Thursday, March 27, 2014

Whiteface Mountain’s Newest Trail Officially Opens

03_25 Rands Last Stand Opens Jay RandWhiteface Mountain officially opened its 87th trail for skiing and riding when the ribbon was cut on Tuesday for “Rand’s Last Stand.”

Whiteface Mountain enthusiasts James Hunter, Jeff Tompkins, Brian Winfield and Jack Yanchitis each helped to name the glade when the mountain held a Facebook trail naming contest last August. The 4.7 acre and 1,500 foot long expert glade, named for former Whiteface Mountain general manager and 1968 Olympic ski jumper Jay Rand Jr., is located half-way down Hoyt’s High and connects skiers and riders to both the Summit Chair lift and Lookout Mountain chair lift. » Continue Reading.



Monday, March 24, 2014

A Lucky Backcountry Ski Trip Near Irishtown

Sign - 723compressedBetter late than never. I had wanted to ski the Irishtown Trail on St. Patrick’s Day because, well, it just seemed appropriate. But as Robert Burns observed, the best laid schemes of mice and men don’t always go as planned. My trip was postponed by a few days, but the delay was a blessing in disguise, since the trail was now topped by a few inches of fresh dry powder from a post-St. Patty’s snow shower.

Starting on Route 28N, the trail traverses Vanderwhacker Mountain Wild Forest for six miles, passing several ponds, and terminating at Irishtown. My goal, though, was to turn around at Stony Pond, a four-mile round trip that climbs about 700 feet. Beyond the pond, the trail is frequented by snowmobilers who access it from Irishtown, and skiers are advised not to compete with them for the trail. For a longer trip, a better option is to ski on the frozen surface of Stony Pond, circumnavigating its shoreline. » Continue Reading.



Saturday, March 22, 2014

The Eureka Tent Chronicles: Henry

Henry at the EurekaMy first marriage was a troubled one.  There were good moments but it seems that each day held pain and conflict.  The ups and downs finally led to a violent dissolution in 1992.  But for a brief time in the mid 1980’s there was hope and even some progress.  Two acquisitions, one for Christmas of 1984 and one in the following summer, marked that progress.  The summer purchase, a Eureka Wind River 4 tent, was an emblem of that progress.  The Christmas purchase, a puppy we named Henry, was the very cause.

Anyone who ever met Henry would tell you that he was an extraordinary dog.  He was half Golden Retriever, half Irish Setter and he got the best of both breeds.  As a puppy he looked indistinguishable from a purebred Golden – in other words, irresistibly adorable – but as he grew, the color, strength and stature of his father, an unusually large Setter, became his.  He eventually filled out at nearly a hundred pounds, no fat, in height nearly a head above any Golden I’d ever seen.  Physically he was simply a stunning animal, burnished red-gold, strong nose, rippling muscles under his coat, a head-turner everywhere he went. » Continue Reading.



Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Planning an Adirondack Bushwhack

Crooked LakeHaving a plan is always a good idea. From managing finances for retirement to baking a cake, a plan brings structure and allows for measuring progress. Journeying into the Adirondack backcountry is no different. A plan or itinerary is even more crucial when venturing off trail and into the remote wilderness. It often means the difference between a fantastic experience and a miserable nightmare.

The similarities between planning for a bushwhacking and traditional trail hiking trip are surprisingly many. Both require getting past the anxiety of an empty backpack and selecting the proper gear for the trip. Putting together an itinerary is essential, regardless of the nature of the trip, since it allows for notifying others of the planned destinations and provides a deadline for when others can expect your exodus from the backcountry.
» Continue Reading.



Saturday, March 15, 2014

The Eureka Tent Chronicles: End of an Era

T-Bar Lift Whiteface, early 1950'sAmy and I are putting a lot of resources into fixing up our house these days in order to get it on the market.  As part of that we have begun to wade into the accumulated years of clutter that have accreted to us.  The walk-in cedar closet in which we store all our camping gear is packed from floor to ceiling with an ungainly array of equipment ranging from our current go-to gear to remnants of bug spray untouched for a decade and random utensils we have not taken on a trip since before the millennium (apropos of nothing, I have a powerful urge to have a contest with Dan Crane to see who has the most miscellaneous backpacking stuff).

