Wednesday, December 28, 2022
Start/End: The Loj
Elevation gain/loss: 4308’/4386′
Peaks: Algonquin, Wright
My friend Scott picked me up on his way through Keene Valley in the afternoon and we headed up to the Loj. We met up with Eli and Scott in the parking lot and then we headed out. We were stopped by a group of 3-4 rangers a mile from the Loj, inquiring about our preparedness for being out after dark. We provided reassurance of our competency and experience, and then headed up the trail. The climb up towards the Wright intersection was steep but very well packed out. We switched to snowshoes for the heel lifts and the substantial crampons for grip. There were a few sections that were very icy, but with care and caution, they were quite manageable. We paused at the Wright intersection for a snack, and then pushed on towards Algonquin.
We layered up right before breaking treeline and were blasted with incredibly high winds. The winds were not within the 30-40 MPH we’d been expecting; we were knocked off our feet multiple times and had to lean bent double to make any progress. The windchill was well below zero despite the day being relatively warm at ~25 degrees. We periodically checked in, huddled behind a rock, shouting to be heard. We went for the summit, but had already decided we wouldn’t be progressing past Algonquin today unless something drastically changed. The day was heading quickly toward sunset, and we wouldn’t have time to travel through the col and ascend Iroquois before dark. That section is well known for having many spruce traps, and the route wasn’t broken out. It would be dangerous to be breaking trail in the dark in that section, and ascending Algonquin again in the dark would be very difficult. At the summit, we were able to lean into the wind gusts and rest our body weight against it fully without falling over; we estimated the gusts were at least 60 MPH. We were lucky to have the sky partially clear while we were at the summit, and took some nice pictures. Then we headed back down to the Wright intersection.
We had another snack and then took the short spur trail up to Wright. The wind was just as fierce there as on Algonquin, but we were treated to some truly spectacular sunset views! We soaked in the summit views as long as we could and then headed back down. Despite being turned away from our final summit, it was a joyful evening spent with friends!