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Old 01-15-2019, 04:41 PM   #1
arvinsmee
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Winter Bushwhack up St. Regis Mt.

I've always been annoyed that there isn't a trail to the summit of St. Regis Mt. from St. Regis Pond or any of the other ponds south of the peak. I'm sure there are perfectly logical reasons for this, but it seems sort of ridiculous that if you're camping on St. Regis Pond with beautiful views of summit, you have to head back to the Lake and paddle past all the houses on the shoreline to access the trailhead. Sort of ruins the magic, right?

With that in mind, I was exploring the possibility of bushwhacking to the summit directly from our camp on St. Regis Pond in a few weeks. I checked out the satellite imagery and I've charted a path that avoids the swamps, spruce groves, and keeps the incline reasonable. I was wondering if anyone has done such a bushwhack (especially in winter) and if they had any good info.

A bit of background to minimize the finger wagging: we are experienced hikers. I've done a ton of bushwhacking (I tend to prefer it to hiking). We'll have GPS devices, paper maps, and compasses, all in duplicate, along with a DeLorme. We'll have plenty of warm gear and all the proper first aid equipment, along with headlamps and back up lithium batteries. We also realize that things might end up tougher than expected and we'll have to turn around before getting to the summit to insure that we make it safely back to camp before dark. It's a call I've made plenty of times before (discretion, valor, and all that.)

I spoke to the ranger, and she recommended against it - not like "don't do that" but "you probably don't want to". But she also said we should camp at Fish Pond instead of St. Regis, since it's snowmobile accessible and easier for rescues... a rather odd way to pick a campsite. In my experience some rangers treat everyone like an idiot, which is understandable given their line of work, but it makes me take what she said with a grain of salt.

All that said, is this feasible? Foolish?
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Old 01-15-2019, 09:05 PM   #2
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Higher risk, sure. Not necessarily foolish, if-
  • If you're properly prepared with the right gear
  • If you've got the experience to keep yourselves safe and comfortable
  • If you're willing and able to stop and re-evaluate your progress along the way and make the decision to turn back early if and when necessary
With all of that being said, though... With the advantage of having skis especially, I think you'd make it to the summit of St. Regis faster by skiing the seven carries to Upper St. Regis Lake, finding the Teddy Roosevelt trail and following that to the St. Regis Mountain trail at the site of the old observer's cabin, switching the snowshoes there, and then climbing to the summit. (Basically, the route I described in your other thread.) You'd have the advantage of being able to ski all of the flat parts (and probably keep up a good pace while doing so), and would (most likely) have a broken out trail to follow on snowshoes for the actual steep ascent.

I assume you actually are planning to have snowshoes as well? Without snowshoes, then at the very least, the bushwhack up St. Regis from the south side will be a herculean effort. We've got a fair amount of snow in the area already, and they're forecasting up to just shy of 2 more feet this upcoming weekend.
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Old 01-15-2019, 09:53 PM   #3
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We'll both have snowshoes for sure. I know the other approach would be easier, but this one looks like more fun. We've got a whole day to kill, assuming the weather's good. If conditions are anything less than perfect, the bushwhack is off. If we can arrive early a get camp set up fast enough the day before, we might do a little test bushwhack to size things up.

What I'm trying to determine is if there's a decent chance we'd pull it off. I know a lot of this comes down to personal fitness, but I thought maybe others had tried similar adventures. If it's feasible it seems like way more fun then heading out to St. Regis Lake and up the boring ol' blazed path.
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Old 01-16-2019, 09:49 AM   #4
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In summer, I've bushwhacked St. Regis Mt. from both Fish Pond and from St. Regis Pond. The route-finding up and down is a bit easier from Fish Pond because there is a fairly well-defined southwest ridge that provides an obvious route up and down with minimal flatter, nondescript terrain on the approach to the ridge.

From St. Regis Pond, there are several intervening ridges one must traverse before the true climbing begins. In summer, (and pre GPS) the challenge was to find ones way back to the pond and not get "pulled" one way or the other on one of the ridges or valley in between. You, of course, will have your tracks to lead you back. Both routes are mostly nice, open woods so enjoy.
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Old 01-16-2019, 12:08 PM   #5
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"I spoke to the ranger, and she recommended against it - not like "don't do that" but "you probably don't want to". But she also said we should camp at Fish Pond instead of St. Regis, since it's snowmobile accessible and easier for rescues..."

LOL I kind of like her way of thinking! Could be a Ranger's form of discretion.
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Old 01-16-2019, 12:35 PM   #6
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I've seen some scuttlebutt to the effect that the Rangers are getting a little tired of all the Search and Rescue operations that could have been avoided with a little discretion and education. Last week they had just finished one snowmobile accident, when they got a call for another one. I have to wonder if a lot of people were dying out there before they could depend on calling for help with the seemingly ever present cell phone.
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Old 01-16-2019, 01:31 PM   #7
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Yeah I don't blame the rangers at all. I've encountered so many idiots hiking with improper gear on no maps, I can't imagine what they deal with on a day to day basis.

The plan is to head up next weekend on the 25th. Hopefully the polar vortex isn't in full force by then. Current forecast is promising, though it's a long way out.

Thanks for the details goodwin! It looked pretty open on the sats, but I know from experience that sometimes that can be deceptive.

