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Old 09-01-2015, 11:05 AM   #1
nickchevy
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From Estimated Trail Time: A First Timer's Perspective

So I have been home for a couple days now from my overly optimistic goal and have been thinking of how to best describe my experience in a couple words. A few come to mind, humbling, exhausting, inspiring.
But I will describe my trip from the start for those who are interested in a first timer’s perspective. It is a little long and I did not think it would be but here it is.

I finished work on Friday at 4PM and quickly headed home to wait for my ride. I checked my packing list and was happy with myself for getting everything ready the night before, albeit a late night, midnight. My brother arrived to pick me up and I said farewell to the family and tried to briefly explain again to the little ones why I wouldn't be home for a couple days from hiking as in their minds if I am not home before dark there is something wrong. So I showed them some pictures and set their minds at ease and promised to bring them one day when they are older. We had one more stop to make and we picked up my cousin who was more than happy to drive. I got the back seat to myself of our 2002 Oldsmobile Alero and was happy to navigate through the night.

Crossing the border had no delays, which was nice and we were on our way. One thing about crossing at Cornwall for those that are thinking about it is the speed is much slower than the highway south of Montreal and there are a lot of small towns where it drops down. It took us quite a while to get to our campsite at Au Sable Chasm but nothing really to report besides my brother and cousin tried their first bag of Porkrines bought from a sketchy gas station with a bathroom not updated since the 60's and lit by a standing lamp without the shade. The proprietors were very nice and had a good laugh when I said we would stop to grab a bite to eat somewhere along the highway/interstate, informing us that a lot of restaurants and rest stops have been closed and that we would be hard pressed to get anything until we got to Plattsburg, but on we went and were famished by the time we made it to a subway drive through at the end of the military turnpike. We saw one state trooper along the I87S stopping people speeding through one of the many construction sections along the interstate. Needless to say we maintained our speed and quietly pulled into our campground. We were met by my parents who had gone ahead of us by two days and were happy to have a couple cold beers as we set up our tents, by the time the last peg was hammered into the dirt the moon had risen entirely and it was midnight. So we crawled into our tent and went to sleep.

The next morning came cold and quickly, alarms were set for 6AM and my father/cousin and I hit the road by 7:15, I again was relegated to the backseat and was in charge of the directions as the two of them spoke of the scenery, American politics and the small local shop that held 375 different beers. I marveled at the old Victorian homes and sheer number of hung with care, American flags, lightly flapping in the cool morning breeze. We arrived on Adirondack log rd. and quickly realized how popular this place really was...even more so when we were told that the entire parking area was full. So on to South meadow we went, parking just 50 meters up from the bridge and went through a final check on our packs and what gear we could maybe afford to leave behind.

