The pair ascended the Trap Dike last Thursday with ice axes and crampons and continued over Colden’s summit via a slide created in 2011, but they were overtaken by darkness and lost the hiking trail, according to the state Department of Environmental Conservation. They did have headlamps.
DEC spokeswoman Emily Kilburn said the climbers, a 49-year-old man from Denver, Colorado, and a 51-year-old woman from Gardiner, New York, spent the night somewhere on Colden. Kilburn did not know if they had a shelter.
The next morning, on Friday, the two followed hiking trails to their campsite. They spent that night at the Beaver Point lean-to on Lake Colden.
The couple awoke Saturday morning with signs of frostbite on their extremities and hiked to the Lake Colden outpost, arriving at 1 p.m. The Colden caretaker reported the incident at 2:30 p.m. Forest rangers met the couple at Marcy Dam at 4:45 p.m. and transported them by snowmobile back to the trailhead. They were then taken to Adirondack Medical Center in Lake Placid.
Temperatures in the High Peaks fell far below zero over the weekend. Just how cold no doubt varied a bit from place to place, but data recorded by the Atmospheric Sciences Research Center on the summit of Whiteface Mountain gives a good indication of the temperatures in the mountains.
On the couple’s first night out, the temperature recorded at the Whiteface weather station was 18 degrees below zero at midnight and 11 below at 7 a.m. The temperature rose to 3 degrees at 5 p.m. Friday, then fell to 2 below at midnight. By 7 a.m. Saturday, the temperature had plummeted to 17 below. By the time couple reached the Colden outpost, it had fallen further to 35 below.
Richard Brandt, science manager at the research center, said the temperatures at the summits of Colden and Whiteface would have been similar. The temperature at Lake Colden, though, would have been roughly seven degrees warmer. Thus, it would have been about 28 below when the two reached the outpost.
Kilburn said it’s unclear on which night the couple first suffered frostbite.
DEC declined to identify the two hikers.
The Trap Dike, a canyon-like gash in the northwest face of Colden, is a popular ice climb in winter. Climbers use crampons and ice axes to ascend its two frozen waterfalls. In 2011, Tropical Storm Irene created a slide that leads from the top of the dike to Colden’s summit.
Photo by Phil Brown: Trap Dike on Mount Colden.