Dan Human shares what he has learned from several thousand miles of backpacking, hiking and paddling.
A Couple of Easier-to-Climb Mountains in the Adirondack High Peaks
Street and Nye are two of those mountains that people only seem to climb because it is on the Adirondack 46r list. It is a shame, as the hike up these two peaks is surely a most pleasant walk. It is also not a repeat climb for many aspiring 46rs and the like, so it has minimum travel. Yes, perhaps the views from the summit aren't as grand as the MacIntyre Range, nor as vertically rugged as the Great Range, but every mountain is great in itself simply because it is.
I've climbed these peaks once before on a very cold winter day in January with my friend Bob. It was chilly in the single digits, even before the added wind chill. The cold snap started just days before, reversing the trend of a mid-winter meltdown. The ice was soft, but the trails were nicely packed for snowshoeing. I already had this climb for my 46 "w" but needed it for my solo 46 list as well as my second round.
On this particular December 1st hike, it was less chilly and the ground had been covered with a pleasing snow the day before. It was the first snow of this hiking season for me; I've been waiting for snow since the last snowshoeing trip to the Colvin Range in April. This time I left the snowshoes in the car but used Kahtoola Microspikes the entire trip to give me the traction I needed through the snow, ice, and mud.
From the Trailhead to the Ford at Indian Brook
The best place to park for climbing Street and Nye, unless you plan on a 15-mile approach is to park at the Adirondack Loj, HPIC. For those of you that don't know, yes you must pay for parking at the Loj, but there are discounts for ADK members.
I left my car early that morning a little before 6 am and walked in darkness down the Indian Pass Trail paralleling Heart Lake. Though I usually don't start walking that early, I had an early night the day prior and was anxious to hike in snow again. Along the way, I paused at one of the benches overlooking the small but serene lake to spy the first hints of sunrise over the MacIntyre Range. I pressed on, passing the trails to Mt Jo till I came to the sign stating "Trails not maintained beyond this point." This trail is part of the remnants of the Old Nye Ski Trail and the main route up to these two mountains. Though there are no maintained trails to the summits, the herd path is generally pretty easy to find and follow.
The walking was easy that morning, albeit a little slippery from the snow-covered leaves. I decided to put on my microspikes to scale up and down the creek beds that drain down into Indian Brook. I came to the roaring Indian Brook after walking about 1.25 miles; in the summer this is generally a rock hop but now it was quite a bit deeper. Unfortunately, it hadn't been cold enough yet to free over; frozen rivers are the most fun ones to ford. I scoured the east side of the bank looking for the best fording point. It was in the low 30s and I wanted to keep dry as possible; it was perfect conditions for hypothermia. I decided to cross at the traditional point signified by cairns at both sides of the brook, it looked like I could almost hop between the rocks.
I firmly planted my poles as I balanced precariously on the first and then the second and third. I found myself in the midst of the brook, evaluating my position and unable to get to the next rock and stay completely dry. I probed the fast-moving waters and found the next rock a few inches underwater. I stepped onto that rock, my Keen Redmond boots keeping me dry, then propelled myself upward to the next stone outcropping. I barely grabbed onto that rock and started falling backwards, my poles steadied me and kept me dry. I looked down at the chunks of ice floating down the wild mountain brook and decided that this wouldn't be a good day to take a swim. After climbing up over a large boulder I finally made it to the other side and found the herd path starting from a large cairn.
From Indian Brook to the Street and Nye Col
In reviewing trip reports, it seems that there are a fair amount of hikers that never cross Indian Brook due to high water conditions. Therefore the herd path isn't as well worn on the west side as it is on the east, but still very easy to follow. I explored the far side looking for remnants of the old herd path going directly up Street but was unable to find one. I decided to forgo heavy bushwhacking are returned back to the main herd path.
The trail is pleasant enough for walking with a few great places to give pause and observe nature. There is a plethora of beaver activity along the trail with plenty of drags and fresh cutting. One immense tree near the trail is cut nearly halfway through and it shows the dedication and ingenuity of the flat-tailed woodland engineer.
The trail follows the creek up the mountain, switching the sides of the bank frequently to avoid muddier sections and blowdown. As I climbed upward, the sound of the creek grew fainter as more and more ice formed. Before I had to melt snow, I grabbed some water and purified it with my steripen. As you start getting to about the 3200' level, make sure you turn around. I was able to get some outstanding views on the way up - well good for this range anyway.
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The Street and Nye Summit Ridge
As you reach the col between Street and Nye, you'll find a large cairn - the largest on this route. The herd path runs into the unmarked Street - Nye ridge heard path, which is also quite defined. I did lose the trail briefly in one spot while climbing Street, but found the path again quickly. Anyone who has ever followed my footprints while following a herd path knows how I tend to wander.
It seems like most people tend to venture to the summit of Nye first, and on this day I did the same. Of course, Nye is closer too; it is only about seven minutes from the Col. It goes without saying that Nye's summit is lackluster as are all wooded summits, but there are a few viewpoints nearby. As I scrambled through the thick gathering of trees I could spot a good view of the Seward Range to the west.
After spending some time at Nye with mandatory summit photography I quickly popped back down to the col, then started the climb to Street. Street's peak is a little bit farther, and it took me about 23 minutes to reach the summit. For some reason both times I have climbed this mountain I have walked right past the summit sign. So, if you've reached the path going to the scenic overlook, turn around and look for the sign. There were a few good great views from Street to the Santanoni and MacIntyre Ranges. When I hiked this peak last time the view was better because I was standing about three feet of snowpack. Standing on the four inches of powder didn't really put me over the view-blocking brush.
I started chilling down as I started to descend so adjusted my layers and began following the trail back down. I even had to don my mittens as my fingers began to get a little tender from the cold. I was glad I brought all my winter gear with me.
I made it down the trail and then came back to the thing I was dreading: Indian Book. With the sun melted snow in the stream, the brook was a little higher. There were a few more rocks underwater now, so I stored my camera back in its waterproof pouch in preparation for a good old-fashioned dunking. The first step onto a submerged rock went well, balancing on one foot with poles planted on the river bed. I quickly went for the next rock, it was at least 8 inches underwater now. I had trouble placing my poles in the deep fast-moving water but managed to place my foot on that rock. But as I swing my leg to the next rock while pushing off with my other foot, one leg quickly slid off. I went up to my knee in that cold water but managed to keep the other foot dry as I yanked myself out of that stream. I plodded to the shore knowing now that the hard part was over. I still had plenty of daylight as I sauntered back to the Loj and even decided to climb Mt Jo before stopping hiking that day.
Climbing the Cascade Slide
- Hiking the Adirondack 46: The Cascade "Snow Princess" Slide
Are you heading up to the Adirondack High Peaks to climb the popular Cascade and Porter mountains? Join Outbound Dan Human in his recent climb up the new Snow Princess Cascade slide.
Dan Human (author) from Niagara Falls, NY on December 19, 2011:
There are some excellent places to camp around the trails up to these peaks.
caravandrifter on December 19, 2011:
man those look likegreat places to camp, and cold
chabias on December 18, 2011:
I'm in Niagara County myself. Wish I could make it as often as you do. Enjoy!
Dan Human (author) from Niagara Falls, NY on December 18, 2011:
Thanks Chabias, I try to make it up to the 'Dacks about once a month. I live in the Niagara Falls area so it is only about a six to seven hour drive up to the High Peaks.
chabias on December 18, 2011:
Awesome pictures, Dan! I haven't been to the Adirondacks in years. Hope to find time to do this soon. Thanks!