Since the big storm last week, I’ve been skiing a lot in the backcountry. Generally, I found the conditions very good, but skiers need to be mindful that we had little or no base before the snowfall. You may encounter exposed boulders on trails. If you’re skiing off trail, you must be wary of logs and rocks lurking within the powder.
On New Year’s Day, I skied from Adirondak Loj to Lake Colden. At the outset, I wondered if the cover would be adequate on the trail from the Loj to Marcy Dam, a section with a lot of large boulders. Although I did encounter some exposed rocks, they were easily avoided. » Continue Reading.
Evidently, many backcountry skiers find waxing mystifying. Otherwise, why would waxless skis be so popular? But it needn’t be so.
“Waxing isn’t alchemy,” Paul Parker advises in his classic manual Free Heel Skiing. “It can be as simple or complex an art as you choose to make it,”
We choose simple. There are two types of wax: glide wax and kick wax. Glide wax keeps your skis running smoothly over the snow. Kick wax is applied to the midsection of your skis to bite into the snow, providing the purchase necessary to propel yourself forward. » Continue Reading.
Glen Plake is skiing into Keene Valley from Chamonix, France to join The Mountaineer’s 10th annual Adirondack Back Country Ski Festival on March 3rd and 4th.
The annual charity event supports the Adirondack Ski Touring Council and the New York Ski Educational Foundation and allows back country ski enthusiasts a chance to demo equipment take clinics and enjoy an evening with Glen Plake on Saturday night at the Keene Central School’s “Beaver Dome” in Keene Valley at 7:30 pm. Plake will be here compliments of Julbo, the glacier and fashion sun glass company. Other sponsors who are supporting the event and providing raffle items for Saturday night include Back Country Ski magazine, Dynafit, Primaloft, Voile-USA, Marmot, Madshus, Garmont, Scarpa, Mammut, G3, and adkbcski.com. A ski tour and Intermediate and Advanced back country ski clinics are guided by Cloudsplitter Mountain Guides of Keene Valley.
The event’s sponsors will also be providing demos for on snow testing from 10 to 2:30 on Saturday. Plake will be on hand and there will be free telemark, skinning and avalanche beacon clinics. The demo event location will be announced on the 27th.
Yes, it’s been a bad winter for skiers, but it’s not all bad. People are skiing, though their options are limited by the shortage of snow.
The best skiing seems to be at the two extremes: on high slopes or on mellow terrain. For a sample of what the elite skiers are doing, check out the videos on Drew Haas’s website Adirondack Backcountry Skiing. If you’re not into skiing slides or other gnarly terrain, your best bets will be former truck trails, old woods roads, frozen ponds, and other smooth, flat terrain. You can find an account of one such trip in the March/April issue of the Adirondack Explorer: a round-trip to Raquette Falls. Click here to read the story.
That said, I had two good outings on intermediate terrain within the past week. On Sunday, I skied from Whiteface Inn Road in Lake Placid to the top of McKenzie Pass on the Jackrabbit Trail. The cover was excellent, but I understand conditions on the Saranac Lake side of the pass are not so good.
On Tuesday, I skied to Avalanche Lake from South Meadow Road. Again, the cover was good except on parts of the Marcy Dam Truck Trail. Click here to read a more detailed report and view a video of my descent of Avalanche Pass.
For other backcountry options, check out Tony Goodwin’s ski report, which is updated a few times a week, and also Adirondack Almanack‘s Thursday afternoon Outdoor Conditions Report, which often includes suggestions for areas outside the Lake Placid area.
Of course, you can always visit one of the Adirondack Park’s cross-country-ski centers if the backcountry isn’t an option. Despite the low snow, Rick Karlin reports in the Explorer that the Nordic centers are open for business, thanks in part to good grooming. Click here to read Karlin’s story.
Finally, if all else fails, you might try to imitate the guy in this video (one of the best ski videos I’ve seen).
Photo by Phil Brown: A skier on the trail to Raquette Falls.
The Mountaineer and Cloudsplitter Mountain Guides have teamed up to host the 10th annual Adirondack Backcountry Ski Festival on March 3 and 4, 2012. The event celebrates the ski experience both here in the Adirondack backcountry and in the greater ranges of the world.
This year’s event features guest athlete Glen Plake, star of many ski films and an accomplished backcountry skier, guide and instructor based in Chamonix, France. He will be skiing at Otis Mountain in Elizabethtown on Saturday and offering a presentation on Saturday evening at the Keene Central School. Guided ski tours will be held on Saturday and Sunday, led by Cloudsplitter Mountain Guides and a group of local ski guides. Skiers with intermediate nordic skills can join the classic Avalanche Pass ski traverse, while intermediate to expert downhill skiers looking to get into backcountry skiing will want to join the Intermediate Tour. Expert skiers with prior backcountry experience and their own gear can refine their skills on the Advanced Tour. Space is limited, so check out their website to register.
Free demos and mini clinics will again be held at Otis Mountain on Saturday. The Mountainfest is benefit event, with all proceeds supporting the New York State Ski Education Foundation’s Nordic racing programs and the Adirondack Ski Touring Council, stewards of the Adirondack Park’s backcountry ski trail system, including the Jackrabbit Trail.
Call The Mountaineer at 518 576 2281 or visit www.mountaineer.com for more information and to register for the clinics.
* Please note the correct time for drop off to McCauley Mountain Ski Swap is Saturday from 8:00 a.m. – 9:00 a.m.!
Being an active family, my kids seems to outgrown their sporting gear before I’ve finished tying up the laces. For other parents looking to outfit their children for the winter ski season, a ski swap is a nice starting place. A ski swap can also be a much-needed opportunity to clean house.
