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Old 08-23-2017, 12:27 PM   #1
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Join Date: May 2004
Posts: 5,897
Algonquin, Iroquois and Colden on a busy Saturday in the High Peaks.

On a busy August Saturday with a half-decent forecast I considered myself lucky to have found a campsite at South Meadows where I set up a 3-person tent and beat it to the HPIC. Well, to within a 10 minute walk thereof. I parked on the shoulder and hoofed past hundreds of similarly parked cars to the register where I encountered a long line-up. I reminded myself that I had knowingly signed on for a crowded hike. Then I pounded trail until shortly after the Algonquin intersection whereupon I met none other than local legend Ron Konowitz. He gave me a guided tour of the trail from a skier's perspective and I learned that the trail we all use to Algonquin was once a ski trail! Now it makes for a terrible ski trail.

Besides just being in the High Peaks I was out for a training effect and was alone in a crowd when I topped out on Algonquin in pelting rain and cool winds. I overheard the Summit Steward explaining to one of my countrywoman not to turn left at the junction if she was headed to Iroquois. I paused just long enough to reinforce his instructions in French. I said not to turn left at the low point and if she found herself descending a marked trail she was going the wrong way. And on I went. There were considerably fewer of us going to and fro to Iroquois (I maybe crossed paths with 25 people out and back to the junction and saw more coming down Algonquin). I silently thanked whoever put those planks across the standing water that my hiking pole half-way disappeared into. Iroquois was socked in but on my return trip I was rewarded with beautiful views of a nicely lit up Algonquin.

Back at the fateful junction I did make the turn, to the right, and began the long descent to Lake Colden, which lies 2750 feet below the summit of Algonquin. Roughly 300 feet down I informed some hikers that they were not headed for Iroquois and they went, “Oh” and turned around and headed back up. Much later, as in 1000 feet below the junction I saw a group of three that was headed upwards. Sure enough it was the woman I had told to avoid the left turn etc. etc. Across the way the lower half of Colden with its magnificent array of slides was all lit up in sunshine while the upper half was socked in under heavy clouds. Views such as that are what keep me coming back to the Adirondacks. But, on this hike I had no camera with me. The descent was killer tough with so-so traction from my hiking boots and the wet slabs. I mused that when people come to the High Peaks with goals of doing all 46 peaks in one shot or some other exploit they tend to focus mainly on aerobic conditioning in their preparation. What they often neglect is the all-important tendon and connective tissue toughening that occurs very slowly during plenty of rugged trail-time. It seemed longer but took me 90 mins. from the top of Iroquois to the Colden junction. My shoulders (from heavy hiking pole usage) and quads really felt the beating the trail dished out all the way down.

By the time I reached Lake Colden I had been all alone for quite a while and the trip around the lake (30 mins.) was likewise spent in deep solitude due to the closure of the Avalanche Lake trail. At the kiosk at the junction I was unimpressed with the not-that-obvious signage indicating said closure but it wasn't my problem and I kept moving to the Colden Summit trail junction. The 30-minute walk around the lake was very pleasant in deathly silence. Here I paused to take care of my feet (soaking wet in hiking boots) and other business. Then I headed up at a hard but reasonable pace that I carefully kept restricted to 135 beats per minute. In my case that heart rate marks the threshold of my "zone two" pace and I wanted to spend a full hour in that sweet spot. (I had spent about the same time in that zone doing Algonquin and Iroquois) It took 1h05 to reach the top and I was aided by numerous new ladders/staircases. That is one steep, off fall-line climb. The best views of the day were from the final ladder to the top. However, I hung out for only 3 minutes because my wife and her friend and I were scheduled to go out for dinner and I wanted to be back at S. Meadows before 6:30.
So, I hauled ass, but not too much, all the way back to my car (the toughest part of the hike was from the HPIC to my car, 10 mins. down the paved road). I made it back before 6:30 for a total time, car to car, of 9 hours on the button. While I was preparing for Project-46 Trail Boss and I did the same hike except we added both Tabletop and Phelps after Colden. It was winter however and the descents were effortless and rapid in fluffy snow over a hard base.

The beer at the bar at Lisa G's in Lake Placid was awfully tasty and now I'm one hike closer to my goal.
The best, the most successful adventurer, is the one having the most fun.
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Old 08-24-2017, 04:34 PM   #2
Join Date: Jan 2017
Location: West Monroe, NY
Posts: 19
Great report. Wish you had your camera but it is nice to picture in my head as I read the report. Also this reminds me why I try to avoid that area during the summer and early fall. I can't not imagine adding Phelps and tabletop to that trek. You guys must have an extra set of legs to put on.
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Old 08-24-2017, 06:02 PM   #3
Trail Boss
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FWIW, we hiked six peaks that cold and snowy day in January of 2014: Wright, Algonquin, Iroquois, Colden, Tabletop, and Phelps. All I can say is I was in better shape back then. Good times!

I also kept a blog back then as well so, if you have nothing better to do, you can read about our wintry hike here:

If you just want to see the pics:!At2A5gDBcUN4mCYic9UeF-it-jyY

Sample Photos:
Neil returning to our packs. Algonquin is shrouded in snow clouds.

Mr. Project 46, in the flesh.

Looking for views!

Last edited by Trail Boss; 08-24-2017 at 08:33 PM.. Reason: Typo.
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