View Full Version : Spanked in the Sewards

12-29-2003, 09:17 AM
Somedays it's just not meant to be.

Headed off to pick Arm up at 5:00AM after Christmas. Packing was rough as I had not been home much due to hiking, work and the holidays. Took my recently used daypack from Iso, packed the rest of the gear in my winter pack, and put them on the sled (mistake #1). Off I went, happy to be finally hitting the ADK's.

Drive up was somewhat eventful. Took a wrong turn in Vermont causing us to go a few exits further to track across. Pulled a Honda out of a snow bank (love those Subarus!), and eventually pulled in to Saranac Lake, ready to hit the trail. Got a quick lunch, and drove to Corey's Road.

Passed by a group and asked them how far they were going. Lo and behold, I heard "Sherpa?" - It was HarryK with Nat, Jean, Melanie and Christopher. I expected them to be well on the trail as it was nearing 1:30. I told them that we'd see them shortly. Arm and I geared up, and were soon skiing off toward Blueberry Foot Trail. Things were going great!

On the way, we met a very unhappy HarryK returning due to severe blisters from his new boots. In typical fashion, while he was describing his feet, he was trying to hatch a plan to rejoin us on Sunday! I was not to know that my trip would be only marginally more successful than his. 70 minutes from the start, we were at the Trailhead, signed in, and continued the ski.

It was wet, rough, patchy, and after .7 miles, we bailed on the ski idea. I had switched to skins, but they iced up so badly that all I did was tire myself, and waste 30 minutes in getting them on and skiing with them. I realized the futility, switched over to snowshoes, wasting another 30 minutes, and realized that we would be much later to the shelter than expected. I was also drinking much less water than I should have, but didn't notice that I was getting dehydrated - too busy with all the other little details.

Blueberry Foot trail does not have much elevation gain - maybe 400 feet, but it is rough. With spotty snowpack, much open water, and lots of little PUDS, it may for a miserable sled pull. I alternated between walking through the puddles or righting my sled. After 10 turnovers or so, one of the arms broke (mistake #2 note to self: when Frodo and GO tell you to use metal conduit, listen to them!!!). This only made the sled a bit ornery. I found myself concentrating more on this than on how my body was feeling (mistake #3). By the time I reached Blueberry Pond (a couple of miles in), I was officially not having fun. I was very dehydrated, too foolish to stop and correct that, wanting only to get to the shelter and rest. My knee was throbbing, and slowing me down further. This is where I hit the first of 3 tough water crossings. I was very fortunate that Arm was there to help me across these - he's more patient than I would have been. Another 20 flips or so on the sled (remove sled, right sled, reposition belt, slog...), and I reached the worst of the crossings. It was fairly high, required a short bushwhack, and had the added bonus of needing to lift the sled over a tough blowdown after crossing the stream. In my state, I slipped in stepping into the stream, sled slid down over my leg, and I was in the stream on hands and knees being able to do little to get myself out for a few seconds. So now I was wet on the outside, and dehydrated inside - such a nice little combination! This is where I told Arm it was officially not fun. I've been on much harder hikes, gotten into worse jams, but have never said it's not fun. From there, I continued to slog, convincing myself that I could go a bit longer without much water (I had only consumed a liter - I normally would have done 3). The trip evolved into walking through the water, breaking off the ice on the snowshoes, walking 50 more feet and repeating. After only one more botched foot bridge crossing (sled just wouldn't pull right, pulling me down the bank), I got to the shelter at 9:45, 6 1/2 hours after I hit the trailhead!!! We set the tent up, and I was extermely happy to crawl into the bag and rest. About this time I realized that I would likely not attempt any summits on this trip - I had not listened to my body and was completely spent. As I lay in the bag, I felt like such an idiot, but knew that I had learned a lesson.

