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Old 08-17-2017, 12:36 AM   #1
wxduff
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Question Route Planning for 46er trip advice needed.

New member, and looking for advice. I have done a lot of hiking in the Indian Lake region of the Dacks, including Snowy, Wakely, Chimney, etc. Plenty of other hikes including backpacks on my way to Eagle Scout. My current hobby is called Summits on the Air (SOTA), which is a combination of ham radio from mountain summits. I'm planning a trip to tackle my first high peaks with a couple of other SOTA buddies. In particular, we want to grab Skylight, Basin, and Gothics as these have never been activated for SOTA.

My idea for the trip was to approach the four corners from the west first thing, although I'm not sure where the best approach is using this route. My first guess is to park at the Loj, and take the Lake Arnold Trail to Feldsbar and over to four corners. So I'm looking for confirmation on that. We then would summit Skylight, then the south side of Marcy, descend the north-side, and head over to Haystack. At this point Haystack could be bypassed or climbed, depending on weather and our status. Either way, the destination is Sno Bird for camp.

The next day would be Basin, then Saddleback (from everything I've read you want to go this way up Saddleback to avoid down-climbing the cliffs), then Gothics. After summiting Gothics we would head back the way we came and head down the Orebed Brook Trail to a lean-to or JBL. Next day would be hiking out to the Loj. Maybe grab Mount Jo if we get back to the Loj early enough in the day.

My questions are what is the best place to start when the goal is to approach the Four Corners from the west. Also, has anyone done that first day (Skylight, Marcy, Haystack, to Sno Bird) successfully with packs or is Haystack going to be too much for most? Am I correct at assuming the second day is the preferred way to grab Basin>Saddleback>Gothics?
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Old 08-17-2017, 12:47 AM   #2
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That's a rough itinerary with full packs. I would prefer to basecamp and do a couple of day hikes; and given the combination of peaks you mention, probably basecamp in the upper half of Johns Brook valley (near JBL or higher).
And esp if you're carrying radio equipment, not through the Lake Arnold route, unless you want to risk the equipment ending up at the bottom of the swamp.
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Old 08-17-2017, 08:23 AM   #3
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That is a lot of elevation gain with those packs. I would hit the summit you want the most on day 1 so if you have dead legs the next day you can just hit a smaller mountain and leave the others for next time. Nothing wrong with a next time. Either way it will be a good time I am sure. Enjoy.
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Old 08-17-2017, 08:37 AM   #4
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Thanks for the replies so far guys.

So the Lake Arnold route is a bit wet? It seems like it would cut off a bit of distance vs. the Avalanche Pass route, which also has plenty of water. Is there a better way to approach the south part of Marcy?

I totally get the full pack problem, however I was hoping that we could stash our packs for Skylight, Haystack, and Gothics, since all three we would be returning to our starting points after the climb. The radio gear these days is fantastically light, and would be divided up amongst three or four people. This means packs would only be involved in the climb of Marcy, Basin, and Saddleback. Packs would also be light overall, I prefer cold food when backpacking to eliminate the need for a stove and fuel, and hammock camping, so no bulky tent or sleeping roll.
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Old 08-17-2017, 09:18 AM   #5
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Don't forget to include the weight of a bear canister to store your food (and trash). You'll be camping in the eastern half of the High Peaks Wilderness where bear canisters are mandatory.

Your first day's itinerary represents ~12.5 miles of distance and ~5000 feet of ascent. If you're used to this kind of challenge, so be it. Otherwise, you'll discover it's quite ambitious. The portions where you'll be ascending without camping gear (Skylight + Haystack = ~1400 ft) represent a small portion of the total ascent.
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Old 08-17-2017, 09:25 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Trail Boss View Post
Don't forget to include the weight of a bear canister to store your food (and trash). You'll be camping in the eastern half of the High Peaks Wilderness where bear canisters are mandatory.