I'll try to post a trip report when we return.
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Old 01-17-2019, 07:58 AM   #8
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Yeah, it's definitely doable with a good crew of hikers, the right levels of endurance, and appropriate gear. But also yes- if you can get even a quarter of the way up the mountain on the first day and pack out a decent path that far, it will make the day of your full climb at least that much easier.

Another thing to be aware of- the forecast calls for anywhere from 11 to 17 inches of snow in the area this upcoming weekend, followed by possibly another 4 to 11 inches early next week. To say that there is going to be some deep snow in the backcountry is not an understatement- so the going will almost certainly be slow. The earlier you can start your climb up the mountain, the more likely it is that you won't need to turn back before reaching the summit.
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Old 01-17-2019, 09:31 PM   #9
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My wife and I got as far as the canyon two summers ago beginning from Campsite 7 on St. Regis. We had to negotiate several ridges to the north of St. Regis that took energy. In the winter, I would stay lower and flatter assuming you have 2' plus of firm base. I wouldn't be happy wading through the 1' plus of unconsolidated powder that may fall this weekend. I would wait until early March with a 3' base. Generally easier in winter than in summer IMO.
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Old 01-18-2019, 08:37 AM   #10
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You might be surprised at how difficult and slow winter bushwhacking can be. Last January it took me 2.5 hours of over-the-top effort to travel 400 yards on Avalanche Peak. And I was in really good shape having trained hard for 6 months.
The good thing about it though is you can turn around and easily retreat on your inbound track. Regarding the comments about rescues and rangers I think it's easier in winter to walk one's way into a dangerous situation following a trail than bushwhacking.

Asking a ranger about doing an off-trail winter hike is bound to illicit a very guarded response.
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Old 01-18-2019, 08:44 AM   #11
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You might be surprised at how difficult and slow winter bushwhacking can be. Last January it took me 2.5 hours of over-the-top effort to travel 400 yards on Avalanche Peak. And I was in really good shape having trained hard for 6 months.
The good thing about it though is you can turn around and easily retreat on your inbound track.
Well, in retrospect I agree for steep terrain. On the other hand it will be much easier to travel over the level boggy areas just to the north of the pond, rather than traversing the rolling hills that was necessary in the summer. The effort required in winter depends largely on the snow type. Deep powder like we are expecting this weekend is arduous. 4" of pow over a supportable 3' base is heaven.
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Old 01-18-2019, 08:50 AM   #12
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The effort required in winter depends largely on the snow type. Deep powder like we are expecting this weekend is arduous. 4" of pow over a supportable 3' base is heaven.
Indeed. That's why I said "might be surprised". Last weekend I was part of a group of 4. We did Sawtooth 1-NE. The final .25 entailed 500 feet of elly gain. Took us 55 minutes to go up rotating leads with every 100 feet of gain. Then it took us an hour to go .15 miles downhill towards the next peak before we turned back. The 500 foot descent off of NE took us 12 minutes.
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Old 01-18-2019, 11:02 AM   #13
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You might be surprised at how difficult and slow winter bushwhacking can be. Last January it took me 2.5 hours of over-the-top effort to travel 400 yards on Avalanche Peak. And I was in really good shape having trained hard for 6 months.
The good thing about it though is you can turn around and easily retreat on your inbound track. Regarding the comments about rescues and rangers I think it's easier in winter to walk one's way into a dangerous situation following a trail than bushwhacking.

Asking a ranger about doing an off-trail winter hike is bound to illicit a very guarded response.
Reading the Ranger reports, it sounds like many winter rescues involve folks who lose the trail, and don't have the confidence or skills to continue and find the trail again, or are encountering conditions for which they are unprepared once they get up on the elevation.
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Old 01-18-2019, 01:41 PM   #14
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Reading the Ranger reports, it sounds like many winter rescues involve folks who lose the trail, and don't have the confidence or skills to continue and find the trail again, or are encountering conditions for which they are unprepared once they get up on the elevation.
Right, they were hiking trails, lost them and found themselves bushwhacking "by mistake". Above treeline in a whiteout with no discernible track to follow there are 360 degrees worth of turns to make but only 1 is correct.
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Old 01-18-2019, 03:47 PM   #15
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Depending on hiking trails for winter travel--iffy.
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Old 01-18-2019, 04:06 PM   #16
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Depending on hiking trails for winter travel--iffy.
That's probably what 99.9% of the hiking population does in the High Peaks. (I may have underestimated the percentage).
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Old 01-18-2019, 05:14 PM   #17
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Haven't done any ADK winter hikes. Finding white blazes in 4-5' base in the spruce/fir along the AT in NH. was a bear
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Old 01-19-2019, 12:35 PM   #18
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People forget the changes that snow makes to a landscape. The shots of the Fire tower and mountain top in "Winter Highs," taken by Joanne Kennedy, in the current Adirondack Life, offer a sense of how impossible it would be to find a trail much less a trail marker, after a big snow event.
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Old 01-20-2019, 04:08 PM   #19
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Weather or Not

Forecast says minus 16 tonight in Inlet. Not a good time to bushwhack or to even be out.
Throw another log on the fire.
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Old 01-31-2019, 01:27 PM   #20
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Ended up doing the bushwhack, but didn't get very far. Details in in the Trip Report section.
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