We woke on Saturday, and I felt better, but just moving the knee, I knew summits were out. I worked out as many options as I could, nearly settling on a Seymour climb, but deep down knowning I'd never make it. I finally told Arm that I was out, and he should join Jean and the gang. He also was spent (thanks largely to his helping me over the crossings), and since it was later than expected, was thinking Seymour. As it turned out, everyone was more tired than expected, Seymour was broken out, and they all decided to head out together. At about this time, Warren came back from Ward Brook (looking fresh and chipper), and decided to join them as the prospect of breaking Seward solo was not appealing. I was extremely happy that Arm's trip wouldn't be a bust. I got up, knew my decision was the right one as my knee gave out on the first step, and let Jean know what I had decided. As they headed off, I told them I'd have a nice fire ready for them when they returned. Although I was sad to stay behind, I knew it was the right thing to do. I started to clear the fireplace and table, and gather firewood, and realized how dehydrated I still was. The first load of firewood took me nearly an hour to gather, and as I looked at it I knew it was time to sit and drink (no, the rum would come later!). Over a liter later, I was feeling much better (the Ibuprofin was kicking in also). I had breakfast, got more wood, and soon MichaelM and Tracie (twargo) were coming up the trail. They were pumped, but rather surprised when they heard that everyone had gone up to Seymour. I explained that Seward was not broken, and the RT to the 3 was over a 12 hour day. He took this in, and without skipping a beat, said, ok, Seymour. A bit of funny repacking, (I finally told him that if he didn't leave soon, he'd put everything back into his pack), and off they went. By now I was feeling like myself (a little good and bad in that!). Finished the firewood gathering and sawing, set up the fire, slapped on the snowshoes, and off I went to Ward Brook.

About 5 minutes later, I realized what a great ski that would be! A combination of the bad knee and lateness of the day kept me from returning and switching over. It was a beautiful walk though open hardwoods, and the mile was done in about 30 leisurely minutes. I was just about to go further when I saw the first of the group returning from their successful Seymour climb. First 2 smiles, then 3 more, and then the last. A steep hike, with more gear failure (snowshoe - this trip grabbed it's share of victims!). We all headed back and settled in to a very nice evening of camaraderie and minor imbibing. The fire was a nice addition, and the wind cooperated by sending the smoke away from the shelter. We spent a lot more time around the fire, so my wood was depleted after about 4 hours, causing us to take turns heading out for more. We finally called it a night around 11:00, the latest I've ever stayed up on a winter camping trip - nice!

Woke up Sunday feeling great. I was a bit sad by not bagging any summits, but at least I will be able to claim some kind of satisfaction when I do get to my first ADK summit (you know what they say about anticipation!). I had a great breakfast, packed up and was nearly ready to leave. I asked Arm if he wanted me to head out, or stay to pack up the tent. Knowing my speed, he left it up to me. Off I went, and felt fantastic. I had positioned my 3 water bottles within easy access (see I DO learn), and setled into a routine of drinking every time I stopped, even if it was only for a second. I made it to the dreaded water crossing that I had fallen into, found it much lower, saw the best route across and made it over easily. I kept up a good pace, and continued the routine. The sled was still handling like a bear, but I tried to be careful in maneuvering it around trees, over blowdowns and across streams. Eventually, the second arm broke (I knew this would happen as all the stress was on it) on a downhill. If this had happend on Friday, I would have been defeated; today it was taken in stride. I eventually caught up to Warren who had passed me earlier, and knew I was doing better when he asked "did you speed up, or did I slow down?" We were at Blueberry Pond at that point, and what a nice area that is! Unfortunately, you can't go to the pond as it is on private property (it will take me a long time to get use to that aspect of tha ADK's). I could not keep his pace, and bid him good travel.

The sled arms continued to break until every last joint had cracked. Downhills were tough, but feeling better made all the difference. My knee only bothered me occasionally (thanks Michael!), and I soon made it to the summer trailhead at 2:30. What had taken me 6.5 hours on Friday took 3.5 on return. There is nearly as much elevation gain on return, so that certainly didn't factor into it. I just did things a lot better going out: I focused on proper hydration, kept my mind clear, used the right gear for the terrain (snowshoes over skis), and took time to enjoy my surroundings. A big lesson learned.

