Ascent to Wright Peak-Tree line on 2012-01-16

Climber: Henk de Smidt

Others in Party:Sons
Date:Monday, January 16, 2012
Ascent Type:Unsuccessful - Turned Back
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Car
Point Reached:Wright Peak - Tree line
    Location:USA-New York
    Elevation:4250 ft / 1295 m
    Remaining Elevation:337 ft / 103 m (100% left to go)

Ascent Trip Report


The sun was barely up when I awoke to some noise in our campground. It didn’t take me long to realize that it must have been dad who was making our breakfast; moments later he was at our tent to “wake” me and my brother up. That day was our big day: Algonquin and Wright Peak, part of the MacIntyreRange in the Adirondacks. We quickly ate and drove to the trail head for an early start. It had rained overnight and water still streamed down the eroded trail. I hiked up with my family and some friends first to Algonquin were we had an early lunch at the summit and then Wright Peak as a side hike on the way back down.
It was there we found the wreckage of the B-47E bomber that had crashed in 1962. At first we thought it was pretty cool to see pieces of a real plane, but then I read the memorial plaque and realized that people had actually died here. I asked dad if we could come back and lay a wreath, to which he replied, “Sure, training starts now”.So that’s how it all started, back in July 2010, during our family vacation.
`Train we did, rock climbing, cross country skiing and long hikes going inexorably farther and higher.Sometime before summer camp we thought it might be fun to make it a High Adventure Scout Trip, we had two adults and six scouts who were interested.
We assigned the jobs and everybody was busy with getting the required gear when our trip leader checked the forecast 4 days before departure and noticed falling temps. It was more like the bottom fell out of the thermometer. Nighttime lows had fallen by 20 degrees to well into negative territory. Two days before departure the decision was made to postpone the trip......... but wait, the 50 year anniversary only comes along once, and other than not having adequate sleeping systems everything else was set to go. Since we have the luxury of a great aunt living in the Adirondacks, my brother and I together with our dad decided to spend two nights at her place and make day hikes.
We left Saturday morning as planned; the six inch snowfall from the previous day was cleared and we had a sunny trip to Crown Point, well almost. As soon as we left the Northway we noticed flakes and we arrived in a light snow with rapidly falling temperatures. In the evening we double checked the gear in our packs for tomorrows hike, you never know when things go wrong and in the dead of winter there is very little margin for mistakes. It was about -16F when we woke up on Sunday morning. We had a solid breakfast and drove to the Giant Mountain trail head for a short warm-up, layer system, gear test hike. We visited Giants Nubble, breaking trail as soon as we left the Ridge Trail, the views were breath taking. We returned via the Roaring Brook trail and Giants Washbowl where we made quick progress via lake travel. During this short trip the temperature never rose above 0F but we were very comfortable. That night we went to bed early since tomorrow was the big day, Wright Peak.
We woke up at six, had a breakfast of bacon & eggs, steel cut oats and fruit, took the car and arrived at the Adirondack Loj trail head parking lot by 08:30.
Fifteen minutes later we were on the trail. We moved quickly over a broken out, well packed, trail with just enough snow to smooth over all the rough spots. The higher we got, the windier it became and the icier the trail grew, time to take of the snowshoes and put on the crampons. We passes a sign indicating that the weather was susceptible to “harsh and sudden change” beyond that point, this hadn’t mean much when we passed it in the summer, but this was winter. By 11:15 we arrived at the side trail to Wright Peak, with enough time for a bite to eat and a drink of water. Nathaniel dropped his pack since we didn’t need that higher up, we also left the snow shoes but made sure we had the wreath with us. This was after all the main reason we came here, to lay a wreath for the airmen that died 50 years ago. While we went up a team of two came down informing us that it was extremely windy and icy above tree line. They turned back about 200 feet short of the summit. The balaclavas went up over mouths and noses. Within less than five minutes we reached tree line and experienced what they had told us about. The wind was so strong that it was pushing us around, actually more like trying to knock us over. The conditions were frigid, accounting for wind chill, most likely about -25F, our snot froze in our noses. Exposed skin was being pelted by blowing snow and ice crystal which felt like needle stings. We were about 0.2 miles short of the summit, but decided that this was far enough for our first alpine experience. We tied the wreath to a short stubby old tree along the trail. The wind was blowing so strong that the ribbon was pointing up, parallel with the mountain surface.
Going down was a breeze. I really like glissading, sitting down and sliding using my ice axe as a break. Even lower on the mountain there now was more wind and when we had to go through a small pass the wind sounded like a freight train passing by. It was there on one of the icy vertical trail sections that we used a rope and a arm rappel to safely come down. Back down the mountain we headed over to the ADK HPIC and found out that 50 mph winds where forecasted on the mountain top for that day.Walking back to the car we noticed the absence of wind, just like the start of the day.
Summary Total Data
    Route:ADK Trail 64 and 65
    Trailhead:ADK Loj P-lot  -9999 ft / -3047 m
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Snow on Ground
    Gear Used:
Ice Axe, Crampons, Snowshoes
    Weather:Cold, Extremely Windy, Partly Cloudy
High clouds, warm front moving in
Ascent Statistics
    Time:2 Hours 45 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Time:2 Hours 0 Minutes

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