Trip Report – Feb 2009 – Adirondacks – Colden, Marcy, Algonquin

This was my first real backcountry camping trip, it was memorable for many reasons and my more experienced friends really picked the “hard” difficulty level for my first trip. Being in the Adirondacks and in winter, this was hike in/hike out style, in a mountain range and in an area where there is a campfire ban. Needless to say preparation was really key but the trip was AMAZING, certainly one of the top ones in my mind to this day.

View of Adirondack High Peak area Avalanche lake and Colden lake
View of Adirondack High Peak area Avalanche lake and Colden lake

The Adirondacks in northern New York State is an absolutely beautiful place for hiking summer and winter. The park has some well maintained trails, lean-tos and 46 mountains over 4000ft. But in certain locations fires are not permitted and the weather can change quickly. Things can get dangerous when you are isolated and hours away (by foot) from any help.

Since this was my first trip, and it had been a little while for some of the others. We did a trial run at a Scout camp earlier that year as a training exercise, know some of the gear, how to do certain things or operate some of the equipment.

Since most of us were finishing university at the time, we picked reading week for our trip dates and aimed to drive down to New York (about 3-4hrs) find a Lean-to near Marcy Dam and over several days, hike up Mt. Marcy, Mt. Colden and Mt. Algonquin. Trip participants were Wissell, Marty B, Burger, Dave Bard and Sunshine.

Day 1 – 13 Feb 2009 – Hike In to Marcy Dam

We met up, packed all our things in one car and drove off from Ottawa heading for Lake Placid crossing the border in Cornwall. Dave Bard could not leave immediately due to prior commitments so we let him know which lean-to we were aiming for so we could meet up on-site. The trip was mostly unremarkable other than the US border agents making comments that we were crazy to go camping along with a very un-borderpatrol-like (but hilarious) comment when looking at our passports “Who the heck’s been to Mongolia?” followed by “Why would you go there?”.

After the crossing, we zoomed down towards the Adirondacks stopping to take a few photos, grab dinner at Subway (to eat once we got to camp) and for some exclusive shopping at Dollar Tree (or Family dollar? in either case we wanted a dollar store and went to the wrong one first). Equipped with our new found “critical items”, we arrived at the ADK Loj parking, grabbed our gear and headed off on the trail.

We stopped at Marcy Dam for a few pictures and discussions and headed to the last lean-to before Avalanche Pass to set up our camp for the next few days. Half-frozen subway sandwiches were had and enjoyed by all.

Day 2 – 14 Feb 2009 – (Valentine’s day) Hike up Mt. Colden

First thing in the morning we woke up and made breakfast (omelette) explored around our lean-to a bit as it was dark when we had arrived and put out Valentine’s day paraphernalia around the entrance to our Lean-to (partially to let our friend know where we were if he arrived before we did).

We walked just in our booties (snow slippers if you will) and had quite a few laughs with the lack of grip slipping around while trying to get to the main trail from the lean-to and back (there’s a bit of a hill too).

Our Wonderful Lean-to!

We then prepped our daypacks, hung up a backpack with our food between two trees, put on our snowshoes and headed out through Avalanche pass with the intent to climb Mt. Colden. It was an absolutely beautiful sunny day.

360 view on Avalanche Lake

Along the way we found some nice ice formations from the rocks, foreshadowing of what we might encounter during our day. We crossed Avalanche lake, kept going to Colden lake, said hello to the Ranger and headed up our ascent to Mt. Colden (almost 2000ft over 1.6miles).

Some sections certainly felt quite steep, we stopped mid-slope to grab lunch (pepperettes and cheddar cheese) which was not the greatest since we didn’t have the room to eat close together. Nevertheless we kept going up, the trees kept shrinking and we could see more rocks (and ice).

I remember distinctly getting to a section which was basically completely ice, and then dropped off. We couldn’t see if it was just a small drop or a medium sized one, none of us had crampons (other than what you get with snowshoes) and after all that climbing, and walking most of the day, we didn’t fell like turning back. We took our time, made sure our footing was good. I’m sure Burger who is afraid of heights closed his eyes for some sections but we made it through.

We got to the top of Mt. Colden about 2:30pm, enjoyed the magnificient view, took a few pictures and went on our way back to our lean-to.

Back at camp, we started our usual routine, boiling water/melting snow prepping for dinner (Carbonara and pudding chômeur for desert) but noticed that something had gotten into our food backpack even though it was hung up! We hurrily checked all our food and had good news and bad news. The good news was, all our meals were intact, we could eat that night and the rest of the trip. The bad news: all our valentine’s day chocolates were gone except 1. A ranger had told us to watch for Martens, so probably what got to it. Despite this, we managed to enjoy what was left.

Oh the Valentine day chocolate goodness
Oh the Valentine day chocolate goodness
SOOOO good!
SOOOO good!

After Dinner, we got in our sleeping bags, goofed around and waited for our friend Dave Bard to arrive. Thinking he might not see the path to the lean-to we periodically yelled out his name… and then the antics started, one would yell (in French: D-Ah-Vi-De) DAAAAVIIIIIDDD then other would yell Bard! One person would try to one-up the other’s yell and this went on and on and on until we heard rustling near the lean-to. We yelled out “DAVE???” and the response we got was “This is not, uh (in the best French he could muster) D-Ah-Vi-De “, unfortunately looks like most of the lean-tos had filled up during the day and this group was out of luck, there was not enough room for everyone in ours so they kept going. Eventually though, David did show up, he had checked every lean-to on the way and chatted with some of the other campers so it took him a bit longer than usual. We anointed David and settled in for the night:

Dave arrived at our lean-to with perfect teeth!
Dave arrived at our lean-to with perfect teeth!

