Cliff Mountain & Mt Redfield (3 Day Hike)

Date:8/22/2010 - 8/24/2010
Hikers:Frank, Matt, Me
Peaks:Mt. Redfield (4606') (#15), Cliff Mountain (3960') (#44)
Trailhead:Heart Lake (ADK Loj)
Trip Time:3 Days, 2 Nights

Bear Canisters + No Bears = Excess Weight

Day 1

6:25 We leave my house and it just started to rain as I was waiting outside the house for everyone. As we drive north the rain continued to get heavier and heavier. We arrived at ADK Loj near 8:45. We run inside to rent our bear canister, sign in, and start assembling our packs to head to the trailhead via Heart Lake. Our quest of a 3 day hike starts at 9:30 as the rain is coming down pretty steadily. Frank and I estimated that our packs easily weighed about 42 lbs with bear canisters on.

Me, Frank, Matt

It was a nice hike out to Marcy’s Dam, nothing strenuous, just perfect to start off our hike out to Lake Colden.

Bridge on the way to Marcy Dam

We got to Marcy Dam at 10:45 and the skies open up and the rain stops. We have a snack and talk to a group of 5 people hiking Marcy. They just started their 46 last year and have 7 peaks down already.

Marcy Dam

From Marcy Dam we headed out to Avalanche Lake. There are still signs from where the landslide happened on the side of Mt Colden along the pass.

Reminisce of a Landslide from Mt. Colden

On our way out we passed a group of 6 kids and two counselors and told them we were hiking to Lake Colden. They told us that the hike was a good one, but Avalanche Pass was a bunch of boulders and would be a good challenge. We arrived at Avalanche Lake around 12:30 and the cloud coverage was dense.

Avalanche Lake

After leaving the Avalanche Lake we had to tackle Avalanche Pass. The rain continued to fall and there were no signs of it letting up. Avalanche Pass was a series of rocks (maybe more like boulders), ladders, and bridges. Due to the rain the rocks are extremely slippery, this affects our grip and footings, so we continue to slip on our backside and ride our packs down the rocks.

Matt on a bridge on Avalanche Pass

Upon exiting the pass, our next destination was the interior outpost. From the outpost there is a series of camp sites and lean-tos. We were hoping for a lean-to because of all the rain. Setting up in that would have made all our gear wet. After passing the interior we saw our first lean-to. Matt walked down to check it out and it was available so we snatched it up. We finally arrived at the lean-to at 3:00 and we had a great lean-to w/ a view of Lake Colden.

Our lean-to on Lake Colden

We started to empty our packs and let stuff dry out. My sleeping pad and bag were wet along with most of my clothes and gear. I laid it out w/ hopes of it airing out in the cold damp weather. As we are unpacking a DEC employee stops by and tells us that 1 out of 10 campsites that he had talked to today heard bears in the last 2 days. We walked about 100ft from our lean-to to set up a tarp that would be used as our kitchen. Due to how long it took us to get out to our lean-to we decided that since it was 4:00 by the time we set up, going up to climb a peak was a little risky. We still had 4 hours of day-light but the weather would only make it hard to get back in time. So we relax in the lean-to with the attempt to stay dry.

View from our lean-to

Later that night the winds started to pick up and were violent. I later found out from the a ADK Loj worker that the way the winds flow over Avalanche Lake they pass through two mountains and then opens up on Lake Colden. You could hear the winds off in the distance so softly and then it would pick up speed and come ripping through our lean-to. That made the night pretty cold for August and also the sound of that wind was loud.

Day 2

We woke up Monday around 7:30 and had oatmeal and bagels for breakfast. We pumped some water at the lake and packed up our gear for the day. We decided to summit both Mt. Redfield and Cliff Mountain for the day. We left the lean-to around 9:00 and headed to the Colden Damn. We cross over the damn and hiked up the Opalescent River trail. The trail was beautiful with the stream flowing heavily from all the rain the day before. The weather outside was overcast with some sprinkles here and there.

Opalescent River

We arrived at the split between Cliff and Redfield at 11:00 and choose to do Redfield first. Ascending Redfield was a bit tricky because for a majority of Redfield we were hiking up alongside a stream or hiking in the stream. With all the rain the stream was flowing pretty well, so we were cautious of not slipping.

Climbing Mt Redfield

As we climbed farther to the summit the stream started to thin out and a lot of spruce trees started to appear. Matt brought up one of his fun facts about how you know you are getting close to a summit because trees start to dwarf in size. So as the trees continued to get smaller we knew the summit was near. Finally we came to a small open area and the sign said it all: "Mt. Redfiled".

Summit of Redfield

It was 1:00 when we reached the summit. We had lunch of crackers, pepperoni and some beef jerky. While eating, we saw a Fischer. I attempted to capture a photo of him but he disappeared quickly in the trees. Our view was minimal because of the thick overcast, so we couldn’t see anything from the top. It was extremely cold and windy on the summit so we ate fast (25 minutes) so we could start our descent.

Matt, Frank, Me on Mt Redfield Summit

We arrived back at the split between Redfield and Cliff around 2:40 and took a small break for 5 minutes or so. The ascent of Cliff was tricky; it started off as a muddy terrain which made us veer off the trail a little bit which then turned into a small creek bed that we followed up. As we continued we could see where Cliff was going to become a little bit more difficult and why it’s named Cliff Mountain. At four parts of the climb we came upon a series of rock climbing. The first series was a set of flat rocks with about a 50 degree ascent. Even though the sun had come out it wasn’t enough to dry out the rocks. Next we had to shimmy along a rock wall with a 3 inch foot hold for about 12 feet. After that was the most difficult part because all the rocks were wet and the drop behind us was about 25 feet. We had about a 75 degree climb. Frank made it look easy and after a little pep talk Matt and I ascended the rock. We had one more rock face to climb but not nearly as difficult as the others.

We knew that once we got to the top there was going to be a false summit. The false summit gave us a nice view and since the clouds had disappeared we could see a lot. After the false summit we had to descend a little and hike through a small swampy area. Then after a minor ascent we arrived at the summit of Cliff Mountain at about 4:00. We had a small snack of beef jerky and bagels.

Matt, Me, Frank on Cliff Mountain Summit

We started our descent of Cliff and going back down those four parts of the climb wasn’t nearly as bad as coming up was. We reached the split around 5:45 and followed the Opalescent River trail back to our lean-to.

We arrived back at our lean-to around 6:45, made ourselves pasta w/ pesto for dinner along w/ more bagels. We pumped our water for our hike out the next day and relaxed in our lean-to for the evening. The night wasn’t even comparable to the night before. The lake was calm, there was no wind and it really made it peaceful.

Matt pumping off

Day 3

We woke up just before 8 and started to pack our stuff up and had a quick breakfast of leftovers. We weren’t in the mood to cook oatmeal again and wanted something quick. We left the lean-to at 8:45 and head back out the same way we came in. The hike was totally different from two days ago. The sun was shining and there was a decent amount of people on the trails. Once we arrived at Marcy Dam we took a nice 20 minute break.

Hiking out

We took the last 2 miles of our hike out with ease and got back to the car around 12:30. Had we made that good of time getting out to our lean-to, we would have had the time to summit one more peak, like we were hoping to. The trip posed a good challenge but in the end was completely rewarding.

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