Sunday, November 13, 2011
Street & Nye Mountains: 11/12/2011
It's probably fair to say that Street and Nye aren't climbed by anyone but aspiring 46ers. There's no maintained trail, and both peaks have wooded, viewless summits. Nye isn't even a "real" 46er: its summit is now listed at just 3895'. But a beautiful, crisp pre-winter day not only made the hike interesting, it gave us some great unexpected views to boot.
Hiking at this time of year poses some real difficulties: shortened daylight hours, cold temperatures, trails that are often more ice than snow. With those challenges in mind, Beth and I had been holding Street and Nye as a late fall hiking option since its relatively short distance (just 8 miles round trip) made it easily doable in a short day.
A 6:30am departure from Bolton Landing got us to Adirondack Loj by 8. Driving up, the lower elevations were mostly bare of snow, but many of the higher peaks had a visible coating of snow from the front that came through the previous day.
The route to Street and Nye begins at Adirondack Loj, and passes along Heart Lake's shoreline with spectacular views of the MacIntyre Range (Wright, Algonquin and Iroquois) towering above. The peaks were frosted over with snow and ice, as was the ground even at our relatively low elevation.
Within a mile or so, the route fords Indian Pass Brook (not a good time of year for wet feet) before beginning to climb.
On the other side, the trail roughly follows a tributary of Indian Pass Brook, ascending relatively gradually for much of the way. Open, second growth hardwoods gradually gave way to spruce and hemlock as we gained elevation, and snow increased from a coating to roughly two inches.
Street and Nye are infamous for the amount of blowdown in their upper elevations. Years ago, a confusing maze of herdpaths made route-finding so difficult that these were considered to be among the most difficult of the trail-less peaks. More recently, the Adirondack 46ers have designated and improved a single route up the two peaks, which has not only made the climb easier but has also prevented damage to the forest from the multiple herd paths that existed previously.
We had gotten occassional glimpses of surrounding peaks through the trees all day, but once we were high up on Nye, a surprising number of good views opened up from rock outcrops and open areas of blowdown - not bad for a supposedly viewless peak.
We reached Nye's summit quickly, marked by a simple disk 10' up a tree. As advertised, it was wooded and viewless, but crisp blue skies and a beautiful coat of snow more than made up for the lack of views.
We doubled-back to the N-S junction, and headed for Street. Again, views opened up towards the MacIntyre Range and other surrounding peaks. The route ascends Street's shaded, north side which felt more like a refrigerator today.
We weren't the only ones hiking Street and Nye today. There were two parties of two ahead of us, which made the route easier to follow (the couple inches of snow tended to cover up the path at times). There were two more parties behind us as well. The fact that a dozen or so hikers climbed these two relatively obscure peaks on a November day is evidence of the popularity (for better or worse) of pursuing the 46 High Peaks these days.
By the time we descended to lower elevation, some of the snow had melted off. But even back at Heart Lake much of the snow that we had started the day with remained, evidence that winter is not far off. We made it back to the trailhead in roughly 6 and a half hours round trip. Blue skies, crisp air and a coating of snow proved that peaks often considered to be ho-hum can make for a great hike.
Street Mountain, elevation 4134', order of height: 32. Nye Mountain, elevation 3895', order of height: 45. First ascent for both peaks: Herb Clark, Bob and George Marshall, 1921.