So, in a nutshell, my first ADK trip spanked me a good one. Partly trail conditions, but mostly foolish behavior on my part. I learned a few good lessons. I also learned that my idea of "trail" as relates to the Whites is different than the ADK's, and getting more local knowledge is extermely helpful. I still think a sled is a good idea, but snow cover is very key. On this trip, that was a great contributor to my early problems. A rough trip, with more failure than success, but I got out there, and I can't wait to et back again!

12-29-2003, 09:28 AM
Great Report Sherpa and as you tell me all the time, the mountains will be there and you'll be back with smiles for that first ADK peak before you know it. ADK Gathering here we come.


12-29-2003, 09:50 AM
Thanks for the trip report Sherpa! It's amazing how easy it is to become dehydrated in the winter. When I skied into Roaring Brook last February I also was dehydrated and a bit on the hyperthermic side. NOT FUN! Took a while to get warm and feel like myself.

Sometimes it's hard to say "enough" and not continue to any summits. But it often is the best decision. I had to do that for Katahdin. I was so spent after the ski to Roaring Brook and then the snowshoe into Chimney Pond, it would have been foolish for me to make a summit attempt. But Chimney Pond is an incredible place in the winter and it was great just to be there!

You'll get those ADK's - in fact, this trip will probably make that first summit even sweeter!

12-29-2003, 10:09 AM

Nice trip report. This shows that there is always something to be learned and new challenges to be faced.

Consider this the Adirondacks giving you your initiation right of passage. My first night ever in the Adirondacks last June, my food bag was taken out by a black bear. No food for the day, but I still got Haystack, Basin and Saddleback even under those circumstances. That was my way of welcoming the Adirondack's right back.


12-29-2003, 11:16 AM
Sherpa, a great report, it may become a classic. The ADK's have given me a couple of spankings too, including the worst dehydration I have ever experienced. Your lessons become our lessons..

12-29-2003, 11:26 AM
Glad the hear everybody made it out allright.
Our crew was back at the parking lot at 2PM. We were all relatively fresh except for Nat who had bad blisters on both feet. That last stretch from the summer trailhead sure felt a lot longer on the way out.

I exchanged email with Harry and he has already returned his new boots.

I haven't heard anything about Michael and Tracie. They should be working their way out has I'm writing this. I'm really curious to hear where they managed to bivy for the night up there.

All in all it was a great weekend with great company. Looking forward to seeing you all again in a few weeks at the Winter Gathering.

Trail Boss
12-29-2003, 11:36 AM
I've always found cold weather to be effective means of discovering weaknesses ... in mind, body, and equipment. If it can fail, it will. The School of Hard Knocks has nasty teachers but you never forget their lessons. I still remember mine! ;)

12-29-2003, 12:07 PM
Just confirmed that I can have a new binding (and spare) by the ADK gathering.

Though I'm out of work today from a really stiff, limpy knee from the slog out, I don't feel nearly as beaten down as my last two outings. Sharing the pain...

Great trip & gathering, bless the conditions that allowed me to walk out sans snowshoes without much pain at all.

Is anyone going to do a condition report on Seymor? Should I?

12-29-2003, 02:19 PM
Well, since I can't report on Seymour... ;)

Anyway, a pleasure meeting all of you, and sharing spirits with you! Though I was not able do much in terms of lists, I still had a great time. I feel great today, no after effects. Sled is in rougher shape (see pic).

I bought a new pair of the MSR Denali Evo Ascent snowshoes today with my Christmas cash. I've been assured that they are the strongest, lightest shoes out there, with a rock solid warranty. Hilton's was good to me (as a frequent customer), and I will get them Friday, in time for Sunday's Flume/Liberty climb. Best to get right back on the horse!

