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TRIP REPORT: Blake, Colvin
January 21, 2013 - Morgan Ryan
Feels good to have my first big trip of the year under my belt.
On Saturday, Paul, Michelle and I climbed Mount Colvin and Blake Peak using a combination of cross-country skis, snowshoes and microspikes. Several of the other hikers on the trail wore crampons, but we managed to make due without them (none of us own crampons anyway).
We left from the parking area off Route 73 in St. Huberts just before 9 a.m. and walked the first half-mile on pavement with skis in our hands to the Lake Road gate on the Ausable Club property. From there, we clipped into our skis for the three-mile stretch of dirt road that closely follows Gill Brook to the trailhead for Colvin, Elk Pass and Nippletop (it‘s the third trail on the left).
We stashed our skis and changed into hiking boots and snowshoes.
The trail started to climb steadily right away, again meeting up with the picturesque Gill Brook. We passed turnoffs for trails to Fish Hawk Cliffs and Indian Head on the right.
After close to a mile, we crossed over the boundary from Adirondack Mountain Reserve land onto state land. There were campsites on both sides of the trail, but of course we had no intention to sleep in the woods this night (hopefully).
We reached the junction for the trail to Colvin after 1.8 miles of uphill snowshoeing. This is when the real climbing began.
There were several steep, icy pitches in the next 1.2 miles that required us to rely on our poles and snowshoe claws to lunge our way up the trail. We crawled hand over foot on several occasions and eventually made it to the summit ridge.
It was a little surprising to see a couple groups of people on the peak since it seemed like we were pretty much alone on the trail up until that point. Luckily, there were plenty of views to go around.
In one direction, we looked straight down at Lower Ausable Lake and the wide valley below. The mountains of the Great Range are always a reminder of why I love this area so much.
Gothics and its surrounding mountains were blaring in the other direction.
Nippletop and the Dix Range were visible to the east, and Giant and Rocky Peak Ridge weren't far off either.
The hike down to the col between Colvin and Blake was not easy. Positioned as it was on the south slope (more like a cliff) of the Colvin ridge, the wind we had been hearing all day in the distant trees was now hitting us right in the face.
The trail dropped steeply on icy, bare rocks (those crampons were looking pretty good at this point). The narrower sections made it difficult to fit the wide snowshoes through such tight spaces. Thank god (and the trail crews), there were two heavy-duty wood ladders that made the steepest sections passable.
By the time we reached the bottom of this drop, it was surprising to see that in the last 45 minutes or so we had only traveled a half-mile. It was one heck of a half-mile with the freezing cold wind whipping our faces every step of the way. It gives me shivers just thinking about it.
When we finally got to the col between the mountains, we took a deep breath to gather our composure. We looked back at what we had just descended. Is that possible? Did we really just hike down that steep precipice way up there?
The trail to Blake Peak up the other side of the col was much more gradual, still climbing steadily but nothing like that death trap off of Colvin. We reached the top and found a small nook in the trees to eat a little more food and prepare for the journey back to the car.
Blake is one of the lowest of the 46 peaks that are required to be recognized as a member of the club. At 3,960 feet, it ranks 43rd on the list and is one of the four under 4,000 feet.
The top of Blake is in the trees, but with a little effort you get a good look at Elk Lake, Clear Pond and the Dix Range in one direction and Upper Ausable Lake in the other. It’s much better in the winter without all those pesky leaves clogging up the view.
Coming down off the mountain, this opening provided another clear view of the Great Range.
By the time we got back to our skis, it was getting dark. We were more than happy to strap on our skis for the three-mile glide back to the gate. We were very tired at this point and not having to slog out those last three miles on foot was sheer pleasure. We passed several of the hikers in front of us as we coasted back to the gate by the light of our headlamps.
Order of height: 39
Distance from parking area: 6.0 miles
Order of height: 45
Distance from parking area: 7.4 miles
Total miles from the parking area off Route 73: ~ 14.8 miles
Trip time: ~ 9 hours
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