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Old 11-08-2020, 08:55 PM   #1
hikingandwildex
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MacIntyre Range Slopfest

I finally got around to hiking Algonquin, Iroquois and Wright this past weekend. This hike had been near the top of my wishlist since mid-2018 when I summited New York's other 5,000+ footer on an incredibly sublime morning. That was my last visit to the High Peaks region and I was dying to return -- preferably sometime after Columbus Day because I didn't want to deal with the same kind of crowdedness that I experienced on a short firetower hike earlier this fall.

This was my first hike originating from the Loj (I parked at the South Meadows lot when I hiked Marcy). Embarrassingly, I was unable to locate the trailhead and had to ask for directions so as not to waste any more valuable time on what was expected to be a very long day. A helpful worker inside the Loj pointed me in the right direction and I was finally on my way.

The Algonquin Peak trail was remarkably easy up to MacIntyre Falls. I thought to myself, "This is way easier than Marcy and might even be less challenging than Cascade!" Well, my impression of the hike's difficulty changed in a hurry! Slick rock slabs awaited me after the waterfalls and remained present after I hooked a left at the Algonquin/Wright trail junction. I swear to god, those massive bare rocks are my kryptonite, even in perfectly dry conditions. I react to seeing these in the same manner that someone who loathes his or her job reacts when the alarm clock goes off on weekday mornings!

Scrambling above treeline on Wright wasn't quite as unnerving as I had anticipated because the rocks were mostly dry, unlike the ones below treeline that were a lot trickier. And I was prepared for the 40-50 mph wind gusts that mountain-forecast.com had predicted.

The final push up to Algonquin's summit was manageable. There was a little bit of snow and ice, but nothing too bad compared to what awaited me on my hellish descent via the Avalanche Trail route. More on that later.

After descending the southwest side of Algonquin, I made my way to Boundary and then Iroquois via slushy herd paths. There were a couple of short rock sections that I was hesitant to attempt with my boots that are reliable for everything except traction. Putting on microspikes gave me enough confidence to get by these stumbling blocks, but nevertheless, this will be the last time I wear these boots in the Adirondacks because I don't trust them enough to give me adequate grip in these situations.

Not wanting to descend the same way I went up, I opted to go down the Avalanche Pass route that I had read so much about online. This proved to be a mistake as the entire trail was one giant waterfall from all the snow melting. Mix in occasional icy patches, slippery rocks, and stream crossings with fast-flowing water and you have a recipe for potential disaster. I exercised extreme caution with every step I took, resulting in a four hour descent to Lake Colden. The sun was setting when I reached Avalanche Lake and I still had a long ways to go from there.

Even the relatively benign homestretch from Marcy Dam to the Loj wasn't without its hiccups as I somehow lost the blue-marked trail in the area near Whales Tail Mountain. With no trail in sight, I figured I would work my way out of this jam by bushwhacking downhill in the direction of Marcy Dam & Brook. I eventually found the trail I was looking for and did a quick compass reading to be 100% sure that I was heading north where I needed to go. From there, it was a humbling walk back to the Loj where I thought about everything I could have done differently (purchase footwear with better traction prior to this hike, download offline maps beforehand, put my paper map into a waterproof case when there's a possibility of falling in a stream and not just when it's pouring outside, among other things).

On a more positive note, I had nothing but positive interactions with everyone that I met in the Lake Placid area this weekend (ADK staff, hotel receptionists, other hikers, etc.) In spite of my adventure not going flawlessly, I'm glad I went. It was a nice getaway and the natural beauty was absolutely stunning...













More photos of the summits and trails can be seen on my photoblog that's linked below...
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Old 11-09-2020, 06:24 PM   #2
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This was a typical scene of the trail on my descent. Notice the yellow trail marker at the end of the video.

