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Thread: Herculean efforts on Haystack, Basin & Saddleback, Feb. 11, 2011

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    Sep 2003

    Herculean efforts on Haystack, Basin & Saddleback, Feb. 11, 2011

    Since writing the chapter about Haystack, Basin and Saddleback for the soon-to-be published (March 2011) book by the 46-Rs: “Heaven Up-h’isted-ness! The History of the Adirondack Forty-Sixers and the High Peaks of the Adirondacks”, I like to fool myself into thinking that I somehow own those three peaks. Seventeen Forty-Sixers teamed up to author the various chapters in the book while Tony Godwin wrote the introduction. The research was a tedious but wonderful adventure. As one of its author I got to know about the very first peak baggers, and so will you when you order this magnificent 700 pages volume. The late 1800’s saw the first “summer” climbers along with Colvin: Ed Phelps, brothers Harold and William White, William Glover, Newell Martin, James Storrow, Walter Lowrie, etc. The early 1900’s witnessed the first winter climbers: in February 1922 the legendary Herman Smith “Jackrabbit” Johannsen teamed up with Dr. Irving Langmuir (1932 chemistry Nobel Prize) to conquer Haystack. A few years later Saddleback and Basin were reached as well but those “records” are claimed by more than one winter climbing party! Similarly I became familiar with all those whom we “” on the maps and trail signs like Dr. Robert Balk (geology), A. T. Shorey and Dr. Horace Bushnell (a church minister). Furthermore, Gary and I recently became the Trail Stewards of Orebed, Shorey-Short-Cut and the Upper Range Trail between Orebed and Haystack Brook, a great honour. This summer, thanks to the dedication of Wes Lampman, Director of Fields Programs, the Adirondack Mountain Club trail crew in partnership with the DEC is planning to rebuild all of the ladders on the Orebed Trail.

    In an unusual turn of events,Friday’s the forecast was wrong and all day it was bitterly cold. Thankfully, it was mostly sunny and the winds were light. Schedule-wise we did very well, intent on including Haystack to our day program, Inge and Carl left the Garden 55 minutes ahead of the “oldies” (Alex, Gary, Matt and myself). The previous three days had offered wicked winds which thoroughly cleared the trees of their snow load. At Slant Rock, Inge and Carl caught up with two climbers who had spent the night at the Lean-to and were on their way to Marcy. So from there on they had to break trail to Haystack. They reported an easy up and over Little Haystack as it was totally free of ice. All the while the rest of us, mostly Gary and Alex, broke trail over Shorey-Short-Cut. The snow was about a foot deep with higher waves in places. The markers still above the snow allowed us to stay on the solid base made by previous climbers. Upon reaching the Range Trail we were slightly disappointed to see no signs of previous trekkers. The trees had thrown their entire load down and the wind had built a seascape. Nevertheless the going was over a solid base and the views were spectacular. We were frozen but very lucky. Soon Inge and Carl caught up with us, reporting breaking trail in snow over their knees all the way down the section of the Range Trail from Little Haystack. The ladder section up Basin proved no problem as 6 of the rungs were partly out of the snow, but it was just as steep as usual above them. It’s only upon reaching Saddleback cliffs that we spotted faint tracks of previous climbers. Up the col to the base of the cliffs it felt like a straight wall. We had to scale in waist deep snow, not that it really was! In short order we reached the now famous winter chute. First Carl flew up what seemed an insurmountable obstacle, and then Matt (probably retired from the Cirque du Soleil gymnast crew) flew up a left wedge, leaving the peasants below in awe but certain that no way they could get away with the same kind of high aerial performance. To be perfectly fair, their acts took away all of the snow covering the 5-foot high ledge with a one-step foot-hold. Had Inge and I been climbing in high heels we would have been just fine as it was Hercules (aka Carl) and Foot-Stool (aka Alex) came to the rescue. Alex went down on his knees and we stepped on his backpack while Carl gripped our hands and literally heaved the three of us, one at a time mind you, onto the top of the ledge. Alex later reported that at least Inge and I removed our snowshoes and were on his back for what seemed to him a mere second in contrast to Gary who stood there for a 30-second eternity while wearing his MSR’s!

    We were exhausted upon reaching the Garden but we had had a heck of a good time walking the Upper Range with friends!
    Last edited by BlackSpruce; 02-14-2011 at 01:32 PM.

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