Friday, January 1, 2010
Climbing Blue With a Full Pack
For lots more pictures from this hike, see my Picasa web album.
The urge to return to the warm camp at night is harder to resist than I'd expected. On Wednesday I did three laps up Bald but that urge brought me back for a hot dinner cooked over the wood stove. I did resist the urge to just lie down and sleep in camp, though. I geared up, snowshoed about a hundred yards behind the camp, and set up the bivy.
That night was much less comfortable than I'd expected. I was way too warm. The air in the woods behind camp was very still, so even though the temperature was lower than it was when I'd camped out on Rocky, I was roasting in my -30° bag. I had to unzip not only the bag, but the mouth of the bivy! Incidentally, this caused a small problem: water vapor from my breath freezing onto the zipper. It took some doing for me to zip the bivy the next morning.
I did not sleep soundly at all, so I slept later than I'd expected to. So I got on the road to Lake Placid later than I would have liked. But I still wanted to get a good workout in, seeing as how I was going to be eating and drinking a lot during my New Year's Eve celebrations. So I pulled over at the Blue Mountain trailhead, strapped on the shoes and the pack, and headed up.
I've climbed Blue Mountain fifteen or twenty times in all four seasons, and yesterday's climb was far harder than any of those. A full pack turns the climb into a whole new ball game. But again, it's not just the weight. As of this climb, I'm sure of two things: I need a new pack, and I need poles.
My Army pack displaces my center of gravity far up and backwards. This forces me to lean forward, which makes it more difficult to get traction with the crampons. It also makes me teeter precariously whenever I'm trying to ascend a steep slope. A pack that distributes the weight lower and closer to my back would do wonders for my balance and stability.
Of course even the best pack will change my center of gravity, and that's where the poles will come in. As I was straining my way up the steeper parts of the trail I knew that a pole in each hand would have helped me to balance and to brace myself as I stepped up.
This isn't all idle speculation. A lot of it comes from a conversation with a fellow who passed me on the way up, and again while he was coming down and I was still on the way up. There's nothing like being passed by a guy in his sixties with a bushy grey beard to make me feel out of shape.
It took me about an hour and a half, but I did make it to the peak. Well before I got there I saw that it was worth the extra effort, because the snow on the trees was breathtaking. And the thick coating of ice and snow on the fire tower was spectacularly dramatic. I snapped a bunch of shots and headed back down. I didn't check the time so I can only say that the descent took me approximately fifty minutes.