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Thread: Stairway to Hell! Anderson/Lowell/Duck Pond on 2nd Dec. from northern approach

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    Senior Member Oncoman's Avatar
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    Jan 2005
    Longueuil (Québec)

    Stairway to Hell! Anderson/Lowell/Duck Pond on 2nd Dec. from northern approach

    Difficult strenuous bwk, most would say very difficult. After a while having only to push spruce branches apart felt like easy going!

    Total time to & from Nancy Pond parking lot : 12h45 (9,5m. but felt like 25m. hike!)

    Total bwk time : 8h45 (at 1/3 mph speed the whole way!)

    Norcross Pond to Anderson summit : 1h30 (0,55m.)

    Anderson to Lowell summit : 2hrs (0,6m.)

    Lowell to S.E. end of Nancy Pond : 3 hrs (1m.)

    Nancy Pond to Duck Pond & back to Nancy Pond Trail : 2h15 (0.7m.)

    Impressions of this hike : A truly ghastly obstacle course!

    Obstacle #1 : Convincing border patrol that I was sane! Left Montreal under pouring freezing rain with 40-50 mph winds & lightning. Even had to scrape ¼’’ of ice off my car windshield. Few cars on the highway. Was the only vehicle at the border. Had to answer many more questions than usual before being allowed through.

    Obstacle #2 : Getting to trailhead without sliding off road. Drove slowly particularly in curves & my Michelin winter tires did the rest. Others didn’t do as well. Saw 3 or 4 cars in ditch on 302Hw section after Washington resort (no abrasives on rd here) with state patrol cars & tow trucks.

    Obstacle #3 : Crossing overflown streams safely. Had arrived at Nancy Pond parking lot at 21h30. Slept in my car. Up at 04h30. Thank God the rain had stopped after over 12 hrs of torrential raining, as predicted by weather forecast but not the 30-40 mph winds which would howl over my head all day. Hit trail under headlamp at 05h15. Almost slipped on dark ice-capped rocks at 1st brook crossing. Was difficult to see under headlamp. My walking poles saved me from a very cold bath & potential serious injury. At 3rd, or was it 4th brook crossing, the water level was so high & the flow so strong that I couldn’t cross safely. Luckily I spotted an 18’' diameter birch tree fallen over brook 30’ downstream which I ass-crossed. Higher up the Nancy Falls were a roaring mini-Niagara. Truly impressive, with the sun rising to the east. Arrived at end of Norcross Pond at 07h30 & immediately started my bwk.

    Obstacle #4 : Finding summit canisters without getting lost. Well there are no longer any canisters on any of these pks. Park authorities must have removed them all. However the summits of Anderson & Lowell are fairly obvious, with small open spots on both & even a mini-cairn of 2-3 rocks on Anderson. Duck Pond however is something else. It’s a flat ¾ m. long summit with very dense forest. BTW you have a very nice view of Duck Pond as you descend from Lowell. I found 2 bumps at 3360’. The first one was the same one I had found the last time I was here on 16th Sept. with its wooden sign nailed to tree. Very difficult to find. Suspect the park authorities didn’t find it, which would explain why the sign is still there. When you take a 140° m. bearing from SE end of Nancy Pond it takes about one hr to reach that peak about 0,35m. away. It was exactly at 3360’ on my watch altimeter after having calibrated it at 3100’ at Nancy Pond. There is a 2nd bump about 200 yards further away also at 3360’ slightly more open (trees about 2’ apart as opposed to 1’) where I suspect the former canister was. If you want a true challenge, find the pk with the sign, labelled « Duck Pond ». Note that many trees not on those 2 bumps (barely 10’ higher than surrounding terrain) are higher than the ones on pks adding to difficulty of finding true summit.

    Obstacle #5 : Surviving bwk without dropping from exhaustion. No open woods here & no herd paths whatsoever. A moose may seem a stupid animal but not foolish enough to roam in those thick blowdown infested forests, only bushwhackers are! Initially wanted to take 196° m. bearing from NW end of Norcross Pond to reach ridge line at 3400’ & then follow ridge line to summit. However there’s a wind corridor there near pond with layers above layers of blowdown making for extremely slow going, such that I decided to take a more direct route up aiming however slightly to NW of summit to avoid 30-50’ cliff near top that I had spotted from pond. Slope down from Anderson towards col between Anderson/Lowell is steep (60°) with many 10-15’ ledges. Likewise for slope down Lowell to NE. Only ½’’ of snow on ground. Views of snow flurries racing at 30-40 mph over Vose Spur across Notch & further away over Carrigain were very startling. Was very glad to be under tree cover. Must have been blizzard conditions that day on open higher altitude ridges & summits. The bwk stretch from Lowell to Nancy Pond was the longest mile of bwk I have ever done. Pulling, pushing, crawling under spruce trees, over & under blowdown after blowdown; a 3 hrs of incessant fighting. Very exhausting. If you choose that route you better have very good endurance! Also check your compass bearing every few min. The terrain constantly pulls you downwards to the east & the uphill part after the 2nd brook crossing (the 1st brook goes higher uphill than shown on Topozone map) is very disconcerting especially after 2 hrs of struggle; but remain calm & have total faith in your compass despite the fact that your brain tells you otherwise (at least that’s what I had to say to myself repeatedly in order not to give in to panic). I hit the SE end of Nancy Pond barely 200 yrds off to the west. Such accuracy under those difficult conditions really surprised me and was a fantastic confidence booster. BTW there was a short section of relatively open woods, by that I mean only spruce branches to push apart, for a few hundred ft after dropping off 60° slope of Lowell before reaching 1st brook which was so relaxing but alas very short lasting.

    Obstacle #6 : Resisting doing Bemis by headlamp. Was back from Duck Pond onto trail by 16h15. Decided to start up towards Bemis along brook in completely open clearing area; but darkness enveloped me 15 min. later and though I still felt strong enough to do this one (a piece of cake compared to what I had endured so far), my moral & determination just gave out on me. Perhaps I would have felt differently had I not been solo, but a red warning sign just kept flashing in the back of my brain; so that I decided to err on the side of prudence and turned around to return safe & sound to my family. Was back to my car at 18h00 & home at 22h00.

    Obstacle #7 : Coming down gently from my cloud of adrenaline-driven ego trip.
    Last edited by Oncoman; 12-04-2006 at 04:14 PM.
    "Getting to the top is optional; getting back down is mandatory". Maxim of Ed Viesturs, the first American to have climbed all 14 of the world's 8,000 meter peaks.

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