Ascent of Seward Mountain on 2016-09-29

Climber: Greg Slayden

Other People:Solo Ascent
Date:Thursday, September 29, 2016
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Seward Mountain
    Location:USA-New York
    Elevation:4331 ft / 1320 m

Ascent Trip Report

Useful Info:

Doing Seward, Donaldson, and Emmons in one day is a hike of 15.7 miles with a gain of 3600 feet. The Calkins Brook herd path that leads to Donaldson is a more pleasant and less rugged route to the crest of the range, and I recommend avoiding the Ward Brook herd path on the north side of Seward--it is long, muddy, steep, and features sections of smooth slabs covered with running water. Doing a "T" shaped hike, using the Calkins Brook route for ascent and descent, will be the best option for most people who want to get all three peaks.

If you are not familiar with Adirondack herd paths, the ones on Seward are probably not the best introduction. They are easy to follow but extremely steep, rugged, and rough. Small cliff faces must be scaled, and eroded sections of roots and rocks are common. Hikers used to graded and maintained trails will have a learning curve. The starting point of both herd paths on Seward are marked by large cairns on the maintained trails.

My Hike:

I went up the Calkins Brook herd path to near Donaldson, went out and back to Emmons, and then northeast to Seward. For variety, I decided to descend the Ward Brook herd path down to near the Blueberry lean-to. This is a trip of 16.25 miles and 3500 vertical feet. But I stupidly left my jacket on top of Seward and didn't realize it until I was 500 feet down, so my trip back to get it made my total 17 miles and 4000 feet for the day.

I left the trailhead in the dark at 6:15 AM and my dim headlight batteries barely got me to the dawn. In the dark I missed the turnoff to the main trail to Blueberry lean-to, but it was for the best because the "horse trail" I took cut off a corner to the Calkins Brook Truck Trail that leads south. I found the Calkins Brook herd path at a big cairn, and it climbed up towards Donaldson at a reasonable grade, herd-path-wise.

I rested on top of Donaldson from 8:35 AM to 8:50 AM, Emmons from 9:30 to 9:45, Donaldson again from 10:30 to 10:45, and was atop Seward from 11:30 to 11:45. All the summits had small signs identifying them. Donaldson had the best views, the summit has a ledge looking south, and a short ways NE there is a side trail to a nice viewpoint to the north. Today was overcast but dry, overall cool and pleasant weather.

I met the first other human I saw all day while resting at Seward's forested summit. He was Don from Ithaca, doing a two-night trip from Blueberry lean-to with today his range traverse day.

I left Seward and plunged down the slippery slabs of the north herd path for a ways before realized I left my nice fleece jacket on the summit. If it has been later I the day, or if I had gone down much further, I might not have returned, but I bit the bullet and hiked back up, costing me almost an hour of time. Going up the north herd path is easier than going down, so if a loop hike is desired, doing it in the opposite direction from mine is likely best.

It was a long muddy slog down the herd path but it got easier once down low--the path stopped following the stream and I no longer had to hang on to trees while carefully downclimbing wet slabs. The path crossed the stream a couple of times and finally came out to the maintained trail. A few minutes later I took a good rest at the Blueberry lean-to.

Very shortly after starting up again I met the second other person of the day, a solo female backpacker headed in for the night--I relayed my route beta about Seward to her and even drew a map of the herd paths. Just as we parted, a pair of women hikers caught up to me, headed out as I was (from a trip to Seymour). We conversed briefly as we played tag on the long, mostly flat four miles out to the parking lot. As we neared the end I slowed down and the women passed me for good.

I arrived back at 4:20 PM, after a little over 10 hours on the trail--without my jacket snafu I would have taken about 9:15 total time, I estimate. After peeling off my disgustingly muddy clothes for a fresh set, I soon started my long drive south towards New York City.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:1100 ft / 335 m
    Total Elevation Loss:3262 ft / 993 m
    Round-Trip Distance:8.7 mi / 14 km
    Quality:5 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Unmaintained Trail, Mud/Swamp
    Gear Used:
    Weather:Pleasant, Breezy, Partly Cloudy
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:591 ft / 180 m
        Gain Breakdown:Net: 427 ft / 131 m; Extra: 164 ft / 49m
    Loss on way in:164 ft / 49 m
    Distance:0.6 mi / 1 km
    Route:S Herd Path
    Start Trailhead:Seward-Donaldson Path Low Pt  3904 ft / 1189 m
    Time:25 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Loss on way out:3098 ft / 944 m
        Loss Breakdown:Net: 2589 ft / 790 m; Extra: 509 ft / 155m
    Gain on way out:509 ft / 155 m
    Distance:8.1 mi / 13 km
    Route:NW Herd Path
    End Trailhead:Seward TH  1742 ft / 530 m
    Time:4 Hours 30 Minutes
Ascent Part of Trip: 2016 - Seward Range

Complete Trip Sequence:
1Donaldson Mountain2016-09-29 a2366 ft / 721 m
2Mount Emmons2016-09-29 b233 ft / 71 m
3Donaldson Mountain2016-09-29 c302 ft / 92 m
4Seward Mountain2016-09-29 d1100 ft / 335 m
Total Trip Gain: 4001 ft / 1219 m    Total Trip Loss: 4001 ft / 1219 m
GPS Data for Ascent/Trip

 GPS Waypoints - Hover or click to see name and lat/long
Peaks:  climbed and  unclimbed by Greg Slayden
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.

Download this GPS track as a GPX file

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