Lake Placid, NY - It's 6:24 am. Our trip leader wakes me up a minute before my alarm. Our group was quick and efficient in getting ready to head to the Adirondak Loj. I had discovered the night before that I left my hiking footwear over 4 hours away in New Jersey. I didn't even have sneakers -- just flat-bottomed, slip-on casual leather shoes. No amount of foot pain would have been worse than missing out on this peak. Though my feet coming out of a shoe without shoestrings was a concern. It was 50 degrees at our 7:15 sign-in. It was typical in-between weather: push up the trail and you'll sweat bullets; take a break and you'll catch a chill. The sunlight was beautiful at ground level, but my eye was on the peaks. The tallest ones were capped with clouds, raising suspicion that it may be a trip with no views. We blew right past the Whale's Tail junction and got to the Wright junction in a little under two hours. We were fully enveloped in clouds by this point, and I abandoned all hope for views. The experience alone is still worth the trip.
Arriving at the hardest section of trail yet, we were confronted with the Algonquin slides. Erosion has washed out the fragile vegetation down to bare rock, becoming extremely treacherous in wet conditions.
We reached the alpine zone 2 hours and 59 minutes after sign in. The most fun part of the trail lies just ahead.
We continued to climb several hundred feet above the treeline. In a stroke of luck, the clouds began to break up and the views came alive.
With each step up, the conditions improved until we met the summit steward at the top. The scene was unbelievable. The clouds -- once a concern -- contributed to the magic of the moment.
After a decent break, the majority of the group would leave for Iroquois Peak. My brother stayed behind with a sick member of the group. The walk down Algonquin was brutal on the knees. I hustled down, determined to get to Iroquois and back to the two group members on Algonquin ASAP.
The walk to Iroquois is characterized by several dips below the treeline followed by granite outcrops. Boundary peak was the first such outcrop and had a unique perspective in between Algonquin and Iroquois. Falling below the treeline once again, the trail becomes extremely narrow, with room for one adult. The trail rises above and below treeline once again.
The final climb up to Iroquois is short but technical, and required a little creativity to surpass. The view was solid, though not on the level of Algonquin. I snapped my pictures of Algonquin itself, as well as Mount Marshall and Wallface Mountain. The vastness of the Adirondack High Peak region is apparent.
A moment before I left for Algonquin, a plane flew quite close to the peak of Iroquois. I can only imagine how the Adirondacks look from the cockpit of a Cessna.
The climb back up Algonquin was intense. I returned to the summit to find hundreds of pirate bugs attacking hikers. Still, they weren't annoying enough to prevent an hour-long break atop Algonquin, which provided newly cleared skies since the cloudiness of the morning. The trip was capped off with additional pictures of the western high peaks, as well as the Great Range and nearby 46er peaks.
[ For more from Christian Mena on IG: @dahill_road ]