Jean, considering my performance in, my 3:30PM exit was not bad (starting right at 11:00). Took time to enjoy the scenery walking out (since I saw little at night walking in) and had a nice rest at the summer trailhead. I'll be back in form for the gathering. Hope you had an uneventful drive home (it took me just shy of 6 hours with a stop in Manchester)

12-29-2003, 02:39 PM
Warren, MichaelM, twargo, Jean, Arm, share a laugh and some brews (thanks to Arm) at the fire.

12-29-2003, 02:42 PM
Indeed, you made good time considering the state of the beast you were hauling.
Glad to see you are ready to get back on the horse.
You can always take some comfort in knowing that at least you made it to Blueberry leanto... which is a lot farter than a certain individual that shall remain nameless (I will only mention he has Gold member status). ;) ;)

Drive back was uneventful. Made a stop at the duty free and got bottles of Absolut vodka and Appleton rhum. I will spend the next couple of weeks experimenting to find the best jello combination to go with them for the Gathering. :D

12-29-2003, 02:48 PM
Oh, that poor beast. I'm in the process of building a new harness for my new sled, and I'm usingb wire instead of rope to avoid all the stretching problems that I had last time. I'm hoping it will keep the frame rigid enough to not have the problems you just encountered.

I still have to get a new hip belt...

12-29-2003, 02:54 PM
Jean, stay away from Lime and tequila. It does not go well with hiking!

The Beast will live again!

12-29-2003, 03:15 PM
I'm glad you all had a fun time regardless of a few set backs. All this talk about sleds is making me jealous.. I've never used one -- can't wait for the opportunity.

Sherpa... I'll be sure to get advise from you when I'm ready to give the old sled a shot.

And I can't wait for my first trip to the ADK... never been.

And Jean... look forward to those jello shots!! yummy!!


12-29-2003, 04:07 PM
Donna - my biggest advice about pulling a sled is to start working out your abs! I found pulling a sled to be quite a burn in my two experiences.

12-29-2003, 04:30 PM
Thanks MichaelJ. I do need more consistency on those sit-ups, this will be a good incentive.

12-29-2003, 09:01 PM

Thanks for the great trip report. Sorry, it didn't go as planned. But, you know what they say "Sometimes your the bug, somtimes your the windshield.". Least you were out there, which is more than I could say for myself.

Originally posted by SherpaKroto
I also learned that my idea of "trail" as relates to the Whites is different than the ADK's, and getting more local knowledge is extermely helpful. I still think a sled is a good idea, but snow cover is very key.

I've certainly found that to be the case. Us NYers have a odd definition of what a trail consists of. Had I known beforehand that you were gonna sled in, I would have suggested taking the "horse path" that runs roughly paralell to the foot path. It's a little harder trail (more ups and downs, and slightly longer) but probably much better suited for a sled (provided it's broken out too), since it primarly a horse path.

But take heart, compaired to the rest of the "herd paths" in the range, the blueberry foot path is a highway. That range whooped me (in fall no less) and is certainly one of the harder endevours in these fair woods.

Again, thanks for sharing. Good hikes with good people is always a ball.

12-29-2003, 09:17 PM
Tim, Those were my exact words to Jean and Warren. Always good when a trip goes from bad to better than from bad to worse. I definitely have not lost the war, just got whooped in a minor skirmish. I was glad to walk up to Ward to see what I was missing, and look forward to the next time.

Was at Home Depot tonight scouting out a new set of arms for the sled. Will need to think this one through a bit as I want the arms to pivot up and down independently, but still have good lateral support across the front of the sled. I've got this week to figure it out.

Dave, as always, thanks for the kind thoughts!

Doc McPeak
12-30-2003, 01:29 PM
Sherpa, great report, even better attitude, and what can I say but: Welcome to the Sewards-crushed-me-silly-Club!

My first experience in the Sewards was a solo odyssey that ended up with a trip report title: Drowned Rat Crusade in the Irascable Sewards.