We joined the herd of bushy-eyed hikers and marched up the hill to the info center where tour guides were setting up their briefings and rallying their groups. I didn't really see any signage and continued south on the road and eventually came to the quiet Adirondack Loj, checked an informational panel and brochure and "found" our trailhead...we started to wrap around Heart lake Loop and crossed a small stream to turn south again on Old Marcy Dam trail. Worry had started to creep in as we were the only ones on the trail and it seemed odd given the number of vehicles and people we saw bustling around the info center but I trusted my compass and we eventually connected up with Algonquin Trail and ran into a surprising amount of Francophone adventure seekers. Confirming we were on the right trail and not just trusting to general direction put us at ease and we were able to take in the scenery. The trail seemed very rough and eroded, clearly a popular trail with a lot of water drainage. We continued on and took some photos at our first waterfall, my father and I climbing up to the top to rinse of the morning sweat in the freezing falls. My cousin clearly was not prepared for the elevation gain and we had quite a few breaks that started to worry me. Our late start and slow pace would no doubt cost us time at the peak. We took it all in and I found myself judging the trail a bit given my experience on other mountains. I would have liked to have a few clear cuts so that you could enjoy the view on your way up as opposed to being sheltered the whole way. But on we went and eventually got to the steeper, sheerer rock portion of the trails. As we climbed and marveled at how difficult the trail was compared to where we are from, a small thin boy who seemed no more than 10 came running up behind us! His father in tow, who had the demeanor and look of a servicemen laughed as we made comments on his sons elf like ability. His response was of our comments on the trail were “try doing this every weekend"! He moved on and we slowly crept up higher and higher. Closer to the top our feet were feeling all the half steps and boulder and root lunges when a group of teenagers came up behind us, we made room and they were on their way but not before jaw-dropping us that some were in lightweight sandals and those barefoot shoes with the toes! How they managed without slipping or breaking an arch I do not know but maybe it wasn't their first rodeo and knew where and what to step on. We broke tree line and were met with a remarkable view, a great new type of mountain vegetation and numerous cairns. The wind was light and sun was unseasonably warm. As we worked our way up the trail thinking we were at the top we breathlessly cursed with surprise to see that we still had a decent amount of incline to go. We summited just before noon and took a seat close to the edge looking eastwards towards our next target, Marcy. We had some snacks and more water and debated about our pace and time vs the rest of the miles we needed to cover so after about 20 minutes we shouldered our packs and headed towards Iroquois peak. I enjoyed the short decent back to the tree line as I felt like I was walking on the moon and in a place that was relegated to those few willing to face rough trails, leg burning elevation gain and potentially harsh weather...I had just bagged my first peak and was on my way to getting my own 46' patch!
We turned east and took Algonquin trail via Lake Colden. This was not a trail for the faint of heart. Steep inclines and claustrophobic corridors that seemed to grab at you, made descent a little worrisome! I soon started to feel what Frodo and Sam must have felt on the Endless Stair above Minas Morgul but we surprisingly made excellent time and were at the ranger station by 2:15PM. My cousin admittedly bit off more than he could chew and let us know that he wanted to bow out and head back to the Loj. My father really wanted to continue onwards to Marcy as he felt without him we could make up some miles and be at the summit shortly. We agreed upon a time to pick us up, 9PM and we parted ways taking some final group pictures. Saddened we lost part of our group but knowing it was probably for the best given the remaining miles we had to get through just to reach our next summit we stretched out our legs and hit the trail around lake Colden. The views of the slides across the lake were astounding and left me curious how it would be climbing straight up them, another trip I thought. We rounded the lake and to my surprise, passed quite a few lean-tos. We did not see any people but I chalked that up to the time of day and that most would be out summiting or on their way back to the campsites. The trail up the OPALESCENT River was wet and muddy but it gifted us with great waterfalls and pools where we decided to take in our final meal. We lit the butane burner and heated up our bagged meals. While the water boiled our pouches I decided it would be great to take in a bit of swimming in the adjacent pool. This pool was right out of a Spa magazine with three tiers, the top pouring into a perfectly rectangle channel that ran for 10 yards before dropping again into a rounded deeper pool. I dipped in my toes and feet after stripping down to the underarmour skivvy's I was wearing and was met with a spine numbing icy grip. The water was so cold that I made it to my waste and could not bring myself to dive in and relax under the falls, my father mentioned that it was not quite as cold as the shores in the Arctic but alas I digress, ha-ha. We climbed back out and enjoyed some warmth on the smooth rocky plateau and ate our meals, I had chicken pesto pasta and he had lasagna. This is where the day started to get away from us.
We dressed and loaded our packs for the next 11.2 miles. I began to really feel my legs and the weight my pack was applying to my deeply sore shoulders. The conversation seemed to die around this point up and the walk started to feel like work, I could no longer lead the pace required and my father took over knowing my competitive and heartful nature I kept up without getting to far behind. I had brought along my BOSE mini speaker and turned it on hoping that the beat of Metallica S&M would help me to push on without complaint. We seemed to be making decent time and when we started to get worried about our location vs, the map we sat down to try and locate ourselves vs. the next junction. After a brief 5 minute break and not being any closer to knowing exactly where we were we rounded the very next corner and were met with our junction sign...we had a good laugh and then were met with dread as we realized we had only gone 2.2 miles in the last hour and a half! Knowing that we were essentially sitting at the base of Marcy and only needing to go another 2.2 miles we debated back and forth about pace time and trail distance what we wanted to do. Using the math applied to ascent that a fellow forum member informed me of I told him that it would be at least 2.5 hours to the top given our state of energy reserves. At this point it was 4:10PM and we needed to make a choice, adding it all up and knowing we would have another 7.5 miles to go from the summit to get back, we reluctantly said goodbye to Marcy and our summit goals of achieving the highest peak in NY. We turned into the valley and were met with the worst and hardest trail I have ever done.
