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Thread: Sawtooth #3 05-11-06

  1. #1
    Senior Member Neil's Avatar
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    Sawtooth #3 05-11-06

    My confidence was bolstered by a relatively easy day (by Sawtooth Range standards) on ST4 so I studied a route for my one remaining Sawtooth of the five that are on the ADK HH list from the Averyville rd. Last February, while almost back to the beaver pond from ST2 this winter Randomscooter pointed upslope and said that was the beginning of a “shortcut” to ST3. He hadn’t travelled the route but he said it looked not too bad on Topo! And indeed it doesn’t look all that bad when your sitting in your chair at home with a cold brew.

    I’m on a map and compass kick and so I made a route with 10 “checkpoints” that did double duty as waypoints once I had loaded them into my gps. I had brought along the gps for backup and in order to record a tracklog. I sent the route to Nessmuk for any comments he would care to make and he emailed 2 pages of analysis which, once in the field, proved to be particularly helpful.

    Once past the beaver dam that lays to the south of the Pine Pond Road we (myself and Doug Hillman) continued for only a short ways on the old woods road before heading off into the bush. We climbed up a moderate slope on a bearing for about 15 minutes before I was completely disoriented . Stopping and checking the map made me realize that we hadn’t left the woods road where I though we would and so my checkpoint #1 was off. We had no visuals at all so we just followed the compass bearing figuring we couldn’t really go too wrong.

    Sure enough, before long we could see the 2 hills we were proceeding between and I was able to triangulate our position. Eventually, we got to checkpoint 2, made a course adjustment, hit checkpoint 3, another adjustment….basically playing a game of pinball, bouncing from checkpoint to checkpoint as we headed in a southerly direction. By playing attention to little details like the slope of the land and sighting on the big knob 1032 to our east, watching the time and using the altimeter we almost always knew where we were. I cheated and took a peak at the gps at checkpoint 4 and we were 50 meters north of it.

    The going was easy all the way. Open forests with all of last years plantlife laying flat like a brown carpet. Gentle slopes. We were making excellent time. The first real ascent was an 800 foot climb up to the saddle that lies to the east of Sawtooth#1. The climb was nice and open but with many a femur eating hole. On our return, we would have to be real careful descending that section.

    So far, this was looking like a super route into ST3.

    We found an outcrop and got our first views of 3 a scant 2½ klicks away. We had about a 500 foot drop to a big open marsh and the going was decidedly thicker. Nothing horrendous but pretty thick all the same. We had great views up to our objective from the marsh and then the final push began. It started out pretty thick and now we were doing a lot of zigzagging looking for clear channels and avoiding blowdown. Then it got thicker, and thicker and finally got to the point where nearly every meter of progress was a separate problem to be solved. My arms were working harder than my legs. It was heartbreakingly thick. Every once in a while we would get lucky and walk 6 easy feet along the base of a root system of a fallen tree. I started using the gps to check our progress and it was even more demoralizing to see how slowly the distance decreased. Time was passing rapidly and we committed ourselves to exiting via the Northville Placid Trail.

    Surrounded by the worst conifer jungle I’ve ever been in, committed to getting up and over the mountain as the turnaround time came and went and wondering what the descent held in store for us was a rather anxiety provoking set of circumstances. Getting to within 300 meters was a milestone but it might as well have been 3000. Finally, we made the ridge that runs from the col (between 3 and its little sub-summit) to the summit. Looking at this final section on the map makes it look fairly benign but it sure kicked our butts. If I was to make a return trip I would try the last section from the marsh about 500 meters further east and then go up the ridge.

    The last 50 feet is blowdown hell up there but we finally made it. There were no views that I could see from the summit but on the final approach we could see from our ST1 saddle around past ST1 to ST 2 and maybe 4 off in the distance.

    It was time to get going (past 3:00) and we dropped off the east side aiming our way so as to avoid what we thought might be cliffs and went down to Moose Creek not quite avoiding the swamp but missing the worst of it. We picked up the NPT and within minutes caught up with a couple who were finishing their 20th complete trip. They were the editors of the guidebook. We took a break at the LT at Moose Pond and chatted with 2 guys who were finishing the next day when the 20-timers pulled in to camp. You tell people what you just did but there's no way they can imagine it. We learned we had roughly 9 miles of trail to cover to get to the Trailhead which was miles from our cars. However, a few miles down the trail the old NPT made a bee-line straight to our cars and we thought we’d give that a try. So, at 6:45 we’re 2½ gps miles from the cars searching for this old trail realizing we’re basically bushwhacking into the falling darkness. We cut back and bushwhacked back to the “new” NPT and proceeded to take it on the chin hiking mile after mile as the headlamps came out and we kept hiking until we hit the road at 9:45. Just as we were exiting I had a brainwave and had Doug call us a taxi on his cell phone. The guy drove out from Placid and took us to our cars asking for 5 bucks! I was ready to pay 50.

    I don’t know why but I wasn’t all that tired and even stayed awake easily on the drive home to Montreal. Now I have done the 5 Sawtooths. (Note that there are 6 more on another list ) This one was by far and away the toughest hike of them all.

  2. #2
    Moderator Peakbagr's Avatar
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    Neil,

    Quite an effort, it made me tired just reading it.
    When Spencer, Brian and I did ST3 from the Upperworks, it was an epic. Summited at 3:30pm, back down to the NPT near 7pm just as it was getting dark. After a break, the loooong walk back to the truck, arriving around 10:30pm. I was completely shot the last couple of miles on the way back. IMHO, ST3 was the most difficult of the HH so far in terms of sheer mental and physical effort. Your day sounded tougher. Congratulations and well done.

  3. #3
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    Quite a trip. When Doug told me about it, I figured he would be beat, but on Friday I had a hard time keep up with him on the way to Silver lake.

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