Mount Colvin and Blake Peak withstand a lot of negativity. Well, mostly Blake. Known for the steep descent off of Colvin and the loss of serious elevation, only to climb all the way back up to Blake. The ascent is called “The Elevator Shaft” for a reason…and a good one at that!
I, too, have possessed a “blah” feeling about hiking this duo for my 46. So much so, that this hike has been my “Plan B” route for over a year now!
But alas, on Sunday, January 22nd, these two wondrous mountains would be my Plan B, that I actually accomplished. My original plan was to climb Allen Mountain with a group of hikers. (Not one I wanted to attempt alone in the winter) But..when the group canceled due to weather and changes in schedules, my Plan B hike was set into motion.
The mountain weather that weekend was warm, 38 degrees and foggy! So foggy, you needed bushwhacking skills to just slice through the murky mess.
I arrived at the St. Hubert’s lot around 7:00 a.m., and headed up the road to the AMR trail head 15 minutes later. As I mentioned, the fog was intense. When you were actually walking through it, the visibility seemed reasonable. But from a distance, “creepy, dark and scary” were the thoughts that came to mind.
Back again, Lake Road…the fog appeared to be dissipating for the moment.
I noticed only a few names ahead of me in the trail register, all of whom were heading to hike some portion of the Great Range. So far, it was just I, attempting Colvin and Blake for now.
I have a love/hate relationship with Lake Road. Love that it is generally flat and easy walking. Fast hike in…but for some strange reason, it seems to grow longer on the way out!
Colvin and Blake…Blake and Colvin…as I hiked the 3 mile trek down the road, the fog soup formed again. Beautiful…but eerie. Conversations between my mind and heart began their usual bickering. I must have tried to talk myself out of this hike a dozen times over those quiet, cloud-filled miles.
After 45 minutes of walking, I reached the junction for the Gill Brook cut-off. I dropped my pack and poles…and stalled for a few minutes. By stall, I mean, I ate a protein bar and seriously contemplated hiking myself back to the St. Hubert’s parking lot, and settle for some french toast and eggs.
Fear, grrr. “This is crazy. You are a mom with 3 kids at home. Why are you doing this? Just turn around, drive to Placid, enjoy some breakfast and window-shopping and call it a foggy day.”
Just as I was ready to let Fear win, a group of hikers appeared through the haze.
“Just taking a short break?” they asked.
“Uh…yes. Yes, that is EXACTLY what I was doing…” I replied. Haha! No need for them to know I was ready to call it quits. So actually, “saving face”and positive peer pressure won out this time. And thank goodness…because I would be in for quite a blessing on this hike.
Onward through the mountain mist…
Trail mushrooms galore!
This hike was “the journey of many junctions” similarly to the trek up to Mount Marcy.
These next two junction points were only 10 minutes from the turnoff from Lake Road, and only 2 minutes apart from each other!
The trail towards Elk Pass was a nice, gentle climb on the padded, snow path underfoot. It definitely appeared easier this time around, as compared to Columbus Day, when I traveled this route to climb Nippletop and Dial Mountains. (That’s a story for another day!)
It was about 8:45 a.m. So roughly an hour and a half of hiking thus far.
and 20 minutes later…another junction point.
Despite the fog, the weather was quite pleasant. There were no winds to be had, and the snow was still fairly packed down. The trail to Colvin had been broken out, which made the journey SO much easier. Microspikes provided well enough traction for a bit further…
At 9:35 a.m., I arrived at the junction between two ranges…one way to Elk Pass, the other to Colvin/Blake. Considering the terrain change, and snow accumulation, I changed into my snowshoes. There was quite a bit of snow from here on out and the snow was slowly turning into heavy, semi-slush snow. It was also time for another snack and some water. Another 2 groups had caught up to me at the junction. One headed to Elk Pass, the other would be ascending Colvin as well. However, both groups were remained at the junction totake a break and enjoy their meals.
Only 1.1 miles to the summit of Mount Colvin. The 2.4 mileage to Blake was slightly daunting and ego-deflating. But, I still “had miles to go before I sleep” so onward it was for me…
I am extremely thankful that I decided to push myself and not take a rest break back at the junction. The reason? The fog lifted. I spotted patches of blue sky…and the sun…it was shining!!
A renewed energy filled my spirit! My pace quickened, a smile graced my face, and I even began singing.
“Here comes the sun…dodododooo, here comes the sun, and I say, it’s alright.” Yes, all was right in the world again, even if only for moments at a time.
Yes! The fun began…when you reach these next few inclines, the summit is soooo close!
I have to say, climbing in snowshoes becomes easier and easier over time. Up, up, up!
