Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Sawteeth, Pyramid, Gothics, and Armstrong

After a long Adirondack winter, the weather has improved as spring approaches. With comfortable temperatures, sunny skies, and little wind forecasted on March 17th, I was eager to hike in the High Peaks. One peak that I have been wanting to climb since I moved to the Adirondacks is Pyramid Peak. Although it stands at 4,596', it doesn't have enough prominence to be considered a ranked peak. All accounts claim that Pyramid Peak offers some of the best views in the Adirondacks. With a bluebird forecast for the day, combined with snowy views, Pyramid was my top priority for the day. 

While enroute to Pyramid, I would pass within a half-mile of Sawteeth, one of the seven remaining Adirondack 46ers that I still needed to climb. Even better, a short distance beyond Pyramid stands Gothics, one of the ten highest Adirondack summits. Although I have already climbed Gothics, I was happy to see the excellent scenery from its alpine summit in winter. I planned on hiking a loop. Another 46er that I previously visited, Armstong Mountain, stands just .4 miles from my route and also offers pretty good views from its summit. With several peaks boasting great views and another 46er to tick off my list, the day seemed perfect for a hike.

My hike started in St Huberts at the Adirondack Mountain Reserve (AMR) trailhead. In the summer this trailhead can be a nightmare for parking, filling up extremely early. When I started hiking about 7AM, there were only five other cars. Any hike from this trailhead involves walking an access road through private property of the Ausable Club. Most hikes in the area involve at least some walking along the club's private dirt road, Lake Road. My hike involved walking the full distance of the road before reaching the start of the Weld Trail, a distance of roughly four miles from the trailhead. The road walk travels along a stream through the forest with no traffic and isn't too bad and serves as a nice warm-up.


AMR gate

Following Lake Road

View along the road

The Weld Trail begins by crossing the outlet of Lower Ausable Lake. The views from the outlet are quite scenic as the mountains rise steeply from the lake. I considered taking the slightly longer Scenic Trail but it had not been broken out and I didn't want to break snow for three miles, so I continued on the Weld Trail.

Lower Ausable Lake

On the right track

Crossing the outlet of the lake

Dam


Soon after the start of the Weld Trail, a short side trail heads toward Rainbow Falls. The 150-foot falls was frozen solid. Even in its frozen state, the waterfall looked quite impressive. I would like to check it out when its actually flowing.

Rainbow Falls

Generally the Weld travels gradually as it gains its elevation. Although the trail was well-packed, I wore snowshoes in the deep snow.  As with any winter hike, the snow covers most obstacles and I moved pretty quickly. I soon reached the junction at the saddle between Sawteeth and Pyramid and started my climb up Sawteeth.

Weld Trail

Sawteeth/Pyramid junction

The trail climbs rather steeply at times as it makes its way up Sawteeth, steeper than I expected. The first views of the Great Range are seen part of the way up the climb. Near the summit there is a small clearing with more views toward the Great Range. At 4,134', Sawteeth stands as the 32nd highest Adirondack peak and my 40th of the 46er summits. After reaching the summit, I returned to the first vista, which has better views, and had a snack before dropping back the saddle between Pyramid and Sawteeth.

First views from Sawteeth


Impressive bare rock

Upper Great Range from Sawteeth

I began the climb toward Pyramid. I anticipated a steep climb, and wasn't let down. The trail moved into clearings along slides that were taking the full brunt of the sun. The snow was quite soft in the clearings making for some slippery footing, even with aggressive crampons on my snowshoes. Although I wasn't postholing, I was slipping some as I climbed and my poles sank deeply.

After a short but tough climb, I reached the summit of Pyramid Peak. The small clearing on the summit features stunning views and lived up to its hype as one of the finest in the High Peaks. In your face views of the Upper Great Range dominate the view with its numerous slide-scarred slopes. The views reach beyond the Great Range with nearly a 360-degree panorama. I took quite a few photos and enjoyed the view for a bit before pushing on.