Generally the ski swaps are consignments where you drop off your gear, helmets, and winter clothing a day before the event. If the gear sells then you will receive 80% of the set sale price. Usually the funds generated benefit a special organization like ski clubs or ski patrols so the 20% commission goes to support the sport. It is best to ask what each ski swap’s arrangement is, as it varies with location. Keep in mind no “collector’s items” like wooden skis and only clothing in good condition. Ski Club Swaps
Lake Placid: November 5, 9:00 a.m. – noon In Lake Placid, the Lake Placid Ski Club/NYSEF Ski Swap is asking for any winter gear from cross-country skis, boots, roller blades, helmets as well as current downhill ski equipment. Any winter clothing in good shape will be accepted. For questions please call Lake Placid Ski Club President Carol Hoffman at 524-6914. This is the first year that Lake Placid Ski Club and NYSEF are doing a combined Ski and Skate Swap at St. Agnes Gym in Lake Placid. 80/20 split, no rear entry boots or straight skis and no gear donations. Drop off equipment to consign on November 4 from 6:00 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.
Queensbury, November 5 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. November 6, 9:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. This annual event at West Mountain is touted as one of the largest ski swaps in the area. Drop off for consignments is Friday (11/4) from 5:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. and Saturday (11/5) from 9:00 a.m. – 10:00 a.m.. They are accepting any new and pre-owned ski or snowboard gear. No straight skis or rear entry boots. They are looking for any outerwear and accessories as well as skis, boots, helmets and snowboards. Proceeds benefit the West Mountain Ski Patrol and Race Team.
Old Forge, November 5, 9:00 a.m. – noon This annual Polar Bear Ski Club Ski Swap at McCauley Mountain will be the place to find deals on new/used ski and snowboard equipment. Drop off is Friday evening from 5:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. and on Saturday between 8:00 a.m. – 9:00 a.m. They are looking for any winter sporting gear and winter clothing in good condition. This event is not restricted to ski or snowboards but will accept helmets, ice skates, hockey equipment and cross-country ski gear. This event will benefit the Polar Bear Ski Club, which sponsors ski races for youth in cross-country skiing, downhill and biathlon.
Speculator, November 19, 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. This is a new event for Oak Mountain and a bit different from the traditional ski swap. For a $20 “table” free (if reserved by the 16th or $25 after the 16th) the consignor can sell anything from boats, ATVs, snowmobiles as well as skis, gear and sport clothing. The only requirement is that it has to be sporting goods. The table fee will benefit the Friends of Oak Mountain, which continues to support upgrades to Oak Mountain. There will also be refreshments for sale.
So asks the headline on AccuWeather’s website. And the answer appears to be yes.
AccuWeather says the La Nina effect means the Midwest and much of the Northeast can expect a cold and snowy winter. Paul Pastelok, a meteorologist with the weather-forecasting service, predicts that arctic air blowing across the Great Lakes will generate above-normal lake-effect snowfalls. “Overall, precipitation is expected to be above normal throughout most of the Northeast from January into February,” according to AccuWeather. “With the exception of northern parts of New York and New England, temperatures are forecast to average near normal for the winter season.”
So if you put any stock in long-range forecasts, this could be a great winter for backcountry skiing.
Even if they don’t believe the weatherman, backcountry skiers have something to look forward to this winter: new terrain.
In August, Tropical Storm Irene created or lengthened more than a dozen slides in the High Peaks, many of which should provide exciting skiing for those with the requisite skills and gear.
A big caveat: slides can and do avalanche. In 2000, a skier died in an avalanche on a slide on Wright Peak. Avalanches have occurred elsewhere in the Adirondacks as well, usually triggered by skiers, snowshoers, or ice climbers. Slide skiers should carry a beacon, probe, and shovel and know how to use them. And they should know how to gauge avalanche potential.
So far, I have climbed only five of the new slides, those on Wright, Cascade, Saddleback, Little Colden, and Colden. Click here to read about them in the new issue of the Adirondack Explorer.
Two slides that are likely to get skied a lot are on Wright Peak and Lower Wolf Jaw.
The one on Wright scoured a streambed that can be followed to a steep headwall. The streambed also will facilitate access to the nearby Angel Slides, where the skier died in 2000. Skiers will be able to bag the Angel Slides and the new slide in one outing. The streambed is reached by a short bushwhack from Marcy Dam. The new slide is a mile long.
Bennies Brook Slide on Lower Wolf Jaw has long been a popular ski destination. In the past, skiers followed a path through the woods to reach the slide. Irene extended the slide all the way to the Southside Trail and Johns Brook. With the easier access and additional terrain, Bennies will be more popular than ever.
Irene also has affected some popular trails used by backcountry skiers. Most noteworthy is that floods caused by the storm washed away the bridge at Marcy Dam.Skiers who started at Adirondak Loj used the bridge en route to Mount Marcy or Avalanche Lake. Thanks to Irene, they will have to cross the frozen pond (now largely a mudflat) or approach the dam via the Marcy Dam Truck Trail instead of the trail from the Loj.
The bridge at the start of the Klondike Notch Trail also was washed away. Skiers can still reach the trail by skiing up the Marcy Dam Truck Trail and turning left onto the Mr. Van Trail.
The Adirondack Ski Touring Council reports that Irene did minimal damage to the Jackrabbit and other ski trails maintained by the council. Repairs are scheduled to be made this fall.
Dozens of new landslides have been reported in the High Peaks following heavy rains and winds from the remnants of Hurricane Irene which reached the Eastern Adirondacks as a Tropical Storm on Sunday.
Regular Alamanack contributor and Adirondack Explorer editor Phil Brown snapped a photo of a new slide on Wright Peak, near Angel Slide. Formally two adjoining scars, Angel Slide is a well-known destination for expert backcountry skiers named in honor of Toma Vracarich who was killed in an avalanche there in 2000. The slide now includes a third route, longer than the rest. » Continue Reading.
