Monday, June 28, 2021

Mount Marshall and Indian Pass

With only a handful of hikes left to finish the Adirondack 46 High Peaks, I wanted to tackle Mount Marshall. With the remaining peaks I have to climb, nothing seemed convenient to combine with Marshall. I didn't like the idea of an out and back. I decided to make a loop out of the hike. Starting at the Upper Works trailhead, I would begin my trip climbing Indian Pass and onto Cold Brook Pass. I would summit from Cold Brook Pass and descend via Herbert Brook and back to Upper Works along the Calamity Brook Trail. 

This route would accomplish several objectives. I wanted to visit Indian Pass. After seeing the cliffs of Wallface from a distance, I wanted the close up views only accessible from Indian Pass. The Cold Brook Pass Trail doesn't seem to see much traffic, and that was appealing. I also wanted see the wreckage of a plane crash from 1969 close to the trail near the height of Cold Brook Pass. Descending Herbert Brook and the Calamity Brook Trail eliminated the need to retrace my steps. This was all new territory for me.

I set out on Friday, June 25th since it was the last forecasted nice weather day before showery and steamy weather rolled in for the next week. Not knowing the parking situation at Upper Works, I left home just before 5AM. Although I don't enjoy getting up early, I do enjoy a nice sunrise. Just a few miles from home, I passed Simon Pond with a beautiful pink hue lighting the mountains and pond.

Pretty morning sky over Simon Pond 
on the drive 

My hike began at the Upper Works trailhead, located near Newcomb. Upper Works serves as the southern entry into the High Peaks. I reached the trailhead around 6AM and was surprised to see plenty of parking available, an advantage to hiking on a weekday. Recently this parking area has been moved back about a tenth of a mile and appears to be more spacious than the old parking lot. I began hiking about 610AM. My usual hiking partner and collaborator Choya (The Cactus Mutt) happily tagged along.

Our first destination for the day was Indian Pass. Indian Pass is known for its dramatic cliffs on the east face of Wallface. I was eager to see the massive cliffs up close. Despite the trail's rugged reputation, the first couple miles before the pass are pretty tame. The trail travels along several nice streams and passes a couple lean-tos. The trail quickly becomes more rugged as it gains elevation in the pass. The path travels in and around a jumble of large rocks and becomes rockier with elevation. Two sections require ladders to negotiate rocks too high to safely scramble. Choya could easily skirt around the first ladder. The second one was taller and steeper. He climbed quickly before I could prepare. I helped him up the second half of the ladder just so he wouldn't fall even though even though he seemed determined and not too concerned.   

Sign near the trailhead

I saw several red efts near the start

A nice, newer bridge

I always enjoy hiking along mountain brooks

The trail followed along the banks at times

Sun filtering through the trees

Large rock along trail to Indian Pass

First ladder

I needed to help Choya on this ladder

After the second ladder, the trail reaches a signed junction for Summit Rock. This short trail leads to a grandstand view of the cliffs on Wallface. I don't know the exact size of the cliffs but most sources list it between 700 and 800 feet high. In person, at close range, the cliffs on Wallface are quite impressive and a worthy destination by itself. For experienced rock climbers, Wallface offers some of the best wilderness climbing in the east. From Upper Works, the hike to Summit Rock is about 4.5 miles.

Junction to Summit Rock

Looking into Indian Pass

Choya in front of Wallface


Beyond Summit Rock, the trail climbs to the height of land in Indian Pass in a short distance before descending to the north.  The descent seemed much more rugged on the north side of the pass. The route followed along, and sometimes through, a creek. The rough footing traveled over large, uneven rocks most of the time. When the descent leveled out, it traveled along the edge of Indian Pass Brook, and sometimes through it. The water level was low however and it was just a rock hop.

Possibly a cave under the rocks

A view back at the cliffs

The trail followed the creek after the pass

The descent from the pass was rough and rocky

One of several creek crossings

After a brief section that traveled partially through Indian Pass Creek, the trail returned to actual tread. I soon reached a pair of signs that seemed like it should have been the start of the Cold Brook Pass Trail. I was at the start of trail, but Cold Brook Pass is no longer maintained, and the sign for it was no longer there. A small cairn however marked the start of the trail at the junction. Although the cairn and start of the trail were somewhat hidden, the tread remains visible for the most part. 

The trail followed the creek 

The trail follows close to several creeks with frequent crossings. A few spots saw the tread a little more difficult to follow, but I never lost the trail. The route passes by several small waterfalls. Despite the lack of maintenance, there are a fair amount of yellow trail discs along the route and the occasional arrow. At times the path followed a creek bed over rock. At higher elevations the route became overgrown in the spruce. Despite a few obstacles and signs of misuse, the route is usually obvious along its length to Cold Brook Pass.

