After living in the Adirondacks for a year and a half, I have been making my way through the Adirondack 46er High Peak list. By now I have climbed more than two thirds of the High Peaks. Looking for a grouping of peaks to climb in one trip, I set my sights on Dial, Nippletop, Colvin, and Blake. Although not always climbed together, the four peaks can be linked on a hike approaching 20 miles with over 6,000 vertical feet of climbing.
After a November warm spell, I planned the hike on November 13th. A week of temperatures in the 60s cleared most areas in the mountains of any lingering snow and ice. Unfortunately, the forecast changed as the day approached calling for more questionable weather. Since my last trip into the High Peaks featured socked in summits most of the day, I decided to postpone my trip for a clearer day. One week later, the forecast looked a little better for views, so I headed to the mountains the following week on November 20th.
For those not acquainted with the Adirondacks, by late November, summer conditions are long gone. A few minor snow events passed in the past week. I anticipated some snow and ice at the higher elevations. A hike the previous day to a lower summit gave me an idea what to expect for snow levels. Even with a relatively warm day, I overprepared with gear just in case. Due to the new ice and snow, I decided to hike only Dial and Nippletop. With short days in late November, I wasn't sure if I could reach Colvin and Blake with enough daylight to reach Lake Road.
I began my hike at the Adirondack Mountain Reserve Trailhead along Route 73 in St Huberts. In summer, this parking lot faces fierce competition for space. On a weekday in late November however, I arrived at the trailhead shortly before sunrise and the lot wasn't even half full.
The start of this hike is somewhat unusual. Access from this trailhead requires hiking through an easement on private land. The land is owned by the exclusive Ausable Club. The start of the hike travels past the club's facilities, including the golf course and club house. After the club house and a few more facilities on the property, an ornate wooden gate is passed, and the hiking begins on Lake Road. While passing through the golf course area, I encountered a flock of turkeys.
|Gate on Lake Road|
After .7 miles on Lake Road, I turned onto the H.G. Leach Trail. The climbing begins almost immediately. The trail initially was free of snow with the first traces appearing after several hundred feet of climbing. Before reaching any summits, the trail crosses over the shoulder of Noonmark Mountain. A past fire left the stretch along Noonmark with sparse trees. A few ledges offer the nice views of the Great Range.
|Views from first ledge along Noonmark|
|Early appearance of ice|
|Much of the Great Range|
|Full Great Range|
|Start of more serious ice|
|More snow, less ice approaching Dial|
There seemed to be little difficulty reaching Dial's 4,020' summit. Just enough snow covered most of the rocks and root making a fairly smooth trail. Although wooded, an outcropping on Dial allows for nice views across the valley toward the Great Range.
|View from Dial|
|A peek toward Dix|
|The most snow of the day|
|Basin on left, Gothics on right|
|Haystack, Basin, Gothics|
|Haystack and Skylight|
|Looking over Nippletop's north summit|
|Giant and Rocky Peak Ridge|
|View before descending to Elk Pass|
|The descent to Elk Pass was quite icy|
The worst of the descent ends at Elk Pass. A series of small ponds and a campsite mark the Elk Pass area. Beyond the ponds, the trail descends further towards the Colvin Trail. Lots of ice kept the footing interesting and made the microspikes necessary.
|Pond at Elk Pass|
|Giant over Noonmark|
|Partial view descending Blake|
|Ladder on north side of Colvin|
Below the Colvin Trail, the ice sporadically continued a short distance. I soon took my microspikes off for good. Enough bare rock allowed for step stones to avoid any lingering ice. I still had two more objectives for the day. I wanted to visit Fish Hawk Cliffs and Indian Head. Both of these outcroppings tower above the waters of Lower Ausable Lake providing dramatic scenery.
|Indian Head from Fish Hawk Cliffs,|
Lower Wolf Jaw in the distance
|Sawteeth from Fish Hawk Cliffs|
Indian Head by trail, sits just .2 miles from Fish Hawk Cliffs. I wasn't expecting the steep, punchy climb required to reach Indian Head. The climb probably wouldn't have been too bad, but I wasn't expecting it and already climbing more than 6,000 vertical feet for the day over 14 miles. Climbing aside, Indian Head was just as impressive as I hoped.
|View from Indian Head|
|These icicles were about 15-20 feet tall|
|Waterfall on Gill Brook|
|Lower Ausable Lake|