Thursday, February 7, 2013

Colden 2013-02-07

Brian (Pathgrinder), Sam, and I achieved a near perfect balance during our hike to Colden:
  • 3 hours to Colden.
  • 2.75 hours to the Loj.
  • 3 hours in the Lake Placid Pub and Brewery.

With just a little less effort on the descent, it would've been a perfect three-way split.

According to the register, "cfraimondo" was heading to Tabletop and Phelps, a fellow countryman left for Redfield, and our band of brothers for Colden. We left at 8:10 AM under a cloudy sky and light snowfall. 

Brian had tweaked his knee two days earlier and was moving a slower pace. In other words, he was moving at a strong and steady pace. Sam moved uphill with no apparent effort. I continued to test the sweat-dispersing performance of my clothing.

Past Marcy Dam, I lost sight of footprints and wondered which direction the Redfield-bound hiker chose for Redfield? He ought to have continued, minimally, to Avalanche Camp. The question was answered at the junction of the Indian Falls/Lake Arnold trails where, by sheer chance, he emerged and admitted to have made a "35 minute mistake".

At Lake Arnold, we found a cluster of tents ensconced in the designated camp site. There were no footprints in the fresh snow thereby suggesting they had left early that morning. Two hours out of the Loj, we stopped for a snack on the windy shore of Lake Arnold (or as I like to call it: Popsicle Pond).

Lake Arnold ("Popsicle Pond").
The trail featured a solid frozen base covered with two to three inches of fresh snow. The falling snow was doing a good job of covering our tracks. There were a few postholes hidden under the fluffy stuff that, when discovered, spiced up our language.

Brian ascending from Lake Arnold.
Short of the false summit, we stopped to add layers in anticipation of the high winds. Once out on the false summit, the snow-laden wind gusts eagerly greeted us. We didn't spend any appreciable time there and quickly descended into the relative calm of the col. 

As we approached the summit, it was clear this was the wind's domain. It didn't force us to crawl but, like an aeolian Medusa, staring at it froze your face. My face began to feel numb and signalled time to face away, draw hood tight, and step carefully along the icy ridge. We topped out on Colden at 11:05 AM. Visibility was less than fifty feet so we chose to take summit photos at the recognizable glacial erratic. Rather than futz with goggles, balaclavas, etc we ducked into the cripplebrush and out of the wind.

My 36th winter peak.
After ten minutes of photos, snacking, and developing painfully cold hands, it was time to leave. I decided it was time to deploy my hiking poles for the descent. Unfortunately, one pole's lock failed completely and rendered it unusable. Bummer. A little more caution and balance would be needed during my descent. 

The fresh snow made the descent to Lake Arnold quick and fun. Brian's knee held up initially but deteriorated quickly thereafter. We arrived at the Loj at 1:50 PM, stowed our gear and made a beeline for the Lake Placid Pub and Brewery to numb Brian's knee.

The final third of our trip involved burgers, beers, and many laughs. At 5:30 PM, the skies had cleared and we stepped out in the cold, cobalt dusk and began our journey home.


See all photos.

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