Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Trap Dike

We are starting our 1 week tour of the Adirondacks with a trip to Avalanche Lake.  We drove up Tuesday morning arriving at the Peak bagger Palace at 6:30.  It was pouring rain, the temperature was about 37 degrees.  Not the best start, but we are getting the bad weather out of the way early.  After suiting up in all our fine waterproof suits and stuffing most of our gear in plastic bags, we were off to hike the 3 miles (seems much longer) to the Marcy Brook Shelter.

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We arrived at  the shelter at 10pm.  When we got to the shelter it was occupied with 2 tents, one person in each tent, set up inside the shelter!  We were in no shape to spend the night in the open in the pouring rain.  We all had bivy sacks but with hopes of climbing the next day, we needed to set up somewhere dry.  There were 2 tents in the shelter and I decided to kick them over to make room for us.  On the side of the shelter the rules plainly state: 8 people per shelter, and no tents.  I woke these people up and we set up inside.  After getting dinner cooked we all hit the sack feeling fairly wet and wondering what the next day would bring.

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We woke up fairly late to light snowfall and increasing air pressure.  Feeling optimistic with some hot coffee in our mugs we set out for the short hike into the Trap Dike.

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Arriving at Avalanche Lake none of us was brave/stupid enough to walk across yet.  We ended up walking most of the way around on  a system of ladders and walkways built into the rocky shore.

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When we were directly across from the Trap Dike we decided to hell with it!  We roped up and crossed one by one with no incident.  It was scary!

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From afar it looked great!

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I led off with Matt seconding.  Dave and Justin were following closely behind.

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The ice was too slushy and soft to accept screws.  We ended up running it out a lot in the gully and we used natural anchors for the belays.

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There was very little snow in general, it was amazing how different the climb can be at different times.

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After the second ice bulge we decided to unrope to speed things up.

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There was some decent ice higher up!  I don’t remember any of this from my previous two ascents of the Trap Dike.  It’s amazing how much hurricane Irene has changed things.

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We found a nice exit out of the gully through a break down in the cliff.

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We found really enjoyable and fun climbing on the slide.  The snow was crunchy.  The ice was thick enough for tools and crampons.  I loved the exposure and we were getting blasted with some serious mountain weather.  I was really having a great time!

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We measured a temperature of –10F on the summit of Mount Colden.  We guessed the wind speed was gusting around 50 mph.  It was definitely enough to knock you down!  I was climbing in my belay jacket at that point and dealing with trying to keep my fingers and nose warm.

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The slog down from the mountain went on and on and on…  Not really that far, unless you’re tired and ready for dinner!

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That night the temperatures reached 5F and we were sleeping cozily in our bags pretty late.  We decided to take a semi-rest day on Thursday.

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When Dave finally took off his socks he found out that he had some frostbite on all his toes!

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The slog out was what it was (of course the signs were wrong, it was way longer than that!). 

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From Dave: 

I looked at conditions and they said rain and snow.  I was not expecting total rain, I was expecting more of a rain and snow mix.  When we get to the route I was committed to climbing the route.  At no point during the whole day did I feel water in my boots and at no point did my feet feel cold during entire ascent and descent.  I can see that I wouldn’t have cold feet on the ascent since I was generating a lot of heat.  Even when I got to camp I still didn’t feel like my feet were cold at all. 

When I pulled my boots off my socks were frozen and stuck inside the boots however my liner socks were not.  Since I had never experienced this before I did not check my feet right away.  It was not until 3 and a half hours later that I experienced screaming barfies in my right foot.  I was hoping it was boot bash since I had experienced that before.  Back in my head I knew it wasn’t the case.  It wasn’t until I had to get up and pee that I could feel like there was skin sticking together on my right foot.  In the morning I thawed my boots. 

Right before we left I decided to look at the foot.  I called Shane over and saw that the liner sock had moisture stains and blood on it.  I am still wondering why the left foot still didn’t feel anything.  We hiked out 3 miles and it wasn’t until after we started driving out that the left foot started to give me major pain for the next hour or two. 

Lessons learned: don’t underestimate conditions.  Beware that you may not even notice you are getting frostbite.

I had a pair of extremely warm boots but I didn’t want to bring them since the temperature was only 35 degrees the first day and the boots are big and bulky.  From now on for the rest of my life my toes will probably be more sensitive to cold and I will have to take special care with my feet.

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