Maybe it was the climb over Algonquin and maybe it was disappointment of not being able to make our goal but my speed came to a crawl over this bog mess of mud, roots, large stones, all these started to take a toll on my "almost there" attitude and soon breaks were becoming more and more frequent. It didn't help that my meal I had previously chewed down was now sitting back in my throat and threatening to leave a meal for a the rare chipmunk, nausea was causing my head to swoon but knowing I needed the calories I endured and fought through it. With the setting sun over Mt Colden and with so many miles left before us I became frustrated and angry with each step. We had just came to a geological marker hammered into a larger trail boulder, informing us of our present elevation of 3500 feet, I sulked. I was ready to make camp and stay the night as I could not make another attempt to reach the safety of the car we had left so far behind. I even contemplated calling in an emergency helicopter given I had paid my travel insurance and that was part of the package, but instead I stayed aware of what I was fighting mentally and shouldered my pack and threw on another album and took another step towards home. We came across a group of three people looking for a decent campsite and told them about the trail going forward as we had been on it for almost an hour and a half at this point. They thanked us for the info and were on their way, "crazy" I thought, "just crazy" as we continued on our death march to what seemed the ends of the earth but was really just Lake Arnold trail and Avalanche Pass trail. My shoulders ached and my neck throbbed, I could not take it anymore and decided that for the rest of the trip I would gulp down as much water as I could and empty the reserves. I figured we had no more than 4 miles to go and that we would make better time if I wasn't trying to carry out the four liters of water that I had left, so I dumped it, what a mistake that was as the headaches I had endured most of the day were attacking me in force and were crying out to be properly hydrated...another lesson learned.
But mile by mile and sore step by knee crunching descent the trail started to even out and became more of a trail highway that we were extremely thankful for. We reached the Old Dam as the sun sank behind the peak we had so reverently sought that morning, Algonquin. We found the energy to chat with a few other hikers and take some pictures of the dam. We signed the registry while looking for my cousins name but saw no sign of him, "hopefully he made it and isn't alone on the trail injured", I thought. The day could turn much more drastic but I pushed the thought to the back of my mind and we crossed the dam and made our final push for home. We followed the Van Hoevenberg but took quite a few breaks and were met with quite a few raucous cheering groups passing us by. "Almost there", "just another mile/half mile" I was told optimistically and sure enough, as promised, we emerged into the late dusk light, to clapping and smiles from beer drinking tailgaters...we were in the Loj parking lot!
No sign of my cousin at the info center or any of the lots so we figured he must of gone down to the car parked in South Meadows, we trudged on thankful for pavement beneath our feet. Obviously getting out late the lots and road were much emptier compared to our first morning departure. We trekked on down the road and were met with a few passing cars offering rides into town if needed but re politely declined, determined to finished where we started and under our own power. As the road wound down to the bridge of our dreams we were met with a horrible yet confirming sight...the car was gone. The car was gone and we were left with the thought of an agreed upon pickup time of 9PM, it was only 7:30...with no water and the wind and cool air settling into the valley we began not to worry about my cousin as he clearly was the one who reached the car first and had headed back to our campsite for a few hours reprieve but worry for ourselves. We dressed with what was left in our packs and set up waiting on the north side of the bridge. The sun now gone we used our flashlights as markers and began what seemed like the longest wait in line possible.
With no chairs but the clover on a gravel parking area and a few large boulders we sat and laid where we could. Stretching out our backs and necks over the boulders and cuddling up our sweat drenched bodies to their day kissed heat. Dehydration and pain overcame me and I crawled down the side bank of the adjacent river and filled up my bottle and drank deeply. I never felt such relief. I went back to my stone salvation and laid there and fell into a dreamless sleep. About an hour later our ride arrived and we slowly loaded our packs and fell into the warmth of our vehicle. We compared stories about the rest of our day and talked about the respect we have for those long trekkers that can manage multiple ascents. We also learned a thing of two about Adirondack miles and how to better pack for the day.
We wound our way back north out of the high peaks and uneventfully pulled into our campground. We managed a shower and another meal with a few celebratory beer which promptly allowed me to fall asleep in my chair beside the fire. I was awoke by my mom and told to go to bed and I delightfully said goodnight and congratulations all around. I shambled into my tent and sleeping bag, turned off the flashlight and fell fast asleep with thoughts of when I will be back and how thankful that places like the Adirondacks exist and how long it will take to traverse the remaining 45.
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Old 09-01-2015, 11:45 AM   #2
Neil
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Great report! It's true there is is a learning (and training) curve to hiking the Dacks. The hiking trails are reputed to be the toughest on Earth. (very steep, rocky, rooty, muddy etc.) You were very wise to eliminate Marcy. Also, planning a trip at home tends to be a lot easier than executing it in the field. One's ambitions tend to run away on their own.

