Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Pitchoff Mtn. Balanced Rocks: 05/27/2013

Clearing skies reveal snow-capped High Peaks following Memorial Day 2013 Nor'Easter: Marcy, Colden, Wright, Algonquin, Iroquois.

The Saratoga Skier and Hiker, first-hand accounts of adventures in the Adirondacks and beyond, and Gore Mountain ski blog.We’ve all heard the clichés about the unpredictability of Adirondack weather, but the Nor’Easter that deposited up to 3 feet of snow on the higher elevations of Whiteface, Marcy and the rest of the High Peaks over Memorial Day weekend is one for the record books. We had planned to be in Lake Placid for the Adirondack 46ers annual dinner and award ceremony Sunday evening and to hike with the kids on Monday. Our timing couldn’t have been better: by late Sunday afternoon the storm cleared, yielding spectacular views of white peaks, green valleys and blue skies.

Snow-capped Cascade Mountain rises above Upper Cascade Lake

I had Pitchoff’s Balanced Rocks overlook on my short list of possible hikes. At just over 3 miles round-trip with 900 vertical feet of climbing, it’s well within our kids’ ability range. The Balanced Rocks sit at around 3000’ elevation, high enough that we’d encounter some snow (bonus!) but low enough that it shouldn’t pose much of a problem.

The first half of the Pitchoff trail is relatively easy, traversing a ridgeline above Cascade Pass. Several overlooks offer a commanding view of the Cascade Lakes and Cascade Mountain. Also visible is the dramatic slide that came down during Hurricane Irene in 2011. The slide follows a waterfall (Cascade’s namesake) that has always been there, but the slide now makes the waterfall much more visible. With all the recent rain and snowmelt, the falls were Yosemite-like on Monday.

Ferns unrolling through the new snow

Trillium bloom

Beth climbing one of the steeper sections of the trail

Beyond the ridgeline the trail becomes quite steep, requiring some scrambling in a few spots. As the trail swung around to Pitchoff’s north side, we hit the first patches of snow. Eventually the climbing tapers off and a short side trail leads across open ledges to the Balanced Rocks. The views are expansive, taking in Marcy, Colden, Algonquin and Cascade to the south and west. Owl’s Head, Giant and the Jay Range are visible to the east.

Mount Marcy

Open ledges on the approach to the balanced rocks

The balanced rocks are the further pair

The white peaks provided a striking contrast to the green lower elevations, where the trees are now fully leafed out. The Balanced Rocks overlook is the kind of place you don’t want to leave, but of course eventually it was time to head down. I was a bit concerned that the steep, rougher sections of trail might give the kids some difficulty, but that ended up being a non-issue.

Beth, with Big Slide, Marcy, Colden and Algonquin in view

Climbing the balanced rocks is a must-do for kids

Heading back down

Pitchoff’s Balanced Rocks were probably the perfect hike for our family on Monday. Besides the spectacular views, scrambling on and around the rocks themselves added the right amount of interest for our kids, and hiking through snow in the summer was a bonus. This will likely be a hike that we’ll return to in the summer or fall.

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