October 15, 2016
Weather: sunny but cold, & windy
We arrived at the Garden at 6:30am. We = me, Greg, Greg’s dad, and my dad. Unfortunately, cars were already being turned away, so my dad dropped us off and told us he would try to go straight up Saddleback and meet us there! Greg’s dad was finishing his 46, and we all wanted to be able to celebrate together. We were a little sad to leave him behind, but we didn’t want to mess up the big 46er plans, so by 6:50 we were off toward Johns Brook Lodge.
It was still pretty dark when we set out, so we were wearing our headlamps and walking carefully – it’s already hard to see roots and rocks hidden beneath the leaves and the headlamps didn’t make it easier. Fortunately, it was only 15-20 minutes before we decided it was easier to stow the lights.
We were moving quite well, it wasn’t very steep at the beginning and the cold helped motivate me to keep a quicker pace and avoid stops. We passed a lot of signs saying no camping, but we also passed a lot of tents. All of these clever people who were avoiding the parking/shuttle drama. It took us a little over an hour to reach the junction just before JBL. We signed in and left the time so that my dad would have an idea of our progress (turns out he didn’t actually bother to check). While we were there I heard a few people discussing the Quebecers who had brought in busloads of people to hike in a huge group and had gotten caught, I didn’t speak up but I feel like saying here – we’re not all like that, we love coming to the Adirondacks and really appreciate how lucky we are!!!
We followed the brook, which led us straight to the Johns Brook Lodge in under 15 minutes. We spent a few minutes there, fixing up our gear and chatting with the volunteers who were closing up the lodge for the season. I couldn’t believe it, but there was frost on the ground and the chairs. I was starting to get a little worried about the steep col between our 2 peaks for the day and if there might be frost or ice that made it more dangerous. At least the sun was shining and it was going to be a beautiful day no matter what!
We kept following the stream for a little bit, then crossed over and climbed up onto the memorable hog’s back. Despite the fact that we had started to climb a little, we were still making good time and reached the Bushnell Falls junction/leanto area at 9am. We stopped again for a few minutes, and I took the opportunity to grab some chicken and cookies from my pack (thanks mom!).
I was grateful for this because from then on we were climbing. In typical Adirondacks fashion too, it was over boulders and roots. At least there weren’t as many fallen leaves in this area and I wasn’t tripping over them. I was so focused on my feet that the sight of Slant Rock caught me by surprise. We sat down on a nice log and had another little snack; I also decided to check out the facilities, they have a new open air outhouse there – 5 stars! I kind of wished I had climbed the rock, but we didn’t have time to waste…it’ll be there next time!
next part rest of the hike, I will use Greg’s favourite word and describe it as: relentless. We made our way up to the Range Trail at a slow but steady pace. We pulled, pushed and stretched our way up up roots, mini rock face cliffs, and the ladders. There were a few slippery/icy spots, and I felt vindicated for having brought my spikes; we had all made sure to bring them, and even though we didn’t end up using them I was happy I had them. We encountered the first hikers we’d seen all day during this section; one of the guys had camped near the col, done a sunset and sunrise hike up Haystack, and was headed back down with his 80 lb pack. He sparked a long conversation about what he could be carrying in there, and Greg and I both felt better about our 45 lb California packs.
We stopped once for a snack, and for the guys to apply moleskin and bandaids – unfortunately they were both starting to get blisters – but there was not a single complaint from either of them! After a tiny little descent, we finally reached the junction at 11:00 and headed straight up toward Basin. This part was a little trickier.There were a couple spots that really slowed us down as we edged our way up cracks in the rock faces. It definitely helped that we were starting to get lovely views behind us.
Before we knew it we were coming out on open rock and we were at the summit….just in time for lunch! Time since The Garden: 5:15
**Hoping to recover a summit shot from a broken camera**
The wind was incredibly strong so we all put on our layers and hunkered down for a quick lunch. I quickly texted my dad (I didn’t know at the time but he had just reached the summit of Saddleback 15 minutes before), I had done the calculations on the way up and realized he could obviously make it to the summit. Now my concern was that he would head back down before we got there to make sure he caught the last shuttle. I was thinking he would stay until 1:30 latest and we were getting on for that time.