View from Pyramid

Vermont in the distance

Making my way through the trees below Pyramid

Section of soft snow

Gothics

Giant and Rocky Peak Ridge

Dix and Nippletop

Good look at the scarred terrain

Haystack, Marcy, and Basin

Marcy, Basin, Saddleback, and Algonquin

Upper Ausable Lake in the foreground Boreas in the distance


Giant and Rocky Peak Ridge

Fog over Lake Champlain with Green Mountains
in the distance

Pyramid's view

Upper Great Range

Haystack, Skylight, and Marcy

East side of Gothics

The trail from Pyramid doesn't lose much elevation. The route often stays in the open with nearly continuous views. Despite the full sun, the snow was more solid in the slightly cooler temperature as I gained elevation. The trail exits the trees as it gains Gothics summits.

Climbing through open terrain

Looking back at Pyramid

Haystack and Skylight

Close up of the highest of the High Peaks

Open ledges near Gothics summit

Nearing Gothics summit

I quickly reached the 4,734' summit of Gothics, the 10th highest Adirondack summit. Given its location in the heart of the Great Range and its alpine summit, the scenery from Gothics is among the best in the Adirondacks. The summit is even more impressive in winter. Gothics is a peak that I was happy to revisit. I took a longer break on Gothics to enjoy the scenery and have another snacks. Just like Sawteeth and Pyramid Peak, I had the summit of Gothics to myself, a real treat. 

MacIntyre Range

Dix and Nippletop

Mountains to the south

Lakes to the south

Haystack, Skylight, Basin, Marcy, and Saddleback

Packed trail along Gothics

Gothics open summit

I don't hike enough in winter. The snow covers the obstacles along the trail, allowing for smooth footing on otherwise rough footing in summer. There were numerous tracks also visible in the snow. My best guess is marten tracks. The descent from Gothics followed an open, snowy ridge.

Descending Gothics

Looking back toward Gothics


Tracks in the snow on Gothics


I reached the junction of the Beaver Meadow Trail, my descent route soon after leaving Gothics. Since I was only .4 miles from Armstrong Mountain. I knew that Armstrong's open ledge also had some nice views so I made the short side trip to take in one more summit.

View from Armstrong

The upper reaches of the Beaver Meadow Trail has a reputation for rough terrain. In the snow, the trail was generally smooth with the snow hiding most obstacles. A couple ladders near the upper reaches of the trail were mostly bypassed with deep snow covering the rungs. The higher elevations of the trail also provide nice views across slides on Gothics east side, including views of Pyramid and Sawteeth.

Looking south

Dix in distance

Gothics and Pyramid

As I made my way down the Beaver Meadow the trail entered thicker forests with less views. I passed a pair of older hikers that I saw on the road walk in the morning. They had no snowshoes and were running into postholing issues. As I lost elevation, I started to encounter softer snow. With the snowshoes, I didn't sink, but slid a little on steeper sections.

Descending through hardwoods

Near the lower reaches of the Beaver Meadow Trail, I passed Beaver Meadow Falls. Just like Rainbow Falls, it was frozen solid. At 60' and quite a bit lower than Rainbow Falls, it looks impressive and quite pretty in its frozen state. I would like to see it when flowing as well.

Beaver Meadow Falls

Meadow along Beaver Meadow Trail

Not long after the falls, I reached the road again. On the road, I removed my snowshoes, hat, and gloves. In the valley, the temperature was approaching the upper 40s and in the full sun. My walk out on the road wasn't quite as long as the walk in. I reached my car about 140PM. My total loop was in the 14.5 mile range, with almost half of it on the road. 

View from Gothics

I can't say enough good things about this hike. The weather cooperated perfectly with brilliant sunshine, summits in the 30s, and hardly any wind. I climbed four summits and had them all to myself, which is not common on such a beautiful day in the High Peaks. With the exception of a few groups on the road, I only encountered one other group on the trails all day. All four summits have good views, especially Pyramid and Gothics, which are among the finest in the Adirondacks. The snow stayed firm enough for the majority of the hike, not causing too many problems. This was my second winter outing in a row in the High Peaks with nearly flawless conditions.
 
Upper Great Range from Sawteeth


Upper Great Range

Views from Sawteeth

Elevation profile


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