Nice waterfall on Cold Brook Pass Trail

Another shot of the falls

Choya posing

A smaller waterfall upstream

Showing lack of maintenance 

Path of least resistance

As the terrain leveled out near the pass, I saw a cairn marking the path to Marshall. Before heading to Marshall, I had one more short detour. A plane crashed in 1969 just off the trail, roughly a 1/4 mile beyond the Marshall herd path and just east of the height of the pass. In a braided section of trail, Choya actually led me to the herd path leading to the crash site. A large, single rock marks the turnoff to the plane. I almost didn't notice the rockbsince its covered in moss. Only when Choya veered to the path did I realize I was standing in front of the large rock. I was more focused on dodging mud. The plane can be seen from behind the rock.

Although the engine and interior are missing, the plane looks pretty good for crashing into trees and more than 50 years of weather. Its left wing is detached and just a few feet from the rest of the plane. The pilot was in pretty rough shape, but survived. Visiting this link from Aviation Week tells the details of the crash. It's a pretty interesting read if your interested in the story. With my background as a pilot, I couldn't turn down visiting the wreckage since it was only 1/4 mile off my path.

Piper Cherokee from 1969 crash

I wouldn't want to carry out the engine

The left wing near the crash site

From the plane crash site, I backtracked for about eight minutes back to the Marshall herd path. I don't think this herd path sees nearly as many people as the Herbert Brook path from the east. The path was fairly rocky and rooty with plenty of brush encroaching the trail and numerous muddy spots. From Cold Brook Pass, this herd path travels about one mile to the summit with 550' of elevation gain. There was one smaller bump before making the final push to the summit of Marshall. At least one high ledge required me to lift Choya. Take a moment to look behind you if ascending this route to catch the occasional view of Iroquois and Lake Placid.

Rough herd path


At 4,360', Mt. Marshall stands as the 25th highest peak in the Adirondacks. The actual summit lacks any views. If you take a few moments to follow the paths near the summit, you can find views in most directions. The view to the south has the most open vantage with a full 180 degrees. You can catch a pretty good look toward Lake Placid and Whiteface to the northwest. Iroquois, Marshall's bigger brother, lies less than a mile to the north and dominates the view in that direction. Perhaps the most impressive view comes from an obscure herd path that leads to a nice east toward Colden and Marcy with Flowed Lands visible in the valley.

I took a break at the southern view point. Choya and I both refueld and hydrated before descending Herbert Brook. The last stand of black flies started to visit us while we took our break. 


View toward Lake Placid

Views from a clearing just south of the summit

Santanoni and Henderson Lake

A wider view toward Henderson Lake

Calamity Mountain

A view over Flowed Lands

Colden, Marcy, Skylight, and Redfield

The Herbert Brook herd path starts out steeply for a short distance before mellowing. Much of the path follows closely to the brook. This herd path has a reputation for braiding and a little difficulty to follow. I only found one spot on the descent that caused confusion. Another pair was trying to get their bearings on a GPS at the same spot. Two obvious paths were visible, but one was branched over. I took the path that wasn't blocked with broken branches and ended at blowdown. When I returned to the junction, I saw the third and correct option that followed the creek which had someone walking up it.

Herbert Brook features numerous small waterfalls as it tumbles down its rocky course. At times the water flows over wide slides, often covered in moss. The trail crosses the brook repeatedly. Occasionally the trail even follows the edge of water over sections of slides. In high water, this trail must be quite impressive.  I splashed down Choya a couple times to keep him cool and dunked my head in the brook to keep cool.

Descending Herbert Brook

Mossy waterfalls

I'd like to see this in higher water

The trail walks down the brook at times

The Herbert Brook herd path travels roughly a mile and a half between the summit and the Calamity Brook Trail. It felt longer to me. The footing is better than the Cold Brook herd path, but I was feeling the descent. I was happy when I reached the Calamity Brook Trail.

I followed the Calamity Brook Trail over 5 miles back to the trailhead. I passed several groups of backpackers making their way into the backcountry for the night. The Calamity Brook Trail dropped gradually over its course, crossing the occasional brook. A short side trail leads to a monument that seems out of place in the middle of the forest. The Henderson Monument marks the spot where David Henderson accidentally shot himself in 1845 while scouting the area. This accidental shooting is the calamity that gives Calamity Brook its name. A brook flows through a pretty meadow just beyond the monument.

Henderson Memorial

View at the Henderson Memorial

Nice section of bog bridge

The home stretch

I reached the trailhead around 245PM. With my side trip to the plane crash site, this trip clocked in at close to 16 miles. I'm glad I chose to hike this trip as a loop incorporating Indian Pass and the plane crash site. I think the standard out and back via Calamity Brook and Herbert Brook would have been much less impressive. Although quite a bit more strenuous and rugged, my route allowed me to see some interesting sites and travel to some areas that are a little less traveled.

Another look at the morning sun on Simon Pond



The Mutt sticking his tongue out at me apparently

Choya on a bog bridge

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