Your first day's itinerary represents ~12.5 miles of distance and ~5000 feet of ascent. If you're used to this kind of challenge, so be it. Otherwise, you'll discover it's quite ambitious. The portions where you'll be ascending without camping gear (Skylight and Haystack) represent a small portion of the total ascent.
Thanks for the reminder about the bear canister(s), I had not factored that in.

If haystack is removed from the first day that is around 1250 feet of vertical and 2 miles of hiking removed, correct? Haystack looks amazing, but it might be biting off more than we can chew.
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Old 08-17-2017, 10:02 AM   #7
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Going from the Loj takes you over the "floating bridges" which don't float all that well. When you said you were "coming from the West" I assumed you meant that you were going in from Upper Works, which would avoid the floating bridges. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HAiFQwuGqhk
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Old 08-17-2017, 10:02 AM   #8
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If you eliminate Haystack from the first day, where do you plan to camp?

If the intention is to skip Haystack but still camp at Sno-Bird (the only designated campsite at that elevation and located in the saddle between Basin and Little Haystack) then you won't save 1250 feet of ascent.

To get to Sno-Bird you have to ascend over "Horse Hill" (not indicated on maps but it's a local term for the unnamed bump located northwest of Little Haystack), pass the trail junction to Haystack, and then descend into the col to Sno-Bird.

From the trail junction to Haystack, it's about ~350 feet of ascent (plus a bit more on the return because you have to go back over Little Haystack). Therefore there's no savings of "1250 feet" if you skip Haystack and camp at Sno-bird.

http://caltopo.com/map.html#ll=44.11...034&z=16&b=mbt

If you don't plan to camp at Sno-Bird, your only option is to descend from Marcy to camp below 3500 feet. That means descending to the designated campsites near the junction of the Phelps Tail and Shorey Shortcut Trail, namely in the vicinity of Slant Rock Lean-to. The following day, you'll have to ascend the rugged Shorey Shortcut Trail to continue over Basin to Saddleback.

http://caltopo.com/map.html#ll=44.12...9894&z=17&b=om

A challenging trip, any way you slice it.
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Old 08-18-2017, 07:55 AM   #9
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Thank you all for your advice so far. I have the adk guidebook and map combo on order, and I'm sure those will help.

So if the goal was Skylight, Marcy, Basin and Gothics in one weekend what would your optimal plan of attack be? Marcy/Skylight in a day from the Loj one day, but what about Basin>Gothics?
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Old 08-18-2017, 09:45 AM   #10
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A 'plan of attack' is shaped by what's available, and what's not.

In other words, I know a few people who have the wherewithal to hike those 5 peaks (and then some) in a day; that would be the recommended 'plan of attack' for them. However, many hikers would find such a route to be well beyond their abilities and/or comfort level.

I have no idea what you're capable of hiking in a day (or over two days). In fact, I'll hazard a guess that you don't either because you've never hiked in the High Peaks (or at least you have not mentioned it). This is what makes me leery of encouraging you to tackle these 5 peaks in one weekend.

As day-hikes, you're looking at two challenging trips:
  1. ADK Loj (or Upper Works) to Marcy + Skylight.
  2. From the Garden to Basin + Saddleback + Gothics.

Both trips are on the order of ~17 miles and ~4800 feet of ascent. In addition, the second trip features challenging terrain, notably a few short, steep pitches on Basin and Gothics and the memorable "cliff" on Saddleback (a series of ledges and slabs).



Both ADK Loj ($10/day) and the Garden ($10/day) are popular trailheads so early arrival is a must if you want to secure a parking space.

The Loj's parking area is large (200 cars?) and there's nearby overflow parking (Meadows Lane or east side of Adirondak Lodge Road). The Garden can only hold about 45 cars and there's no nearby overflow parking (you can park several mile away at Marcy Field and pay $10/person to ride the shuttle bus to the Garden).

