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Old 01-25-2021, 08:10 AM   #21
Neil
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The pleasure of being out in the woods, far from the madding crowd, can be tempered by hours of frustratingly difficult and exhausting uphill swimming in deep and structureless powder snow. Without having any interest in notching up another 4k peak you might find, as you are bent over for the nth time, elbows on knees and chest heaving, that your will to continue is quickly eroding and you may begin to wonder what the point is.
Something completely different, remote and challenging, and probably right up your alley, would be to put together a loop that goes over a couple of passes.
Examples:

1-Loj-Indian Pass-Henderson Lake-Calamity Brook Trail-Lake Colden-Avalanche Pass.

2-Averyville Parking Area-Northville Placid Trail-Preston Ponds-Indian Pass-Loj. (there are probably shuttle options for getting between start and end points).

I've done several such loops in single 12-hour, non-winter day hikes so I would think with 1-2 nights you can do it. There are plenty of Lean-to's along the way. Aside from Loj-Indian Pass I doubt the trails will have seen any use at all this winter. The trails all have color-coded reflective plastic markers but they can be covered by snow. I would consider carrying a reliable device with the trails, from a reliable source, loaded into it. Just in case.

Another loop that will put hair on your chin is a circumnavigation of the Seward Range. I did it in spring in one and a half days, including a stretch of crotch-deep post-holing that lasted for about 2 hours. Once again, plenty of Lean-to's along the way. Some very remote feeling country.
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Old 01-25-2021, 09:11 AM   #22
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Quote:
you are bent over for the nth time, elbows on knees and chest heaving
My hiking companion says this is the reason I did not fully appreciate the view from Panther. :<) Summer day, 85F, third peak, sun two fingers above the horizon. THAT explains it...

arvinsmee - I was meeting a group to hike a smaller peak two winters ago. The plan was to meet at 9am. I live a bit away, so I went out the night before and hiked a few hours in under the stars, pitched the hammock, and hung out. Beautiful (I did file a hike plan so people knew what trail I was off of). I like your idea of a bit of skiing, a bit of snowshoeing, a bit of climbing...
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Old 01-25-2021, 10:31 AM   #23
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I second camping at Round Pond. The site near the Pond's outlet now has a full outhouse (since 2017) compliments of my son's Keene High School Senior Project! A short bushwack from the middle/end of Twin Pond (up to the left) reaches a nice open bump with views and passes through an area containing the most 1903 burnt relic stumps I've ever seen in one area...Other nice, short bushwacks from that site...
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Old 01-25-2021, 01:52 PM   #24
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Originally Posted by Festus View Post
I second camping at Round Pond. The site near the Pond's outlet now has a full outhouse (since 2017) compliments of my son's Keene High School Senior Project! A short bushwack from the middle/end of Twin Pond (up to the left) reaches a nice open bump with views and passes through an area containing the most 1903 burnt relic stumps I've ever seen in one area...Other nice, short bushwacks from that site...
Are you referring to the exposed rise to the east of Twin Pond, at (44.1210, -73.7285)? I added a gps tag for that, as well as the rise north of Round Pond at (44.1271, -73.7336). Both look like they'd be fun little jaunts and afford a nice view. There's also a higher slab at (44.1281, -73.7375) but it looks a little steep.

As the years accumulate, I've started to value flexibility in trip planning more and more. I used to mostly plan trips around a single main goal, now I often try to include as many highlights and variations as possible. This goes double for situations where conditions and weather can change radically, or I'm unfamiliar with the area and my abilities. It helps guard against the possibility of the trip being a bust, or the risk of being so laser focused on a single goal that safety and reason fall to the wayside.

For example, if I decided to do Dix from Elk Lake, I'd have a nice hike in, and probably a decent campsite, but if I failed to summit - or if the summit was obscured on the day I climbed, the trip would be sort of a bust. It's all or nothing. If I do Round Pond and Noonmark, I get to camp on a gorgeous pond, do some short bushwhacks to vistas, and hike a mountain with a great view. The best case scenario isn't as awesome as it is on Dix, but it's still a great trip even if I need to deviate from Plan A, or if the weather isn't cooperating on Saturday. It's the "diversify your bonds" approach to trip planning.

