I first visited Adirondack Park in December 2014 as a way of burning some vacation before the end of the year and because they had snow and trails for snowshoeing. It was so good I went back three more times before the snow melted.
Last weekend was my first time back with no snow. I also decided to try camping. After numerous plan changes for my hike, I settled on hiking over Algonquin Peak, continuing to Iroquois on the other side and then dropping down off the ridge toward Lake Colden on Sunday. Then plan was to continue to the base of Cliff and Redfield peaks to bag those Monday before hiking out.
Thing didn't go quite as planned. I'm safe and uninjured and had two nice days in the woods, so it isn't all bad.
I set off for Algonquin about 7 am. This is a trail I'd hiked three times before in the snow. Once I started to climb I learned the difference between winter trails and summer ones: where winter trails are smooth, summer trails are heavily eroded, making much of the trail hopping from rock to rock. While snow presents some of its own challenges, the relentless rock along with my overnight bag made for a slow climb. When I snowshoed up Algonquin I passed several other hikers. On Sunday, I was the slow one.
But I made it to the top of Algonquin without much difficulty. Slow but ok.
This is from the summit looking over Lake Placid toward Whiteface.
Here's a panorama from the summit. On the far left is Iroquois where I was headed next. The panorama spans from roughly south-southwest to north-northeast.
The trail to Iroquois is what's known as a "herd path." They're unofficial trails but are well used and easy to follow. The path was pretty narrow but not bad. There were two tricky ledges going up to the summit, and I left my bag below the second one. There was one microscopic toe hold in the rock, and losing the bag made it a snap.
This is a panorama from Iroquois with Algonquin dominating in the middle.
Next there was a bit of backtracking back to the official trail. I had a lunch of summer sausage at the junction with the trail. The guidebook says the trail "will require ... several additional hours for backpackers." I don't know why I didn't take that statement more seriously, but the decent down this trail was extremely slow. On tough terrain, going down is slower than going up. Every step meant lowering my body weight and the weight of my pack on one leg while taking an impact with the other leg. I tried to rotate which leg was doing what, and that seemed to save me from any major problems. According to my GPS track imported into Google Earth, I descended 1960 feet in 1.85 miles for an average -20% slope. The first 0.6 miles was just over -30%.
I fell twice. The trail follows a small stream, and both times were crossing it while standing on the bedrock. The first was on my side, and I was down before I knew it. I have a nice bruise on my hip from that but no other injuries. The second was straight down on my butt. I use collapsible trekking poles, and one of them was well planted and collapsed as I went down, the friction of the clamps slowing the fall. No big deal.
At the bottom of the trail I stopped to fill up my water (filter pump with purifying drops) and took stock of my current location and remaining energy. I also looked where there were camp sites. My conclusion was it was much later than I'd planned, and I was more wiped out than I'd planned. There were designated camp sites not far from the junction on the way back to the trailhead, so I headed that way rather than my original plan to head deeper.
Setting up camp was no problem. Dinner was freeze dried chili mac that was pretty good. I relaxed, watched some TV on my iPod and slept well. The next morning I was feeling sorry for myself for cutting the hike short and took my time having breakfast (freeze dried biscuits and gravy) and packing up. I hit the trail again about 9:00.
The way out was through Avalanche Lake. The lake is bordered by cliff faces on two sides which makes for some unbelievable views.
These pictures are from the two ends of the lake.
Getting around and occasionally over the lake was still very rocky, but the trail improved significantly on the other side of the lake eventually becoming a dirt trail that was a comfortable hike.
The big thing I intend to do differently next time is to not take my bag up over summits. My total elevation gain the first day was over 3600 feet, and while the ascent is easier, the weight really wore me down. I want to camp again, but any camping hike will have my bag staying below 3500' rather than ascending over a four or five thousand foot summit. I'll find a site, drop most of the weight and continue on to summits with just the necessities (water, first aid kit, map, compass, small bit of food, etc).
It's an incredible area, and the self satisfaction from the success makes it worth it. I might go back as early as two weeks from now.
Edit: I just remembered I wasn't able to find the GPS coordinates for the Iroquois herd path, so I snapped it while having lunch next to the cairn. For anyone that might find this, the GPS coordinates for the start of the Iroquois herd path are 44°08.50'N, 73°59.48'W at an elevation of 4754 feet.
Wow. That sounds like such a great trip. I am very jealous. Except for the meals. :) Going above the tree line with full provisions is definitely not something I would do unless I wanted to stay there for a bit. Ascents can be much easier as you are playing offence and going forward but descents you are playing defence and just trying to get down. Very different mental state.
Well done. Congrats!