Friday, September 25, 2015


Crystal-clear weather this week called for a visit to a high summit with long-distance views.  Few peaks offer a better panorama than 4902-ft. South Twin Mountain, the highest in the Whites outside the Presidential and Franconia Ranges. I was long overdue for a visit to this fine rocky watchtower.

The Gale River Trail provides a nice long, easy warmup through its namesake valley. I especially enjoy the nicely constructed relocation that was opened in 2011. The section south of the Garfield Stream crossing has excellent footing and passes through beautiful woods.

At the gravel bank three miles in, where there is a limited view up to spur ridges of the Twins, morning clouds were swirling around. I hoped they would clear by the time I reached the hut, and they did.

I dropped down the bank for a look at the North Branch of the Gale River.

At the head of the valley the Gale River Trail makes a steep climb to meet the Garfield Ridge Trail.

New signage.

Galehead Hut in the sun. It was quiet late in the morning, only one hiker inside and a couple of crew members.

View of Galehead Mountain from in front of the hut.

The notorious climb from the hut to the summit of South Twin gains 1100 ft. of elevation in 0.8 mile. The bottom half of the ascent is quite rough and rocky.

In the middle there is a more moderate section through some nice open fir woods.

At about 4600 ft. you get your first clear views west back to Franconia Ridge and Mount Garfield. The hut can be seen down below.

The last part of the climb leads up through a tunnel of scrub.

This perch just below the summit on the west side offers the best views in that direction.

A hiker descends into the scrub, with a wide view into the western Pemigewasset Wilderness beyond.

Peering down into the Gale River valley. Among several interesting off-trail destinations in that area are the ledges and slide on Flat Top Mountain, seen in the center of the photo.

Looking down the East Branch valley towards Scar Ridge. One of the visible stretches of the river is along the Pine Island Trail at Lincoln Woods.

South Twin from the Pine Island Trail. The summit is the middle bump.

Mount Lafayette, Mount Garfield and Galehead Mountain.

There are some interesting features on this western spur of North Twin.

A wild-looking set of cliffs. The woods and terrain around them do not look inviting.

A great broadside view of Franconia Ridge.

Signs at the summit.

A jumble of peaks to the south.

The three humps on the SW ridge of South Twin. The one on the lower right is the Trailwrights peak known as Southwest Twin.

Peering across the Little River valley.

The great talus slope of Zealand Mountain.

A profile of Mount Hale and its north and south spurs.

The blue spot of Ethan Pond nestled at the base of Mount Willey.

Norcross Pond between Mount Nancy and Mount Anderson.

Mounts Carrigain, Guyot and Bond.

The Presys.

The wild ridge of West Bond.

Vast horizons beyond nearby North Twin. The farthest peak visible this day was Coburn Mountain in northwestern Maine, 112 miles away.

Parting shot of that great southern vista at the end of a three-hour summit stay.

Looking back at the western summit knob from the eastern ledges.

Descending the Twinway through mossy forest.

Late afternoon light on the SW Twin ridge.

Zoom on the Galehead Hut view, which includes Scar Ridge, Whaleback Mountain, Owl's Head and Mount Flume.

This determined hutwoman was packing a 75-pound load up the steep part of Gale River Trail.

A North Twin version of the Giant Stairs.

Monday, September 21, 2015

ADIRONDACKS: 9/14-9/17/15

I enjoyed terrific sunny weather for a three-night getaway to the High Peaks area of the Adirondacks, the first September trip I've taken since 2001. On the evening after arrival I hiked to Copperas and Winch Ponds near Lake Placid. The next day I made a trek to Mount Colden (4714 ft.), one of the most spectacular of the 46 High Peaks. I followed that with a leisurely bushwhack to ponds, ledge viewpoints and cascades in the lower reaches of the Dix Mountain Wilderness. The last day John "1HappyHiker" Compton and I teamed up for a climb of the Kilburn Slide in the Sentinel Range Wilderness.

I'll cover all four hikes in one long blog report, with a separate header for each trek.


When I arrived in the Adirondacks mid-afternoon, it was gloomy and rainy/drizzly. After purchasing some maps and other items at The Mountaineer in Keene Valley, one of the best outdoor shops anywhere, I checked into my room in Lake Placid. It was starting to clear by late afternoon, so I headed northeast on Rt. 86 to Wilmington Notch for a short hike to beautiful Copperas Pond, which I'd visited with Carol in 2013, and secluded Winch Pond, which would be a new spot.

The northern trailhead for the ponds is set below the cliffs of Wilmington Notch.

I love the NY Dept.of Environmental Conservation trail signs.

The lean-to at Copperas Pond, one of more than 200 open-front shelters in the Adirondack Park. There was no one around this evening.

The north shore of Copperas Pond offers a fine view of the wild, trailless Sentinel Range, which tops out at 3881 ft. on Kilburn Mountain.

From the other shore there is a picturesque view of Mount Whiteface.

A less-used trail leads to hidden Winch Pond.

Artifacts hint at the area's logging history. Perhaps the name of the pond was bestowed after some now long-forgotten incident.


After paying the $10 parking fee, I got a fairly early start from the Adirondack Loj parking area near Heart Lake. I cruised through the first mostly easy 2.3 miles on the Van Hovenberg Trail to Marcy Dam, passing several exiting backpack groups. Though the dam was breached by Tropical Storm Irene in 2011, draining the pond that once shimmered here, it is still a scenic spot.

Mount Colden, the day's objective, seen from Marcy Dam. The north peak is on the left, the main summit is on the right.

Slide-scarred Wright Peak is seen to the southwest.

Beyond the dam I followed the Avalanche Pass Trail along Marcy Brook.

After a 3 1/2 mile valley approach - typical in the Adirondacks - I turned onto the moderately graded but rocky Lake Arnold Trail to begin the real climbing.

