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Old 06-28-2011, 12:46 AM   #1
ADKeagle
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Mt. Marshall 6-25-11

I finally decided that if I ever want to complete the 46, I couldn't wait around for others to be able to hike with me every time. With this in mind, I set off on my first SOLO hike in the high peaks. I know there is associated risks with hiking alone, so I made sure to pack well and leave a detailed itinerary with my wife. On to the hike:

There was a chance of rain in the morning with the chance of rain increasing throughout the day. After 11:00 AM there was also chance of thunderstorms. With this in mind, I got up at 4:30 AM so that I could leave the Upper Works trailhead by 7:30 AM. The beginning of the hike in was uneventful... rain, rain, downpour, and more rain. The trail was flooded, muddy, and rocky.

I arrived at the Flowed Lands and started making my way towards Lake Colden. Long story short, due to erroneous information I had stuck in my head, I missed the herd path and continued almost to the Cold Brook Pass trail intersection. When my mistake was pointed out to me by a Ranger that I ran into, I felt like the biggest darn dummy you could imagine. Next time I'll recheck my map a little more often! (I am certain that I would have caught this mistake myself once I actually reached the Cold Brook pass trail) Turning around, I hoofed it back .8 mile or so.

Once I got my brain working, finding the start of the herd path was easy. I had noticed it the first time through and thought it was a path to a campsite or to the bank of the brook for water. Once I got going, following it was easy as well. Only once about halfway up I got sidetracked on what appeared to be a herd path going uphill away from Herbert Brook. After a short distance I realized that wasn't right and returned to the brook where I immediately picked it up again. This brook is absolutely beautiful, with many falls, cascades, and pools along the way. This was especially true today as the water was running extra hard due to the rain I'm sure. By 12:30 PM I had reached the top, and had soaking wet feet to show for it. By this time the rain had stopped and I had the summit all to myself. I sat for 30 minutes or so resting, munching, and preparing for the trip back down.

After changing my socks, I lined my boots with garbage bags to keep my feet dry for the trip back down. This was going well until I reached a spot where the herd path kinda leaps a small pool of water at the base of a rock. I lost my balance and fell into the water- banging my knee, soaking my camera, and filling my boots with water all at once. So much for my garbage bags Luckily, the rest of the trip down the herd path and back to the car was uneventful. I reached the Upper Works by 5PM and got into my waiting dry clothes for the ride home. Overall I had a great time and enjoyed my trip.

Since the hike, one thing that I've been thinking about is that I really do question the wisdom in leaving some of the High Peaks trail-less. It seems to me that damage and erosion could be controlled much easier by creating a designated trail and maintaining it. Certainly if a trail were created for this mountain it would be placed in a more durable location... such as away from the immediate banks of the brook. Thoughts anyone?

Anyway, thanks for reading!
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Old 06-28-2011, 06:28 AM   #2
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Generally speaking I prefer a compatible hiking companion and have soloed only 3 of the 46. Good thing you weren't injured on your fall. Peace and quiet of a solo is appreciated once in awhile but without conversation, I tend to conjure up worst case scenarios and that drives me nuts.
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Old 06-28-2011, 08:53 AM   #3
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Nice TR. Love the brutal honesty. Sorry to hear about the fall. It happens to most of us now and again.

I don't like to hike alone at all. I need conversation at least every few miles. I met a solo hiker doing to NTP over 20 days. To each there own.
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Old 06-28-2011, 09:20 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by ADKeagle View Post
Since the hike, one thing that I've been thinking about is that I really do question the wisdom in leaving some of the High Peaks trail-less. It seems to me that damage and erosion could be controlled much easier by creating a designated trail and maintaining it. Certainly if a trail were created for this mountain it would be placed in a more durable location... such as away from the immediate banks of the brook. Thoughts anyone?

Anyway, thanks for reading!
They're not trail-less anymore. I think they have a special designation such as "minimally maintained herdpath" or some such. Official maintenance does occur on these paths, but only enough to keep people from forming multiple herdpaths and subsequent erosion, which was one of the original problems (Nye Mt. comes to mind).

ADK 46er Trailmaster Pete Hickey weighed in on this subject in this old post:
I guess I should finish up that thing on trail construction. The next section will contain a bit about the history of the trails and the 'trailless' trails.

Who maintains them? The 46ers. Not the ADK. We signed an ANAR agreement with the DEC.

Now, the why about it.

Back in the 90's, when the UMP (Unit management Plan) was being hammered out, they set up a sub-committee, "The Trailless Peaks Committee". Its purpose was to recomend how the 'trailless peaks' should be maintained. The committee was made up of representatives from the DEC, ADK, 46ers, and the public.

Note that in this discussion, the term "trailless peaks" only refers to those of the 46 (plus MacNaughton).

Due to increased use, the conditions of the "trailless peaks" were getting pretty bad. While the herd paths were capable of carrying the traffic of the 70's and early 80's, they were unable to withstand the increasedd traffic. Multiple herd paths were developing in many places, and traffic in streams was causing significant erosion on the banks in high water. Note that by 'multiple herd paths', I am not talking about multiple routes to a summit. I'm talking a path splitting and rejoining itself a bit later.

The worst one was the case of Street and Nye. There were some people who beleived that the herd paths were making it too easy for people to get the 46, so they created numerous false paths to confuse the hiker. Indeed, this worked, because Street & Nye used to be the area of the most search and rescue operations coming out of the Loj.

