Friday, November 1, 2019

Cascade and Porter Mountains

I have been slowly climbing the Adirondack 46er peaks since I moved to the Adirondacks in May.  Cascade and Porter Mountains have a reputation as some of the easiest 46ers to climb.  Despite their relative ease to summit, they offer excellent views for a lot less work than many other higher peaks.  There short distance comes as a deterrent to me. Because with their easy reputation comes huge crowds, not what I'm looking for in a mountain experience.  Because of this, I avoided the peaks over the summer.

With fall rolling into late October, I decided to visit these two peaks.  Monday October 21st forecasted a beautiful day before less desirable weather moved in the rest of the week.  To avoid as much of the traffic these two peaks see, I arrived at the trailhead at twilight.  Only one other car arrived before me.

With my regular hiking partner, Choya, we began our climb of Cascade just before 7AM.  Heavy rain fell just a few days prior, leaving the trail rather muddy.  Mud would be the theme for the rest of the hike.  While Adirondack trails seem to hold mud, I was still surprised by the amount of mud.

Rock steps

The trail to Cascade climbs nearly 2,000 feet in 2.4 miles.  While not the worst climbing in the region, the trail climbs pretty consistently.  Because of the mud, this made the trail feel more difficult.  I tried to pussy foot through the mud by stepping on rocks. Because of the high volume of traffic, the trail bed is rather wide.  Plenty of rocks are available to follow to avoid some of the mud in the worst spots. The climb seemed to take longer than I would have expected given its distance.

The theme of the hike- mud

Around 3,500' in elevation, I started to encounter snow along the trail.  The snow was generally sporadic at first, with more as elevation increased.  The trail, which saw tons of traffic over the weekend according to the register, was generally clear of snow for the most part.  The snow never seemed to be more than an inch or two.

Notice a little snow starting to come into view

The first views start pretty high along the trail.  Views into the heart of High Peaks seemed promising with a few clouds skimming parts of the peaks.  As I neared the summit, the trail passed over bog bridges.  Packed snow on the bridges made the wood quite slippery.  The wet area around the bridges had a pretty thick icy coating.

Typical trail

View from open area during the climb

Early morning view

Snow on the higher elevations

Dense valley fog

Choya didn't care for this too much

Slick bog bridges

Cascade's summit looks pretty impressive.  The trail leaves the trees and ascends open rock to the summit high point.  Stairs built into the rock navigate the trickiest terrain.  The exposed summit offers quite impressive views.  Unfortunately, as I reached the summit, clouds closed in, eliminating majority of the views.  I waited at the summit, hoping the clouds would leave as quickly as they came, but I wasn't so lucky.

Approaching Cascade's summit

The sky was blue as I reached the summit

Clouds didn't obscure the north at first

Choya with wind whipped ears

Whiteface just before it disappeared 

Faint view through the clouds

It appeared that Cascade was the only clear summit at this point

A short window of visibility

Choya wondering what we are looking at

I dropped off the summit and retraced my steps about .3 miles to the junction of the trail to Porter.  The trail drops in elevation from the junction.  The well worn trail acted as a stream bed to melting snow.  Although not deep, the running water continued to the low point between the two peaks.  Sections of deep mud broke up the running water.  After the low point, the running water continued as I climbed toward Porter.

Dropping off Cascade

Cascade became fully shrouded by the time we left

The trail reached a large garage sized boulder at what appeared to be a high point.  My altimeter read close to Porter's elevation, although I knew it was reading somewhat high.  I scrambled up the slick boulder hoping to see ahead.  The clouds obscured the view, although there appeared to be another high spot ahead.

Heading toward Porter

This doesn't look fun

The route ahead brought me to some of the nastiest mud of the day.  I quickly reached Porter's summit.  The clouds broke long enough to catch a brief view of the higher peaks to the south before, I headed back.  The thought of trudging through mud and running water wasn't too appealing.  Surprisingly, I only sunk above my ankle once.  Choya wasn't so lucky and quite muddy up to his belly.

A brief glimpse at the High Peaks

The skies cleared as I left Porter

Not this again

Water flowing down the trail

At least the mud wasn't deep here

As I reached the junction of the Cascade Trail, the clouds appeared to be lifting.  I traveled the .3 miles back to the summit and my luck improved.  Most of the clouds lifted, and the views helped me forget about the slogging through the mud. Surprisingly nobody else was on the summit. The 360-degree views from Cascade are quite impressive.  The summit offers grandstand views into the heart of the High Peaks.  Snow on the higher peaks as well as the occasional cloud over the summits enhanced the views.  In the valleys, fog dotted the landscape below higher terrain.  I was lucky to get the view to myself.

Most of the High Peaks in the clear

Nice depth in the distant terrain

A few clouds leaving the summits

The same pic is above with no mountains visible

The clouds make for interesting shots

The fog hanging on to the north

Still some clouds but at least I can see mountains 

The summits almost completely clear to the south

Nice view across the snow

While I had only passed four people up to this point, my relative solitude changed on my descent.  In the 2.4 miles back to the trailhead, I never traveled more than a few minutes without passing upward hikers.  When I reached the trailhead, still before 11AM, the parking lots all seemed to be full.  Dozens of groups signed the register after me.

Nice water feature lower on the trail

Choya on Cascade 
Maybe he's enjoying the view too

On busy weekends, it's not unusual for these peaks to see hundreds of people a day.  They stand as the shortest routes to any of the 46ers with easy trailhead access.  The two summits are often some of the first tackled by aspiring 46ers.  Roundtrip to both peaks clocks in at just 6.2 miles.  Despite sitting in the High Peaks Wilderness Area, don't expect a wilderness feel with the crowds.  That being said, the views, particularly from Cascade, make it easy to understand why the peaks get so crowded.  Cascade's views are stunning.  If you don't mind sharing your hike with others, the two peaks are worth a quick outing if you are looking for views and don't have a lot of time.  With planning, it's possible to get the peaks to yourself.  I had both summits to myself by hiking during the week, after the peak season.

Catching Choya as he was blasted by a gust

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