I have a lofty goal for this winter. I want to summit all 46 of the 4000 foot peaks in the Adirondacks. I only have 38 left. Last weekend I was able to get hit in the knee with a splitting wedge, it's like the head of an axe but you hit it with a hammer. Suffice to say it's heavy, it's metal, and it hit me in the knee at high speed. Despite the injury I went and ice climbed one of the days and managed to fall on my ass. Probably seems pretty funny, especially since my pants were white, so now it looks like I shit my pants. This weekend was going to be better. I was going to do the entire Dix Range, which seemed feasible given my three day weekend.
So late friday I set off with a very full pack for Keene Valley having already spent the previous night outside for work "enrichment". I have the camping thing pretty dialed now so it was no big deal. Pulled into the Round Pond trailhead around five thirty and was able to hike into Round pond just a little after six. I was cooking dinner by moonlight and reading a book by eight with a warm water bottle between my legs and memories of the past floating around in my head. That's right I've been here before. With my last job we hiked to Dix mountain, some kid said he was going to hit me in the face with a log. That was all in the summer but the experience tainted my thoughts on how to proceed.
The plan was simple. Camp at Round Pond on Friday night. Hike to the Boquet Lean-To on Saturday and rest up for the main event on Sunday, that event being climbing all five peaks in the Dix Range. Then hike out Monday morning. Not a small task, but not so difficult as to be impossible. Now if only I had remembered that the hike to the Boquet Lean-To was less than three hours from the trailhead. So when I woke up at six in the morning to go to the lean-o I was there by nine and was not prepared to simply sit around all day doing nothing.
Being the silly map reading fellow I am I decided to bushwack to Nippletop and Dial. No big deal, just get a bearing, and follow it till you can't go any higher. After a few hours of bushwacking I made it to the summit of Dial. The view was lacking, the summit barely distinguishable. So after a quick picture I got to follow a trail to Nippletop. It was pretty much a straight shot north. I figured I could make it in an hour. An hour later I have no idea where I might be except somewhere along this trail. After several false summits I finally came to a clearing where the summit became very obvious. It was a great summit with fantastic views of the Great Range and the Dix Range. It also gave me a nice preview of what I was in for the next day. Despite the erogenous name it was nothing special in it's physique. Most nipples are more fun.
A quick return trip in which my tracks had already been blown over and I almost fell of a cliff I am back at the lean to cooking up dinner, a nice rice and lentil dish with some carrots and potatoes. So I decided to take some fruits and to see how they faired in the sub-zero weather. Orange-not frozen, Apple-sort of frozen, Carrot-not frozen but turned to mush later, Potato-not frozen but turned to mush later. So pretty much carrying around fresh fruits and vegetables in winter works alright although if they thaw they become mushy crap pretty fast. After dinner I did all the usual cleaning up, tossed a hot water bottle down my sleeping bag and went to bed.
Just seven hours later the bladder was full and I was up getting ready to go. Unfortunately, my stove decided to be a pain in the ass and I didn't get moving till after nine. This put me at the base of the slide at a little after ten. On go the crampons, out come the ice tools and away I go. The nice thing about slides is that there are no trees. It gives a real mountain feel to things. Besides that they certainly seem faster and more difficult.
Things were going great. The snow was the perfect styrofoam that you can stand on top of but not sink in. The ice was reasonably soft. Conditions couldn't have been more ideal. That was until I got to the little verglassed rock . After the first swing I knew it was rock. As I tentatively picked around for some thicker ice only to find none. I looked for small edges to hook onto and get a few inches higher, nothing. I stretched and searched for something, anything. So now came a choice. I could move my feet up and see what I could find, thus putting me in a difficult balancing position. On the other hand I could just downclimb the whole thing. I really didn't want to downclimb six hundred feet. So I stepped up and then there was a sliver of snow and ice. Check that it will hold. Now my feet are on the crappy ice that I was trying to pick up. By now though I could actually rely tentatively on my tools to hold me. After his everything was peachy, so to speak.
Then I got to the top of the slide. Let the bushwacking begin. It took a little over an hour for me to reach the trail through the bushwacking. The whole time I was following the small tracks of an animal. Which was interesting because their had been people foot prints on the slide I took.
The summit of Dix was quite good. Views of the Great Range and the rest of the Dix Range were improved greatly by the plentiful sun. Nonetheless it was cold and windy. So after a few pictures I headed on to Hough Peak (It's actually pronounced Huff, not How). Despite their being somewhat of a heard path Hough was pretty tough to get to. Several false summits led to the top of Hough where I realized I would not be able to possibly make it to the rest of the mountains in the Dix Range without getting benighted. Exhausted, and slightly dissapointed, I turned around to repeat the bushwack.
Upon returning to the lean-to I was exhausted, but decided that since it was only four and it was going to be another cold night and I might as well just hike out. No big deal, just pack up the big sack and hike another five miles. Thus making the total daily mileage close to fifteen. Hiking out by moonlight was pleasant though. Winter is unique in it's quiteness. The sounds in my ear were limited to the crunching of snow and my own breathing. That and the occasional sound of branches snapping under the weight of their snow load. This sound was slightly disconcerting, especially being by myself. Either way I was back at the car before nine and lo and behold it decided not to start. Luckily someone stopped after about ten minutes and gave me a jump. Unfortunately, upon returning home the car battery had not gained a charge.
So what do I do? I go home, call all the people who might think I was dead, and then called someone to go ice climbing. All this even though I could barely walk up the stairs. So the next day I woke up and my partner picked me up and off into the mountains we drove once again.
More freezing, more vain arm flailing and feet swinging to stay warm, more dangerous swinging of sharp objects. My partner actually managed to kick himself in the leg with his crampon on accident. After a long day of picking my way up frozen waterfalls I went home to collapse into my exhaustion.