Ascent of Sawteeth on 2015-12-21

Climber: Michael Stonek

Other People:Solo Ascent
Only Party on Mountain
Date:Monday, December 21, 2015
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Car
    Location:USA-New York
    Elevation:4134 ft / 1260 m

Ascent Trip Report

Very long solo hike on very difficult terrain due to large icy areas for this first day of winter. It hadn't been very cold with little snow the fall season, so I wasn't expecting it to be too hard of a hike. Boy, was I wrong! It had snowed a couple of days before and then freezing rains made it all icy!

Also, it was howling winds at the top as I had never seen it in the Adirondacks before! Two things in my favour, though: it wasn't that cold so there was not much danger of frostbite and there wasn't going to be large exposure above tree line (like Marcy or Algonquin, for instance) for the mountains I was expecting to climb.

I slept in my car by the parking lot and started the hike pretty late: 8 AM from St Hubert's. There were a few other cars of hikers going in different directions. The initial walk on Lake Rd was pretty easy and I reached the Lower Ausable Lake Dam at 9:23 AM after 4.3 miles. At that point I followed the sign 'West River Trail, Gothics, Sawteeth, Rainbow Falls' over the wooden bridge. At that point the ascent became a little more steep but still not too tough.

I quickly reached the intersection with the Rainbow Falls. I had two choices for Sawteeth: the yellow trail (scenic route) or the shorter blue trail. I decided on the later. The climb was fairly gradual on a lightly snow covered ground. No micro spikes needed yet. I reached the T-intersection a little after 11 AM at 3,650 ft elevation. To the left was the yellow trail to Sawteeth and to the right the blue continued towards Gothics. The idea was to take yellow to the top of Sawteeth (half a mile) and then go back and take the blue again for one mile to Gothics, passing Pyramid along the way. That's what I did. I decided to put on the micro spikes and I was glad I did since the terrain got steeper and with a lot of ice. I made it to Sawteeth at 12:08 (elevation 4,181 ft), 6.1 miles from the start of the hike. On the descent I encountered the only other hikers I saw all day: 3 young girls climbing towards Sawteeth, all with bare shoes with no traction devices. I warned them about the icy conditions atop, to which they thanked me. I had no idea if they made it.

I got back on blue towards Gothics. First I reached Pyramid Mtn at 2:44 PM (elev. 4,580 ft). I could hear the wind howling but not much exposure yet. Both the climb and subsequent descent were very slow due to the steep icy rocks. The top of Gothics was above tree line and I felt like the wind was going to throw me off the mountain! Very scary! For a second I was disoriented without knowing where the trail went, but I quickly saw the yellow marking on a rock (thank god no snow yet to cover it!) so I followed it and soon I was going down under the protective cover of the trees.

At about 4 PM I was descending Gothics when I got to the intersection with I think was the yellow trail that would've taken me straight down to the Lake Rd. I wanted to take it and skip the remaining mountains I originally wanted to climb (Armstrong and both Jaws). I started climbing some ladder and then I realized I had to descend the cables section of Gothics, which was very exposed. With the wind howling very strongly I decided that wasn't going to be a very good idea, so I retraced my step and continued on the trail towards Armstrong instead.

By 4:30 it was getting dark, so I put my headlamps on. I reached the top of Armstrong at 4:52 (elev. 4,446 ft). The going was still very slow because of all the ice. It had started to rain and snow but the temps weren't that bad (mid 30s I believe). It took me almost 2.5 hours to do the one mile to the top of Upper Wolf Jaws (elev. 4,177 ft) because of the conditions. I started the descent at 7:15 PM; it was also difficult. I reached 3,500 ft at 9:42 PM and then I started the ascent towards Lower Wolf Jaws. At 10:07 PM I reached 3,744 ft elevation where a sign pointed towards the yellow trail on the left for half a mile to the top of Lower or the red to the right, the descent via the Wedge Brook trail. I decided to take the right and leave the top of the Upper Wolf Jaws for another time. I knew the descent from here was relatively easy from a climb I had done two summers before and that was the case.

The descent on red was uneventful. After a short while it came the blue trail towards the West River trail. I lost this trail soon afterwards but since I was continuing to descend, I didn't care. No more treacherous icy rocks at this point and the bushwhack wasn't too tough. It was after 1 AM by the time I made it back on Lake Rd and I was at the car at 2 AM on an empty parking lot.

The final tally was: 18.4 miles, 6,007 ft of elevation gain in 18 hours.

Summary Total Data
    Quality:8 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Road Hike, Maintained Trail, Snow on Ground, Exposed Scramble
    Gear Used:
Crampons, Ski Poles
    Weather:Drizzle, Cold, Extremely Windy, Overcast
Ascent Statistics
    Start Trailhead:Saint Hubert's  
Descent Statistics
Ascent Part of Trip: Lower Great Range

Complete Trip Sequence:
2Pyramid Peak2015-12-21 
4Armstrong Mountain2015-12-21 
5Upper Wolfjaw Mountain2015-12-21 
GPS Data for Ascent/Trip

 GPS Waypoints - Hover or click to see name and lat/long
Peaks:  climbed and  unclimbed by Michael Stonek
Click Here for a Full Screen Map
Note: GPS Tracks may not be accurate, and may not show the best route. Do not follow this route blindly. Conditions change frequently. Use of a GPS unit in the outdoors, even with a pre-loaded track, is no substitute for experience and good judgment. accepts NO responsibility or liability from use of this data.

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