| Algonqin Peak - Adirondacks NY
After three unsuccessful attempts in the past, I finally got up Algonqin Peak this past weekend with my brother-in-law, who is the unsuspecting model in the photos below.
(Note peak spelling as to be consistent with summit marker-most places it is spelled as Algonquin).
In previous attempts, we were thwarted by snowstorms, ice, T-storms, etc. which was making me wonder if I'd ever get up it; it was a loose end that I wanted to tie up, so climbing it eventually took on more meaning that it otherwise should have!
At 5,115ft, Algonqin ranks second in elevation in New York after Mount Marcy (5,344ft) being the first and second highest of the "46ers" (i.e. those peaks above 4,000ft in the Adirondack Mountains in the northern part of New York). Both peaks are located in the “High Peaks Wilderness” region of Adirondack State Park, which consists of 6.1 million acres of thick forest, rolling hills, alpine peaks, deep gorges, 30,000 miles of streams and 2,500+ lakes and ponds.
We got started right at sunrise and were the first ones on the trail for the day. The route we took was the standard route that begins at the Adirondack Loj near Heart Lake, just south of Lake Placid. This is the same trailhead for Mount Marcy, the first two miles of which are the most crowded in the park.
Algonqin Peak is unassuming from a distance and appears as though it can be surmounted by an easy walk up; but as soon as you turn off from the Marcy trail towards the top, the route becomes much steeper and never lets up, often forcing less prepared parties to turn back. The below shot is a view from the summit of Wright Peak (the route up is towards the right ridgeline in the photo and not really visible).
Given the nice weather today, the trip was more pleasant than I remember, but as expected the trail was very wet. After the first two miles, the trail is strewn with slippery bowling ball-like rocks, with larger slabs/boulders to scramble up all while having a running stream continuously trickle down under your feet.
In the lower portion of the route, there is a nice defined trail that takes you through a mixed forest of beech, ash, maple and birch interspersed with white pine, hemlock and some spruce. The first part of the route descends into the woods for a mile or so.
In all my trips here, I’ve never seen the trail dry and in most of the lower section, crossing over log bridges or semi submerged rocks is the norm to avoid getting soaked feet, while boulder hopping is the norm after this point.
It is not that difficult of a climb and exposure is low, but there are several granite ramps and steep, rocky class 2/3 sections in the climb up, traveling on a trail that essentially follows a running creek up the mountain which can make the footing fairly precarious in bad conditions.
When the rocks here are icy, crampons won't bite and metal studded footwear like that worn for fishing in a rocky surf is needed. Thankfully, today, the weather was great and for once, none of my winter gear was needed.
Two or three nice waterfalls are seen along the way, which given the amount of rain this spring, were running full tilt.
As you move up the trail, the route almost entirely travels across exposed slabs of bedrock and boulders and is tightly surrounded by Red Spruce and Balsam Fir, which grow progressively shorter as you ascend into the fragile alpine zone. The evergreens fill the air with a pleasant Christmas Tree aroma that made me feel like it was December.
Timberline here is just over 4,000ft and the summits are pummeled by harsh winds most of the year forcing the trees that eek out an existence here to take on a Krummholz form in the more exposed areas. Richly colored lichen cover all boulders and hardy sedges fill most of the cracks in the broken granite. The environment here is quite similar to that at 12,000ft in most of Colorado.
We made good time and were up on top in a bit over two hours and had the summit to ourselves for a good half hour. We were met with clear views in all directions, which was a nice surprise, since these peaks are often socked in. The winds on the summit were also surprisingly calm and the air was as crisp as could be, quite a nice change from NYC the day before. We were also met with a good number of persistent black flies.
On the way back, we also climbed Wright Peak (4,587ft) which was reached by a spur off of the main trail and another half mile of climbing and ~500ft gain. In the photo above and below, the tallest peak in the image is Mount Marcy.
Roundtrip for both peaks was roughly 11 miles with a total gain of roughly 3,600ft. We had a great day in the mountains!
We didn’t see much wildlife along the way, though upon leaving, a pine martin ran across the road as if to bid us farewell, the first one I’ve ever seen here.
As the below photos from a prior trip show, this region of New York comes alive in Autumn with entire mountainsides transformed into a blanket of vibrant colors from the deciduous hardwoods; Sugar Maple and Red Maple, Aspen, Mountain Ash, Tulip Trees, Birch, Elm and Poplar, Dogwood, Beech, among others light up the low to mid elevations in September and October.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):