Neil - those pass loops are a great idea. I (like many others probably) tend to focus on the summits. I know there are tons of great views from Colden and Avalanche though, and I imagine Henderson as well as other spots along that loop.

tenderfoot - I do that all the time! I call myself "the advance party". It's also nice to get a little solo time before socializing. Helps you appreciate the both the quiet and the company
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Old 01-25-2021, 08:12 PM   #25
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I did the Indian Pass-Avalanche Pass loop with 2 friends over 5 days/4 nights in winter back in 2013. We started and ended at Upper Works, and spent one night each at the Wallface Lean-to, the Scott Clearing Lean-to, the Hudowalski Lean-to at Marcy Dam, and the Livingston Point Lean-to at Flowed Lands. We could've done this trip faster but we were also focusing on enjoying ourselves (and the views).

I will say though, that while most of this loop was broken out the Indian Pass section itself was not- and holy good god was it absolutely brutal in the winter with full overnight packs. The Wallface cliffs do get some traffic even in winter from climbers, but I think most them veer off the trail before the main climb into Indian Pass begins so there's never any real guarantee of a broken out trail through the pass itself. Not only did we have the normal steep ascent of the climb into the pass to deal with, but also incredibly deep snow- it was clear that no one had been through in days if not weeks. Also, some of the ladders were completely encased in flow ice, and we were forced to carefully scramble up on the ice/snow using the cleats from our snowshoes.

That was a short day distance wise- from the Wallface Lean-to to the Scott Clearing Lean-to- but it really did take us the full day to travel those few miles, we weren't just taking it easy that day like we were the rest of the trip. Every other stretch of the loop was a cakewalk in comparison.















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Old 01-25-2021, 09:37 PM   #26
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Great post. I, ahem, may have failed to mention that the final creek bed section ascending to IP from the Loj side is a bit (cough, cough) rough. The good news though is that it only entails about four hundred feet of elly gain.
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Old 02-09-2021, 08:41 PM   #27
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Follow up:

After seeing the weather report showing sustained winds of 10-20, gusts up to 30, and lows around zero, I decided to bail on the Noonmark plan. Considering that it was my first winter solo, I wanted to bivy, snow was 2-3’, and trails likely unbroken, it seemed like it would be difficult at best, and I’d probably have to limit my activities to stay safe. Instead I went to the Catskills.

I hiked up the Wittenberg trail from Woodland Campground, which was nice and broken, then took the Phoenicia-East Branch Trail, which was unbroken. That bit was pretty tough (I am definitely out of shape). I camped a bit off trail on a ridge about a mile from the junction. The snow was 3.5’ deep and I had to dig a giant hole to set up my bivy, which I was then stuck in because I didn’t want to put my snowshoes back on. But it was nice enough. Slept cozy in my zero degree bag and saw a low of 18 with light winds.

The next day I hiked back out the way I came, then down to the Terrace Mountain shelter, I had to break trail again most of the way. But the shelter was a nice change (don’t have to live in a snow hole!) and I was able to build a decent fire. It was windy that night, 10-20 mph, with lows around 5, but I was decently sheltered from the prevailing winds. I got a little chilly but was ok.

Hike out the next day the hike out was a breeze and super nice. Kinda bummed I didn’t hit any summits (it was snowing and totally cloudy the only full day I was out there) but oh well. I learned a lot:

- 5 degrees is probably my limit for enjoying bivy camping
- Bivy camping in deep snow sucks
- Shelters are nice in the winter!

I’m still really into this Noonmark plan, I might try next year with a buddy and a tent. Thanks again to everyone in the thread for all the helpful info!

Edit: I just checked the weather history for Keene, looks like Saturday saw a low of 16 and winds 5-15. Sunday's low was 5 with winds 5-15. Probably could have stuck with the plan, even though Sunday night would have been rough! Oh well, I know I made the right call based on the info I had at the time.
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Old 02-11-2021, 07:56 AM   #28
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How was the bivy with condensation? I've noticed that can be an issue- not too bad on shorter trips but for longer trips moisture buildup can be a real issue. When using a bivy I will often also use a vapor barrier liner inside the bag to prevent this.
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