Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Dix Mountain from Round Pond 3/09/13

  This was my first time climbing a high peak with anyone since September. I was really excited to be hiking with Sathi and trying a very ambitious and unique plan: hike all night to be on the summit of Dix Mountain for sunrise. Well, the forecast was absolutely perfect and got better as we got closer so suffice is to say that I was frothing at the mouth. The Marshall and Santa's hike both were classic winter high peaks conditions: cold, snowy with little visibility. I was going to see views from up top this time!!!!

     We left Albany around 11:30pm and were on the trail by 1:45am. The trailhead was nearly full which was a bit of a surprise for me. There was a college group camping at Round Pond and a bunch of guys at the lean to. The bright side of this was that the trail would likely be packed firm and easy to follow. I had some reservations about hiking certain segments of this trail at night as it isn't blazed as thoroughly as most trails in the eastern high peaks.

      This approach to Dix, maintained by the 46ers is one of my favorite trails in the high peaks. It is pure and wild with every aspect of the ADK experience to enjoy. Ponds, rivers, a slide cascading brooks and several different types of forest. Jeanette and I volunteered for post-Irene clean-up and cleared blow-down on the trail. Also, we hiked it and stayed in the lean to at the Boquet River with Mike and Crystal originally for our 46 so we have a lot of great memories of this hike.

     The stars were just beyond. So incredible and bright. We stopped many times along the way and turn out our headlamps to enjoy them. Though there was no moon the night was clear enough that we could see things very clearly. We got looks at Round Pond, Noonmark and the river. It was a pleasure to be able to stop. For my Mount Marshall hike the temperature stayed at zero for most of the day, eventually making it up to around 10 by the time I hiked out. This means less than a minute with your gloves off and no stopping for more than 2-3 minutes. I still enjoy it and am able to take in the landscape around both for pleasure and navigation but hey, stopping is pretty cool to hahaha.

In the middle of the night

     The initial ascent along the trail amounts to about 500 ft and is decently tough. From the height of land you begin to follow the Boquet River and the trail doesn't gain or lose more than 100 ft until you reach the lean to and river crossing about 4.3 miles in. The first pitch is pretty tough and we were sweating almost immediately. Along the river we crossed numerous tributaries and were able to see back towards Noonmark Mountain. We crossed numerous tributaries and walked along the massive base of a beaver dam shortly before we reached the lean to. The entirety of the river drainage was frozen over and the normal roar and babble was eerily silenced. The whole hike felt vast and still.

     As I mentioned before, a couple of guys were staying in the lean to. Shortly before we got there, the trail looked familiar and I felt like I caught a faint whiff of camp site....campfire and a slightly musty but pleasant smell that lean to's seem to emit. With these cues I was able to get Koda's leash on before he could charge the sleeping dudes. We tried to be quiet but the beam of our headlamps and loud clomp-clomping of snowshoes got at least one guy stirring. We quickly crossed the frozen river and got out of earshot.

      The next portion of the hike begins the climb up the flank of the mountain, alternately crossing and following tributaries while steadily gaining elevation. The trail was less packed here and Sathi switched to snowshoes at this point. He hadn't used them along with his new boots yet and was struggling to get them to fit securely. It matters so much to have your snowshoes on snug. If the bindings loosen, you exhaust very quickly. As this stretch went on the snowshoe situation was really dragging Sathi down. He briefly considered bagging the attempt but soon decided to push to the slide and see how he felt.

sunrise slide rave
     We reached the runout for the base of the slide as the first warm orange/ pink light began creeping over the horizon. We could now see Noonmark and Giant very clearly and the Vermont peaks became visible in the distance. We had a discussion about safety after which we both felt rejuvenated and ready to begin the climb. I think the sunrise lifted our spirits as much as the break. The sunrise has such powerful magic. I hike a lot at night. It often makes a hike the next day all that much easier and more calm if you can hike in the night before. It's still hard and not as pleasant as hiking in the day. It can feel claustrophobic and obviously the risk is higher for getting lost.

Noonmark and Giant at sunrise
     We wandered out on to the slide and my jaw dropped just as it has the times before. This spot is amazing. Under a few inches of fresh powder you could see long lazy S turns from backcountry skiers and snowboarders taking advantage of a perfect nature-made ski run. From here we re-entered the tree line and followed the slide up for much of the remaining ascent.

