up, I finally met my first group of people today. Three guys dressed in mountaineering boots and no snowshoes post holing along the ridge trail - every step dropping 12 inches or more. I find this super frustrating as it not only wrecks the trail, but it is also a rule that you must bring skis or snowshoes with you at all times in the winter to avoid this. My only solace was that a winter storm was arriving that evening and dumping sufficient snow to fill in the post-holes. I arrived at UWJ summit at 12:35 and noticed that my summit shots were now different - clouded in and snow falling. The storm had started. I decided to put my water bottle in my jacket for the descent to help reverse the process of my water freezing.
Distance: 18 km / 11.2 miles
Time: 7.5 hours
Temperature: -17C/1 F
What I wore:
Baselayer: Helly Hansen Lifa top and bottom
Pants: Outdoor Research Cirque Pants plus OR Crocodile Gaiters
Jacket: Outdoor Research Uberlayer
Mitts: Black Diamond Mercury Mitts
What I ate:
Homemade banana bread mini loaf
2 x Breakfast Cookies (I put craisins instead of raisins, other nuts & seeds, choc chips)
Water and Hot Chocolate