Those two old guys who did Algonquin, Colden, Skylight and Marcy in 10 hours started their hike at 5am and were on top of Algonquin by 7. Sounds like your packs might have been pretty heavy. In summer conditions it's good if you can keep the weight below 10 pounds without water and never have more than 2 liters. As for the pain and suffering 500mg of Tylenol plus 400 mg of Ibuprofen would have helped a lot.
Also, I find that I do better when I nibble all day rather than eat a full meal. I usually focus on carbs and protein.

What's next?
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Old 09-01-2015, 01:31 PM   #3
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Thanks for the thorough report. It's all a good learning experience when everyone gets back to the car safely. C'mon back for the other 45!
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Old 09-01-2015, 01:47 PM   #4
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Nick, thanks for report and welcome to the High Peaks!

I guess you now know what I meant when I said "the rolling hills of Gatineau Park are not equivalent to the steep and rough terrain of the High Peaks"


A few tips for future reference:

During peak hiking season (summer), your chances of getting a parking spot at ADK Loj diminish rapidly after 8:00 AM.

The Marcy Dam trail starts from the eastern end of the parking lot at the High Peaks Information Center (the building next to the parking lot). People refer to it as "HPIC" or even "ADK Loj". However, the actual "Adirondak Loj" is the dark-brown building next to Heart Lake and is very close to where you entered the old Marcy Dam trail. Few people use the old Marcy Dam trail (outside of winter). It was re-routed decades ago to avoid the boggy area it traverses and to allow for easier access from the parking lot.
http://caltopo.com/m/066U

Your original plan was to hike Algonquin, Skylight, and Marcy (17.7 miles and ~7000' ascent). For someone unfamiliar with the terrain and attempting to keep this trip under 12 hours, it doesn't leave much time for cooking meals and swimming. Unless you are a trail-runner, a trip of this magnitude requires the average person to hustle along and smell whatever roses while moving. You would have had a far more pleasant experience (and visited more peaks) had you gone to Wright, Algonquin, Iroquois, descended to Lake Colden and returned via Avalanche Pass. You would've had time to cook a meal and take a dip in Lake Colden (or at least dip your feet in). Keep your trips to the High Peaks under 12-14 miles and 4000-5000 feet. Your body and morale will thank you.

Lots of Francophones because the High Peaks are a 2-2.5 hour drive from Montreal. Plus Algonquin is a very popular peak because of its proximity to a trail-head (add Wright, Giant, Cascade, Porter, and Big Slide to that list).

Don't just think in terms of distance but more in terms of elevation gain (climbing vs striding). You may have been "sitting at the base of Marcy and only needing to go another 2.2 miles" but that 2.2 miles included 2000 feet (610 meters) of ascent (2/3 of the ascent to Algonquin). The route you took to Lake Arnold, despite its inital messiness, has only 500 feet of ascent (155 meters). You made a very good decision to bail out via the Lake Arnold trail; those 500 feet already had you pining for "emergency helicopters".

