Ascent of Phelps Mountain on 2016-01-10
|Other People:||Solo Ascent|
|Date:||Sunday, January 10, 2016|
|Ascent Type:||Successful Summit Attained|
| Location:||USA-New York|
| Elevation:||4160 ft / 1267 m|
Ascent Trip ReportMarcy Group + McIntyre range: major fail (2016/01/10 - 2h39pm)
Now sunday, I went to Noon Mark Diner and ate a bit. I was eating cold bread, shewing from a big block of cheese, devouring chips and drinking coke while driving so it was nice to have hot and real food. It is sunday and I had planned a dream loop for today, but the rain was too strong and I feared major flooding. Around 3pm I went to the lodge and talked with the guy at the desk. The first thing he told me when he saw my map is “please, don’t do that”, pointing at the Iroquois-Marshall bushwhack, they want to protect new plant growth.
I had looked everywhere on info about this and was even ready to tackle it at night, but I sucked it up and was fine with changing plans and adding the trails around. The loop started from the lodge, went through Algonquin to Marshall, then headed to Cliff/Redfield, then Gray/Skylight to Colden and finally back with TT and Phelps. This time I brought the map with split times and fallback routes all planned. TrailBum had approved and warned me about the dangers of the bushwhack. Back at the lodge, the guy was knowledgeable of the area and also warned that things would be flooded. Redfield would be horrible especially, but I might not even be able to cross Indian Falls. Then he told me not to bring snowshoes and it made sense.
The master plan with exact bushwhack blurred, some splits and missing distances in red and escape routes in blue. Street and Nye were added as bonus in case it would too easy.
So I left late about 40 minutes after a pretty fast group of 13 left for Phelps. I wanted to be safe so packed a bit heavier with a big down coat, down pants and synthetic jacket in case I fell in completely water. I could have survived a night at 0F with all this gear, full body goretex type hardshell and heavy down isolation. 18 pounds total.
I wanted to start with the McIntyre range first and hit the bushwhack in light, but it was too late now and without the bushwhack to do anymore I thought it would be much more productive to hit the east side first. It wasn’t dark yet, but took my headlamp, dropped my pack at the base of Phelps and started climbing. Another dump of rain started. Midway I see a flash and thought my headlamp had ran out of batteries... then the thunder cracked powerfully. It was close, I hoped it didn’t hit the group. I crossed them around ¾ up the climb and then again coming back down at the junction. We had our headlamps on by now.. I chatted with them and they were going to do the 5 mountains in the LGR the next day. I told them about my plan, but also that chances it might fail were big!
It wasn’t too cold, but I have raynaud’s syndrome and my gloves were wet and hands already frozen so the ice axe had to go back on the pack. Somehow my eVent over mits were letting all water in. I removed them and started drying the thin gloves I was wearing, swapping with another pair tucked directly on my thighs. When rain started again, I’d tuck my hands under my pants. This is the only way I can keep my hands warm and it works well.
The new sign to TableTop is nice and the trail was marked with plenty of blue ribbons. I dropped my pack and again the climb went well, until I started postholing. I remembered that TT goes through a stream because I was postholing through the thick layer of snow and continuing in ankle deep water. This went on like this starting from ¾ of the climb and went worse on the flat area higher up where water had pooled everywhere. I wished I had snowshoes it was nasty. Coming back I couldn’t even run, since the foot strikes would posthole. Back down I was still on time, now 3h in and feeling great. But the trouble started minutes later at the Phelps Brook.
Water level was high and over all rocks. I tried crossing over what seemed mounds of ice only to go through them and fall over knee deep water. My feet were frozen, but continuing on dry snow they heated up again. So there I went on and started postholing in water pretty fast and had to ford Indian Falls. I was determined to get to higher grounds. I had backups and could cut my safety blanket to make hotter foot bags if needed.
But the nearer I got to Lake Arnold, the more water there was and the deeper I was postholing. Until I got to the junction and what a horror there. There were no trails anymore, just streams of water flowing over a mix of snow and ice. I wanted to take pictures, but there was nowhere I could stand still without freezing to get my cellphone out of its bag. I didn’t bring my camera wanting to have full focus on the hike. I crossed the junction with water thigh deep. Water was flowing over the snow bed, so I was walking through a water stream, then postholing in snow and then ending up in the actual stream underneath. I went on farther and it was getting worse until I thought that this whole thing was nuts and came back, forded the junction stream again and left the area. Then I thought a bit. I just couldn’t leave like this. Picked my strength together and came back to the junction, forded the streams and started climbing the deep streaming trail and tried to ignore my freezing feet.
Top left: Not obivous from the picture, but this is water streaming over snowpack, over water stream. Any step outside postholed too.
Bottom left: Avalanche to lake Arnold junction
Right: Postholing deep in water
I did a couple of abandoning and fighting back, decided to take another trail up Colden and all of a sudden it was over. I had to stop this madness, I was ready to suffer but not to take unnecessary risks in conditions I’m not equipped to deal with. I’m not here to have fun, but I’m not here for epics either. It was heart breaking to leave the plan like this. I thought about every alternatives and going to avalanche pass or take the Van Hoevenberg trail to Marcy, but I’d risk getting to more floods and wasting time, energy and taking risks. I decided to head back to the car, get some good sleep and go for Giant the next day. I was feeling calm, put on my synthetic jacket and walked back slowly under snow, hail and rain, heating the hands on my thighs. Adrenalin ceased and I felt how tired I was.
Went to Noon Mark Diner again, but it was closed. Posted a trip report, then went to Stewart and got bananas and chips. It was 11:30pm, went to sleep at St-Hubert and didn’t put an alarm to wake up.
Back at the car, my socks were a bit wet and most of my clothes dry except for my gloves. My pack contents were all dry too. My feet were freezing back in the water because of conduction and the boots were soaking wet. I realised the mitts weren’t seam sealed and water was sliding in from my hardshell. I wish I knew how to deal with this kind of weather, the good thing is that I felt in control the whole time and this is why it was hard to leave the scene this way. I’ll have to research and experiment more. Maybe if I had my bivy and quilt I could have slept it out until it froze and continued later in nice icy conditions.
15.6miles, 7h30, 5120ft
|Summary Total Data|
| Route Conditions:||Maintained Trail|
| Gear Used:||Ice Axe, Crampons|
|GPS Data for Ascent/Trip|
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Peaks: climbed and unclimbed by Richard Hachem
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