Ascent to MacNaughton Mountain-3775 on 2009-08-11

Climber: Alan Bangel

Others in Party:Alone
Date:Tuesday, August 11, 2009
Ascent Type:Unsuccessful - Turned Back
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Car
Point Reached:MacNaughton Mountain - 3775
    Location:USA-New York
    Elevation:3758 ft / 1145 m
    Remaining Elevation:225 ft / 69 m (9% left to go)

Ascent Trip Report

We are home, This is Monday 16, 2009 and we arrived from our vacation last night around 9:30PM. There is a lot to write so I will work on this until it is complete.

My original plan for the vacation included two hikes: one of MacNaughton(4000), and a hike of Algonquin(5112). MacNaughton is the only summit at 4000 ft that I have not climbed, it is not one of the 46 because originally it was not thought to be high enough, it is basically untrailed but may have a herd path on the Northern slope. I have gone up to the Adirondacks to climb this peak twice before and both times I was unable to reach the summit (I'll explain). Algonquin is the second highest peak in the Adirondacks with fabulous views in all directions. I had planned to re-climb this peak on my last visit to the area in 2004 but due to heavy rain when I was here I had to cancel the climb.

I have not taken the time to look up the dates of my attempts to climb MacNaughton but I will estimate when the attempts were done just to tell the story. I believe it was in 2002 when I first attempted the peak. I had gone up to the High Peaks Area and stayed at the new rest area located on Route 87 between the Newcomb and the Keene exits. They are new clean facilities and are about 40 minutes from the trailhead. I figured having a bathroom, water, etc. was a luxury compared to sleeping at the trailhead as I had done several times before. (This trailhead "Tahawus" is one of two Southern locations that access the High Peak area.) Sleeping in the van was difficult because of the lighting at the rest area. The next morning after morning rituals I was at the trailhead around 8:00AM. I was only 1/4 mile up the trail just past where a small wooded bridge passes over the early section of the Hudson River when I came upon a hiker lying just off the trail. Now I'm recounting this in a condensed form because there is a lot involved but he was unable to walk having some type of diabetic attack that had caused his legs to be useless. He had taken the regiment of meds he had, but had spent the night out in the rain without shelter, but for a light windbreaker. I attempted to lift and carry him out but could not get his bulk off of the ground, he could not support himself enough for me to get him into a firemen's carry. I gave him food and water and went back to my car to get help. Over the next two and a half hours I went into Newcomb located an emergency vehicle, convinced people this was real, and brought a nurse and driver back to the hiker. After stabilizing him, using an inflatable litter, the three of us carried the hiker back to the trailhead where he was finally sent out to the nearest facility down Route 87 to the Lake George area. Before the Ambulance left the hiker explained that he had been planning a five day trip into an area called the Flowed Lands and that he had gotten about two miles down the trail when he realized he was in trouble. He had abandoned his pack and taken his meds and a few essentials in a day pack and had attempted to get back to his car, a 1/4 mile form the trailhead and in the rain and pitch dark his legs had given out.
I went to the location he described, retrieved the pack, which weighed a ton, and left it by his locked car at the trailhead. Since it was so late in the day I had no hope of making the planned climb besides I was tired from all the activities of the day, so around 12:30PM I hiked the marked trail with the hope of locating a specific brook coming off of MacNaughton so I knew where to begin the next time I was going to try the climb. It is a long hike in about 5 miles and I finally found what I thought was the starting point and then hiked out. When I rechecked my maps I was sure I had not gone far enough and in fact had stopped short of the correct area by about 4 tenths of a mile.

The second attempt.
The next year 2003 I traveled up to the Adirondacks to complete this climb. I camped out at a friends in Indian Lake and in the AM headed up to the "Tahawus" area in the morning. With this attempt I planned to re-locate the starting point past where I had last stopped. It was a tough hike long and hot, I found the real starting point and began (to bushwhack)following the brook up between the Peak MacNaughton and a height of land which is a lesser peak to the East of MacNaughton. I followed the brook North switching between the rocks and the bank which ever seemed more negotiable. After about 1.5 hours I reached a huge patch of blow-down. The blow-down was part of the 1995 storm and a series of micro bursts that occurred in 1996 that brought down hundreds of acres of standing timber. The blow-down was so thick that I had to climb over the tops from tree to tree because below on the ground there was no visibility and it was to thick to get through. There were times I found myself fifteen to twenty feet above the forest floor as I tried to cross trees lying on top of trees on top of trees. I followed the sound of the brook as much as I could losing it occasionally until the blow-down ended and I had reached the upper exposed beginnings of the brook. On the ground I continued up until the water became less visible and you could still hear the slight rushing underground where the beginnings of the brook were located. Finally the brook was gone, I thought I was about 200 feet of so from the summit (I was probably more like double that). When I finally checked the time it was 3:00PM. I needed a way to mark my location and a way to find this area again, before moving to the summit. Because it was late and because I felt that I would not be able to re-trace my location and the brook that I had followed wisdom told me to give up the climb and return in the direction I had come. This was the first time it became obvious that I needed a GPS and that map and compass was not my forte in this dense wilderness. (I was to much an amateur and very uneasy out there on my own.) Though disappointed I found my way back and swore that next time I would be ready to finish this. As I recall the hike ended up being about 13.5 miles in total, but the work involved in bushwhacking was beyond anything I had done before.