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Old 11-09-2020, 08:15 PM   #3
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An experience you won't ever forget. Nice pics. I like reading the part of you hauling out the compass, making a decision and doing it. Just think of all the idiots who carry no compass and what they may have done.
Good job.
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Old 11-09-2020, 10:57 PM   #4
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An experience you won't ever forget. Nice pics. I like reading the part of you hauling out the compass, making a decision and doing it. Just think of all the idiots who carry no compass and what they may have done.
Good job.
Honestly, there are a lot of things that I should have done differently. I really need to go back to the drawing board and make some major adjustments -- particularly when it comes to navigation and footwear -- because this outing easily could've had a less favorable outcome.

Some things are easy fixes, such as putting any paper map(s) into my waterproof case whenever there's any chance of them getting wet. As mentioned in my trip report, I've only done this while hiking in inclement weather. It never even occurred to me that I could fall in a stream like I did on this hike and have my map get wrecked that way (seems so obvious in hindsight, doesn't it?) The map I printed out got so soaked that it was completely useless when I pulled it out after losing the trail at the end of my outing.

Although it would be foolish to exclusively rely on electronics for navigation, I do see the upside of being able to turn on a phone and instantly view my position relative to the trail, summit, and other landmarks. It is a nice tool to have in my navigational arsenal along with maps, compasses, sun's position in the sky, snow tracks in the winter, general sense of direction, etc. Unfortunately, my current navigation apps are woefully inadequate in places without reliable cellphone service. One of the apps displayed a useless blurry map when I tried to zoom in and the other app just showed a dot (representing my position) on a blank screen! I knew how unreliable these apps were from past outings in Allegany State Park and other places with weak or nonexistent cell service, yet I stubbornly refused to search for other apps that might actually display topo maps properly in these situations. Before my next outing, I plan to pre-download a map of where I'll be hiking and see if using the offline map works better. This will be a rare occasion where I plan to use my phone 100% for navigation because there's a lot of experimenting and trail-and-error that I would like to do in backcountry wilderness areas that I am more familiar with...

When it comes to footwear, I will be purchasing some approach shoes with better traction that I can use in more mountainous/rocky areas like the Adirondacks. My hiking boots are king in areas where I normally hike, but are unsuitable for the kind of bare rock you often encounter in the Adirondacks. Even Owls Head Mountain near Long Lake (a smaller peak that I hiked the day after my MacIntyre Misadventure) had a few sections near the summit that I wasn't too comfortable going up and down in these boots. This is one such example (actually, this section had an alternative route to the right, but other rock sections didn't).
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Old 11-16-2020, 10:41 AM   #5
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+ 1 on having a compass. My hiking partner and I carry 3 maps. Really just prints of the area we are hiking with zoomed out enough to show surrounding peaks. So basically a single sheet of printer paper. One each in a zip baggy kept handy. And then a spare commercial map tucked away in the pack. I also do goofy things like break up trip into segments and list distances on back. This includes any "bailout options" if they are available.

Yes, pre-download the maps makes a huge difference. No cell phone reception needed. We each have our phones and in winter carry a spare battery (in addition to the compass, etc). I used to do what you did, spot on-screen with a blurry map. Even with that, you can leave waypoints if you were not hiking in a loop. Like the location of car :<)

And research. Hiking partner keeps looking at that 1.45-mile Iroquois Trail line down to Avalanche pass you took. I keep telling her "bad idea." Reports like yours are invaluable
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Old 11-16-2020, 01:28 PM   #6
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+ 1 on having a compass. My hiking partner and I carry 3 maps. Really just prints of the area we are hiking with zoomed out enough to show surrounding peaks. So basically a single sheet of printer paper. One each in a zip baggy kept handy. And then a spare commercial map tucked away in the pack. I also do goofy things like break up trip into segments and list distances on back. This includes any "bailout options" if they are available.

Yes, pre-download the maps makes a huge difference. No cell phone reception needed. We each have our phones and in winter carry a spare battery (in addition to the compass, etc). I used to do what you did, spot on-screen with a blurry map. Even with that, you can leave waypoints if you were not hiking in a loop. Like the location of car :<)

And research. Hiking partner keeps looking at that 1.45-mile Iroquois Trail line down to Avalanche pass you took. I keep telling her "bad idea." Reports like yours are invaluable
Just ordered a waterproof High Peaks map from the ADK store yesterday. I'll carry it with me on future trips out there, even if I end up printing my own paper maps like I usually do.

