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TRIP REPORT: Indian Pass after a late-April snowfall

April 23, 2012 - Morgan Ryan
Here are a few photos from yesterday’s run on the Indian Pass trail. It was a cold, wet, windy, snowy, slippery day. Temperatures were mostly in the low 30s. I didn’t quite make it all the way to Indian Pass and Summit Rock, but it was nice being back there on such a quiet day.

The Adirondack Loj parking lot was practically empty.

Trail was smooth and clear near the trail register on Heart Lake, with a coating of snow left over from the previous night’s snowfall.

After 2.1 miles, I took a side trail to Rocky Falls. The High Peaks Region trail guide says this is a good swimming hole (I‘ll have to take their word for that one). There’s a nice-looking lean-to on the other side of Indian Pass Brook.

Two miles up the trail from there, I came to Scott’s Clearing and then to the junction with the trail to Scott and Wallface ponds. The snow started to get heavier at this point. I probably should have strapped on my microspikes here, but held off for some reason.

The going got real tough in this area. Check out this ankle-twisting descent on wet, snow-capped rocks and roots.

At the 4.9-mile mark, I came to the junction with the trail that goes over Algonquin Pass to Lake Colden 3.3 miles away. Not long after, I reached this point, about a mile short of Summit Rock. Indian Pass Brook was flowing high and cold and I was sure to have at least one foot (and probably two) completely submerged.

I decided to turn around. Before I left, I took this picture of some cliffs in the direction of Indian Pass. This would have to do for now. I’ll have to wait till next time to see the full splendor of the 1,000-foot cliffs above the pass.

I’m really looking forward to making it all the way to Summit Rock next time. From what I’ve read, it’s a pretty amazing place. The 1,000-foot sheer wall on the northwest side of the pass is the second-highest in the East behind Cannon Cliff in Franconia Notch in the White Mountains.

Barbara McMartin, in her 50 Hikes in the Adirondacks (Third Edition), describes Indian Pass as “the most incredibly wild and dramatic spot in the eastern United States.”

In the early 19th century, Ebenezer Emmons wrote that “in this country there is no object of the kind on scale so vast and imposing as this. We look upon the Falls of Niagara with awe and a feeling of our insignificance; but much more are we impressed with the great and sublime in the simple and naked rock of Adirondack Pass.”

Here’s Alfred Billings Street’s first impression: “We turned and looked. A shudder shook my frame. My eyes swam, my brain grew dizzy. … After a few moments of thus bracing my system and recovering from the first sickening shock, I again looked. What a sight! Horrible and yet sublimely beautiful - no, not beautiful; scarce an element of beauty there - all grandeur and terror.”

According to Street, Native Americans called the pass He-no-do-as-da, the “Path of Thunder,” or Os-ten-wanne, “Great Rock,” or Otne-yar-heh, the “Stonish Giants.” 

The total distance from the Adirondack Loj parking lot to Summit Rock is 6.0 miles. Can't wait to make it all the way up there next time.


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