Ascent of Sawteeth on 2011-02-01

Climber: Jesse Quonce

Others in Party:Gregory Karl
Date:Tuesday, February 1, 2011
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Car
    Location:USA-New York
    Elevation:4134 ft / 1260 m

Ascent Trip Report

Very well written Trail Report of this hike submitted on the ADK High Peaks forum by my hiking partner for the day, Gregory Karl:

Jesse "The Body" Quonce was already there when I arrived in the AMR lot a couple of minutes after our 7AM meeting time. Within the first few minutes we confirmed Sawteeth as our primary destination and set off, snowshoes in hand, across the fiefdom of our local aristocrats and social betters—who, by the way, do a really marvelous job of keeping the roads clear. A flotilla of snowmobiles, hauling construction materials up to the boathouse, packed the surface to perfection and helped make the slog to the dam quick and easy.

The stark lines of the rock faces framing the lake were gauzed soft by a fine, steady shower of crystalline sugar snow. "What do you think: two or three inches by the time we're out?" "Sounds about right." "I hear there might be more later." "You don't say." (The dry understatement, given the coming blizzard, was Jesse's.) This would be the first time I had climbed Sawteeth by way of the Weld Trail—the other four(?) climbs had been up the Scenic Trail and down the Weld. Incidentally, any definition of "climbing Sawteeth" that has meaning for me necessarily entails passage on the via dentata of the Scenic Trail and over both summits. I mean seriously, a mountain named for its teeth shouldn't be assailed up and down its other end.

In the course of the easy and mindless ascent of the Weld Trail, Jesse and I discovered some truly odd biographical parallels. In a discussion beginning with the foibles of those shady, occult specialists known as allergists, we learned that each of our lives had been immeasurably improved by a representative of the aforementioned medical profession who possessed the perspicacity and good sense to see that our respective respiratory problems over the holidays were not due to the noisome, toxic chemical clouds our smoking relatives emitted into our air supply, but rather to the sinister spruce trees infiltrating our unsuspecting yuletide hearths. Yes folks, we were both deathly allergic to Christmas Trees! And they didn't even go to the same medical school! The prescription in both cases: hideous, if hygienic, aluminum Christmas-tree simulacra. But I digress . . .

We reached the summit around 11. (Is that correct oh putative type-specimen of corporeal splendifery? (That's your cue, Jesse.)) Jesse, who was on this summit for the first time, was inspired by views of the Great Range beset with snow squalls, its ledges and crevices limned black and white in the flat light. When I suggested the possibility of a return by the Scenic Trail, he, with full knowledge that we would be breaking trail the whole way over and down, jumped at the chance for adventure. And it was.

Jesse did most of the work. I did a fine exercising-hamster impression in the ascent of the south summit, but the real fun didn't begin until the plunge down the other side. In the spring, trail crews will be busy with the copious blowdown that taxed our route-finding faculties; Sometimes it was hard to tell which among multiple fallen trees obscured the trail. The steep and intricate route among the teeth, under shadow-hung cliffs, down chimneys and ladders (one of which had ice-cycles among its rungs), and along vertiginous traverses, punctuated by spectacular vistas from the high ledges, had us both enthralled. These were Jesse's first views of Upper Ausable Lake, some of the Colvin cliffs and Blake, and I envied the experience of fresh eyes.

The workaday narrative of the descent consisted largely of Jesse attempting to predict what might lurk under the various threatening mounds of snow over which we were destined to careen on our way down one of thirty hairy chutes and gullies. Would we be poked by roots or bruised by rocks? He would narrate on the way down: "Rock . . . rock! (ouch!) . . . tree. Ooh, that was a root I think." The snow was so fluffy and light that the impressive, personal-sized avalanches in which we slid failed to cushion us from the various obstacles. Despite these frequent, precipitous drops in elevation, the descent went on and on. Foot for foot, it was twice as tiring as the climb had been. On the other hand, it offered a lot of pure, kinesthetic pleasure—until the final leg.

That torturous final traverse, side-cutting at a tantalizing 100 feet above the lake on a trail that makes little sense in summer and is rendered imperceptible by deep snow was just more than we could tolerate. We dropped to the lake and shadowed the north shore on the lovely, thickly-blanketed ice. It took fifteen minutes for my right snowshoe to re-acquire its customary flatness after having been warped by hours of side-sloping. An Oreo break at the dam and then the surprisingly pleasant road descent into the gathering twilight. We got out without having to use headlamps but drove home in the dark after clearing snow and warming up.

Thanks Jesse. Sign me up for another adventure soon.
Summary Total Data
    Elevation Gain:2275 ft / 694 m
    Elevation Loss:2275 ft / 694 m
    Distance:13 mi / 20.9 km
    Route Conditions:
Road Hike, Maintained Trail, Snow on Ground
    Gear Used:
Ski Poles, Snowshoes
    Weather:Snowing, Cold, Calm, Low Clouds
Light snow (1-3 inches)
Ascent Statistics
    Elevation Gain:2275 ft / 694 m
    Distance:6.1 mi / 9.8 km
    Route:Weld Trail
    Trailhead:Ausable Club  1859 ft / 566 m
    Time Up:4 Hours 30 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Elevation Loss:2275 ft / 694 m
    Distance:6.9 mi / 11.1 km
    Route:Scenic Trail
    Trailhead:Ausable Club  1859 ft / 566 m
    Time Down:6 Hours 15 Minutes

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