July 13, 2011 – Wright, Iroquois, & Algonquin

Peak Data

#
Peak
Elevation (ft)
Rank
3
Wright
4580
16
4
Iroquois
4840
8
5
Algonquin
5114
2

Hike Stats

Start Time
7:00 AM
Finish Time
3:30 PM
Hiking Time
8.5 hrs
Distance
11.5 Mi

 

5:00 AM: Rich and I are up and out again for an extra early start on our 3 peak, 11.6 mile assault. We’ve both been training hard this past spring doing P90X and are in top physical condition. We’ve got new packs, better gear, and feel very ready for the challenge. We’ve also packed a lot of food since we are anticipating a long day. Our path will take us about 4.5 miles to the peak of Wright Mt., back down, up and over Iroquois, the 2nd highest peak, across 2 smaller peaks, and up Algonquin. We must then make a 5 mile return, again over the 2 small peaks and Iroquois. We anticipate and have allowed for an 11.5 hour trip.

7:00 AM: Hit the trail from the parking lot at the Adirondack Loj. It’s our first time at the site that is truly the hub of the High Peaks Wilderness. The parking lot is actually at the visitors center, not the Loj itself.

After signing in the log book, we head out to what for the first 2 miles is a relatively flat trail. We pass through a grove of amazing towering pines where we take a few pictures, and across some small streams. At about 2.2 miles we pass a waterfall and again get some nice pictures.

100_0502

Past this point the trail begins to ascend more steeply, with rock steps and a few scrambles. At mile 2.9 we veer left from the Algonquin trail on to the Wright Peak ascent. We soon break out of the tree line and begin steeper climbing over alpine terrain. We follow the rock cairns at this point to stay on the trail.

9:00 AM: Summited Wright Peak and had tremendous views of the surrounding wilderness. the clouds were hanging low, but above the mountains and moving quickly through the sky. We had a snack and strew aching break, including a little yoga at 4500 feet. Rich sent photo from his phone of him in a yoga pose to Kristin. We had enough of a signal to check in by phone as well.

We headed back down the trail to the junction with the Algonquin trail and met a couple of Adirondack Stewards coming up for the day. We also met a father – daughter pair and ascended the rest of the way to Algonquin with them. The father grew up in the area and had done all 46 peaks multiple times, often in Winter. On Marcy and others nearby he climbed up and skied down. A crazy feat in my opinion, given how narrow and rocky the trails are. But his experience left him quite the hiker and Rich and I struggled to maintain the climbing pace he set.

The daughter was starting this coming Fall at Syracuse, in the New House School so Rich had some stories and advice to share with her.

11:00 AM: Reached the peak of Algonquin and took our lunch break. One of the Adirondack Stewards arrived soon after and we and other hikers received great information about the peaks we could see, alpine environment, and her job as a Steward.

Proof of Summit

We spent a bit of time up there getting some photos, and directions on continuing on to Iroquois. We set off to the south down the bare rock face of Algonquin, the opposite side which we ascended. This brought us to a trail in a low scrub brush zone of dwarf pines. The trail was very narrow, rutted, and muddy. We had to take this over an intermediate unnamed peak, down into another valley, and up Iroquois. Iroquois itself was similar scrub for about 1/2 the assent, then rock scramble marked with cairns and painted blazes.

12:00 PM: Summited Iroquois and again had clear views of the surrounding mountains and valleys. The wind had picked up a bit so we donned wind-breakers and had to huddle behind a bolder to make our check-in phone call. “Proof of ascent” photos were taken as well.

12:15 PM: Began the return trip down Iroquois, up intermediate peak, down intermediate peak, through scrub brush, and up the 45 degree bare rock of Algonquin’s south face. Coming up the slope on our toes we realized what all the P90X sneaky-lunges were for.

12:45 PM: Back at the top of Algonquin we could see, hear, and feel a thunder storm approaching in the distance. Realizing this, we cut our rest break short and head down with all due haste.

Light rain was falling as we descended and the rumble of thunder was at first hard to identify as such, sounding more like passing jets because it was so long and steady. But the mounting rain and distant lightning left no doubt. The rain made many of the bare rock areas very slippery and we had to slide down as much as climb. Because we were keeping so low, the hiking poles were of little use so we stowed them on my pack. Rich had actually snapped his in the mud between Algonquin and Iroquois, so it was too short for a decent anyway.

2:00 PM: Made it to the relatively flat terrain (dirt and rock steps, few scrambles) below the Wright pass split, and really picked up the pace. About half-an-hour latter the rain became heavy, so we moved all electronics to Rich’s pack and put on his pack cover.

We passed a group of Scouts heading out for an over-night and didn’t envy them one bit. When we hit the flat dirt in the tall pine area we moved to a jogging pace with about 1.5 miles to go.

3:30 PM: Arrived back at the visitors center, stowed our gear, and grabbed our dry change of clothes. Inside the center were shower areas where we could change. The showers were tempting as well, but we did not come prepared for that, nor did we have the pile of quarters needed to turn on the water.

The sky really opened up while we were in the visitor center so we took our time, browsed the small gift shop a bit, and watched the overnight hikers take refuge on the porch with their full packs.

4:00 PM: Called Erin and Kristin from the car to let them know we were done and would meet them soon in Lake Placid. We linked up down-town, grabbed a fantastic steak dinner at a surf and turf brewery (good beer) and did a little clothes shopping in town.

Erin and Kristin did the driving back about 2 hours to Indian Lake so Rich and I could rest, but honestly we were far less tired then last year despite the greater mileage, higher ascent, and faster pace.  11.6 miles, 3050 ft, and in only 8.5 hours. We had a fantastic day and are totally psyched for next time!

Lessons from Year Two.

1. Conditioning matters. Getting and staying in shape in the off-season is tough, but it gives you what you need to live life to the fullest. The payoff is incredibly worth it. But no matter how tough you think you’ve become, 6 months of effort doesn’t beat a lifetime of work and experience.

2. Be aware of your environment. We saw the lighting and heard the thunder coming and got out of there as quickly as we could.

3. Gear matters. Better boots, better packs with rain covers, and proper clothing can make the difference between adventure and misery. We got caught in a storm, but were dry and comfortable, and no electronics were damaged because we had the right gear.

4.Share your victories. Completing 3 peaks in what felt like record time was sweet. Having our wives there at the end to celebrate with was even sweeter.

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