This announcement is for general use – local conditions may vary and are subject to sometimes drastic changes.
Listen for the weekly Adirondack Outdoor Recreation Report Friday mornings on WNBZ (AM 920 & 1240, FM 105 & 102.1) and the stations of North Country Public Radio.
The Adirondack Almanack publishes occasional Forest Ranger incident reports which form a stern reminder that wilderness conditions can change suddenly and accidents happen. Be aware of the latest weather conditions and carry adequate gear and supplies.
SPECIAL NOTICES FOR THIS WEEKEND ** indicates new or revised items.
** DEC DISCOURGING BACKCOUNTRY USE As of 3:30 pm on 4/28 only the trailheads for the Eastern High Peaks Wilderness located along Route 73 south of Keene can be reached by motor vehicle. DEC is discouraging the public from entering the woods or accessing the waters of the Adirondacks due to significant number of closed roads, impassable river, stream and brook crossings, flooded trails and campsites, and the High Wind Warning that has been issued for Thursday afternoon and evening. Saturated soils could result in numerous trees being toppled and tails and campsites may be covered and blocked by fallen trees and other blowdown. The danger of landslides on mountain slopes is currently high.
** HIGH WATERS – FLOODING This winter’s deep snow pack combined with heavy rains this week have left lakes and ponds brimming, and rivers and streams swollen with cold and fast water. All major rivers are above flood stage and major flooding is occurring and expected to continue through Friday. More than 75 roads around the region have been reported closed, including several major connecting routes. Several roads and bridges have collapsed, and major flooding has forced, or may soon force evacuations along the Hudson, Schroon, Ausable, Bouquet, Saranac, and Raquette Rivers, and along Mill Brook in Moriah, which has been hard hit. Docks, boat launches, and low-lying waterfront property across the region’s lakes and reservoirs are submerged by high waters. Lake Champlain set the highest level ever recorded on the USGS gage at almost two feet above flood stage. Most boat launches in the region are flooded, making it risky to launch and retrieve boats. Boaters and paddlers should be aware that waters are cold and swift and may contain logs, limbs and other debris. High waters also conceal navigation hazards such as boulders, rock shelves, docks and other structures that normally are easily seen and avoided. Paddlers consult the latest stream gage data and use extreme caution. A complete report of the Adirondack Floods of 2011 can be found here.
**HIGH WIND WARNING – EXPECT BLOWDOWN The National Weather Service has issued a High Wind Warning until 8 pm Thursday, for Saint Lawrence and Franklin Counties. Winds are expected to be southwest 25 to 35 mph wurth gusts to 65 miles per hour. Saturated soils could result in numerous trees being toppled and tails and campsites may be covered and blocked by fallen trees and other blowdown. The danger of landslides on mountain slopes is currently high.
** ROAD CLOSURES Numerous major highways and secondary roads have been closed due to flooding and washouts. Any bridge over a major stream or river, and any road running near open water currently has the possibility of closure. Roads that have been recently or are now closed include: Route 28 north of North Creek; Route 28N between Blue Mountain Lake and Long Lake; Route 30 at the bridge over Long Lake and at the bridge over the Cedar River north of Indian Lake; Route 86 in Wilmington Notch between Wilmington and Lake Placid; Route 73 at the bridge over the West Branch of the Ausable River near the ski jumps outside of Lake Placid; Route 73 at the bridge over the East Branch of the Ausable River in Keene; Route 9N between Keene and Upper Jay; Route 9 where it crosses the South Branch of the Boquet River and near Split Rock Falls between Elizabethtown and Exit 30 of the Northway; Thirteenth Lake Road in Johnsburg; Route 28N between Long Lake and Tupper Lake; Schroon River Road at Riverbank; Route 8 between Route 28 in Poland, Route 12 and Route 28 in Deerfield, and Route 10 in Piseco; Route 28 over West Canada Creek between Route 29 and Route 169 in Middleville; Route 5 between Route 5B and Route 233 in Kirkland; Route 922E (River St) between Route 49 and Route 69 in Whitestown and Marcy and the village of Whitesboro; and Route 315 between Route 12 and County Route 9 (Shanley Rd) in Sangerfield. DEC has closed most roadways for mud season. Gates on roads designated for motor vehicle traffic will be reopened when conditions warrant.
** THIN ICE SAFETY No ice on water is safe.
** WET AND MUDDY CONDITIONS DEC is discouraging the public from entering the woods or accessing the waters of the Adirondacks due to closed roads, impassable river, stream and brook crossings, flooded trails and campsites, and the High Wind Warning that has been issued for Thursday afternoon and evening. Lower and mid-elevation trails, those below 2,500 feet, are wet and muddy. Be prepared by wearing waterproof footwear and gaiters, and remember to walk through – not around – mud and water on trails.
SNOWSHOES OR SKIS The use of snowshoe or skis is required in the Eastern High Peaks where ever snow depths exceed 8 inches, as is currently the case above Marcy Dam. Using snowshoes or skis prevents “post-holing”, avoids injuries, and eases travel through snow.
BEAR CANISTERS NOW REQUIRED IN HIGH PEAKS The use of bear-resistant canisters is required for overnight users in the Eastern High Peaks Wilderness, and recommended throughout the Adirondacks, between April 1 and November 30. All food, toiletries and garbage must be stored in bear-resistant canisters.
Carry Extra Winter Gear Snowshoes or skis can prevent injuries and eases travel in heavy snow. Ice crampons should be carried for use on icy trails and mountaintops and other exposed areas. Wear layers of wool and fleece (NOT COTTON!), a winter hat, gloves or mittens, wind/rain resistant outer wear, and winter boots. Carry a day pack complete with ice axe, plenty of food and water, extra clothing, map and compass, first-aid kit, flashlight/headlamp, sun glasses, sun-block protection, ensolite pads, a stove and extra fuel, and bivy sack or space blankets.