Dumping your water supply, as you've already concluded, was not a good decision. Combined with your choice to avoid all forms of water-treatment, your only remaining safe option is to drink from streams that don't drain ponds, lakes, trails, or camping areas. You drank from the West Branch Ausable River which is sourced by Marcy Brook and South Meadows. Let's just say these waterways aren't exactly pristine. For future hikes, get something to purify your water. Tablets weigh next to nothing. The Sawyer Mini is lightweight and inexpensive.

Good luck on your next hike!
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Old 09-01-2015, 06:28 PM   #5
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Everyone gets denied a High Peak, or two, or three, or four, or more, at some point during their quest to become a 46er. Odds are, it will probably happen to you again. Some of the peaks took me 3 tries to successfully climb the first time around. It's part of the 46er experience. The important thing is to learn from the experience and become a better (and safer) hiker as a result. Remember, the peaks will always be there. You might not be if you push yourself beyond your limits for the sake of reaching the summit.

Two other comments in addition to the good advice you've already received:

By the time you guys split up, you already had multiple factors beginning to stack against you- inexperience, noticeable fatigue, lack of familiarity with the terrain through which you were traversing, deviation from your itinerary, etc. There is a prevalent idea in the outdoor recreation world that backcountry accidents and ailments rarely result from a single, significant bad decision, but rather are much more frequently the product of multiple poor decisions that when taken individually, seem innocuous or inconsequential.

Had I been in your position, I most emphatically would not have made the decision to split up. Had your cousin become injured while he was alone, the aforementioned factors would've almost certainly conspired to make his injury worse. Solo hiking isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it is something that it takes some experience to do safely.

And secondly, playing music audibly from a speaker in your pack is considered by many to be a breach of hiking etiquette, as it intrudes upon the peacefulness and solitude sought by visitors to backcountry areas- even if the encounter only lasts a few seconds. Listening to music while hiking is fine, but using headphones can help to avoid negatively affecting the experience sought by other users.

Please understand that I say these things not to be condescending, but to provide critique that I hope you will find helpful as you plan future ascents.

I might suggest trying some of the following peaks (or combinations of peaks) for you second foray into the High Peaks. They are generally considered easy to moderate in difficulty, and will allow you to gain experience without running the risk of significantly exceeding your skill level. And you'll have to do the easier ones at some point anyways, so you might as well get them out of the way first:
  • Cascade and Porter
  • Big Slide
  • Giant and Rocky Peak Ridge
  • Whiteface and Esther (Esther is a good first "trail-less" peak)
  • Colden
  • Phelps
  • Dial and Nippletop
  • Colvin and Blake (these ones can be a bit of a mental challenge due to some fairly steep sections)
You'll also want to start thinking about the "trail-less" peaks. None of them are truly trail-less anymore, but they are all accessed via unmarked trails that do mandate a higher skill level for backcountry navigation than the average hiker possesses. Many of them are also fairly remote. The most difficult trail-less peaks (or groupings of peaks) are as follows:
  • The Seward Range- Seward, Donaldson, Emmons, and Seymour
  • The Santanoni Range: Santanoni, Couchschraga, and Panther
  • Allen
  • Cliff and Redfield
  • The Dix Range (Macomb, South Dix, Grace, and Hough)
And it's never too late to think about a good peak to finish on. I generally recommend finishing on one of the following peaks, all of which afford spectacular views:
  • Marcy
  • Skylight
  • Algonquin (which you've already done, but I am listing it here for the sake of completeness)
  • Haystack
  • Whiteface
  • Dix
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Old 09-01-2015, 07:50 PM   #6
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"Bose Mini Speaker", yeah, I read right past that one ... hoped he really meant to say ear buds. Definitely a faux-pas to be a two-legged boom-box in the woods. Please constrain your tunes to your ears. Thanks.