I tried to thin the inventory once before using a clever strategy of assembling camping kits and giving them to our three boys as gifts, along with good stuff like new tents.  But somehow that had little effect; if anything the collection is bigger than before.  Soon I will have a second go around, this time with a vengeance: we are going to come to a new life in the Adirondacks in a fresh, Spartan manner, come hell or high water. » Continue Reading.



Thursday, March 13, 2014

High Peaks Gets Up To 2 Feet Of Snow

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASkiers finally got the big dump they had been waiting for all winter. What’s more, the snow that fell was light powder, not the heavy stuff.

I’d say we got at least a foot in Saranac Lake. That would be in line with North Country snowfall totals reported by the National Weather Service: 16 inches in Duane Center (northern Franklin County), 14 inches in Malone, and 13 inches in Tupper Lake.

Michael Muccilli, a meteorologist with the service, said the northern parts of Herkimer and Hamilton counties got 6 to 12 inches.

» Continue Reading.



Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Don Mellor: Climbing OK Slip Falls

Don Mellor on ok slip fallsIt was suggested to me recently that “if God wanted us to climb ice, He wouldn’t have made it so slippery.” Theology aside, there’s probably some inverse truth here: we want to climb ice precisely because it’s so slippery. We shouldn’t be doing it. It defies everything fundamental about the world as we learned it. It breaks some heavy rules.

Still, we put nasty spikes on our boots and grab tight to a razor pair of ice claws—and there we are, halfway up a hundred-foot icicle. Right where we aren’t supposed to be. And the bliss defies words.

This is a piece about the ice-climbing prospects of OK Slip Falls, jewel of a long-awaited land acquisition, one that has gotten a fair amount of coverage in this publication. Just to see this waterfall once took either connections, patience—or stealth. » Continue Reading.



Monday, March 10, 2014

A Day in the Life of a Bushwhacker

Blowdown near Confluence of Middle Branch Oswegatchie RiverPeople often ask me what exactly I do in the Adirondack backcountry during a bushwhacking trip, as if it involves engaging in some arcane art from long ago. I always find this line of questioning a little befuddling, and to this day, I still find myself lacking an adequate response. For the most part, my day remains much the same as any commuter’s, except for the excessive effort involved in struggling through blowdown, hobblebush or other natural impediments, instead of navigating traffic.

A day in the life of a bushwhacker is an interesting one indeed, but not that different from a typical commuter’s. We sleep, eat, defecate and work much like other people, but a bushwhacker’s commute is shorter and a lot more pleasant. Of course, any description of a typical day in the Adirondack backcountry fails to include a rain delay, a trail hike, or other out of the ordinary conditions, despite these happening much more often than we care to admit.
» Continue Reading.



Sunday, March 9, 2014

The Lake George Land Conservancy’s Hike-A-Thon

3_2013HikeAThon_Cook MtThe early-bird registration period is now open for the Lake George Land Conservancy’s (LGLC) annual Hike-A-Thon, set for Saturday, July 5, 2014. The public is invited to register as participants of the Hike-A-Thon, free of charge. Early-bird registrations made until April 30 also come with free event t-shirts for each registered participant.

The Lake George Hike-A-Thon is a one-day event on July 5th, created to showcase LGLC’s parks and preserves around Lake George as free public resources, and to promote a healthy, active lifestyle and appreciation for the outdoors. » Continue Reading.



Saturday, March 8, 2014

Current Mount Marcy Backcountry Ski Conditions

Summit of Marcy in Winter (Phil Brown Photo)I skied Mount Marcy from Adirondak Loj on Friday. Conditions were very good below tree line; above, there was a lot of wind slab and ice. Bring MicroSpikes or crampons if you are headed to the actual summit. The last signpost was about six feet above the snow. In a good winter it’s buried, or nearly so. Thanks to Ron Konowitz and his helpers for removing blowdown on the ski trail below Indian Falls and shoveling snow to improve conditions. Ron is the president of the Adirondack Powder Skier Association.



Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Steve Signell: A Recreation Web Portal Fail

PortalFailThe Adirondack Recreation Web Portal was released at the end of January with much back-slapping and horn-tooting from Governor Cuomo and other involved parties.  Upon closer inspection, however, it is clear that this web ‘portal’ falls far short of expectations.

In an Almanack post last October I described the project and outlined some of the expected functionality of the new site, including what I described as “a strong mapping component, rather than the menu/catalog driven approach used by most Adirondack recreation sites.”  The opportunities afforded by modern online search and mapping technologies presented an incredible chance to build a truly useful, fun-to-use, map-based virtual gateway to the Adirondacks.

» Continue Reading.



Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Winter Mountaineering:
Bushwhacking Santanoni Mt. via Twin Slide

The title of this post could also be called “Santanoni Snow Slog” or “Snow Swimming up Santanoni”. Conditions were not good, but those are the chances you take when planning this type of outing. The avalanche probability had been high for a few weeks which delayed plans over and again for this trip. I can’t really complain since conditions were stellar during several of my outings over the past couple months. I secretly hoped to find frozen cascades and at least a bit of ice-entombed slab during this trip as well—inside I knew better.

Alan Wechsler and I decided to explore Twin Slide on February 22nd with the foreknowledge that we might be turned back if conditions seemed too avalanche prone. He hoped to add another peak to his winter list while I simply needed an adventure.

» Continue Reading.



Saturday, March 1, 2014

46 Winter High Peaks in 10 Days: One Man’s Success

Neil Luckhurst on Dix Mt.Neil Luckhurst (age 58), vice president of the ADKHighpeaks Foundation, embarked upon an ambitious 1-man fundraiser on February 18, 2014. His goal was to climb each of the 46 High Peaks in just 12 days—a quest he dubbed “Project 46”. Dedicated friends and family members supported Neil in a variety of fashions ranging from company on the trail to preparing hot meals and snacks. Meanwhile, others watched his progress on their computer via Neil’s SPOT tracking beacon.

He showed no signs of slowing and by Thursday, February 27th; he’d completed the goal in a staggering 10 days—two days ahead of schedule. When all was said and done, he’d hiked 213.6 miles (344 km) with 69,500 feet  (21,184 m) of elevation gain while braving a mixed bag of winter weather conditions. » Continue Reading.



Thursday, February 27, 2014

Ski Jumping in Lake Placid: For the Love of Flying

Karl Schulz & Grand Pa“I really like the sensation of flying through the air,” said Will Rhoads, winner of the Art Devlin Cup. “There is nothing better than having a really good jump and having the feeling you are never going to come down.”

Rhoads was in Lake Placid for the U.S. Ski Jumping Cup, held on the 90 meter at Intervale on Wednesday, February 12 that included a Juniors and Open class. In addition, he an a number of the competitors were in the running for the Art Devlin Cup that combines the results of three meets, the US Cup, the Flaming Leaves, and the July 4th competition. The U.S. Cup was the next to last of nine meets held across the country with the final scheduled for Park City, Utah.

While the twin towers on the 90 and 120 (aka 100 HS and 134 HS) jumps in Placid remain icons of the village and the most dramatic emblem of the 1980 Games, they are sadly out of date and the 120 no longer meets FIS regulations. “Jumps are being designed flatter to make it harder to jump further,” said Blake Hughes, assistant coach for the US Ski Jumping team. “Because of changes in the equipment and the way the sport has progressed jumping here is easier than in Sochi.” » Continue Reading.



Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Don Mellor On Post-Thaw Ice Climbing Conditions

Don first pitchYesterday I complained about the deterioration of backcountry-skiing conditions caused by last week’s rain and thaw. But what has happened to ice-climbing conditions?

I am a novice ice climber. In my mind, I figured a little rain and a little melting followed by subfreezing temperatures would improve conditions. More water means more ice, right?

Not necessarily, according to Don Mellor, author of Blue Lines: An Adirondack Ice Climber’s Guide.

