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Allen Winter Climb

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  • Allen Winter Climb

    Is anyone here familiar with a winter climb of Allen, and if so, willing to share some words of wisdom?

    I've done Allen in the summer, and it was LONG. So for the winter I'm thinking it's going to be an overnighter at least. What's the ascent like? I remember it being pretty wet when I did it, so I'm sure it'll be at least somewhat icy.

    Anything I should be aware of?


  • #2
    All depends on when you go. I've only done Allen in Winter. Both times in January. First time encountered deep unconsolidated snow on the ascent. Two steps forward and slide one back. Spent almost two hours on the steep section, before turning back less than 200 vertical from the summit. Second time was a cake walk. Packed trail the whole way in. Both times the trip took around ten hours. Both times skied from the parking lot to the gravel pit, then switched to snowshoes for the ascent.

    With the amount of foot traffic in the past few years, most trails are packed in within a few days.


    • #3
      Avoid going during a longer mid winter thaw, especially if it also rains and if overnights are above freezing. Crossing the Opalescent could then be treacherous (normally a non-issue with a solid snow/ice bridge).


      • #4
        Just for info. We parked at Elk Lake and used trails to easily hike to the area directly East of Little Nipple top, 3714', then spent the night in the saddle Between Little N and McDonnel Mountain, 3937. The next day we climbed McDonnel, easy and hiked down and up the ridge to Allen, (very easy), finishing my 46ers and my partner's 1st.
        We then went South off the top of Allen, and discovered lots of cliffs. Shifted direction and went West after 1000 feet we circled around to the South, SE, and East. Once we hit the the 3200 foot contour line we just picked a route gently down to the 2600 contour line, stayed on that line to where we crossed Marcy Brook. Finally we went directly East to the trail and back out to Elk Lake. Made it through Marcy Swamp in twilight and hiked out the rest in the dark, easy trail, no steeps.
        One advantage of winter backpacking you can get water anywhere and snowshoes keep you above the blowdown. This was in 1992.


        • #5
          My first winter trip was similar to bridgeman's. There was three feet of fresh powder on the slide. I was with one other person, but fortunately a group of eight had started ahead of us. With ten of us rotating trail breaking on the slide, we were able to reach the summit. If it had only been the two of us, I'm not sure that we would have made it.

          The other times that I've been there in winter were less memorable, so either the trail was broken out, or there wasn't too much fresh snow. Once there is a good snow pack, you shouldn't run into any ice, but obviously that will be dependent on conditions when you go.
          [URL=]ADKHP Wiki[/URL]


          • #6
            Richard, how far on the Elk Lake-Marcy trail did you go toward Panther Gorge before you went up Little Nippletop? Did you contour around to the col between McDonnel and Skylight, or go down to the branch of Marcy Brook, south of LN?


            • #7
              OnAClearDay hinted at it but didn't outright state it- the bridge over the Opalescent is currently out. This is definitely an important consideration; the river does often freeze over but it never stays frozen over for the entire winter. The occasional thaw can and does result in flooding.

              Accordingly, you'll want to pay close attention to the weather forecast. Be especially wary about any days with temps approaching above-freezing levels. What has happened multiple times in the past is that hikers have gone in early in the AM, crossed the river while it was still frozen, and summitted, and returned that very same PM to find that the river was an uncrossable torrent due to warm temps during the day.

              Regarding the general logistics of such a trip, it's a relatively straightforward ski approach from Tahawus (even for those with limited backcountry skiing experience) at least as far as the gravel pit- most of the trail to this point is on old logging roads and/or flat terrain. Moderately experienced skiers can probably get as far as the Skylight Brook crossing before switching to snowshoes- the trail does have some moderate ups and downs to this point. Skis probably will expedite the flat parts (plus also break up the monotony of the day).

              I believe that the slide is rarely technical but definitely go prepared for icy spots just in case. It faces west so it doesn't really get much in the way of direct sunlight so ice usually isn't an issue- but definitely bring at least microspikes just in case. IMO, I'd bring crampons just in case- you don't really need them that often in the High Peaks (especially since microspikes became a thing), but they are occasionally necessary for any High Peak. Better to have them and not need them.

              With regards to camping, the usual spot is somewhere between the Opalescent River crossing and the Skylight Brook crossing. Do note that there's no designated tent sites along this stretch, so the 150 foot rule applies (there is a designated site further north along the Opalescent River, but it's a fair distance out of the way to get there). Much of the forest closer to the Opalescent River is pretty thick with young growth; I'd probably look for a campsite closer to skylight brook. If you backtrack (west) down the herd path from the skylight brook crossing a few hundred feet, you can find somewhat open forest to the north of the herd path that complies with the 150 foot rule (note that the well-established site at Skylight Brook itself is an illegal site, marked with "no camping" discs).


              • #8
                We headed Directly West from the 2840 foot contour line towards Little Nipple Top from the Marcy brook trail. Going was slow but we did not have far to go to get to Allen. I know it was a novel approach but that was a big part of the fun. Plus we got two named mountains no one ever climbs.