Know The Latest Weather Check the weather before entering the woods and be aware of weather conditions at all times — if weather worsens, head out of the woods.
Fire Danger: LOW NOTE: We’re entering the state’s historically high fire risk period from mid-March until mid-May.
** Central Adirondacks LOWER Elevation Weather
Friday: Chance morning rain and snow, then rain showers. High near 53. Friday Night: Chance of rain and possibly snow showers, with a low around 30. Saturday: Sunny, high near 57. North wind between 6 and 8 mph. Saturday Night: Mostly clear, with a low around 29. Sunday: Chance of afternoon showers after 2pm. Mostly sunny, high near 67.
The National Weather Service provides a weather forecast for elevations above 3000 feet and spot forecasts for the summits of a handful of the highest peaks in Clinton, Essex and Franklin counties. [LINK]
** Snow Cover Snow is all but gone outside the High Peaks where there is still 15 inches of slushy wet snow on the ground at Lake Colden and more in higher elevations. Conditions there still require snowshoes or skis above Marcy Dam.
** Backcountry Ski Report Snow cover is no longer suitable for skiing below Marcy Dam, and above snow cover is starting to wane and get patchy, there remains about 15 inches to two feet and more at higher elevations. Avalanche Lake should no longer safe for crossing. The bridge is out on the trail to Marcy, see below for details. Phil Brown skied Mount Marcy last weekend and noted that the approximately four miles from the Summit to Phelps Brook still has plenty of snow. “I expect diehards will be able to ski this stretch for a few weeks more,” Brown reported, “but they’ll have to carry their skis 3.5 miles on the ascent and on the descent.”
** Rock Climbing Closures All rock climbing routes on Moss Cliff in Wilmington Notch and the Upper and Lower Washbowl Cliffs at Chapel Pond remain closed to allow for peregrine falcon nesting. DEC has confirmed that peregrine falcons are nesting on the Nose on Poke-o-Moonshine Mountain and 54 climbing routes remain closed including Garter and Mogster (Routes #26 through #82 in Adirondack Rock) through the nesting season. See Adirondack Rock Climbing Route Closures for more information.
Migrating Birds Thousands of birds are currently undertaking their seasonal journey along the Atlantic Flyway from their southern wintering grounds. Flocks of migratory waterfowl like geese, ducks and swans are among the first to arrive, as songbirds like the red-winged blackbird, Eastern bluebird, Eastern meadowlark and American robin take up residence and build their nests. Over the next few weeks, grab your binoculars to watch the spectacle of birds arriving this spring. Visit DEC’s Watchable Wildlife site to find a place near you for great bird and wildlife viewing opportunities.
Whitewater Rafting Season Has Begun The whitewater rafting season has begun on the Moose, Black and Sacandaga rivers. The Hudson River Whitewater Derby will run May 7-8 2011. The event includes novice slalom, giant slalom, and more.
** Trout Season Opened April 1st Trout (brook, rainbow, brown and hybrids, and splake) and landlocked Salmon season open April 1st, but the season is still suffering from high and cold waters. Trout stocking was suspended in Warren County because of cold waters and widespread flooding that has brought streams to record levels. We’ll need at least one dry week to get local waters back to fishable levels. With large lakes like Lake Champlain and Lake George at record levels, smaller lakes and ponds are your best bet. For catch and size limits view the freshwater fishing regulations online.
** Spring Turkey Season Opens May 1 DEC biologists expect the spring turkey harvest to be well below the state’s 10-year average of about 34,000 birds, and likely below last year take of 25,807. This is likely to be a third year of poor production in the Adirondacks. 2009 was one of the worst poult production years on record and as a result there will be fewer 2-year-olds, last year’s poor production means fewer yearlings (jakes). Because those birds make up most of the spring turkey harvest, it will likely be considerably lower than average.
ADIRONDACK LOCAL BACKCOUNTRY CONDITIONS
NORTHVILLE PLACID TRAIL
The Northville Placid Trail (NPT) is the Adirondack Park’s only designated long distance hiking trail. The 133 mile NPT was laid out by the Adirondack Mountain Club in 1922 and 1923, and is now maintained by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. Up to date NPT trail condition information can be found online.
Upper Benson to Whitehouse: Just north of the Mud Lake lean-to there has been significant blow-down in several areas across the trail that happened sometime in early December that requires several bushwhacks to get around.
West Canada Lakes to Wakely Dam: The bridge over Mud Creek, northeast of Mud Lake, has been washed out. Wading the creek is the only option. The water in Mud Creek will vary from ankle deep to knee deep.
** High Waters – Cold Temperatures: Water levels are high, major flooding is occurring on most rivers and streams and water temperatures are low. Paddlers and other boaters should be prepared for high waters that may contain logs, limbs and other debris. See High Waters – Flooding Warning Above.
** Personal Flotation Devices Required: Users of small boats are reminded that state law still requires all occupants of boats less than 21 feet in length are required to wear personal flotation devices (aka PFDs and life jackets) until May 1.
** Visits to High Peaks Di scourged: DEC is discouraging the public from entering the woods or accessing the waters of the Adirondacks due to significant number of closed roads, impassable river, stream and brook crossings, flooded trails and campsites, and the High Wind Warning that has been issued for Thursday afternoon and evening. Saturated soils could result in numerous trees being toppled and tails and campsites may be covered and blocked by fallen trees and other blowdown. The danger of landslides on mountain slopes is currently high.
** Limited Access: As of 3:30 pm on 4/28 only the trailheads for the Eastern High Peaks Wilderness located along Route 73 south of Keene can be reached my motor vehicle.