My friend Mallory climbed Colvin already, so I found myself talking aloud to her during this next section of the trail. Hiking alone is funny that way. Some conversations occur only in your mind…usually with yourself. Then other times, I, at least, carry on discussions out loud with people as if they are right there with me. #callmecrazy
Blue sky!!! And clues of the blessing that was about to be bestowed upon me.
Some tricky spots but nothing a good pair of snowshoes and strong arms could not handle…
Then…at 10:30 a.m.
Mount Colvin is the 39th highest peak, standing at 4,081 feet tall. Additionally, it marked my 26th high peak! (and my 11th winter high peak, as well)
I climbed up onto the lookout rock and oh my goodness…a sight to behold was waiting…
A mountain inversion!! Literally took my breath away…
Yup…Marcy and Haystack.
Brought me to tears…
The inversion lasted only 15 minutes…I remained on the summit to take in the view and enjoy my lunch. Be present in all things. Breathe it all in…
Sadly, by 10:45 a.m., the clouds engulfed the mountains and the blue sky, once again…I witnessed it all just fade away, as if it never existed.
Blessings? YES!! This was not a coincidence. I am convinced I was meant to arrive at the summit for this exact moment. Had I stayed longer at the previous junction, or given up earlier, I would have missed this!
And just like that…it was gone. Life. Mountains. Comes and goes, ebbs and flows…live in the moment you are in. Count your blessings in every moment. You truly never know when they will come again..
Here in lies the real excitement. The descent off of Colvin and the climb up Blake’s elevator shaft!
Now, I’ve experienced some tricky descents before…but the drastic loss of elevation coming down Colvin was crazy. The path is very narrow, and there are quite a few ledges and tiny footholds. The width of my snowshoes barely fit on the ledges, and that was with one foot constantly in front of the other.
There are a few spots in the col between Giant and Rocky Peak Ridge that are treacherous. Personally, I felt some of the spots on Colvin were much worse.
Down, down, down. Momentum and gravity are not necessarily your friends on this particular descent. (However, Blake is a different story!)
I only stopped twice to take pictures. And quite honestly, the bottom of both these ladders were NOT the safest place to stop…NARROOOOOOWWWW!
Yes, a sign! Noooo…yes, another .5 sign. For the record, it was more like .8 to the summit, according to my Garmin.
My friend Helene always reminds me to have 3 points of contact when climbing. So Helene became my mantra for the unrelenting ascent that would be Blake Peak.
“1 (slam snowshoe crampons in), 2 (pole), 3 (pole)...and up.” Over and over, I recited my mantra aloud. The awesome aspect about Blake is just as you jump your first rock chimney hurdle, so to speak,…there’s another waiting!
I know people give Blake a bad rap…but to be honest, I actually had a great time climbing Blake. I was huffing and puffing, but I found the challenge invigorating and exciting.
My focus was so zeroed in that I only managed to snap one photo of the ascent about halfway to the summit.
I reached the summit at 11:50 a.m., only taking 30 minutes to hike .5 miles. I searched around the wooded summit looking for that Pinnacle sign…but I gave up. After all that work too!
Blake Peak is the 43 highest peak, standing only at 3960 feet tall. But still, it became my 27th high peak (12th winter) and now I only have teen numbers to go!
After the last of my water and snacks were devoured, anxiety to get moving again began tapping me on my shoulder. I was not necessarily excited to reclimb Mount Colvin. Believe it or not, it only took me 15 minutes to descend Blake!
And here is why! Buttsliding. Buttsliding down Blake!!! I attempted to videotape it with my phone, but alas, epic fail. #needagopro
Here’s what that fail looks like…haha!
Haha!! In any case, I slid the entire way down Blake! It.was.awesome. Awesome, I tell you!
Back to the junction by 12:25 p.m. and kept on trucking through the murky mess.
Back up and over Colvin (again, some tricky sections to navigate) and out to Lake Road by 2:25 p.m.
At 3:08 p.m. I bid Lake Road “So long, farewell” and signed myself o.u.t of this hike! Time for that french toast and eggs at the Noonmark Diner, before the 4 1/2 drive back home!
Time: 8 hours with stops
Distance: 15 miles.
For a Plan B hike that mostly receives “blahs,” it was the PERFECT choice for this day. It does have a cute little profile, too.
The lesson here? Sometimes Plan B (and probably even C or D) turn out to be even better than your original hopes and dreams. I experienced the beauty of hiking in fog, witnessed a mountain miracle at the summit of Mount Colvin, proudly fought my way up Blake, and just like a little girl, I buttslid myself back down that mountain like it was my job!
Fear was allowed a seat but not a voice (thank goodness for peer pressure as well). Once again, I discovered that I had the power all along to see this one through.
I salute you Lake Road and your beautiful trails that you behold so dearly. A blessing in disguise, for sure.
Praising Plan B’s,