Sunday, March 6, 2011

Winter Hike to Dix Mountain By Tim Kinsella

Since I am not on facebook and therefore not able to tell you what I have for breakfast each morning nor pass along other interesting daily adventures I will tell you about my winter hike via this email (which his sister, Pat, has just posted on this cousins blog).

Last Saturday four of us hiked another Adirondack High Peak, this time the 6th highest in the state (elevation 4857 feet) – Dix Mountain. The other guys all hiked several high peaks last winter and convinced me to come along this time. I bought a pair of mountain climbing snowshoes with Christmas money and have been doing lots of snowshoeing since then to get in shape for this 14 mile hike.

Friday night we stayed in nice low budget Inn in nearby Keane Valley and were on the trail by 6:30 AM on Saturday morning. The weather had been unseasonably warm for the 2 days prior to this hike but it was now back to winter – temperature in the high teens, light snow, and wind gusts of 30 – 50 MPH. We expected this so were bundled up appropriately and found the trail to be well packed from previous hikers with just an inch or two of new snow from the night before. As expected the woods shielded us from the wind so with a light snow falling it was actually very pleasant as we hiked towards our destination.

This trail is relatively flat for the first 5 miles so we made good progress. After stopping for a rest at a lean-to on the trail we headed across the Boquet river (thankfully still frozen solid, even after 50 degree temperatures from the day before), and started the final climb to the summit. The final 1.5 miles were almost straight up but with our crampon snow shoes we could stay on our feet and didn’t have to climb up rock ledges like you sometimes have to do. The elevation increase was so steep however we had to stop every 10 – 20 steps to catch our breath.

As we got within ½ mile of the summit we entered the “alpine zone” where the trees shrank to a foot or two high and the wind started to really whip up. Heading up to the summit it was at our backs but we knew as soon as we turned around to head back down it would pummel us. We gathered in a small depression near the summit where we were somewhat sheltered, took off our backpacks, and then moved to the summit as quickly as possible. We had to clamor over bare rocks with our snowshoes on for the last hundred yards and now the wind and snow was pelting us like bullets. I’m sure the wind speeds were over 50 MPH and according to the NOAA weather site the wind chill was around 40 below zero (F) up there.

Upon reaching the summit we high fived, turned around, now into the wind, and made it back down as fast as possible. The wind was absolutely incredible and we all had the impression that we wouldn’t last 15 minutes up there if we somehow were stuck there.

We quickly retreated back into the forest and were now faced with that steep incline but now we had to get down without breaking our legs. I suggested we try a butt slide and before we knew it we were racing down the mountain laughing and screaming. We could use our snow shoes to keep our speed in check and to help us steer; I think that was the fastest mile descent I have ever made.

The trip out was fairly uneventful. We met two guys with their 3 dogs on the trail; they were heading up to the summit and were then going to spend the night at the lean-to (I guess that is what you would call a “3 Dog Night”). Just as we arrived back at the lean-to a French Canadian couple hiked up and said they were spending the night there too. As it was to get down to single digits that night I couldn’t imagine spending the night there.

We finally made it back to our cars, and quite a snowstorm, around 5:30 PM – an 11 hour hike. I made it back home around 11 PM. Although it was a very grueling hike it was absolutely beautiful to hike in the snowy woods and was quite an accomplishment. This represents my 16th High Peak (out of 46 – still a long way to go) and my 1st Winter High Peak.

By the way, for breakfast on Saturday I had a hard boiled egg, some yogurt, and a banana, washed down with blue Poweraide (I would have bought Gatoraide if Paul still worked on that account but since he doesn’t I have gone back to the drink preferred by hockey players).


Pat said...


I am in AWE of you--what a trek this must have been!

Thanks for sharing it with us, and good luck on the rest of the Adirondack peaks.


Your little sis,

Mom/CB said...

I have no idea where these kids of mine came from, full of sthff like that, I can not emulate but only stand aside and watch!! All summer when growing up he jumped off cliffs into the lake that I'd NEVER do and now he is climbing mountains!! Wait until he retires!!