** Opalescent Lean-to: The Opalescent Lean-to is once again available for use.
Preston Pond Trail: The first bridge west of Henderson Lake on the trail to Preston Ponds and Duck Hole went out with an ice jam and is now impassible.
Johns Brook Valley: The Bear Brook Lean-to has been removed and will not be replaced.
Bear Resistant Canister Now Required: The use of bear-resistant canisters is required for overnight users in the Eastern High Peaks Wilderness, and recommended throughout the Adirondacks, between April 1 and November 30. All food, toiletries and garbage must be stored in bear-resistant canisters.
Giant Mountain Wilderness: All rock climbing routes on Upper and Lower Washbowl Cliffs are closed to allow for peregrine falcon nesting. See Adirondack Rock Climbing Route Closures for more information.
Snowshoes or Skis: The use of snowshoe or skis is required in the Eastern High Peaks when snows are at least 8 inches deep, as is the case above Marcy Dam. Using snowshoes or skis prevents “post-holing”, avoids injuries, and eases travel through snow.
Johns Brook Valley: Lean2Rescue, in cooperation with DEC, will be undertaking several lean-to projects in the Johns Brook Valley over the course of the next several months. DEC will post notifications at the Garden trailhead prior to work being started. The Deer Brook lean-to is currently closed while it’s being moved.
Marcy Brook Bridge: The Marcy Brook Bridge, below the junction of the Avalanche Pass and Lake Arnold trails, was damaged by ice during the recent thaw. The bridge is still usable but one of the railings is bent making the path over the bridge narrow. Skiers may have some problems crossing.
Opalescent Cable Bridge: The cable bridge over the Opalescent River on the East River/Hanging Spear Falls trail has been washed out. The crossing will be impassable during high water periods.
Western High Peaks Wilderness: The unpaved section of Corey’s Road, the main entrance to the Western High Peaks Wilderness, is closed for mud season.
Western High Peaks Wilderness: Trails in the Western High Peaks Wilderness are cluttered with blowdown from a storm that occurred December 1st. DEC has cleared blow down along the Corey’s Road, and in most areas accessed from the that road, including the Seward Trail, although not along the Northville-Placid Trail.
Sentinel Range Wilderness: The Copperas Pond/Owen Pond Loop Trail was impacted by serious winds resulting in significant blow down. While most of the blowdown has been cut out, some downed trees and limbs are still present.
Ampersand Mountain Trail: There is heavy blowdown on the Ampersand Mountain Trail as far as the old caretakers cabin – approximately 1.7 miles in. Finding the trail may be difficult after fresh snows. Skiing will be frustrating as there are so many trees down. Past the cabin site the trail is good but snowshoes and crampon are needed.
Elk Lake Conservation Easement Lands: The Clear Pond Gate on the Elk Lake Road is closed and will remain closed until the end of the spring mud season. This adds 2 miles of hiking, plan trips accordingly.
Bushnell Falls: The high water bridge at Bushnell Falls has been removed, the low water crossing may not be accessible during high water.
Caulkins Brook Truck Trail/Horse Trail: Much of the blowdown on the Caulkins Brook Truck Trail/Horse Trail between the Calkins Brook lean-tos and Shattuck Clearing has been removed. The trail is open for hikers but remains impassable to horses and wagons. DEC crews continue to work to open the trail.
CENTRAL AND SOUTHERN ADIRONDACKS
Moose River Plains Wild Forest: The Moose River Plains Road System is closed for mud season. Gates have been closed at the Cedar River Headquarters and the Limekiln Lake. The road system will be reopened once they have dried out and all necessary maintenance and repairs have been completed.
Ferris Lake Wild Forest: The West Lake Boat Launch was impacted by rains and floods last August. DEC staff have made repairs to the roadway, parking lot and ramps, however, be aware that the waters off the boat launch are more shallow than before.
Perkins Clearing/Speculator Tree Farm Conservation Easement: Gates have been closed on all roads for the mud season. The roads will be reopened once they have dried out and all necessary maintenance and repairs have been completed.
Pigeon Lake Wilderness: DEC Forest Rangers and trail crew have been working to clear blowdown from trails. The following trails are cleared and ready for skiing and/or snowshoeing: Shallow Lake Trail (well-marked with some minor blow down), West Mountain Trail (well-marked, some blowdown remains on section east of the summit), and Sucker Brook Trail
EASTERN / SOUTHEASTERN ADIRONDACKS
** Lake Champlain Fish Kill: Crews are cleaning up the thousands of dead fish that have washed up along the shoreline of Lake Champlain. Thousands of nonnative alevives that died during the winter have washed up near campgrounds and beaches preparing to open for the season. Officials in Moriah told the Press-Republican that workers, including inmate work crews, are hoping to reduce the possibility of a stench from the rotting fish researching public areas. The fish are being hauled to a local landfill.
** Shelving Rock Road: The Town of Fort Ann has reopened Shelving Rock Road.
Ausable Point Campground & Day Use Area: The entry road to the Ausable Point Campground and Day Use Area is closed until further notice due to flooding. DEC has placed barricades at the end of the road and will be patrolling the area to ensure the public is abiding by the closure. The road will be reopened once the waters have receded and it is determined the road can handle motorized traffic without further damage.
Eastern Lake George Wild Forest: The Town of Fort Ann has closed the Shelving Rock Road for mud season.
**Western Lake George Wild Forest: The Bear Slides ADA-accessible route is open.
Western Lake George Wild Forest: The following roads have been closed for spring mud season: Scofield Flats, Pikes Beach, Darlings Ford in the Hudson River Special Management Area, Palmer Pond Access Route, Gay Pond Road, Lily Pond Road, Palmer Pond Road, Jabe Pond Road.
