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Weather Throws Curveballs at Outing Club Trips


Spring break is the trickiest time of year to be in the backcountry.  If it’s not snowing, it’s raining, and if you ever need to go downhill, you have a thick layer of ice  on which to slide down.  Frostbite and hypothermia from getting wet and cold are still serious threats, but so is sunburn. 

The weather threw a few curveballs at the two Outing Club trips that backpacked in the Northeast during the first week of Hamilton’s spring break.  While four students were climbing one of the High Peaks of the Adirondack State Park in New York, three other students trekked into the Pemigewasset Wilderness of the White Mountain National Forest in New Hampshire.

Outing Club leaders Elise LePage ’18 and Alex Holmwood ’19 spent three days leading students Megan Bates ’18 and Juan Hernandez ’19 through the Adirondacks.  Before the trips set out, the LePage and Holmwood prepared their gear in full winter camping regalia: gear sleds, -20°F sleeping bags, and snowshoes.  However, as spring break approached, the leaders reassessed the impending warm weather and changed a large portion of their gear so they were suited for warmer weather.  

Starting at the South Meadows trailhead near Lake Placid, N.Y., the students hiked many miles into the grand pass by Avalanche Lake.  It was here, on compressed snow, where they spent their first night camping.  The next day, they traversed through ice and snow around both Avalanche Lake and Lake Colden to reach their new campsite.  That afternoon, they hiked up the southwest side of Mount Colden, where they were greeted with sunny, clear skies and dry, ice-free rock.  Though they left their snowshoes at home, the team of four students managed to hike up the mountain in microspikes, which are small spikes attachable to the bottom of boots.  After spending the night by the lake, the four students hiked back to the car the next morning.

Meanwhile, 200 hundred miles east near Lincoln, NH, in the White Mountains, Outing Club students Anne Emanuels ’16, Gabby Pilson ’17 and Anne McGarvey ’17 spent three days immersed in the park’s Pemigewasset Wilderness.  A 30-mile loop of trails, dubbed the “Pemi Loop,” encircles the entire wilderness area.  Backpackers spend the majority of their time on the loop above tree line on exposed ridges.  Between starting their hike on a sunny, 70°F day, and finishing it in a snowstorm, the students were able to summit Mount Flume, Mount Liberty, Mount Lincoln, Mount Lafayette, and Mount Garfield.  During the three-day trip, the students hiked the western half the Pemi Loop by cutting the circle in half.  According to Pilson, the students spent the majority of the trip “extreme-microspiking” and “serious alpine butt-scootching” to get up and down the exposed peaks.

 

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