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Hikerick
03-09-2004, 10:09 PM
Dark and ominous, she loomed above the surrounding countryside, visible only occasionally through the rising mist. Shrouded in clouds and snow, her summit remained hidden, as though expressing her desire to remain inaccessible. Far below, in her shadow, four lowly hikers marched toward her in the early morning hours, hidden under the canopy of spruce that sprawled all around her, and, indeed, crept up her shoulders into the clouds. They could not see her, yet they were acutely aware of her presence. Her name was Allen Mountain.

At this time of year, the condition of the snow could make all the difference between success and failure for the four hikers. Today they were fortunate, for the temperature remained below freezing, which kept the base of the trail firm and manageable. These were seasoned hikers. Men who knew the risks they were taking, and welcomed the challenge to ascend the formidable Allen.

From an early morning start from the trailhead, the men were talkative and cheerful, their spirits up as they looked forward to the challenge of the day. The walk in the woods in the approach to Allen seemed to pass quickly on the trail, their spirits not at all dampened by the falling snow, although the same could not be said for their bodies. The trail meandered around small lakes, passed lazy streams, through spruce and deciduous forest, along old and abandoned logging roads, and through open fields, until it reached the half-way mark. At this point, the route to Allen left the marked and maintained trail, and veered off into the woods, stilled marked, but more crudely, by the owners of these woods, who did so not so much over concern for the safety of hikers as for the reduction in their liability insurance premium.

The terrain became more rugged as it loped up and over small rises, and through more densely packed trees. The path was still easy to follow, and the hikers hardly noticed the increase in difficulty due to their anticipation as they neared the base of the mountain. Several hours had passed, and they were making good time in their endeavor.

The woods opened without warning, and the hikers found themselves at a sizeable stream. The Upper Twin Brook was still mostly frozen, and was not difficult to cross, but showed signs that a few warmer days could leave her surface exposed. Back into the woods the hikers plunged, and soon found themselves at another stream--Skylight Brook--in much the same condition as the Upper Twin Brook. Here, the ascent grew from easy to moderate as they followed the east bank of Skylight Brook, and hardly noticed when they turned to follow the Allen Brook tributary that fed the Skylight Brook.

Suddenly, they spotted a wild North American Inge. There had been no other wildlife out and about on this snowy winter day, yet they were not surprised, for they had seen her tracks earlier in the day, before the tracks had filled in with freshly fallen snow. The Inge was friendly, and greeted them with smiles and pleasantries. The Inge did not stay long, but when she left, they all felt encouraged.

Gradually the grade became more and more steep as the four hikers picked their way up the slope. Each step became a challenge as one foot could slide back in the snow as the other was raised to step forward. Steep patches of ice provided opportunities to test the strength of the crampons fastened to the bottom of their snowshoes. Slowly, they plodded up the slope, coming out onto a slide, where now they could look out across the valley to the facing peaks. Other mountains, that loomed in the distance, seeming to acknowledge Allen and encouraging her to cast off the intruders. But the hikers remained undaunted, focused on the goal. The summit, so close now, was only minutes away.

At the top of the slide they found themselves back in the woods, and presently at the top of the ridge, where the grade lessened considerably. A short walk along the ridge, and they found themselves on the summit. A sign proclaimed the name of the mountain, the man-made object seeming almost out of place at a location so far distant from civilization. The jubilant hikers exchanged high-fives, candy, and gulps of Gatorade in their celebration, remembering to snap a few photographs to preserve the victory for posterity. The summit stay was brief, for the soaked and wear climbers knew the long hike out still remained before them, perhaps an even greater mental challenge than the climb was of a physical test. But this was not the time for discouragement, for they were still basking in the euphoria of victory. They had taken on the Allen challenge, and had won!

A few steps off the summit, and the travelers found themselves back at the top of the slide they had climbed not long ago. With shouts of exhilaration they launched, one by one, down the slide, allowing gravity to propel them downward while in a sitting position, snowshoes out in front to use for steering on the steep slope. For a few moments, each felt as though he had reverted to his childhood, remembering the thrills that came with the all-to-infrequent sledding trips down slopes half the grade of this one, but magnified by the youthful memory. The thrill was short-lived, but greatly appreciated, as it reduced the time of their descent to less than half of the time it took to go the other way.