Hammond Pond Wild Forest: The Lindsey Brook Trail is closed due to flooding by beaver activity.
Hoffman Notch Wilderness: Some stream crossings do not have bridges and may be difficult to cross in high water conditions.
Hudson River Recreation Area: Gates on the Buttermilk Road Extension in the Hudson River Special Management Area (aka the Hudson River Recreation Area), in the Town of Warrensburg remain shut and the roads closed to motor vehicle traffic.
** Hudson Gorge Primitive Area: See the High Waters – Flooding Warning Above. Water levels are high and water temperatures are low. Paddlers and other boaters should be prepared for high waters that may contain logs, limbs and other debris. Paddlers, hunters and other users of small boats are reminded that state law requires all occupants of boats less than 21 feet in length are required to wear personal flotation devices (aka PFDs and life jackets) between November 1 and May 1.
Santa Clara Tract Easement Lands (former Champion Lands): All lands are open to all legal and allowable public recreation activities beginning January 1. The gate to the Pinnacle Trail remains closed until after the spring mud season.
Whitney Wilderness / Lake Lila: The gate to the Lake Lila Road is closed. Public motorized access to the road is prohibited until the gate is reopened after the spring mud season. Cross-country skiers, snowshoers and other non-motorized access is allowed on the road. Trespassing on lands adjacent to the road is prohibited.
** Taylor Pond Wild Forest: Peregrine falcon nesting has been confirmed on The Nose on the Main Face of Poke-o-Moonshine Mountain, rock climbing routes between and including Garter and Mogster (Routes #26 through #82 in Adirondack Rock) will remain closed through the nesting season. See Adirondack Rock Climbing Route Closures for more information.
Norton Peak Cave / Chateuagay Woodlands Conservation Easement Lands: Norton Peak Cave has been reopened to the public following the expiration of the cave closing order on March 31. The cave is a bat hibernacula with white nose syndrome present. DEC is considering whether to close all bat hibernacula caves on state lands and easements to protect the bat population. It’s best to stay out of caves at this time.
GENERAL ADIRONDACK NOTICES
Accidents Happen, Be Prepared Wilderness conditions can change suddenly and accidents happen. Hikers and campers should check up-to-date forecasts before entering the backcountry as conditions at higher elevations will likely be more severe. All users should bring flashlight, first aid kit, map and compass, extra food, plenty of water and clothing. Be prepared to spend an unplanned night in the woods and always inform others of your itinerary.
Personal Flotation Devices Required Paddlers, hunters and other users of small boats are reminded that state law requires all occupants of boats less than 21 feet in length are required to wear personal flotation devices (aka PFDs and life jackets) between November 1 and May 1.
Cave And Mine Closings White nose syndrome, the fungal disease that’s wiping out bat populations across the northeast has spread to at least 32 cave and mine bat hibernation sites across the New York state according to a recent survey. Populations of some bat species are declining in these caves and mines by 90 percent. White nose was first discovered in upstate New York in the winter of 2006-2007 and is now confirmed in at least 11 states. DEC has closed all bat hibernacula caves on state lands and easements to protect the bat population including Norton Peak Cave in Chateuagay Woodlands Easement Lands and also Eagle Cave near Chimney Mountain. Please respect cave and mine closures.
Practice ‘Leave No Trace’ Principles All backcountry users should learn and practice the Leave No Trace philosophy: Plan ahead and be prepared, travel and camp on durable surfaces, dispose of waste properly, leave what you find, minimize campfire impacts, respect wildlife, and be considerate of others. More information is available online.
——————– Warnings and announcements drawn from DEC, NWS, NOAA, USGS, and other sources. Detailed Adirondack Park camping, hiking, and outdoor recreation and trail conditions can be found at DEC’s webpages. A DEC map of the Adirondack Park can also be found online [pdf].
The new DEC Trails Supporter Patch is now available for $5 at all outlets where sporting licenses are sold, on-line and via telephone at 1-866-933-2257. Patch proceeds will help maintain and enhance non-motorized trails throughout New York State.
Heavy rain, thunder and lightning, flood watches, the Yankees vying for first place, the Mets vying for last—it seems that spring has arrived.
Not so fast. This past Saturday, I skied Mount Marcy with Sue Bibeau, the Adirondack Explorer’s designer and sometime photographer, and we were amazed at how much snow remains up high.
We took the Van Hoevenberg Trail from Adirondak Loj. Except for three short sections—at Algonquin Brook, Marcy Dam, and Phelps Brook—we kept our skis on the whole way. As we approached the tree line on Marcy’s summit, we found the last signpost, at the junction with the Phelps Trail, completely buried in snow except for the top few inches. I’m not sure how tall that signpost is, though I’m told it’s under five feet. In any case, I’ve been up Marcy many times in midwinter and not found that much snow.
Of course, the snow is not going to disappear overnight. So despite the rains this week, there will be skiing on Marcy next weekend and (if we’re lucky) perhaps into May. As the days pass, skiers will have to carry their boards farther and farther to find snow. In past springs, I’ve lugged my skis as far as three and a half miles. That still left me with nearly four miles of good skiing.
Yes, it’s a lot of work, but there’s nothing quite like skiing Marcy’s bowl in a T-shirt. It’s no wonder we saw thirteen other skiers on the summit on Saturday.
Incidentally, I did the trip on the Madshus Epochs I reviewed here last week. The skis worked fine, though I was unable turn them as quickly as my wider skis. One big advantage is that the Epochs are a few pounds lighter than my other skis and can be used with lighter boots. This makes a huge difference on a 7.4-mile ascent.
Paddlers, too, should be grateful for the abundance of snow in the peaks. As it melts in the weeks ahead, the creeks will be running high. This is also good news for anglers: the cold, rushing water will scour silt from the holes where trout hide out and lay eggs.