Should make for some fun cocktail hour fodder in January!

ps. my 2nd trip to the Sewards was one of my all time favorite hikes. And for the gathering, muse about a MacIntyre traverse...

12-30-2003, 03:53 PM
Just a suggestion: on my sled (only used once, but worked very well) I used metal closet rods for the poles. Got these at Home Depot. They're about 1/2" diameter, 6-feet long, and painted white. I found them to be more rigid than metal conduit. I found it impossible to get my lateral support arrangement to work, and removed it in the field. Turned out better, as I was able to get better control over the sled without the support bars. This lack of lateral support made the harness attachment point more important, as it took a lot of stress. I got pretty good at steering the sled around corners by twisting my torso.

For end-caps to the closet rod I used PVC plumbing caps and duct-taped them in place (their ID is just a little bigger than the closet rod OD).

12-30-2003, 06:18 PM
Don't feel too bad.
It took us 3x or 4x to get Seward, Donaldson and Emmons over the course of 3 years.
There were only a few of us chasing the winter 46 at that time, no VFTT Trip Reports to announce what was broken out, and heavy trailbreaking was the norm, even on the "regular" peaks.
BTW, we think our small band of 3 or 4 were one of the first to establish Calkins Brook in winter as the alternative to going over Seward.
When we finally pulled it off, we sledded to the base of CB, shouldered packs, and established a high camp directly on the frozen brook at around 3,500'-3,600'. Did the 3 peaks the next day.

We ran into the legendary Dick Chrenko on our climbing day. He was soloing the peaks for one of his innumerable winter rounds.
Dick was an early winter 46er and one of the early exponents of light, fast and fit daytrips.

12-31-2003, 09:05 AM
Cornbread - thanks for the suggestion. I'm spending the afternoon at Home Depot so I'm sure I'll have it all worked out by the end of the day.

Peakbgr: I don't feel bad - I now have another excuse to go back!

Arm, yes a fine trip. The drive is a bit rough, but I had a blast (afte Friday). Interesting to see how fast the sled lost it once the first arm failed. This was trip #4, and it had worked well in the others.

ALGonquin Bob
01-01-2004, 11:07 AM
Great report, SK! The Sewards are tough any time of the year, and more so in poor winter conditions. I attempted that trail a couple weeks ago, and didn't get as far as you (I promised not to tell more than that!). So even after 33 ADK peaks, I'm still getting skunked sometimes. No trip is a failure if you are able to get out there and hike, slog, tramp, ski or climb in the great outdoors. My last attempt, however was a spectacular failure. "I'll be back". Give it another try when everything is frozen, and good luck! -ALG

01-01-2004, 01:27 PM
To anyone interested,here is the new improved "Beast2004" pivoting arm system. I think this will work well. The arms are able to pivot independently (they are not connected beneath the PVC pipe), yet maintain lateral stability. (Note: I may decide to replace the PVC center with metal pipe).

I'm hoping that simpler is better...

01-01-2004, 03:33 PM
Looks like a good modification.
What we use are lightweight bamboo poles, like you can get free at a carpet store.

Using1/4" nylon rope, you run them thru holes drilled in the bamboo and lashed to a small wooden plate you screw to the front of your KMart sled. You then rig up a small belt and lash the other end to the belt.

The poles are rigid enough to keep the sled from sliding into you on a downgrade and the rigging durable enough but flexible enough to really work. The poles and rope weigh next to nothing and even I can rig one..


01-01-2004, 05:12 PM
PeakBagr: My reason for wanting lateral stability is that I like to ski with the sled. WIthout the lateral stiffness, the sled goes back and forth behind me, somewhat uncontrolled. I'll agree that the first goal iso to keep the sled away from the feet. Second is to have it controlled side to side.

01-02-2004, 09:43 AM
Looks good Sherpa. Thanks for posting, it helps me prepare to tackle mine when I'm ready.