Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Colvin Blake and Sawteeth 2014-05-21

It was a beautiful spring morning in the High Peaks; cool, windless, cloudless, and, as a bonus, no pesky insects. The clouds would roll in but not the bugs so the DEET stayed in its bottle all day.

A fine spring day.
Generally speaking, the trails were far drier than I had expected. The paths leading to Colvin and Blake, lying on the north side of their respective peaks, featured a few very short stretches of ice but nothing that demanded microspikes (and I didn't bring any). All stream crossings were easily rock-hopped. I ended the day with just a few muddy streaks on my shoes. I'd call that "dry" for the High Peaks.

A few short icy sections on the way to Blake.
I've often walked by the "side attractions" but this time I paused to check them out. I took the short detour to the "The Flume" and inspected the three campsites along Gill Brook.

The Flume.

The "ice wall" on Colvin is mostly melted and the "bypass" now appears to be the main route up this obstacle. The "Colvin Step" seemed extra tall and had me using my arms to haul myself up. Upon my return from Blake, I met a trail crew and discovered they had piled several logs at the base of the Step and made it a little less "sporting". They also removed all the fallen trees that I had encountered along the trail.

The "Ice Wall". December/May

There's nothing new to report about the trail between Colvin and Blake. The ladders are intact and the steep sections are heavily eroded. Whatever dead-fall I had encountered has been eliminated by the trail crew.

Upon returning to the col from Blake's summit, I decided to change my route and head down the Elevator Shaft to the Warden's Camp. I dropped about a hundred feet and then a little voice said to turn back. My shoes weren't very "grippy" and the steep descent wasn't enjoyable. Besides, there's more "elly gain" if you go back over Colvin.

To get to the Lake Road, I headed over Fish Hawk Cliffs and Indianhead. A few hikers were resting on the rocks and admiring the impressive view of Lower Ausable Lake flanked by Colvin and Sawteeth.

View from Indianhead.
By the time I began my ascent of Sawteeth via the Weld trail, I had nearly finished my 1.5 liters of water. I stopped twice to guzzle about a liter of untreated water (I left my Steripen at home). I selected the smallest trickles emerging from the earth in the hope it would minimize sources of contamination. Time will tell if I chose correctly.

Before reaching the Sawteeth-Pyramid col, I met another trail crew. They had cleared the trail of fallen obstacles and were returning home. The Weld trail is in fine shape from the dam to the col. I found a few more icy spots along the route to Sawteeth but nothing that made me regret leaving my microspikes at home. Frost heave has loosed several large rocks and it behooves one to avoid stepping on them and causing them to roll away.

My feet, unaccustomed to hiking in lightweight shoes, were achy during the descent. In addition, the shoes seemed to lose traction at the most inopportune moments so I decided this would be their last hike.

Shortly before reaching the dam, I saw three-quarters of a garter snake protruding from a hole in a stump. I watched as it emerged from stump, did some "snake yoga" and then slid back into the stump. 

3/4 of a garter snake.
Upon reaching the dam, I stowed my poles, removed my gaiters, and headed to the Lake Road. I was looking forward to the road-walk; it's a gentle, downhill walk that's a refreshing change from rock-hopping on steep trails. Along the way I saw an interesting sculpture hewn by beavers, several curious deer, fresh spring flowers and just a handful of other hikers enjoying the fine day.

Beaver sculpture.

Hike distance and ascent: 18 miles and approximately 6300 feet.


See all photos.


Snake yoga.

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