Yesterday, the temperature climbed into the forties in Saranac Lake, and the sun shone all day. I saw people walking around in T-shirts. It was perfect weather for testing a new pair of skis.
Sue Bibeau, the designer for the Adirondack Explorer, and I did a round trip to Klondike Notch in the High Peaks Wilderness, a little-used trail that starts at the end of South Meadow Road and ends near Johns Brook Lodge.
I was trying out my Madshus Epochs, a waxless ski designed for backcountry touring. The Epochs have metal edges and are wide enough to provide stability for quick turns on downhills, though they’re not as beefy as most telemark skis. The Epochs weigh 5 pounds 9 ounces. In comparison, Black Diamond Havocs (which I also own) weigh 8 pounds 6 ounces. Their lightness makes the Epochs a good all-round ski, ideal for tours that involve flats and rolling terrain as well as substantial downhill runs. A lightweight telemark boot is a good match.
Coincidentally, Sue was using essentially the same ski: Tenth Mountain Divisions made by Karhu, which is no longer in the ski business. The Tenth Mountains were in Karhu’s popular “XC Downhill” line of skis. The line’s four models, from narrowest to widest, were the Pinnacles, GTs (for “general touring”), Tenth Mountains, and Guides.
Last year, Madshus took over the XC Downhhill line. It dropped the Pinnacle but still manufactures the other three under different names (the GT is now the Eon, and the Guide is now the Annum).
Sue has owned her Tenth Mountain Divisions for a few years and loves them. She has taken them up Mount Marcy, Algonquin Peak, and Wright Peak, among other places. She says the skis are not ideal for the steepest terrain in the High Peaks, but they do work. If you plan to ski a lot of steep terrain, the wider Annums are a better choice.
I wouldn’t mind trying the Epochs on Marcy if conditions were right (light powder), but I’d be more comfortable on the difficult pitches on heavier skis, my Havocs or Karhu Jaks. Given that much of the 7.5-mile trail up Marcy is fairly mellow, I can see the appeal of going light. In fact, many people do ski Marcy with light skis and leather boots.
Because they’re waxless, the Epochs are a good choice for spring skiing (as are the Eons and Annums). Hard waxes do not work when the temperatures rise above freezing, so those with waxable skis must resort to klister or kicker skins to grip the snow while climbing or kicking and gliding.
I used klister only once, years ago. It was such a gloppy mess that I haven’t used it since. It’s like melted bubble gum, sticking to everything it touches, including fingers and clothing. I later bought a pair of kicker skins, but I don’t use them much. Kicker skins attach to the ski’s kick zone. The nylon nap grips the snow, sort of like wax. The problem I have found is that the metal piece at the front of the skins often digs into the snow, inhibiting glide.
With waxless skis, you don’t have to fuss with klister or kicker skins. But waxless skis have their limitations. If climbing a lot of steep terrain, you should bring a pair of full-length skins–just as you would with waxable skis. Or be prepared to herringbone or side-step.
On our ascent of Klondike Notch, Sue and I gained more than a thousand feet of elevation. Since most of the trail is mellow, the scales on our skis usually provided sufficient grip. In a number of places, we did resort to herringboning or side-stepping, but these pitches were short. Skins would have been overkill and would have slowed our progress on the flats and small dips we encountered en route to the notch.
All in all, we had the right equipment for the job.
Click here to see a video of Ron Konowitz demonstrating the Karhu Guides (now Annums) on the Marcy Dam trail.
Photo by Phil Brown: Sue Bibeau carries her skis over South Meadow Brook.
Some of the best ski tours in the Adirondacks are traverses: Avalanche Pass to Tahawus, Siamese Ponds and the East Branch of the Sacandaga, and Hoffman Notch to name a few popular point-to-point routes. On Saturday, I had the opportunity to ski one of my favorite lesser known tours with a group of friends, from Route 28N in Minerva to Irishtown, passing Stony Pond and Big and Little Sherman Ponds along the 6-mile traverse. As a bonus, near the end of the traverse, our group made a detour to visit the Falls Brook Yurts, owned by Jim Hanley and Michele Quirk. The ski-through has become something of an annual tradition, organized by Jim and Michelle to mark the (almost) end of winter. Nearly twenty of us met Saturday morning at the Irishtown trailhead. Jim shuttled food, gear and refreshments by snowmobile the two thirds of a mile up the trail to the yurts while the rest of us grouped up for the shuttle to the Stony Pond trailhead several miles north of Minerva on Route 28N.
At the Stony Pond trailhead, any thoughts of spring skiing vanished. Snow earlier in the week and cold temperatures gave us beautiful packed powder conditions over a firm 2- to 3-foot base. The traverse begins with a rolling 2-mile climb to the lean-to at Stony Pond, passing numerous wetlands and beaver flows along the way. Stony Pond itself is a large, attractive body of water and makes a good destination for a short out-and-back ski tour. Our group continued across the frozen pond, then made a short uphill climb through the woods before descending to Little and Big Sherman Ponds. That short descent is the most challenging skiing on the tour, but is easily negotiated with a strong snowplow. Not far beyond the Sherman Ponds the route begins a series of long, gradual descents, dropping nearly a thousand vertical feet in two and a half miles to the Irishtown trailhead.
Before reaching the trailhead, we turned onto the short side-trail to the Falls Brook Yurts. Jim and Michele have owned and operated the yurts for 12 years, renting them to families, groups and individuals for weekends or several day stays. The yurts are well-equipped with propane lighting, heat and cook stoves. Guests carry in their own food and personal gear. If you’d like to stay in the yurts, plan ahead: both yurts are booked well in advance most weekends year-round.