Mellor has been climbing and studying ice for more than thirty-five years and has found that it is frustratingly unpredictable. Just because one route has good ice doesn’t mean another route will.

That said, Mellor thinks certain routes—particularly those in gullies, which hold a lot of ice—may have been helped by last week’s thaw. “Gullies have enough substance to weather a lot of abuse. I climbed Chouinard’s [above Chapel Pond] with my daughter on Saturday and found it fine. As I would have predicted,” Mellor told me yesterday.

» Continue Reading.



Monday, February 24, 2014

Siamese Ponds Wilderness: Skiing The Botheration Trail

Siamese-Ponds Botheration Trail headI had lots to do on Saturday, but just couldn’t say ‘no.’  The blue sky and 40 degree weather was too much of a siren call, so I grabbed my skis and headed to the Siamese Ponds Wilderness Area.   This may be my last chance to ski for the season, so the errands will just have to wait.

The Siamese Ponds area is deservedly one of the most popular spots in the southern Adirondacks for backcountry skiing, containing routes for skiers of all abilities.  My late start and the impending darkness meant that today’s choice would have to be short and fast, so I picked Botheration Pond as my destination.  I started at the Old Farm Clearing parking lot, where skiers compete each weekend for the 30 or so parking spaces, but today there are only a few other cars.  I won’t see any of their occupants though – for the next two hours, I’ll share the trails with only chickadees and an occasional squirrel. » Continue Reading.



Monday, February 24, 2014

Checking Out Ski Conditions After The Thaw

Phil at VICLast week’s rain and thaw bummed out backcountry skiers, but things could have been worse. We still have a solid base, but we could use several inches of powder on top of it.

Unfortunately, there are no sizable snowstorms in this week’s forecast. We got a dusting of snow last night, and we may get a total of an inch or so over the next few days. Small snow showers also are predicted later in the week.

The Adirondack Ski Touring Council is recommending that skiers stick to groomed trails until we get more snow. “The only exception is that it never warmed up all that much at the elevation of Lake Colden, so skiing there is still pretty good—just not so good getting there,” the council says on its website.

I went skiing both Saturday and Sunday to check out the post-thaw conditions.

» Continue Reading.



Thursday, February 20, 2014

Hickory Mountain: Skiing The Old-Fashioned Way

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI put the Pomalift disc between my thighs and waited.  Within a second, I was airborne and launched six feet forward, then settled back to Earth.  At Hickory Ski Center, sliding up the mountain can be as exciting as the trip down.

The first thing you’ll notice about Hickory is the large percentage of skiers with telemark gear or powder planks.   Snowboarders are welcome, but you’ll rarely see them.  This is a skier’s mountain.  No matter what they have on their feet, almost everyone here is an expert or aspires to be one.  That’s a hint.  Hickory is for those that have developed their skills at lesser venues, not for neophytes. » Continue Reading.



Thursday, February 20, 2014

Sitz Pond In The Five Ponds Wilderness

Sitz PondThe Adirondack backcountry contains a plethora of natural gems, such as ponds, lakes, mountains, bogs and beaver meadows. Although many are reachable by trail, the vast majority are islands of remoteness, surrounded by a sea of near-impenetrable forest, just waiting for a human bold enough to venture away from the marked trails to discover them. Few humans ever visit these gems, which undoubtedly suits both the gems themselves and the meager number of visitors just fine.

One of these gems is a small pond found in the southwest corner of the Five Ponds Wilderness. Sitz Pond is its name, and as attractive backcountry ponds go, it ranks up there with the best.
» Continue Reading.



Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Backcountry Skiing A Pair Of Adirondack Passes

Tim-in-Whales-Tail-Pass1We just finished our March/April issue of the Adirondack Explorer, so I took Tuesday off to go backcountry skiing and take advantage of the recent snowfalls (before a looming thaw sets in).

My neighbor Tim Peartree and I skied through two mountain passes. The first, Avalanche Pass, is one of the most popular ski trips in the Adirondacks. From Heart Lake, it’s about four miles to the top of the pass and an additional 0.6 miles to Avalanche Lake. » Continue Reading.



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