I plan to test out predownloaded maps in Allegany State Park one of these Sundays when part of the park is closed off to hunters. There are a few benchmarks, like the ones at the old Mount Irvine firetower site, that I could have as my destination.

The dumbest decisions I've ever made before or during hikes were all done on a whim: Calling an audible on this recent outing and taking that route down to Avalanche Pass when I originally planned to do an out-and-back; impulsively deciding to do a 15-20 mile hike in the New Mexico desert the morning of my scheduled rest day, without bringing nearly enough water or researching possible sources beforehand; and attempting to pioneer my own climbing route on a mountain in Nevada that led me up a steep, exposed headwall with loose rocks everywhere I stepped (I was lucky to get out of that one alive, with only cuts and bruises on my arms and legs that I quickly patched up with items in my first aid pouch).

There were three saving graces on that four-hour descent from Boundary/Algonquin the other weekend: 1.) Deliberately taking my time and watching every step I took, while still seeing if I could be able to complete that trecherous stretch in daylight; 2.) Using my trekking poles for the rapid stream crossings; and 3.) Having prior experience hiking on wet, slippery surfaces in places that you are likely familiar with living in Rochester (Grimes Glen, Warsaw Falls, and Hidden Falls in Allen Lake S.F. to name a few).

Well, time to get back to work...
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Old 11-16-2020, 06:05 PM   #7
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Here's a video from my MacIntyre Range outing that I forgot to post before. It's viewable in HD and 4K in addition to lower resolutions.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IHxtIQ9CuVk

I wish I had a GoPro camera and helmet that would have allowed me to film the climbing sections while still maintaining 3-4 points of contact. It's on my shopping wishlist for next year!
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Old 12-04-2020, 10:08 AM   #8
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I had a pair of Merrell's that almost got me killed on Giant a couple decades ago. I hope they changed the rubber they used for their soles since then. They wouldn't grip for anything it seemed (dry or wet\icy) and I never wore them for hiking again. After that hike I used them only as work boots and got a pair of Vasques that lasted for several years of hiking until my young Golden Retriever practically ate them one day. Got my money's worth out of them beforehand at least, they lasted several dozen hikes and the soles still did not lose their grip.
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Old 12-04-2020, 01:04 PM   #9
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I suggest a non electronic altimeter. My mechanical altimeter from 1963 is a great accompaniment to map and compass. (Maybe Sun Company)
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Old 12-04-2020, 06:23 PM   #10
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I had a pair of Merrell's that almost got me killed on Giant a couple decades ago. I hope they changed the rubber they used for their soles since then. They wouldn't grip for anything it seemed (dry or wet\icy) and I never wore them for hiking again. After that hike I used them only as work boots and got a pair of Vasques that lasted for several years of hiking until my young Golden Retriever practically ate them one day. Got my money's worth out of them beforehand at least, they lasted several dozen hikes and the soles still did not lose their grip.
I'll keep the Vasques brand in mind when I start shopping around for hiking footwear next year. Is there any specific model that you'd recommend?

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I suggest a non electronic altimeter. My mechanical altimeter from 1963 is a great accompaniment to map and compass. (Maybe Sun Company)
Having another tool in my navigational arsenal wouldn't be such a bad idea. I was actually thinking about getting an altimeter anyway for peakbagging outings here in the Appalachian foothills where the exact highest ground isn't always obvious and my electronic topo map only shows 20 ft. contour intervals and doesn't provide a precise reading like a reliable altimeter would.
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Old 12-09-2020, 09:55 AM   #11
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re: Vasques

They were Vasques Clarion GTX model I think. Not sure if still made, but they were great boots. Would've lasted much longer if my pup, Abbie, hadn't chewed the soles off!
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