Thursday, August 30, 2012

MacNaughton 2012-08-30

It was great fun hiking with Brian (Pathgrinder) and the miles slipped by effortlessly!

Remains of dam at Scott Clearing.
The path to Wallface Ponds was substantially drier than when I hiked it in 2010The conditions helped to improve the experience, especially at the "Unwelcome Mat".

Meeting Bryan on MacNaughton was pure luck; we were the only three hikers to register for the summit (at the HPIC). I enjoyed his company and his anecdotes, especially the one about the overly inquisitive mouse that took its last swim in a bottle of cola.

Had Brian (SummitHat) joined us, I would have been hiking in the company of a trifecta of Brians!

The beaver dam between the western and eastern Wallface Ponds is gone. Combined with the dry summer weather, the water level is about two feet lower than it was in 2010. As a result, you can now rock hop across the outlet of the western pond.

Bryan and Brian at the outlet of the western pond.
Owing to the low water level, you can now reach the pond's outlet by walking along the pond's shoreline instead of via the herd path. It wasn't very muddy and definitely more scenic than the herd path. If you have the desire to hike MacNaughton, the conditions are in your favour.

We started the bushwhack at about the same place as I did two years ago (near the western end of the southernmost pond). I acknowledge that it would be difficult to retrace my exact route, yet this year we encountered more blowdown near the top. Either I was luckier in 2010 and missed it or, more likely, storms over the past two year have toppled a few trees (hello Irene). We intersected the ridgeline at approximately the same spot I had in 2010, a bit east of the summit sign.

Scratch-proofed atop MacNaughton.
In 2010 I began my descent close to the gully along the ridge. This year we "headed for daylight" just off the eastern end of the ridge. The daylight was provided courtesy of blowdown (duh) and it took a bit of high-steppin', and beam-walking, to surmount it. We moved eastwards through the mess and eventually reached relatively open woods. We descended very quickly, and easily, following traces of Bryan's ascent path.

We had taken a compass bearing, and referred to it frequently, and exited at what we believed to be the southern pond. As we headed east, the woods became incredibly thick, beyond anything we had encountered earlier in the day. A small hill loomed at the eastern end of the pond and seemed out of place. Eventually, someone (Bryan?) concluded we overshot our target and had exited at the eastern, not southern, pond. We double-backed through the fallen timber and came out onto the vly (keep your eyes peeled for ditches) that lies at the west end of the eastern pond. I had avoided this wetland in 2010 but this year it is quite dry. We moved through the low growth towards high ground and then to the outlet where we retrieved out stashed hiking poles.

MacNaughton gives 46ers a taste of what the High Peaks were like in bygone days when 46ers had membership numbers in the double-digits. I agree with Brian that all 46ers should hike this peak as a tribute to the earliest hikers and to put their current achievement, via marked trails and maintained herd paths, into perspective. 

It was an enjoyable day in the company of fine hiking partners. 


See all photos.