BTW, Nick, I hope you practiced LNT (Leave No Trace) when cleaning up after your meal of chicken pesto pasta and lasagna. I'll hazard a guess you didn't use the Opalescent as a sink, but there are folks who don't know that ... or it shouldn't be used as a toilet. Which brings us back to the issue of drinking untreated water.

"We have met the enemy and he is us." - Pogo
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Old 09-01-2015, 08:22 PM   #7
nickchevy
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Neil View Post
Great report! It's true there is is a learning (and training) curve to hiking the Dacks. The hiking trails are reputed to be the toughest on Earth. (very steep, rocky, rooty, muddy etc.) You were very wise to eliminate Marcy. Also, planning a trip at home tends to be a lot easier than executing it in the field. One's ambitions tend to run away on their own.

Those two old guys who did Algonquin, Colden, Skylight and Marcy in 10 hours started their hike at 5am and were on top of Algonquin by 7. Sounds like your packs might have been pretty heavy. In summer conditions it's good if you can keep the weight below 10 pounds without water and never have more than 2 liters. As for the pain and suffering 500mg of Tylenol plus 400 mg of Ibuprofen would have helped a lot.
Also, I find that I do better when I nibble all day rather than eat a full meal. I usually focus on carbs and protein.

What's next?

One's ambitions tend to run away on their own.

Truer words were never more applicable.
I will grab a filter for water so I can drink on the go so as to keep the pack from getting heavy.
Some pain killers will be part of the first aid kit (it normally is but I didn't want any hastle at the border for anything).

I will come back, not sure about this year but the high peaks is the closest and tallest park closest to me so I think I will try and spend a couple more weekends tagging different peaks.
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Old 09-01-2015, 08:26 PM   #8
nickchevy
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Trail Boss View Post
Nick, thanks for report and welcome to the High Peaks!

I guess you now know what I meant when I said "the rolling hills of Gatineau Park are not equivalent to the steep and rough terrain of the High Peaks"


A few tips for future reference:

During peak hiking season (summer), your chances of getting a parking spot at ADK Loj diminish rapidly after 8:00 AM.

The Marcy Dam trail starts from the eastern end of the parking lot at the High Peaks Information Center (the building next to the parking lot). People refer to it as "HPIC" or even "ADK Loj". However, the actual "Adirondak Loj" is the dark-brown building next to Heart Lake and is very close to where you entered the old Marcy Dam trail. Few people use the old Marcy Dam trail (outside of winter). It was re-routed decades ago to avoid the boggy area it traverses and to allow for easier access from the parking lot.
http://caltopo.com/m/066U

Your original plan was to hike Algonquin, Skylight, and Marcy (17.7 miles and ~7000' ascent). For someone unfamiliar with the terrain and attempting to keep this trip under 12 hours, it doesn't leave much time for cooking meals and swimming. Unless you are a trail-runner, a trip of this magnitude requires the average person to hustle along and smell whatever roses while moving. You would have had a far more pleasant experience (and visited more peaks) had you gone to Wright, Algonquin, Iroquois, descended to Lake Colden and returned via Avalanche Pass. You would've had time to cook a meal and take a dip in Lake Colden (or at least dip your feet in). Keep your trips to the High Peaks under 12-14 miles and 4000-5000 feet. Your body and morale will thank you.

Lots of Francophones because the High Peaks are a 2-2.5 hour drive from Montreal. Plus Algonquin is a very popular peak because of its proximity to a trail-head (add Wright, Giant, Cascade, Porter, and Big Slide to that list).

Don't just think in terms of distance but more in terms of elevation gain (climbing vs striding). You may have been "sitting at the base of Marcy and only needing to go another 2.2 miles" but that 2.2 miles included 2000 feet (610 meters) of ascent (2/3 of the ascent to Algonquin). The route you took to Lake Arnold, despite its inital messiness, has only 500 feet of ascent (155 meters). You made a very good decision to bail out via the Lake Arnold trail; those 500 feet already had you pining for "emergency helicopters".

