Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Colvin and Blake 2011-03-15

Tom and I left the trailhead register at 7:15 AM and bare-booted the Lake Road. The temperature was in the upper teens and the road surface was hard-packed snow. At 9:00 AM we arrived at the Nippletop/Colvin junction. Beyond the junction, the trail to Colvin becomes steeper so we put on microspikes. The snow was firm but it was clear it wasn't always so; we discovered several impressively deep postholes including one bottomless monster that must've crushed the victim's family jewels.

At 10:15 AM we were atop Colvin. Under deep blue skies, the Great Range, clad in winter white, commanded the view. We heard at least two sustained rumbling noises, ostensibly avalanches or icefalls, rising from the valley. Nippletop's slide shone like a white bolt of lightning. We stopped for photos, snacks, and for the sheer beauty of our surroundings. Tom shared some of his first-rate home-made venison jerky; damn, that's good stuff! Good company, food, weather, and trails; life is good.

Upper Ausable Lake

We left the summit at 11:00 AM and, five minutes later, met AltBark returning from Blake. He recounted some pre-dawn confusion that led him astray but he was now making good time. It was good to finally meet him. We met one other hiker, from Quebec, before making the steep descent into the col.

In the col we stashed our snowshoes, and other dead-weight, and began our ascent of Blake. At 12:00 PM, we stood on Blake's wooded summit. After a twenty minute rest-stop, we descended into the col. Tom took advantage of the conditions to butt-slide down the luge-like trail. We were back in the col, within fifteen minutes, shedding layers and collecting our stashed gear.

The temperature was now above freezing and made the re-ascent of Colvin more pleasant. The route was in full sun and the snow was notably softer yet still supportive. Colvin's ladders peeked though the snow and we saw colonies of snow fleascongregating in sunlit footprints. The re-ascent of Colvin wasn't as bad we had expected except for the summit ridge which seemed to have increased in length. Along Colvin's ridge we met two other hikers headed to Blake. We spent over an hour on Colvin's summit, enjoying the views and, for the first time on a winter's hike, the sun's warmth.

Ice-frosted moss.
We left Colvin's summit at 2:15 PM and arrived at the Nippletop/Colvin junction less than forty minutes later. At the junction for Fish Hawk Cliffs, we put on our showshoes for the first time, and headed to the cliffs. The trail had been broken, creating half-foot deep snowshoe prints, but it was easier to walk on the snow pack rather than in the hardened prints.

At around 3:15 PM, we arrived at Fish Hawk Cliffs and to a spectacular view of the Lower Ausable Lake and Indian Head's stony profile. Twenty minutes later we were standing on Indian Head and enjoying a slightly different perspective of the valley. We decided to descend directly to the Lake Road rather than head east to rejoin the Gill Brook trail. Along the way, the trail crossed the base of a rock wall decorated in moss and icicles ranging in size from pencils to massive columns.

Indian Head's profile.

We 4:10 PM we arrived at the Lake Road. The snow was considerably softer so we continued in our showshoes. Eventually, we discovered that the center of the road is hard-packed so we removed them. There's plenty of snow on the road but it is clear that spring is underway. Gill Brook has lost its icy cover and is flowing freely. We also noticed muddy side-channels and high-water marks indicating recent flooding. At 5:20 PM, we signed out (26 hikers signed in after us). It was a great day; one of the best hikes this winter.


See all photos.