August 11, 2009/temp in the high 70's
Always a bit uneasy about a hike of this magnitude, I was still itching to go. I was up at 6:00AM and on the road at 6:07. From Keene I had quite a ride to the trailhead and many surprises awaited me. I reached the trailhead at 7:30 after a trip of 54.6 miles. I had stopped at a Stewarts for coffee, a sandwich, and cookies. I was carrying 64oz of Power Ade and a bag of trail mix. During my planning of this trip I was somewhat overconfident. When I set up the waypoints in the GPS The brook that I planned to follow again, was not visible on the topographic maps (DVD) that I was using. so I did a best guess, based on past experience, as to where the point was located where it might cross the red trail. I figured since I now had a specific location to head for at the peak, I would be able to work around the general inaccuracy of the route marked, hey, I'd been there before. BIG DUMB MISTAKE.
In the years since I'd been there many changes had occurred. First of all and most noticeable was the rough dirt road which I had used for years as the approach to "Tahawus" was now paved, right to the parking area. Out-house had been re-dug and re-located and many of the old mining shacks had completely fallen down. The old Blast Furnace had been worked on and partially restored. I ate the cookies and drank the coffee in-route. At 7:56 I started out and at 8:40, 2 miles down the trail switched from the yellow to the red trail towards a place called Duck Hole, .6 miles on the red trail brought me to a new lean-to located at the end of Henderson Lake, built in 2005 people can now paddle in and stay instead of hiking in. (my old maps show this as private land and water so I never thought the public had access)

At 9:21 I left the lean-to and continued towards Duck Hole. Much of the trail after this point seems unfamiliar to me There is water where I don't remember it and the trail is routed around the left side and I recall going towards the right, in any case at 10:21 I start checking the GPS and I start to think I am getting close to the start of the bushwhack. At 10:30 I am beginning to feel tired already. At 10:52 I have reached a point that is close (1 tenth mile) from waypoint #1, the GPS it pointing at a right angle to the trail I am on, so even though I do not recognize anything in the area I decide to start the bushwhack towards the waypoint instead of keeping to the trail. SECOND AND WORST MISTAKE.
All I kept saying to myself was that none of this looks at all familiar. As I gained elevation the forest got thicker and thicker. The blow down of ten years ago had left a maze of downed rotting tree trunks and the availability of sun had caused millions of fir and spruce seedling to sprout in a thick matt shoulder high to about eight feet. I could see nothing all around me. Several times it got so thick that I could not move in any direction, couldn't even see where I had come from. At 1:57 at an elevation of 3206ft I was exhausted and pretty much lost. I had not come across the brook and the sound of it was lost in the sound of the wind and the movement of the trees. I started having doubts that I could find a route to the summit.

I had gained about 1000ft in 3 hours time. I made the decision again that at 3:00PM I would have to decide whether the peak was in my grasp or if I would have to turn around.
I pressed forward and took a reading on the summit of MacNaughton, I was far to the East almost a mile away, how could that be? As I traversed the side of the mountain I could finally see the peak and as I continued I actually located the brook, where I had to stop and pump water. I hadn't eaten and hadn't drank nearly as much as I should have. I was feeling slightly nauseous and had limited my stops in the hopes of finding a route through. Several hundred feet past the brook I started to locate herd paths that made movement easier and as I gained elevation I finally came out of the fir and balsam. At 2:43 I sat down exhausted and dog tired. I needed to eat something. Elevation reading was 3775 I tried to eat, and got almost half the sandwich down, dry-mouth and dehydration did not make eating easy. It was just after three and I thought about the 4 hours it had taken to get here and what I might hit on the way back. I have never had an unscheduled night out even though I carry equipment for one. I also would not want Chris to worry if I did not return as she expected. The last 225 ft could take me close to an hour to negotiate on this steep side of the peak. I'M GOING BACK.

I managed to re-locate the brook on the way down, 80% of the time I stayed with the brook but when it got to steep pitches or slippery footing I opted for a return to the bank. Each time on the bank put me back into dense blow-down. At exactly two hours from the start down I located the red trail going to Duck Hole. Out of curiousity I traveled up the trail in search of the brook I should have followed from the beginning. In just over one tenth of a mile I had located it. It was beginning to darken in the pass that I was in and I heard four crashes of thunder before I got my two bites chewed. It felt like an extremely long hike back and I reached the car at 7:42PM just after 8:00PM I was back on the road. (Over 2.5 hours to hike out.) I was back with Chris and the boys around 9:30 PM.
I did not eat a big dinner but had soup and drank often. My general condition was good but I still felt uncomfortable about eating too much. I was pleased with my condition the next day after 12 hours of recovery, my stomach was settled and I did not have any muscle ache. After this disaster I did not press Chris for a hike on Algonquin. I've rechecked the milage on my topo maps and I'm listing this as a 12 mile hike. It's unlikely that I will try this one again, even with all I've learned. To hike the peak from the North is a longer trail from the ADK Loj., and though there is very likely some herd path it is still a tough climb to the summit with even a longer hike back to the Loj. The few pictures I took will follow.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:2150 ft / 655 m
    Quality:7 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Bushwhack, Stream Ford, Scramble
    Weather:Hot, Calm, Clear
Generally good weather
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:2150 ft / 655 m
    Route:bushwhack from the South
    Start Trailhead:Tahawus parking lot  1608 ft / 490 m
Descent Statistics

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