There were some who wanted the paths to remain untouched; that they be as wild and raw as they could. There were others who wanted them to become trailed peaks. As usual, when there is a committee with oposing viewpoints, a compromise was made. Here is what the compromise was:

Each route to the trailless peaks will be reviewed and refurbished. IT will then receive MINIMUM maintenence. The purpose of the maintenence is to keep a single ecologically sound path. They will have minimal markings. The preferred method of keeping people on the trail, is by making it look more attractive than the alternatives. Maintenence is done, NOT for the convienience of the hiker, but to maintain a single path.

We visit and refurbish a peak, after which, a 'path adopter' is assigned to visit the peak, twice a year, performing minimal maintenence (if necessary)

The first peak we refurbished was Tabletop. The reason it was first is that it was short, close, easy, and would make a good test to see how things would work. Since it was a 'historical moment' there were quite a number of 46ers there, one from the ADK, and one from the DEC. That was back around '96 or '97. The ADK hasn't been involved since.

The next one on the agenda was Street & Nye. The DEC was anxious for us to close off the myriad of false paths to eliminate all the SAR. This was finished in '97 or '98. It changed Street & Nye from being a long confusing hike, to one of the easiest of the 'trailles peaks'.

Following that we did Marshall, Esther, Redfield, and Macomb. In the queue is Cliff and Gray. Cliff is waiting on APA aproval for a re-route, and Gray is having an environmental study done. The DEC would like us to work on the sewards next, because those paths are in bad shape. We don't want to do them until the queue gets unplugged. We planned the Cliff reroute several eyars ago, and there is a chance our flagging is gone by now, and we'll have to do that work again. We don't want that to happen again.


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Old 06-28-2011, 09:46 AM   #5
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There were numerous falls plus that one nasty fall where you hurt your knee?

You're not the only one who ever missed a trail or took a wrong turn in the Adirondacks. Coming down from Marshall this winter we ran ito 2 guys with big backpacks about 15 minutes from the beginning of the herd path and it turned out they thought they were heading to Lake Colden.
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Old 06-28-2011, 12:26 PM   #6
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Re: hiking alone- part of the trip planning was mitigating risk associated with hiking alone...picking a peak where there would likely be other people, picking a peak with a herd path known to be very good, and leaving detailed information about where and approximately how long I'd be gone. I enjoyed the alone portion of it, I didn't need to converse! Having said that, I certainly wouldn't choose a solo hike for an overnight or a mountain like Allen.

Dick - The herd path was maintained well, plenty of cairns and a pretty clear picture of where to go. I question whether or not the herd path should be abandoned for a trail in a different location since there are more durable surfaces the trail could be on. The herd path exists only where it is because over the years hikers have found it easier to follow the brook up to the top. Similar to what Pete said in your quote, maybe we should move the trail "for the convenience of the environment, not the hiker". There were sections where the brook was running down the herd path and where banks had to be stepped on and jumped off. These are huge eroding factors! Maybe I just caught it on an extremely wet day, and maybe the 46ers have chosen to keep the path where it is because the impact is already there. Just curious as to other peoples thoughts, thats all.

Neil - Too bad your comic relief wasn't present after the nasty fall, it might have saved me from having to say all those bad words! The truth is, I only passed Herbert Brook and headed on to Lake Colden because I wanted to see the dam.
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Old 06-28-2011, 05:16 PM   #7
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Posting one's mistakes is probably the most important and useful medium on this forum, good TR!
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Old 06-28-2011, 06:20 PM   #8
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Hiking alone is overrated as far as hypothetical danger goes. Like what possibly could happen to you? A popped blister? A bruised knee? Acute anxiety? A dislocated spine? (OK, I admit the last one is pretty serious)

(Insert Monty Python accent here) I been doin' it for decades now and I'm still 'ere aint I?
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Old 06-28-2011, 06:35 PM   #9
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Hiking alone is overrated as far as hypothetical danger goes. Like what possibly could happen to you? A popped blister? A bruised knee? Acute anxiety? A dislocated spine? (OK, I admit the last one is pretty serious)

(Insert Monty Python accent here) I been doin' it for decades now and I'm still 'ere aint I?
We're still working on an appropriate answer to that question.
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Old 07-09-2011, 07:19 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by ADKeagle View Post
due to erroneous information I had stuck in my head, I missed the herd path
I also had trouble finding the herdpath start to Marshall on my only try at it, and due to the shorter window of light in late December ended up turning back summit-less. We had skied up Avalanche Pass to Colden Dam from the Loj on that one.

If you're on Adirondacks High Peaks Forums, Altbark had an experience sort of like yours, on 5 July 2011...

http://www.adkhighpeaks.com/forums/s...ad.php?t=15225
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Old 07-10-2011, 09:34 PM   #11
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Just think, before there were herdpaths, no one had a problem finding the junction for the herdpath. They planned their route on the topo map, walked in, set their compasses on the right bearing, and climbed all day, hoping they would be able to reach the summit and canister. Sometimes, they didn't--and had to do it all over again for that coveted 46er patch.
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Old 07-11-2011, 12:12 PM   #12
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Nice TR eagle! We all learn from our mistakes and from those who have made them and were honest enough to post them here like you did. I have hiked 11 of the HPs solo. IMO, it can definitely be a test. One of my solo hikes was Mt. Colden the 1st weekend of May without any winter gear. Talk about a test. I called my wife from the summit and told her I would be home, but I didn't know when.

Regarding JoeC's comment- I only use topos and a compass, I don't even know how to use a GPS!
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