Monday, March 19, 2012

Cliff and Redfield March 17th

Colden and the Macs from Cliff

After a surprisingly successful trip up Esther and Whiteface the previous weekend, I somehow managed to convince Jeanette (even though I promised her we’d do nothing too hard for a while after our whiteface hike) to move forward with our Cliff and Redfield hike.

This is a trip where I felt like lots of planning and research made all the difference. I’d say that for the average high peaks trip thus far, I’d be about 85% prepared. I would always forget something or have a flaw in the plan somewhere. This time I thoroughly read the McMartin and ADK guides, obsessively followed trip reports and made meticulous calculations with many bail-outs and contingencies.

Misty hike in
We woke up at 4 AM and were hiking by 7:10 AM. The trail was solid and crusty snow. Pretty quickly we put on our snowshoes to deal with the irregularity of the snow and kept them on for the rest of the trip. We arrived at the blessedly empty Herbert Brook lean-to around 10 and had some pb&j’s as we dropped our overnight gear and I switched to a day pack. Jeanette used my 35L Mountain Hardware pack for this trip so we could go (sort of) ultra light in case we wanted to shoot for uphill brook lean-to. She found this pack to suit her needs pretty well but wanted more pockets!

We made great time in to the lean-to and great time up the Opalescent, soaking in one of my favorite trails in the peaks. We stopped at the lean-to/ herd-path intersection for a snack. Though the cairn wasn’t visible (I took note during our Marcy trip), the herd path was a highly visible “sidewalk”. We decided to get Cliff out of the way first, as Jeanette had some anxiety about the cliffs.

some inversion off to the south. heading up Cliff.
The first section of trail was very pretty, though moisture was coming off all the pines and getting us kind of wet. This ended pretty quickly as the trail opened up. This open area in the col is because of blow down from Hurricane Floyd? It was immediately pretty clear how Cliff got its name. The steep sections were tricky, especially with the increasingly rotten snow. Jeanette was pretty anxious and upset and I did my best to calm her down and encourage her. Just as she’d had enough, we reached the top of the ridge. I loved the views from the false summit and summit and was grateful to be there with the snow lifting us out of the trees a bit for better viewing.

cliff summit. Happy and alive

We didn’t stay up top too long, with a long day ahead. The decent was surprisingly fast, the tricky sections we found to be far easier descending. 45 minutes back to the intersection and then up the Redfield herd path. This trail was beautiful and much easier right from the start with firmer trail conditions. Like Esther the week before, it was readily apparent that I’d be returning to Redfield. Though lovely, the final ascent seemed to drag on and our endurance and will were tested (already 10 plus miles into our day!).

Left to right: Marcy, Redfield and Skylight. Redfield is the little wooded bump.

The summit was simply stunning. We had it to ourselves and it felt so still and so epic. I felt like I was in a holy place. We ate and rested, sitting down for the first time since Herbert Brook lean to. After our snack I sort of hunched over, with my face in my arms, completely drained. I looked over and Jeanette was in the same position. We both let our weariness and stress pour out of us and were greatly relieved and cleansed. After some pictures and final revelry in the increasingly golden light, we began our descent.

Gray, Marcy and Skylight from Redfield

Blessedly easy on our legs, we felt like we rolled down and out, taking some pictures and pumping water along the way. Leaving the summit at about 4:15, we reached our lean-to around 6:30. We cooked dinner, got into our cozy clothes and laid down for the sunset.

The Macs from Uphill Brook

It was beautiful, as were the stars soon after. Jeanette fell right asleep and I tossed for a bit, as I had forgotten how to sleep on wood in a mummy bag. After curling down a bit so I could see the stars, my body remembered and I got more comfortable. We both woke up around 3 Am pretty damn cold. If we had it to do over, we both would have brought a bit warmer clothes. We fell back asleep until sunrise. We chatted and cuddled until around 7.

Sunset over Flowed Lands

After cooking breakfast, we got our ish together and began the hike out. Pretty immediately we were tired (mentally and physically) and the 5.7 out was pretty tough on both of us (I think more mentally, we were both “over it”). Like all hikes, it did eventually end. The car was welcome site. We both made utterances of pure ecstasy as the boots were removed.

The next morning

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