Hauling propane, cleaning between guests, and general maintenance of the yurts and the 20 acres they are sited on is a lot of work, especially in winter, but today’s ski tour and visit to the yurts was meant to be pure fun, socializing and celebration. Thanks to Jim’s snowmobile shuttle in the morning, we had plenty of hot and cold food and – most importantly – celebratory beverages waiting for us at the yurts. The spring sun and daylight savings time allowed plenty of time for those of us who weren’t staying overnight at the yurts to linger and socialize for a few hours before heading down the trail for the short ski back to the Irishtown trailhead. Winter is bound to end soon, but there wasn’t a single person on Saturday’s trip who wouldn’t mind if it stuck around for just a few more weeks.
The Adirondack Mountain Club’s Central Region trail guide is the definitive guide to the Stony Pond trail and other trails in the Vanderwhacker Mountain Wild Forest.
Photos: Irishtown trailhead; Stony Pond leanto; on the trail; arriving at the yurts.
Jeff Farbaniec is an avid telemark skier and a 46er who writes The Saratoga Skier & Hiker, a blog of his primarily Adirondack outdoor adventures.
This afternoon I took my regular lunchtime hike up Baker Mountain outside Saranac Lake. The trail is a mix of frozen turf, hard snow, and glare ice. I imagine most trails in the region are in similar shape.
This is a good time to invest in a pair of Microspikes. These lightweight mini-crampons are perfect for hiking on trails in early spring, when there isn’t enough powder to warrant snowshoes and where regular crampons would be overkill. Made by Kahtoola, Micropikes weigh just 11.4 to 15.6 ounces, depending on which of the four sizes you buy. They consist of a tough elastic band (red or black) attached to a steel chain with small steel spikes. Just stretch the band over your boot and go. Microspikes are compact enough that you can easily carry them in your pack until they’re needed. They sell for $59.95 (stuff sack is $10 extra).
I’ve been impressed with how well the spikes grip even in hard ice on steep slopes. On my trips up Baker, I often pass hikers struggling up the slippery trail without traction. But I also see more and more hikers wearing Microspikes. Apparently, I am not the only one impressed with their effectiveness.
I do have one complaint: Microspikes don’t fit well over telemark boots, but this is not a flaw that will concern hikers.
Another worthy piece of shoulder-season gear is the NRS Wetsock, a neoprene bootie that can be worn with sandals, wet shoes, or whatever else you put on your feet while paddling. They’re great for keeping your feet warm on those early-spring trips when you find yourself stepping into frigid water.
Recently, I read a post from a backcountry skier who carries Wetsocks in her ski pack for emergency use in the event her regular socks get wet. This hadn’t occurred to me, but I’ll be carrying mine in my ski pack from now on.
Sunshine, melting snow, mild temperatures—it sure felt like spring this past weekend. But not everywhere.
On Saturday, I climbed the Trap Dike and the slide on the northwest face of Mount Colden. The snow throughout the ascent was hard, like Styrofoam, ideal for ascending with crampons. When my foot did break through the crust one time, I sank up to my thigh. The trip served as a reminder that winter lingers in the high elevations long after spring arrives in the valleys. If you’re willing to carry your equipment two or three miles over muddy trails at the start, you sometimes can ski Mount Marcy into May.
Spring skiing is great fun if you catch the right conditions. Ideally, the nights are cold enough that the snowpack remains hard, but the temperatures climb enough during the day to soften the surface. If snow remains too firm, you’ll have a hair-raising descent. If it softens too much, you’ll be sinking into mashed potatoes.
A friend of mine snowboarded Algonquin Peak and Wright Peak on the day I climbed the Trap Dike. In photos posted on Facebook, his friends are seen crossing an open brook with skis over their shoulders. This kind of thing is typical of the approaches in spring.
A few years ago, I did the Algonquin/Wright trip with four others and wrote about it for the Adirondack Explorer in a story headlined “Winter’s last redoubt.” If you’re interested in reading a detailed account of spring adventure, click here to see the story and Susan Bibeau’s photos.
Spring skiing leads to odd juxtapositions. I once skied Marcy and played golf on the same day. Other times, I drove to Albany after a ski trip and saw flowers in bloom, with temperatures in the seventies. If you tell people you went skiing on a day like that, they look at you funny.
Indeed, many people do not realize how long winter hangs on in the High Peaks. On a warm day in April, I once encountered a hiker on the plateau below Marcy’s summit, sinking to his knees with each step. I asked him why he wasn’t wearing snowshoes, as required by law. He informed me that “the season is over”—referring, I suppose, to the skiing/snowshoeing season.
I’m skiing and you’re sinking up to your knees in snow, but the season is over?
Another day, I started out from the Adirondak Loj in a T-shirt. The temperatures must have been in the sixties, and it got warmer as the day progressed. Nevertheless, when I got to Marcy’s summit cone, the wind-chill made it feel well below freezing. I put on my winter layers. Meanwhile, a hiker was struggling up the slope in shorts, looking miserable but determined to get to the top.
So if you’re planning to climb a High Peak in April or early May, don’t be misled by the mild weather at the trailhead. Winter can be nasty, even in spring.
Photo by Susan Bibeau: skiers ascending Algonquin Peak in spring.
A number of notable avalanches have occurred over the last month in the Adirondacks. Whiteface Mountain Ski Center officials have told the Adirondack Daily Enterprise that two avalanches have occurred this season on the Slides area of the mountain. Officials said both events were triggered by one or more skiers. The most recent (Tuesday morning) is believed to have been caused by someone who entered the Slides area from Whiteface Veterans Memorial Highway. The Slides are not accessible by chairlifts, but can be accessed by a traverse from the top of the summit chairlift. The previous Whiteface avalanche occurred at the Slides on February 26th. About five avalanches are reported to have occurred at Whiteface over the past ten years. » Continue Reading.
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