Ascent of Sawteeth on 2015-08-24

Climber: Matthew Ledwith

Others in Party:Elizabeth Schou
Adam Schou
Date:Monday, August 24, 2015
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Carpool
    Location:USA-New York
    Elevation:4134 ft / 1260 m

Ascent Trip Report

Liz drove us from the rental house on Hulls Falls Road to the hike. We arrived at the St Hubert's Parking lot on Ausable Club Road at 8a. We walked up the road, past the perfectly manicured greens and spectacular views of the Ausable Club, towards the AMR gateway. Signing in at the Ranger's post we had a quick and pleasant chat with the young female ranger. We passed under the AMR gatway and continued down Lake Road. The road hike went on for four miles as we traveled parallel to the East Branch of the Ausable River. There were many trails branching off from road towards the Dix Range and the Great Range. We made great time down the road despite the heat.

Arriving at the Ausable Club boathouse, we took a right and descended the road towards the Lower Ausable Dam. It was at this moment we spotted an adolescent black bear crossing the river just below the dam and pedestrian bridge. It was amazing to be that close to the bear. Liz fumbled for her camera but I just watched him knowing to enjoy the fleeting moment. Once the bear had disappeared we crossed the bridge and took a break on the concrete wall of the spillway. Looking southwest across the Lower Ausable River is one of the most iconic views in the Adirondacks. The lake glittered in the sunlight while the Fish Hawk Cliffs and Indian Head rose steeply thousands of feet from the rocky southside of the lake and the sheer flank cliffs of Sawteeth rose even more impressively from the northside.

trail mile zero: At 9:50a we set out along the north shore of the lake along the Scenic Trail (yellow blaze) to Sawteeth. I had been told that this was the steepest trail in the ADK. It may very well be, but not initially. We made our way along the trail hewing close to the shoreline, picking over massive boulders from what must have been millenia worth of successive landslides. After half a mile we began climbing up, the trail attacking the base of the cliffs diagonally. We reached the first of six ledges at 10:47a and were able to take in the full scale of the Lower Ausable Lake.

The climbing grew more steep as the trail earned a series of breathtaking scenic ledges and sheer rock walls that had to climbed by ladders or manuevered to find the climbable chutes and scrambles. In a wooded section of the hike, Liz identified and tasted some Chanterelles (mushrooms) although they looked much like the poisonous ones. We finally crested the top ridge of the lake at 1:04p.

I was exhausted by the aggressive climb. I had climbed Mt Adams the day before in high heat and Mt Washington the week before. I sat down on the exposed trail with cliffs on one side and blueberry bushes on the other. Liz and I picked small mountain blueberries for about five minutes. I ate a palm full and drank copious amounts of water. Just as we began to hike down to the col between the crest and Sawteeth-southeast peak, we meet a friendly couple ascending who seemed to be quite astonished that we had climbed UP this trail from the lake. (All the people who we met on this hike we amazed that we hiked up the trail - this is not me bragging, its just to indicate how steep this trail really is)

We passed a spur to Marble Point but did not take it. The bottom of the col marked the boundary between private Adirondack Mountain Reserve land and public Adirondack High Peaks. Two and a half miles on the trail, after a short climb up to Sawteeth-southeast peak, we descended into Rifle Notch. We arrived at a trail junction for the trail to the Upper Ausable Lake Warden's Camp (red blaze) and the final stretch to the summit of Sawteeth (yellow blaze) at 1:48p. There was another series of ladders to the summit and at 1:50p we reached the summit. The views of the Great Range were spectacular. We tooks pictures, ate lunch, and spread Adam's ashes. At 3p, we left the summit and continued on the yellow blazed trail down the Sawteeth/Pyramind Notch. There were many great views of Pyramid Peak on this trail. At 3:30p, at the bottom of the notch, we took the Alfred W. Weld Trail (blue blaze) towards Rainbow Falls and the Lower Ausable Dam.

About forty minutes after leaving the trail junction, we began hearing but not seeing the Cascade Brook. It is aptly named because we could hear many small and medium sized waterfalls. At 4:38p, we came to an overlook of Rainbow Falls. This is the largest waterfall on the trail and spills over an exposed bedrock shelf dropping roughly 150 feet. After lingering for a bit, we reached the dam at 4:50p and took a longer break. The day had become blustery and there were strong winds coming off the lake. We ascended to the Lake Road and began walking out of the AMR.

We reached the parking lot at 6:18p and drove to the rental for a quick shower and a delicious dinner at the ADK Cafe in Keene - where we happened upon the nice couple from crest of the lake ridge.
Summary Total Data
    Elevation Gain:2850 ft / 869 m
    Distance:12.5 mi / 20.1 km
    Quality:9 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Road Hike, Maintained Trail, Unmaintained Trail, Scramble, Rock Climb
    Gear Used:
Ski Poles
    Weather:Hot, Calm, Partly Cloudy
Ascent Statistics
    Elevation Gain:2850 ft / 869 m
    Distance:6.7 mi / 10.8 km
    Route:Scenic Trail (yellow blaze)
    Trailhead:St Hubert's/AMR Gateway  1284 ft / 391 m
Descent Statistics
    Distance:5.8 mi / 9.3 km

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