The four men reached the base of the mountain, and settled into the pace for the hike out. The ecstasy of victory now past, the wet and tired hikers changed their focus from the grand victory to simple survival. Stay warm. Keep moving. Get back to civilization, where modern technology could once again provide the comfort so lacking in this remote wilderness.

The hours dragged past. One foot dropped in front of the other, each step representing minute progress toward the end of the ordeal. Stretches of trail that had seemed so brief on the way in now felt like a series of marathons. The lingering afternoon brought a fresh return of the snowfall, so that their tracks from earlier in the day became obliterated, stealing the small amount of hope provide by the familiarity of their own footprints.

The daylight gradually faded until there seemed to be no light left. High above in the sky shone a full moon, but this provided no comfort to the travelers, for they could not see it. Indeed, they could not even benefit from its light, for it was completely shielded by the clouds--the clouds that continued to blanket them with a wet snow. Each hiker switched on his headlamp to illuminate the path before him. It seemed as though all around them the woods were lost in an inky blackness, and now they had become little fireflies, just trying to find their way through the encompassing darkness.

Suddenly, the snowy path changed to wooden boards! They were on a low bridge over a lake--a landmark that lifted their spirits. This was an indication that the parking lot was not far away. Over the lake, back into the woods, and before long another bridge--this one higher off the water, suspended by cables, with metal mesh for footing. The home stretch! Just a brief quarter-mile, and there stood the cars--the cars that represented safety. Safety. Warmth. Rest. The ordeal had ended. Allen Mountain could now be gratefully added to the family of Adirondack mountains successfully climbed in winter.

Willie
03-11-2004, 02:00 PM
Excellent trip report, Hickerick. But, Allen the Family ... please! When did you come up with that one? Perhaps while you were on the trail, after many hours of hiking, and possibly hypothermic?:D:D:D

Doc McPeak
03-11-2004, 04:00 PM
So that was the theme song I heard you humming? I think we were all as grumpy as Archie Bunker by the end of that one...

... except for the bootie-luge time trials :D

Pvon
03-11-2004, 07:07 PM
P.. L.. L.. L..E.. E.. Z.. E.......ALL EN THE FAMILY!!!!

great report hikerick. so you resorted to singing songs as your delirium increased. I just plain go into a stupor.

When I climbed Allen on Sunday with Michael he just busted my butt. I made the mistake of telling him if we completed the hike in 10.5 hours we'd be doing great. That combined with him hearing Pin Pin Junior remarking he'd finish in 7.5 hours meant for one fast day. I'd never hiked a mountain like I did that day. So much for hiking with a 24 hour adventure racer.

My ankles are still bothering me four days after that hike because of the lousy trail condition we experienced after saturday's hikers post holed their way to the summit.

pvon
Happy Trails

Hikerick
03-11-2004, 10:05 PM
. . . . Those were the days!

So, the title was a little corny, but I earned that right on Monday!!!

Pvon, the wild North American Inge claimed to have completed the hike that day in 7:25 (to show that she beat Pin-Pin). I can only dream of keeping that kind of pace.

Speaking of dreaming, it's time to sleep . . . .

Whiteman
03-11-2004, 10:50 PM
As the one who holds, I believe, the record for Longest Trek on Allen This Winter, I am sensitive to the times being posted for this adventure. I have never met Inge or PinPin, though I hope to, and I am mighty impressed with their accomplishments (and I by no means mean to diminish the accomplishments of us others, we mere mortals), but I feel compelled to point out, as amazing to me as it is that Inge did this in 7:24, that PinPin claimed 7:09 in his 3/7/04 trip report. The 7:30 in his report was his start time .

I also note that the moonlight and starlight for the ramble past Sally Pond and Jimmy Pond was ultra-soothing for the soul, and whatever animal it was that was screeching at me in the distance as I wandered alone did not concern me in the least!

-David