December 31, 2019
Nothing like waiting until the last possible day to go back for Seymour! Being a mom comes first. Therefore, Mr. Seymour had to wait. The day before my hike, there was a terrible ice storm across New York State. Everything in the Adirondacks glazed in thick ice. Tree branches hung low across Route 73, as I drove to my usual inn for the weekend.
Allison hiked Seymour with Sean and Jay a few days prior so I had some good reports to follow. The snow had dissipated quite a bit since we were last in the Seward Range. Ice was present in full force for their hike. Skepticism worried the mind a bit about my hike. For one thing, it was New Year’s Eve. For another, it was the day after an ice storm, and it was a Tuesday. There was a high probability I would be the only car at the Corey’s Road trailhead.
Also, Corey’s Road. If it was a sheet of ice, I would have to bail on the hike. The last thing I wanted was to get stuck out there. Again, there was only one way to find out…and I mean, ‘It’s gonna be great!“
I left the inn at 8:30 a.m. and an hour later found myself slowly making my way down Corey’s Road. I did have a Plan B. I still needed Pitchoff Mountain and Mount Van Hoevenberg for my Winter LP9er. So there was that if Seymour didn’t pan out. Deep down, I was hoping it would though. Seymour would be my 40th winter high peak and my 2X46er mountain!
As I approached the winter gate (which we all know is open this year!), a huge snowplow was just turning around. Phew! Corey’s was in decent shape. Check! There was a very faint set of tire tracks ahead of me, so I remained optimistic. The other plus was fresh snow had fallen overnight, which might help with the ice issue ascending Seymour.
One car. There was one other car in the lot when I arrived. I set my InReach to start tracking, sent my coordinates to Jason, Alli and my daughter, Nina and at 9:30 a.m. I was on my way!
Solo hiking kicks me into high gear. The well-traveled trail to Seymour was starting to disintegrate and bits of open running water trickled throughout the path. It is extremely important to set a turnaround time, as well as timed checkpoints when hiking. My turnaround time was 1 p.m. Giving me 3 1/2 hours to summit Seymour. I also kept track of the time it took to arrive at benchmark places: the Blueberry trail junction, the wooden bridge, Blueberry Lean-To, Ward Brook Lean-To. Then I marked the return times to hit all of my benchmarks. Not that I minded hiking in the dark by myself…
Who am I kidding?! HAHA! Motivation to be out before dark is my middle name! Oh did I mention that the other 4 hikers signed in for the day were heading to Donaldson, Emmons and Sewards? So it was just Seymour and I for New Year’s Eve.
I made very good time to the Blueberry Lean-To: an hour and 15 minutes. The plan was to take a quick break at Ward Brook so no stopping yet. The temperature was actually quite tolerable, holding steady at 25 degrees or so.
Just 20 minutes later, at 11:10 a.m. I reached Ward Brook Lean-To. Time for my first break of the day! Unfortunately, this is where the tracks stopped as well. Any tracks made by Allison, Sean and Jay were completely filled in with 5 inches of fresh snow. Fluffy, easy snow thankfully. A 5.5.mile trek in about an hour and 50 minutes. My return time benchmark was to be at the wooden bridge after the Blueberry Lean-To by 3 p.m. Then it just 2.5 miles-ish out.
Layer on, layer off, layer on, layer off. The winter clothing dance commenced as I shed my insulating layer to dry out a bit. Sweaty! Only resting for about 5 minutes of my bone broth and Clif Shot gel break, it was time to embark on the journey up Seymour. It is one of the steepest trails in the Adirondacks. Still, I felt confident, with 2 hours out from my turnaround time. Surely it wouldn’t take more than 2 hours to summit a 1.8 mile ascent? That the most dangerous question you can allow your mind to think! Winter. Winter is the current situation.
The junction for the Seymour’s herdpath. 11:15 a.m. Let the trail searching begin. It sure was beautifully untouched. Silence permeated the surrounding woods.
Low, ice-painted tree limbs draped themselves across the trail. As if to say, “Take care and walk softly in our home.”
Quite a few enormous blowdowns blocked the herdpath early on. A great strategy is to stop and take a 360 turn around the spot. If you’ve climbed enough mountains in the winter, you can feel which way doesn’t feel right. Most of the time. My memory searched back a few years when Mallory and I climbed Seymour. I remembered the big mud pit opening and crossing the brook twice. Obviously the mud pit was delicately blanketed in snow, but the brook was distinctly to the right of me. So I stayed to the left of the brook and hiked further left around and under all the blowdown. (You can read about that hike here https://rundanceclimb.com/2017/07/14/surprises-on-seymour-mountain/)
It was the right choice. Once I crawled over the last fallen tree, a fainted trail could easily be detected. Success! Did I mention Seymour is steep? Holy heck, my stamina was being put to the test! The trail, did in fact, cross the brook a few times before the steady climb began.
