Back in March my hiking partner and I summited Gray, Skylight, and Marcy. We had a perfect Bluebird day with stunning views, perfect temperature, and excellent snow conditions. While standing atop our last summit of the day, Mt. Marcy, I stared off at the Macintyre Range. The white capped peaks set before a backdrop of blue sky was breathtaking. It was at this point that I set my sights on Iroquois Peak. We had skipped over Iroquois on our last hike to the summits of Wright and Algonquin. It felt very incomplete to me that we hadn’t gone over to Iroquois. That day we decided that the trek to the 4,840 foot summit of Iroquois would officially be my birthday hike for November, 2015.
Fast forward through 8 months of anticipation. The weather reports were spotty throughout the week leading up to my birthday. I had checked the weather in the valley as well as the NOAA Mountain Point Forecast daily to help gage the temperatures, wind speeds, and snowfall for the day of the hike. Knowing that we were to be spending quite a bit of time above tree line, the wind would play a big role in the equipment we carried along. The temperatures had been unseasonably warm. We were looking at starting at the trailhead with 44 degrees and ending at the summit with -2 with wind chill.
The final NOAA forecast and local weather reports for the day were poor. The excitement I had built up over the pervious months was quickly turning into disappointment. The valleys were expecting 60% chance of rain and full cloud cover for the entirety of the day. Each hour we were expected to be above tree line was listed as OB on the NOAA Mountain Point Forecast. We learned that OB means the summit would be “obscured by clouds”. The most discouraging aspect beyond the rain and clouds was to read that the winds were expected to be 40-50 mph. After an eye opening experience with violent winds at the summit of Wright Peak, I gained a whole new respect for the power of nature. We struggled with the possibility of choosing a different peak below the tree line. I had come to terms with the fact that hiking Iroquois on this day may not happen. I convinced myself that it would be a perfect day no matter the hike, so long as we hiked.
When we pulled into the Adirondack Loj Parking area we had both made the decision to move forward with our plan for Iroquois. It was my birthday after all! We agreed to turn back if the winds were too strong to handle, but a little rain and cloud cover wasn’t going to take this from us!
We started out from the Loj at 6:54 am. The temperatures were hovering in the high 30s, and the trails were bare. A snow squall that came up during our drive had left very little evidence that it had ever blown through.
We reached the junction for Marcy Dam at 7:15am. The trail becomes a steady incline and at times very steep with an elevation gain of 2,992′ in the three miles from this junction to the summit of Algonquin. The trail became icy with a thin layer of fresh snow. Noticing shadows on the ground, I looked up to the sky. Could it be? Was it blue sky and sunshine? The excitement I felt prior to reading the weather reports was coming back.
The steady incline, increasing snow cover, and firming of the ground were a welcome change to the muddy start we had to the day. We reached the junction for Wright Peak (one mile from the summit of Algonquin) at 9:36. The hike to this point was a steady climb, but my memory of the trail was that it was about to get much steeper. We still had blue sky, but the clouds were moving along fast. Fast enough to prompt us to prepare ourselves for the wind by adding a wind-proof protective layer. Only one mile to the Summit of Algonquin, but mostly above tree line.
Two hours and one steep and icy mile later we reached our first summit of the day, Algonquin. The winds were well within the realm of safety somewhere between 35 and 4o mph. The partly cloudy sky was definitely not OB as NOAA had predicted giving us 360 degree views. The clouds above us cast shadows on the valley below painting a magnificent scene as they danced along.
We stayed a short time before moving on to the next stop at Boundary Peak. The trail down the opposite side of Algonquin is clearly marked with large cairns before reaching the alpine scrub. At the final cairn along the edge of the shrubs is a wooden sign indicating the yellow trail turns to the left. The unmarked herd path to Boundary Peak is located to the right. The heard path dips into the low alpine brush for only a short while before popping back out above tree line to the summit of Boundary peak. We reached Boundary Peak at 12:49 pm. We didn’t pause here any longer than it took to grab a few photos.
Only 16 minutes later, at 1:05pm, we reached the day’s final summit. The sky was still a perfect backdrop of blue with a speckling of white clouds. Mother Nature graced us with a Perfect day in what was forecast to be a nasty mix of rain, snow, obscure summits, and dangerous wind. Another Birthday hike in the books, and one more Adirondack high peak to add to my tally. Had we made the decision to avoid this hike all together, we would have been very disappointed. Accepting that we would turn around if the weather had turned was the way to go. I’ll keep checking in with NOAA and the Weather Channel, but unless they give me a 100% chance of a Hurricane Irene style rerun, I may just attempt it knowing that I can always turn back.