My suggestion is you choose one of the two routes. It'll be a far more enjoyable experience. If you want to make a weekend of it, camp at the designated sites at Marcy Dam (for Marcy+Skylight) or at the sites southwest of Johns Brook Lodge (for Basin - > Gothics).
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Old 08-18-2017, 11:08 AM   #11
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Basin-Saddleback from the Garden with a full pack via the Shorey Shortcut was a full day - I opted out of the Gothics option and dropped down the Orebed Brook Trail to the Orebed lean-to.

The loop of Haystack, Skylight, Gray, Marcy and return to Slant Brook (and starting from Slant Brook) via Panther Gorge was a full day with a day pack.

Base camping in the vicinity of Johns Brook Lodge and doing Saddleback/Gothics as one day hike via the Orebed Brook Trail might allow you the option to assess you abilities without being committed to a larger plan. You might then have the option on a 2nd day to do Marcy/Skylight/Haystack if you felt up to it.

As Trail Boss put it, what is possible for one particular hiker, might not be an option or possible for others.
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Old 08-18-2017, 11:10 AM   #12
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Trail Boss,

I can't thank you enough for your help. I came here looking for expert help, which I've found.

I've shown my trail companions the proposed hikes and discussed difficulties and over-reach issues. We all agree the goal is still at least Skytop/Marcy and Basin/Gothics. Haystack is desired but optional, as is lower Wolfjaw.

All three of us have looked over maps and it seems that having a base camp and day hiking from there would be ideal. So, the itinerary has been altered.

Day 1 would be hiking in from one of the RT 73 lots to either Slant Rock or Sno Bird. If energy allows an accent up Haystack then so be it, but not until gear is stashed at camp.

Day 2 would be a day trip over Marcy, up Skylight, and back over Marcy to camp. It is Marcy both ways, but camp will be at the base already, especially if we camp at Sno Bird.

Day 3 will be a rest day, perhaps Haystack if it hasn't been climbed yet.

Day 4 would be Basin>Saddleback>Gothics. Again Sno Bird would be the ideal base camp. This would have to be done with packs, but given an early start we should have the time to rest and pick through Saddleback Cliffs. Packs would also be at their lightest at this point. After Gothics, descent would be back the way we came to Orebed and out to JBL for an overnight.

Day 5 would be from JBL out to lot.

This would stretch the trip out to 5 days, with 2 days of wiggle room due to weather.

As for our experience levels, one in our group has backpacked Isle Royale NP from end to end, one had 45 summits in the Mid-Atlantic between the start of the year and June 3rd. I have 9 since April 7th. I've done plenty of southern Adirondack climbs including some fire towers. I've also done extensive backpacking trips over the years although most did not include summits. None of us have ADK high peaks experience but all of us have experience climbing in the other ranges of the Appalachians.
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Old 08-18-2017, 12:41 PM   #13
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I would advise not to choose Slant Rock or Sno-Bird as your basecamp.

Pick one of the designated campsites located southwest of Johns Brook Lodge. It saves you a few miles of hauling your overnight gear (and many hundreds of feet of ascent, and some cussing, if you were to choose Sno-Bird).

From this location you can day-hike to Marcy+Skylight as an out-and-back and Basin+Saddleback+Gothics as a loop trip.

In fact, if you are full of energy on day 1, you are well positioned to do an out-and-back of Gothics. On the following days you can aim for Marcy+Skylight and Haystack+Basin+Saddleback (or just Basin+Saddleback).
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Old 08-19-2017, 09:16 AM   #14
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Wise to break trip up so you are not fully committed.

I have hiked in Washington, Idaho, Utah, Canada, other places in NY. The trails in the high peaks are a different breed offering both beauty and challenge.

I do not think anyone is trying to warn you off, just offering some prudence which I think you get.

We last did the Gothics to Armstrong and Lower Wolfjaw - that is a nice scenic trip too. You also have Wright, Algonquin and Iroquois possible. Same number of peaks as you mentioned but on a ridge...

Aside from other camping gear also have a water plan - carrying enough, filtration and how to handle it when there is no water on trail or 9" around your ankles.

Anyway you slice it it will be an awesome trip. Can't wait to see photos.
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