We stayed on the summit for about 25-30 minutes, chatting with other people and enjoying some chocolate, until the time and the cold got to us and we decided to move on. Immediately walking down, I was reminded about why I had previously said that the col between these two mountains looked like this ||. Immediately we were faced with this small cliff right on the side of the mountain, which would have freaked me out enough even without the sheet of ice on it. Fortunately, another guy was coming up and we saw he easily moved around it and we followed his path down, me edging down on my butt. This was to become a common practice.
Every few steps I got back down on my butt and slid carefully down, even in the places where it was only a few feet. Of course I had forgotten to Leukotape my knees too so I was wary of putting too much of a strain on them. I think the descent was about 600 feet, and it was anything but gradual. The good news was, on our way down we passed a guy who let us know that there was a guy named Simon (my dad) waiting for us just below the summit of Saddleback.
On the little bump, in the col, we ran into another group of people who let us know that he was going to stay on the summit until 2pm. I was way more pessimistic and thinking that if we were only starting up toward Saddleback from the col at 1:15, then we’d for sure get to see him, but one of us would have to rush back down to catch the shuttle shortly thereafter. Well it turns out I was freaking out for no reason. Not even 10 minutes later, we came out to the “dreaded” Saddleback cliffs, and I see my dad with his head poking out waving at us.
Now I had been a little bit worried about this part
because everything worries me, but 1) it faces the sun so there was no ice, and 2) even though I am much more cautious/paranoid than I used to be, I had the knowledge that I had previously climbed this part successfully. So, after doing it a second time, I can confirm: I love this section!! I spider monkeyed up to meet my dad, and then up to just below the summit to wait for the crew. (As much as I am pretty confident walking up that, I don’t want to stop and wait in the middle of it)
A second later, Greg and his dad reached the summit and what a wonderful feeling it was!! For those of you who are working toward your 46, or who have finished it, you know what an incredible feeling of accomplishment it is! Time since The Garden: 6:40
Greg had bought his dad a 46er shirt so he put it on and we had a small champagne toast to celebrate! And of course, pictures a-plenty were taken!
Alas, you’re not done until you’re done. After half an hour of soaking in the sun and the beautiful occasion, we had to turn back. My dad said it had taken about 4 hours to get up, and to be safe we wanted to leave 4 hours to get back down. We packed up our stuff and set out at exactly 2:00.
If we thought the trail might be easier on this side, we were wrong. I actually ended up ripping the pocket off the back of my pants due to too much Adirondack Butt Sliding. It took us 40 minutes to get to the slide and the ladders. There were a few thin patches of ice and I was extremely nervous, especially when my dad decided to walk out onto the slide. You have to understand that all day I had been freaking out and feeling awful about having left him to hike alone, so I really didn’t need him to put himself in another precarious situation! (I guess I’m ready to be a mom…)
Fortunately, he made it back onto the trail safely and we continued down the ladders to the bottom of the slide. The trail “flattened” (became less steep) and we moved along with no trouble after this.
We came to a junction, my dad had come up by one way straight from the parking lot, but we decided to head back via JBL. It was like a 0.1 mile difference and we were worried about time so we basically just blindly chose. Within a few minutes we had arrived at Johns Brook Lodge, most of the volunteer crew was hanging out outside and we chatted with them for a few minutes. They congratulated Greg’s dad on finishing his 46 and kindly snapped a group picture for us.
Now it was 4:15 and we were really worried about missing the last shuttle so Greg and I grabbed my dad’s return shuttle ticket and decided to go down ahead. We were pretty sure we could all make it down before 6 but we didn’t want the stress of running the last half mile at 5:45pm, so we decided to be safe. My knees were hurting a fair bit, so I was also happy to be able to do my fast-walk (you know how when you walk slower it feels harder on the joints).
This section was easier in light, less tripping. I spent the time trying to figure out how long/far we had to go. I figured we would make it back around 5:30, but nothing looked familiar. We recognized some of the tent sites, and a small clearing but I was thrilled when we reached the junction at 5:15. 10 minutes later we were strolling into the parking lot, the shuttle was right there so I ran and grabbed it. Greg waited in the parking lot so that he could be there when our dads finished. Greg called out to remind me to “turn right out of the parking lot” to get back. I arrived back with the car just a couple minutes after they finished and we all happily piled in and headed off toward showers and celebratory supper! Time since departure: 11 hours
Basin Mountain: 4,827 feet, elevation gain: 3,800 feet
Saddleback Mountain: 4,515 feet, elevation gain: +365 feet