Day 3 – 15 Feb 2009 – Hike up Mt. Marcy

With our entire party now together, we set out to climb the highest peak in the Adirondacks, Mt. Marcy. The morning weather was not as great as the day before, a bit colder but things cleared up a bit as the day progressed. We ate our crunchy oats, packed up our things, got our gear ready and headed out.

There were quite a few clouds and wind so less visibility and we had to suit up appropriately. We knew the view might be obscured but hoped that we could at least see something when we would get to the top. We only stopped briefly for lunch this day (chicken soup & noodles, sausages, crackers and Oka cheese).

With a lot more ease than the day before (but a lot more cold), we made it up to the top, took a few pictures, and fooled around a bit on the summit.

Top of Mt. Marcy

We also met a group of skiers (Skiers!) who made it to the summit. Quote of the day from them upon seeing our friend shirtless after this classic and amazing video “Ohh, you naked!, You Crazy!!”

So dead sexy, shirtless on top of Mt. Marcy in the Winter with those teeth and glasses, mmm!

After those antics are done, we continued down the other side of the mountain, down to Colden Lake, through Avalanche lake and Avalanche pass. Our pass through the lakes was beautiful with the sun setting.

We got back to our lean-to, cooked our tex-mex roll and crème brulée for desert and went down for a well-deserved sleep.

Day 4 – 16 Feb 2009 – Hike up Mt. Algonquin

Another bright and sunny day, we ate our breakfast (oatmeal) and headed out back towards the trailhead to grab the path up Algonquin. Unfortunately we had a little bit of an equipment malfunction along the way. Apparently, the snowshoes we borrowed don’t wear that well on rocky surfaces. A bit of duct tape later, we were good to go.

Another nice day hiking outside, a few ice formations to see. The trail at times was not useable due to ice, but we could always find a way around the difficult portions and make our way. We stopped for our lunch next to a frozen waterfall (or what seemed like it) – vegetarian chilli, tortillas and cheese.

Along the way, we found our chocolate thief (or one of his cousins), who was not shy at all.

We reached the summit without too much trouble, took a few pictures and enjoyed the scenery.

Next, was an unexpected and amazing thing. It seems like no one had taken the path back down towards Avalanche Lake, the trail was not broken and there was a lot of snow! We managed to “ski” and slide down all the way to the mountain, it was amazing. After this trip we brought little sleds on subsequent trips, but never again found trails with snow this beautiful.

Unfortunately, sometimes the camera does not cooperate and awesome buttslides don’t get recorded 🙁

(Just the fun part when it actually records)

The rest of the trip back wasn’t too horrible for most, however I remember a hoirrible horrible deathmarch. A lot of pain in my hip, nothing to stop it, tried to brace with a scarf but no help so I was really slow and not in the best of moods (foreshadowing – I’m expecting a hip replacement early 2022). At least Burger stuck it out with me on my slow slow march back to the lean-to. I am so thankful he did, hiking alone when you’re tired and in pain would have been horrible (and dangerous).

At least I could look forward to a dinner of pesto pasta and a desert of caramel pudding.

Day 5 – 17 Feb 2009 – Hike Out

We packed up our stuff, ate our breakfast (cereal) said goodbye to our trusty lean-to, our initials magically appeared on it and headed back to the car. This again for me was a death march of pain but it was just slow going. This time though, Burger had a bit of “gogo juice” which is basically just super concentrated iced tea so he ran around me/back and forth while narrating my progress à la David Attenborough mixed with some Steve Irwin. It was great to keep the spirits up for sure and got a few good laughs.

Of course, back in those days, the only place to stop before driving back home was the Lake Placid Brew Pub. We sampled quite a few beers and ate insane amounts of food. I remember the look of horror and amazement on the waitress’ face when one of us ordered an entire 2nd meal.

The group enjoying a meal at the Lake Placid Brew Pub to end the winter camping trip
The group enjoying a meal at the Lake Placid Brew Pub to end the winter camping trip

This trip was a combination of things, great company, good weather, silly anecdotes and great memories.


2omelettepepperette, cheddar cheesecarbonara & pudding chômeur
3crunchy oatschicken noodle soup, sausages, crackers, oka cheeseTex-mex roll & crème brulée
4oatmealvegetarian chilli, tortillas, cheesePesto pasta & caramel pudding
5cerealsausages, Jarlsberg cheese, beef soupCouscous, veggies & Tapioca
6 (spare)oatmealsalami, cheese

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3 Responses to “Trip Report – Feb 2009 – Adirondacks – Colden, Marcy, Algonquin”

  1. […] This trip was a combination of two things. Some of my friends were scout leaders of a older teenage group which had their last camp planned (Audax). I needed a bit of training before venturing out in the Adirondacks for my first real winter camping. […]

  2. […] Adirondacks (Colden, Marcy, Algonquin) […]

  3. […] campfire, I didn’t know everyone all that well at this point other then a few I had gone on a winter camping trip with or met in the meantime. Wine portions were alotted (1/2 liter/person/day) and songs were sung, […]

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