Dumping your water supply, as you've already concluded, was not a good decision. Combined with your choice to avoid all forms of water-treatment, your only remaining safe option is to drink from streams that don't drain ponds, lakes, trails, or camping areas. You drank from the West Branch Ausable River which is sourced by Marcy Brook and South Meadows. Let's just say these waterways aren't exactly pristine. For future hikes, get something to purify your water. Tablets weigh next to nothing. The Sawyer Mini is lightweight and inexpensive.

Good luck on your next hike!
I was glad that the elevation on lake arnold trail was what it was. But I did have that map that another member put together of the elevation gains and losses so I knew it was the safer route to take. That trail seemed overly rocky and muddy, but maybe it was fatigue.
Live and learn.
And I had no issues with the water in south meadows.
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Old 09-01-2015, 08:31 PM   #9
nickchevy
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Originally Posted by Trail Boss View Post
"Bose Mini Speaker", yeah, I read right past that one ... hoped he really meant to say ear buds. Definitely a faux-pas to be a two-legged boom-box in the woods. Please constrain your tunes to your ears. Thanks.

BTW, Nick, I hope you practiced LNT (Leave No Trace) when cleaning up after your meal of chicken pesto pasta and lasagna. I'll hazard a guess you didn't use the Opalescent as a sink, but there are folks who don't know that ... or it shouldn't be used as a toilet. Which brings us back to the issue of drinking untreated water.

"We have met the enemy and he is us." - Pogo
I get the ettiquette and that is why I waited until where we were, I think we ran into maybe a handful of people from lake colden-through lake arnold trail/avalanche pass. Once we got closer to more people it was turned off and at the same time it was on maybe 25% volume which is enough for me to hear but not enough to look for the noise as you see me coming up on the trail. I do not like headphones because then I am blind to what could potentially be around me, bears, people, etc. As for leave no trace, of course there was nothing left behind, every piece of plastic and cardboard was repacked and brought out. No worse than the human logs and TP left behind going up alongquin trail!
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Old 09-01-2015, 08:37 PM   #10
nickchevy
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Originally Posted by DSettahr View Post
Everyone gets denied a High Peak, or two, or three, or four, or more, at some point during their quest to become a 46er. Odds are, it will probably happen to you again. Some of the peaks took me 3 tries to successfully climb the first time around. It's part of the 46er experience. The important thing is to learn from the experience and become a better (and safer) hiker as a result. Remember, the peaks will always be there. You might not be if you push yourself beyond your limits for the sake of reaching the summit.

Two other comments in addition to the good advice you've already received:

By the time you guys split up, you already had multiple factors beginning to stack against you- inexperience, noticeable fatigue, lack of familiarity with the terrain through which you were traversing, deviation from your itinerary, etc. There is a prevalent idea in the outdoor recreation world that backcountry accidents and ailments rarely result from a single, significant bad decision, but rather are much more frequently the product of multiple poor decisions that when taken individually, seem innocuous or inconsequential.

Had I been in your position, I most emphatically would not have made the decision to split up. Had your cousin become injured while he was alone, the aforementioned factors would've almost certainly conspired to make his injury worse. Solo hiking isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it is something that it takes some experience to do safely.

And secondly, playing music audibly from a speaker in your pack is considered by many to be a breach of hiking etiquette, as it intrudes upon the peacefulness and solitude sought by visitors to backcountry areas- even if the encounter only lasts a few seconds. Listening to music while hiking is fine, but using headphones can help to avoid negatively affecting the experience sought by other users.

Please understand that I say these things not to be condescending, but to provide critique that I hope you will find helpful as you plan future ascents.

