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Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Aaron Attempts Street and Nye in the Winter

Aaron returns with another guest blog describing his attempt to climb Street and Nye in the winter.

Date: Friday February 19th 2014
Destination: Street and Nye
Distance: Approximately 8 miles

At times during the winter it has been difficult to find a friend to go hiking with. This time however I was able to bring a friend, Rose, who is just as excited to get out side as I am. Rose, already an avid adventurer and skier, has never gone winter hiking and was eager to learn. Planning the trip, I initially wanted to hike Wright, which is on the way up to Algonquin – the second highest peak in New York State. However, due to poor weather and above-freezing temperatures, I was forced to go with plan B, a much gentler hike but slightly longer one. Street and Nye is technically trail-less with no state maintained track or markers to follow. The weather was perhaps the poorest I have seen while hiking. For two days prior temperatures were above freezing with rain, turning the trail into a slush puddle. On the day of our hike the forecast called for high 30s and rain.

We left St. Lawrence University around 7:00 AM, driving 2 ½ hours to the ADK Loj at Heart Lake. Upon arriving it was windy and cool but no precipitation, yet. We geared up in rain jackets, waterproof shell pants, gaiters and microspikes on our feet for traction. Both of us eager to start, despite the dreary weather, I was in pursuit of my 5th and 6th winter peak and Rose, her 1st. The first part of the ascent was uneventful until we came to a thawing creek that posed a unique challenge to cross without getting soaked. I probed until I was confident enough to take a leap of faith, reaching the other side with my boots dry. Rose however, had slightly more difficulty. The ice underneath me had given way when I jumped, so Rose was left searching for a new way across. She eventually found one but was forced to toss her bag across. From there it was a smooth hike in unstable snow until we started the steep portion heading up to the col between Street and Nye. The trail became extremely difficult to follow as we hiked on. Soon the footsteps from previous hikers disappeared, only a worn path remained.

Near the top, the weather began to worsen, the wind and rain picked up and we began to reach cloud cover, making visibility difficult. After about 30 minutes of hiking, I began to suspect we had missed the junction at the col between Street and Nye and were hiking up one of the two. Finally we reached a point where no discernable trail was remotely visible. At this point we made a decision to turn back. I was not comfortable with searching for the trail with deteriorating conditions and my partner being inexperienced with winter hiking. Our spirits slightly disappointed by the uncertainty, we slogged down the slushy trail in the rain.

The way down was an adventure in and of itself. Leading the way on the way up, I yielded to my friend, so she led the way down. Both of us fell at least twice, the first time Rose was navigating a steep section when the snow slipped out leaving her to slide down on her backside. My turn came 5 minutes later when I made a less-than-graceful attempt to save myself. My foot sinking in I fell face first into the snow with both legs and my right arm submerged in snow, I was stuck but unharmed, eventually managing to free myself after a few laughs. The rest of the hike back was in an on and off downpour. Once we reached the trailhead it was a relief to get out of the rain and try to dry off.

This hike was a tale of caution and the conservative thinking required for a safe but enjoyable winter hiking experience. What could have easily turned into a miserable slog was prevented by ensuring both of us still had the energy and desire to continue. Many climbers with a goal can run into trouble with ‘summit fever.’ Once we no longer felt comfortable with the lack of any trail and terrible weather, we turned back, sworn to return to conquer.
           

Once back at school I was able to unpack and digest what had occurred during our hike. After close examination of the map and multiple guidebooks, I am confident that we reached the summit of Nye, missing the junction and the trail to Street. Therefore if I am to finish my winter 46, I will have to climb Street and will no doubt re-climb Nye, just to make sure I reached the summit.
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