Tuesday, January 15, 2008

3rd Time Is The Charm: Sunrise On Cascade Mountain

After 3 consecutive weekends of searching for a sunrise, I finally got one.

In my pursuit of sunrises, I am finally getting my fat ass in shape. After being in great shape to end the summer, my back was bothering me in October, nothing ever happened, but there is a feeling that anyone with disc issues knows, and I had it, causing me to put off my second 10 day paddling trip. It worked out because it rained torrentially for almost all 10 days.

I'm not a fair weather paddler or hiker, but 10 days of pouring rain is depressing, and even after my back was feeling like it wasn't an issue I bailed out and decided on work rather than waste a week.

Nevertheless, good intentions and excitement for winter turned to getting lazy as the winter was slow to arrive. Fitness is fleeting and once it's gone it's a pain in the butt to get it back. I'm going to venture to say, despite working out hard in November, by Jan 1st I was in the worst fitness I've ever been in.

So very slowly I am working my way into shape by chasing sunrises up some of the smaller Adirondack peaks, each one getting progressively harder (or easier if you look at it from a fitness standpoint).

Enough with the discussion of my seemingly 50 year old cardiovascular system, my weak muscles, and Krispy Kreme physique.

Sunday, I left home at 3:20am and got to the Cascade trail head at 4:55am.

After putting on my boots and gaiters, and making sure I didn't forget anything, I was on the trail by 5:20am.

I started to leave my snowshoes at the trail head, but since I took them I decided to wear them rather than lash them to my pack along with my 9lb tripod, and crampons. Big mistake! After about 2 minutes the trail turned to rock and mud. So I was forced to hike in the trees which was not too troublesome. The forest to Cascade is uniquely thin for the Adirondacks, and bushwhacking (albeit only meters from the trail) is relatively fast and unencumbered.

Walking on the frozen snow was like walking on styrofoam. No powder to be found in the Adirondacks after a week of record temps and rain.

At about 3000ft, approx 900 vertical feet from the trailhead, the snow coverage was more consistent and it was back on the trail full time. By 3500ft there was snow covering all of the ground for the first time.

The hike was under a star filled sky, which occasionally found me turning my headlamp off just to take in the starlight.

At about 3700ft there is a steep rock section which in a typical winter is covered with deep snow till the top of the slab where it is a sheet of 20* ice. Unfortunately, despite the great December, the mountains resemble early November rather than January.

At this point I removed my snowshoes, and put on my crampons, with the snow being rock hard and bulletproof, I ditched my snowshoes deep in the trees and hiked the rest of the way in crampons.

The summit of Cascade is a long fairly flat ridge, although somewhat slightly technical with a few scrambles to get to the high point. It's a typically non nondescript Adirondack summit that is often considered the easiest 4000 footer in the Adirondacks. It's not that Cascade is not a pretty summit, it actually reminds me of a mini Mount Mansfield when you come out of the scrub line on Sunset Ridge with the big expanse of exposed ridge, but it's not a conical summit like most people envision most summits to be.

What can't be minimized are the spectacular views which take in almost all of the 4000ft peaks.

I got to the summit at 7:15, although it's a bit deceiving as I wondered if stopping to photograph lower would have been better, I wasted a few minutes evaluating vantage points. For some reason I've always liked the views below the summit much better than on top.

After 45minutes up there, in what was an unusually windless day, and actually fairly warm in the sun, we headed down and I considered hiking to Porter Mountain about .7 miles further.

I started down the trail to Porter but about 5 minutes into it I turned around. Unfortunately while I felt great, my heels had blisters (feet need to get in shape too), and I decided to head down.

The hike out was uneventful. Other than of course the typical weekend hordes that hike to Cascades summit. The solitude of 5am starts suit me, but it's always nice to talk to a few people on the way down, and more so with the smug satisfaction of knowing it's around 8am and you are done with the day!!! In all about 12 people were hiking up on my way out.

There is no such thing as a bad day in the mountains, but it's occasionally nice to see the sun rise, to see blue in the sky, and to see a few feet in front of your face. What was sad was the drive home through the mountain passes. Typically filled with waist deep snow, frozen ponds, and ice covering the cliffs, which in turn are covered by ice climbers. Instead it looked like late fall or early spring. Had I been in a coma for the last few months, I'd have guessed it was November.

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1 comment:

  1. thats great!!! I think I will do Cascade when I'm up there, thanks for the photos and insight!
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