I might suggest trying some of the following peaks (or combinations of peaks) for you second foray into the High Peaks. They are generally considered easy to moderate in difficulty, and will allow you to gain experience without running the risk of significantly exceeding your skill level. And you'll have to do the easier ones at some point anyways, so you might as well get them out of the way first:
  • Cascade and Porter
  • Big Slide
  • Giant and Rocky Peak Ridge
  • Whiteface and Esther (Esther is a good first "trail-less" peak)
  • Colden
  • Phelps
  • Dial and Nippletop
  • Colvin and Blake (these ones can be a bit of a mental challenge due to some fairly steep sections)
You'll also want to start thinking about the "trail-less" peaks. None of them are truly trail-less anymore, but they are all accessed via unmarked trails that do mandate a higher skill level for backcountry navigation than the average hiker possesses. Many of them are also fairly remote. The most difficult trail-less peaks (or groupings of peaks) are as follows:
  • The Seward Range- Seward, Donaldson, Emmons, and Seymour
  • The Santanoni Range: Santanoni, Couchschraga, and Panther
  • Allen
  • Cliff and Redfield
  • The Dix Range (Macomb, South Dix, Grace, and Hough)
And it's never too late to think about a good peak to finish on. I generally recommend finishing on one of the following peaks, all of which afford spectacular views:
  • Marcy
  • Skylight
  • Algonquin (which you've already done, but I am listing it here for the sake of completeness)
  • Haystack
  • Whiteface
  • Dix
I appreciate the constructive advice and your concern. I was torn when it came down to splitting up as I knew if anything bad happened, it would be a drastic situation that could of resulted in a much more dire situation. He seemed to be confident after speaking with the ranger station rep. There were some people heading in that direction so he knew that he would not be the only one on it. He had the map to follow and quite a bit of supplies. My other group member really wanted to push on and I really wanted to attain the goal I had set out for myself. But I did learn alot and will apply that to my future visits. I and my group members will also get a stair master and work on those quads.
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Old 09-01-2015, 08:53 PM   #11
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Q: What are the odds of getting sick from drinking untreated water?
A: It's a crap shoot.


Unlike a sewer pipe, it's unlikely all ten people drinking out of the same High Peaks stream will become ill. But one might. You don't want it to be you. Especially if you read what's in store for victims of giardia. Plus the symptoms can be delayed. It may take a few days for the ingested bacteria to make its new home in your GI tract before beginning major renovations.

If you can find water bubbling out of the ground on a steep slope without camping sites, ponds, or trails above it, I'd say you've found some cold clean water. All else should be considered a crap shoot.

To paraphrase an old Russion proverb "Trust, but treat."
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Old 09-01-2015, 09:49 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by nickchevy View Post
I get the ettiquette and that is why I waited until where we were, I think we ran into maybe a handful of people from lake colden-through lake arnold trail/avalanche pass. Once we got closer to more people it was turned off and at the same time it was on maybe 25% volume which is enough for me to hear but not enough to look for the noise as you see me coming up on the trail. I do not like headphones because then I am blind to what could potentially be around me, bears, people, etc. As for leave no trace, of course there was nothing left behind, every piece of plastic and cardboard was repacked and brought out. No worse than the human logs and TP left behind going up alongquin trail!
Well, just because you saw far worse things out there, it therefore isn't important to take care of the little things. The thing about backcountry impact is that it is cumulative- even the little things can (and do) add up to significant levels in high use areas like the High Peaks. Definitely take the time to familiarize yourself with the LNT Principles. "Carry in, carry out" is a small (but important) part of LNT. There is a lot more to minimizing your physical and social impacts in the backcountry than just carrying your trash out and properly burying your human waste. (If you really want to see how deep the rabbit hole goes, the Forest Service has an excellent paper detailing 76(!) minimum-impact practices for use in backcountry areas.)

Many hikers will just use one earphone so that they can still hear what is going on around them. You'd be surprised how far sounds can travel in the backcountry.

Last edited by DSettahr; 09-02-2015 at 12:52 AM..
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Old 12-20-2016, 08:54 PM   #13
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Revisiting some old posts and since my overly ambitious hike into the dacks, I took what I learned from here and then and did a portion of the presidential traverse this past year in the white mountains, the trail and environment was exactly what I was looking for. Segments took me back to hiking in Arizona, High peaks and Huate-Gorge.
My pack was lighter and more efficient, left the speaker at home(haha, what was i thinking) and bagged mount jefferson, washington, eisenhower and one other smaller peak.

Just a shout out to those that helped me out with the "above treeline" planning.

THANKS!
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