Trip Report: DCUL Snags Seymour and Esther!

The original plan for this trip was to get Giant & Rocky Ridge (while camping at the base of Giant), followed by a day hike to Whiteface and Esther. However, after having some folks drop, I reached out to DOC and merged my group – Shenanigans, Scrapple & I – with his – Heavy D, Prius, & DOC. The plan was to bag the peaks in the Sewards range. 

Fast forward to the beginning of the trip: we are in Lake Placid on Friday, early afternoon. The area had received an inch and half of rain the prior day with a high of 40 degrees – unusual for the ADKs. I get a call from my in-laws telling me that Seward range hikers who went up to Calkins Brook had to turn around due to streams being flooded. Since our planned route doesn’t go to Calkins Brook, we decide to move forward, while being cautious of crossing streams running high and aware of a possibility of turning around. 

The roads to the trailhead are in good condition. A mile or two into the hike, we come across our first big stream crossing. We look around for spots to cross on, which was made tricky by the soft snow, but find one and make it over. We come across a few more crossings – none as challenging as the first one – and make it to our destination: Blueberry Shelter. DOC and Prius set up their tents, while the rest of the group take the shelter option. The stream nearby has a good water flow so we didn’t need to melt snow. I have a fun time playing with a Whitegas stove – my first time. We do our camping rituals – cook, eat, boil water – and turn in. It dropped down to approx 10 F that first night. 

The next day we start off, aiming for the Seward peaks. A mile or so in, we come to our first big stream crossing. Somehow, DOC, Prius, & Shenanigans make it across. But that snow is still soft and erodes, making it hard for the rest to cross. We decide it’s unsafe to proceed further and determine turning around would be a wise decision. In a crazy display, Prius chops a dead tree branch with his ice axe, helping create a bridge for the folks across to cross back. We hike back to Ward Brook trail junction. We check our maps and since Seymour didn’t appear to require stream crossings, we decide to go for Seymour instead. A couple of day hikers ahead of us pack the trail down, making the hike easier on us. Nonetheless, the trail is very steep for a mile or so. Eventually, we spread out and make it to the top, with varying degrees of success at catching a view. Heavy D has some challenges with his gear, falls behind the group, and agrees to save the peak for another day. 

Back at camp, Prius bakes fresh pancakes for the group. Yes, he brought pancake mix, butter, a small, but heavy cast iron skillet, & chocolate chips. The pancakes are delicious! Thats him giving some serious contention to EZ-Bake. We discuss options for Sunday. Instead of re-attempting the Sewards, we decide to hike out early and instead aim for Whiteface and Esther. We wake up next morning to bone chilling minus 10 temps.  We hike out successfully, noting the receded streams and the ease of crossing them, compared to when we hiked in. 

After a longer than expected stop, we make it to the Wilmington Reservoir trailhead and saddle up for the day hike to Whiteface & Esther (in retrospect, we learned that Marble Mtn trailhead is a much better, direct approach). The temps had surged to a mind blowing 30 F and it feels really hot climbing in that hot sun. Pretty soon, we realize that both peaks won’t be feasible given our late start and decide to focus on Esther only, with the hikers narrowed down to Prius, Shenanigans and I. We make steady progress through the steep sections. At the Whiteface/Esther junction, we feel the strong 30-50 mph wind gusts and add the extra layers on. The hike to Esther is a mile long, but with a little amount of elevation gain and loss. We make it and don’t linger around for long due to the gusts. Hiking back, we make much faster time on the steep section going downhill. Eventually, we get back to cars. Success! We celebrate with U-turn, Shuttle & Marika in Lake Placid and stop in Queensbury overnight, before making the drive back to DC the following day. We make sure to do the mandatory post-ADK dosa stop in Edison – yum!

Overall, given the cards we were dealt, I was satisfied about what we got. The group did an amazing job of handling cold weather and brought the right gear in preparation. I did note a couple of things that could have gone better and think it will be helpful to mention for future ADK trip planners: 

  • Knowing how to put on footing gear efficiently and properly: We don’t hike to the ADKs every weekend, and probably put on our snowshoes/crampons on an occasion or two every year. It is highly important to know this well and practice before being on the trip, to ensure you won’t rely on someone else. You can’t get in the field experience by practicing at home, of course, but even that can still be very helpful (as an example, my crampons came off twice during the trip, without me even noticing the first time. Thankfully, I was able to retrace my path and find them!). 
  • Being ready at a predetermined time: Another important thing when you are out there in minus 10F weather, is to ensure to stick to camp departure time as much as possible to help keep the group together and not have someone waiting in the cold by themselves. 

DCUL Photos Album Link: https://photos.app.goo.gl/q3WqPujXY67h9wMz5

B.A.

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