The dix slides
     Though there is always much debate about things such as this, this portion of trail is widely considered the steepest in the high peaks. It goes from steep, to really frickin steep, too I can't believe you can call this a trail steep. The views were simply amazing though and all three of us stayed pretty inspired despite the backsliding and frequent breaks. We saw light shining from above and realized we would soon reach the ridge line. Looking at the map now it's pretty amusing to think about how far off from the summit we really were. The trail was much less steep though and we began having even more stunning views.

sunrise over the turquoise mountains
    The great range was visible in all it's glory and Nippletop looked quite massive close up. There were great views of Giant and Rocky Peak Ridge which seemed a little unique and different for me. I realized how much I'd learned about the high peaks since the last time on this summit in 2011. I could identify and appreciate the views of peaks so much more. Up and up we continued, with the morning sun shining bright.

move me brightly
Sara and Kyles land on the horizon
foreground Nippletop and the great range beyond
Summit Star!!!
effortless majesty
all smiles up top

   This is one of the prettiest summits in the high peaks in my opinion and there couldn't have been a better day for it. We each took turns standing on the summit rock and I uncovered the original Colvin survey benchmark. We found a nice spot that was protected from the constant winds coming off the sides of the peak. This was the longest I've spent on the summit of a high peak since either Marcy or Algonquin this summer and it was a pleasure. We dug a little hole so we could sit on a snowfa, enjoyed coffee, tea and snacks and took pictures.

my 15th winter high peak, Kodas eighth high peak.
Sathi Wagner
Verplanck Colvin
chillin on the snowfa
the Beckhorn and Macomb

     Well Koda was restless and then I got restless haha. I tried to stay put but wanted to see if I could head over to Hough. It was still really early. Here comes mistake time! I make mistakes on seemingly every hike I take and hope I learn from them. I hadn't researched the route to Hough and assumed since visibility was so high, I'd just follow the ridge and likely find the herd path. I reached the Beckhorn and climbed off the back of it. I could see tracks and snowshoe scrapes so I assumed I was on the right track. Pretty quickly I came to a tough spot where I hopped down off a large rock. Immediately Koda and I realized he couldn't make it. He began crying very loudly and looking for oother ways down to me. I looked around at my situation, shrugged it off and climbed back up, heading back to the trail. Hough would be there for me in the future and it seemed like it wasn't meant to be. Oh well, we had a little side adventure.

Dix from the Beckhorn
Giant and RPR and some slides on Dix

     I met up with Sathi just past the summit and we began our slippery trip down. We both lost our footing quite a bit at first. We were making phenomenal time though. Once back to the steepest of steep it was pure butt-sliding bliss. Since I knew we'd be running into people from around 10 or so on, Koda was on leash. We were able to slide together and the leash never got tight. It was really fun. Sathi decided my Indian name should be glissadeswithdog. About 3/4 of the way down the steep, we met up with Trailboss (Taras) and the rest of his crew. This was his winter 46er final hike! Knowing him from the message boards, I decided to make a little congratulatory sign and stick it in the snow on the summit. We chatted for a bit and made our way on. Nice guys.

Congrats Taras!!!
Elk Lake
the hike down
we rip it up
I dare you not to smile doing this

     We got back out to the slide again and chilled for a bit. What an amazing place. It was great trotting along in the beautiful sunshine From this point on, the trail was all "new" as we had hiked it in the dark. Lot's of pretty all around, we got pictures of trees, snow and trail (and dog). We met some skiers coming in to ski the slide and drooled a bit at the thought. We met a few more groups on the way out including the lean to occupiers and another group Koda and I had met in the Santanoni's. Lot's of smiles on a perfect day.

who wants to make some turns
trudge and smile

     The last portion of the day was hard. We were both (not Koda) tired and trudged along in occasionally interrupted silence. Once the high of a summit day like this wears off, there are still many miles to walk before the car. As we got closer to the end we started talking about possibilities for other hikes and camping trips. We saw an awesome spot on a rocky outcrop with views of Round Pond and Dix that looked phenomenal for at-large camping. The car was a welcome sight after around 12 hours in the woods.

3,382 ft ascent. that's a big day...

1 comment:

  1. Wow simply amazing once again! Looks like you all had a great time. I live the picture of sathi sliding and Koda watching him. rock on guys!!! Xo