Sunday, September 22, 2019

Adirondacks: Donaldson Mountain and Mt. Emmons, 9/18/19

The biggest hike of the trip was a ~14 1/2 mile round trip with ~3400 ft. elevation gain from the Coreys Road trailhead to Donaldson Mountain (4140 ft.) and Mt. Emmons (4040 ft.). These are two of the four peaks in the Seward Range, the westernmost of the High Peaks. They are officially "trailless" but have heavily beaten, unmarked herd paths leading to their summits. I opted for the easier western approach via the herd path along Calkins Brook. The start of the path is reached by an easy 3.3 mile approach on the Ward Brook Trail...

... and Calkins Brook Trail.

Nice color at a beaver pond near the junction of the Calkins Brook Trail and the Calkins Brook herd path that leads up to the Seward Range.

This artifact-enhanced cairn marks the start of the herd path.

The herd path provides pleasant walking in its lower section.

Low water at Calkins Brook.

Generally good footing continues well up onto the side of the ridge.

The path gets rougher after crossing this tributary at 3300 ft.

The herd paths do receive some maintenance, as there was virtually no blowdown along the route. Thank you!

Root washouts are typical on the steeper sections of the herd paths.

This section is a typical rough, eroded Adirondack herd path, though still better overall than many others.

The Calkins Brook path reaches the ridgecrest herd path just a short distance north of the summit of Donaldson, but right away there are a couple of ledge scrambles that are awkward with a big pack. For this one I tossed my pack up on top and pulled myself up with a sturdy root.

Looking north to the wild humps of Seward Mountain (4361 ft.), the highest peak in the Seward Range. I opted not to add this peak to the day's itinerary (an additional 1.6 miles round trip and 900 ft. of elevation gain) as Donaldson and Emmons were enough for me.

This one was tricky as muddy boots didn't grip well on the smooth ledge.

Above the scrambles an overgrown side path leads to a great west-facing ledge perch.

To the north, Ampersand Lake and Mountain.

Here you look down into the valley of Calkins Brook, with vast western horizons beyond.

Summit sign on Donaldson. A few years ago the traditional canisters were removed and replaced with plastic discs and then these wooden signs.

Seymour Mountain, the fourth peak of the Seward Range, stands apart from the others and is usually climbed separately.

From the summit ledge, looking over to wild Ouluska Pass, "place of shadows," between Seward Mountain and Seymour Mountain.

Long view south to peaks in the Siamese Ponds Wilderness.

The Santanoni Range - Panther, Santanoni and Couchsachraga - seen beyond the broad Cold River valley. This is some of the most remote backcountry in the Adirondacks.

Beaver meadows in the Cold River valley.

An array of high peaks seen to the east. The remote Allen Mountain is on the far right.

The herd path across to Emmons features plenty of Adirondack mud.

From an opening along the herd path to Emmons, a look down at isolated beaver ponds at the head of Boulder Brook, high on the west slopes of the range.

After a dishearteneing 350-ft. descent well below the ridgecrest, the path ascends across the top edge of this ledge with Mt. Emmons in sight above.

This ledge offers a fine view to the southwest.

A shimmering vista of Long Lake. I paddled the length of this lake on a week-long Boy Scout canoe trip around 1967.

One of several awkward little scrambles along the ascent of Emmons.

Summit sign.

Summit clearing. No view here.

On the way back across to Donaldson I took a break at the southwest view ledge.

A set of scrambles heading back up Donaldson.

Looking back at Emmons from the south end of Donaldson.

High peaks view back at Donaldson's summit: Giant, Wright, Algonquin, Iroquois, Colden and Marcy.

Nice afternoon light on the Santanoni view.

Back on Donaldson's west ledge, a boot shot, Adirondack-mud style.

Side view of a scramble and a monster ledge.

In case you're lost, D is for Donaldson and S is for Seward.

Descending a tight section of the upper Calkins Brook herd path. It was a rewarding long hike for an introduction to the Seward Range.

GPS track for the Donaldson-Emmons hike.

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