The footing was particularly gnarly as the trail approached Lake Arnold along a streambed.

Next up was the more interesting L. Morgan Porter Trail, named for a longtime editor of the Adirondack Mountain Club High Peaks guidebook.

Lake Arnold is nestled high on the flank of Mount Colden. At more than 3700 ft. it's one of the highest ponds in the Adirondacks.

A bit of classic Adirondack mud beyond the lake.

Interesting terrain.

Easy stretches alternated with steep, sometimes scrambly pitches.

A ledge scramble led up to the first partial view.

Looking back at Mount Marcy, New York's highest peak, and Gray Peak, its flat-topped satellite.

Emerging from scrub at the top of the north peak.

A very cool trail!

The MacIntyre Range: from left to right, Iroquois, Boundary, Algonquin and Wright.

The view towards Lake Placid and Mount Whiteface from the north peak of Colden.

The main summit looms ahead.

A new ladder spans a long, steep ledgy pitch.

The trail ducks under this neat overhanging rock.

A survey mark at the summit of Colden - is this from Verplanck Colvin's late 1800s Adirondacks survey?

Looking north to Cascade, Porter, Phelps and Big Slide.

Looking down the Colden slides into Avalanche Pass. Nineteenth century author Alfred Billings Street called Colden "the most savage mountain, by far, of the Adirondacks, - the very wild-cat of mountains."

Peering down at Lake Colden and Flowed Lands, with the Santanoni Range on the horizon.

The lower Great Range, with Rocky Peak Ridge and Giant beyond.

Looking across the headwaters of the Opalescent River to Mount Marcy, Gray Peak, Mount Skylight and Mount Redfield. Part of Colden's SE slide can be snaking down in the lower center.

An even better look down into the valley, 2000 ft. below.

An early start allowed a two-hour summit sojourn in the sun.

Hikers pause to take in the view.

The whistle-clean slide scoured by Irene, now used as the exit from the famous Trap Dike.

The bare rock flank of Gothics.

One of the nicer sections of the trail coming down from Lake Arnold.

Bears appear to be more aggressive here than in the White Mountains.


Morning vista of Marcy, Colden and the MacIntyre Range from my room in Lake Placid.

A nifty geocache at the trailhead for Rooster Comb on Rt. 73.

I parked off Rt. 73 farther to the south and followed a well-used herd path along the North Fork of the Boquet River into the Dix Mountain Wilderness.

Cranberry Pond, the first of three small ponds I bushwhacked to near the North Fork.

A peaceful glade on the south side of Cranberry Pond.

Rhododendron Pond and Dix Mountain.

A closer look at Dix and its Beckhorn Slide.

Open birch and hardwood forest cloaks this area, which was burned in a big 1903 fire.

One of many bare ledgy knobs on the lower eastern slopes of the Dix Range, with a view of Spotted Mountain, Hough Peak and Dix Mountain. This is the third time I've gone exploring in this wonderful bushwhacking area.

Dix is an impressive peak which is high on my list to climb next.

Looking north to pointy Noonmark Mountain.

A leisurely trip today.

From another ledge, Round Mountain comes into view on the right.

Descending to Lilypad Pond.

Lilypad may have been the prettiest of the three ponds. Rising beyond are Spotted Mountain (L) and Hough Peak (R).

Looking back to a ledge-fronted knob that could be a future destination.

Next I visited some scenic spots on the North Fork.

A small cedar struggles for survival on the bedrock of the North Fork.

View down from the top of a cascade.

The cascade and pool from below.

A beautiful designated campsite.

A scenic broad, meadowy stretch of the river.

Spotted Mountain glows in the evening sun.

Bluebells thrive on a streamside rock face.

A wide-open stretch of the river.


When John Compton and I rendezvoused Thursday morning at Monument Falls on Rt. 86 northeast of Lake Placid to climb the Kilburn Slide, by chance we ran into two of the most accomplished hikers in the Adirondacks. Tom Haskins, aka RandomScooter, was dropping off avid bushwhacker Neil Luckhurst for one of Neil's typically challenging (crazy?) trailless traverses over Kilburn and Slide Mountains in the Sentinel Range Wilderness. After an interesting chat, we watched Neil disappear into the forest. Afterwards Neil posted a report of his successful traverse. Incidentally, two years ago Carol and I stayed in Tom's wonderful Random Scoots Cabin in Keene, which he built himself. Highly recommended, but book early!

John and I followed a well-used path along an old road for a mile, then followed a drainage to the "first headwall" at the base of the Kilburn Slide on a spur of Kilburn Mountain. This "staircase" looked pretty tricky to us, especially with some dampness due to morning fog. We opted for a rough bushwhack around it through the woods.

Once out on the slide above the first headwall, the climbing was delightful on slabs of super-grippy anorthosite. 

We clambered up a dike to get up over the "second headwall."

We climbed into the morning sun.

John surveys the view out over the McKenzie Range.

John had to turn around here to head back to New Hampshire, while I continued up and over the "third headwall."

Near the top of the slide I could peer down at Owen Pond.

Mount Whiteface loomed large.

At the upper end of the slide is the semi-technical "fourth headwall". No need to climb that, as it just ends at a wall of dense woods.

I went back down to the widest part of the slide to soak in the sun and the views.

Looking across to the distant Sawtooth Range, one of the wildest places in the Adirondacks and another favorite haunt of Neil Luckhurst's.

Looking back up at the second headwall.

Ha ha!

Mount Whiteface from a beaver meadow at the base of Kilburn Mountain.

A view of the upper Kilburn Slide.

Before heading home for NH, I stopped at the beginning of the road to Adironack Loj for the classic High Peaks view.

A parting shot of Mount Colden, the high point of the trip.