Indian Pass – The “I am not going to lie to you trip” was Len’s 1st trip joining Matt, Mark and Jim on an December assault of Indian Pass from the north. The trail from Heart Lake leads South West towards Wallface Mountain.
We left the Adirondack Loj after some confusion about finding the trail head. Seriously, we wandered around for about 15 minutes giggling at ourselves trying to find the trail head. Matt and Mark brought several inexpensive snow sleds for gear transport. Matt and Mark were towing sleds with their gear wrapped inside of a tarp.
Len towed a sled, but merely placed his borrowed backpack on the sled – a wise decision as it late turned out. Jim declined a sled altogether.
Our trip occurred in the 1st year that DEC required registration in the High Peaks. There wasn’t much snow on the ground and as we passed the register bound for the lean-to at Scott’s Clearing (3.8 miles) the trail turned rocky. The large rocks and uneven trail caused the sled’s contents to shift, the sleds to tip over and items spill out on the ground. Choice words were uttered more than once. Below Mark checks behind him to see if the sled is still coming.
To top it all off our meal planning involved pasta (more on that later) and a large loaf of Italian bread, which never seemed to fit in anyone’s pack. So we took turns hand carrying the loaf of bread. Jim, especially, managed to shed carrying duties whenever the group approached other people – not wanting to appear like a bread carrying newbie.
At about 2 miles in we passed the Rocky Falls lean-to on Indian Pass Brook but ice and open water made it treacherous to approach. We stopped and had a lunch of sandwiches at about the point – Matt had PB&Js while Jim had a huge leftover ham sandwich. Well fortified from our meal we launched off again with Matt and Mark cursing every sled miscue.
Finally, the inevitable happened – Matt gave his yellow sled a good jerk to clear a small dip in the trail and when the sled landed it cracked and split. Len unloaded his backpack and donated his sled to Matt, doubling up his broken sled on top of Len’s. Below Mark and Len try to double load Mark’s sled after donating Len’s sled to Matt. If it won’t work with one pack, why not try twice as much!
We finally reached the clearing at Scott’s Clearing. In the picture below you can see Matt’s doubled up sleds – the broken yellow sled riding on top of Len’s red sled.
We cut wood for a fire and cooked a dinner of Angel Hair pasta. The logic behind the choice of Angel Hair pasta for dinner was that the thin noodles would not require a long boiling time. The failure of this choice is that difference between cooked Angel Hair pasta and over-cooked Angel Hair pasta is about 3 seconds. Our meal was mush followed by a dessert of chocolate pudding that never quite set.
Since this trip we have attended Leave No Trace classes, but this was during our ignorant phase so we dumped the leftover pasta onto what remained of the fire. The pasta smoldered and the fumes stunk up the lean-to. As we climbed into our sleeping bags to sleep the temperature began to drop and the trees started popping as the water inside them froze – a phenomena that I associate with temperatures in the low teens.
A word about sleeping bags, if I may. This was Len’s 1st trip and Mark hadn’t done a lot of winter camping so Matt loaned the both of them quite a bit of gear. Matt let Mark use his winter sleeping bag. Depending on your point of view he was either being a nice guy or he wanted his younger brother to carry the heavier sleeping bag and hadn’t checked the weather forecast. The end result was that Matt had a light weight sleeping bag and a fleece blanket liner for a night where the temperature was rapidly tumbling towards the negative side of zero. Through a stroke of good fortune I had looked at the weather forecast prior to leaving and seeing the potential for night time temperatures in the negative teens I decided to bring two sleeping bags – the 1st time I ever had done that.
During the night we heard the trees popping and Matt moaning as the cold settled in. Matt would wrap the blanket around him as best he could and sleep for 15-20 minutes and then re-position trying to cover up again. Mark was comfortable once he got his head covered by the mummy bag and Len was revealed to be a snorer of prodigious talent in the cold temperatures. Layered inside of two “zero degree” bags I slept great – except for hearing Matt. Overnight the temperature bottomed out at -15 degrees.
As first light broke Matt uttered his memorable “I am not going to lie to you” line – confessing he would rather be awake than trying to sleep. This later prompted a poem on the the trip.
We brought two stoves for heating breakfast water – Mark’s butane stove which he neglected to bring into his sleeping bag for warmth, so it was useless and Matt’s white gas stove which sprouted a leak and resultant fire. We had minimal water for the morning and only snacks for breakfast, but we decided to try to hike onward anyway. At least the activity of hiking would warm us.
Previous attempts to seek Indian Pass from the south had been stymied by losing the trail in the snow and this attempt from the north was no different. After hiking for a couple of hours we lost the trail.
We could see Wallface Mountain. Wallface is less a mountain, and more for a cliff, rising over 600′ feet above Indian Pass in some places. With a cover of snow the trail and even trail markers were impossible to discern.
We decided to head back after Jim stepped through some snow into water and soaked his foot. Upon returning to the lean-to we grabbed our pack and high tailed it back to the ADK Lodge where we drank copious fluids. On our drive home Matt, Mark & Jim stopped at a McDonald’s in Tupper Lake where we ate the best salt laden french fries we ever experienced.