At noon, I desperately required a quick rest break. The snow started its graceful debut for the day. All was quiet, except for the gentle rushing of brook that broke through the ice in a few spots.
Then it happened. I looked down and across my path were some big cat prints. Like bobcat size paws. BIG cat paws. As I bent down to take a closer look and snap a photo, a huge crashing, thrashing sounds through the woods scared the bejeezus out of me! The crashing came from across the brook. I’ve heard tree creaking before. It wasn’t that. I’ve heard deer in the woods at night. Nope. This was a large animal sound. I wasn’t exaggerating or kidding. Not today! I didn’t linger to find out! In reality, the rambunctious feline was probably chasing the snowshoe hare tracks I also spotted…that’s what Cerebral Jen was convincing Scared Jen to think. Ahh excitement!
The hike remained at a sharp incline as I climbed my way up to the first high point. Possibly right before the false summit? Pausing to look out over Ampersand Lake, with Ampersand Mountain hiding in the clouds. The ice slabs and scrambles were coated in just enough snow for my crampons to dig in nicely. Only one spot gave me a bit of trouble. I think you know the spot I am referring to…the wider scramble. Very thick ice sneakily waited for me under unconsolidated snow. Short legs and not much to grab onto made for some creative route finding and upper body strength.
Steadily I forged ahead, checking the time and my route. It was currently 1 p.m., I reached my turn around time. But the summit was only .3 miles away. Stay or go, stay or go. As my cell service returned, messages from Jay and Allison came in. Both offered sound advice but ultimately it was up to me.
I stayed. Making that final push to the summit…
At 1:11 p.m., VICTORY! Remember when I said it shouldn’t take me 2 hours to reach the summit?? Ha. Exactly 2 hours on the nose! That was something!
The sign!!! Gorgeous! Covered in mountain icing. Views also worth having.
Seymour Mountain for 40W!! And I’m officially a 2X46er now as well! My hip and I thank you for this moment.
Day 365: Happy (Almost) New Year!
I cannot think of a better way to spend the last day of 2019. A year that has tested the very last bits of myself, as the Universe prepares for my pivoting.
The clouds rolled in as I approached the summit, which made for a neat inversion. The Sewards from Seymour.
Dawdling is for the brave of heart, and this girl was ready to get off this mountain! My summit break lasted only 8 minutes, if that. Just long enough to finish my bone broth and snap some photos.
The sky cleared up on the descent 20 minutes after I left the summit. Rewarded with wonderful views, I proceeded to slide down the ENTIRE mountain! Again…not an exaggeration!
Down, down, down I slid…
…and made it back to the Ward Brook Lean-To in 45 minutes! What?! Two hours to summit, 45 minutes to descend. Goes to show just how steep Seymour really is…you can buttslide down in 45 minutes!
Sweaty, exhausted and whooped. The infamous Seymour smirk that dons most who climb this bad boy in winter, or any season for that matter! A hush fell over the forest once again and I grabbed the opportunity to take a real break. A whole 15 minutes to eat my pizza and drink some Gatorade. The temperature rose 10 degrees during the course of the day. Time to stow my shell safely back into my pack.
Time was on my side. The crazy fast descent off of Seymour helped! My feet hit the trail at 2:15 p.m. and I reached the wooden bridge by 2:45 p.m. Cruising 15 minutes ahead of my return benchmark time, I hustled along. The next section of trail creeps me out a little. That spot between the wooden bridge to just before the Calkins Brook junction. Not sure why, but it’s eerily silent through that section of trail.
Keeping a quick pace, my feet traversed through the wet trail, many portions of flowing water on the return. Snow had melted in many areas and leaves stuck to my Hillsounds. Funny to think a week before, Allison and I were busting through deep snow on Seward!
At 4:00 p.m., the trail register! Unbelievable. This girl beat the sunset!! 6.5 hours, near 14 miles to hike Seymour in good winter conditions. The Universe was on my side on Day 365. It was a sign. Definitely…’cause ya’ll know I don’t believe in coincidences.
I signed out: “40W, 2X46er, Day 365.” Utterly symbolic. You are the sky, everything else is just weather. Truly. Thank you, Universe!
The group of 4 were still out there, but I would suspect they were’t too far behind. The only concern left was the drive out on Corey’s Road. Those two hills. A pop-up snowstorm hit for my drive out and a huge exhale of relief happened when I was back on the main road. For the hour drive back to the inn, my mind reflected on the past year, the past decade. Emotional, to say the least. Life threw many curveballs our way, but the kids and I rose above it all and landed firmly on solid ground. Grateful. Incredibly grateful.
Back at the inn, the other guests and I sat around the fire and shared stories of our day’s adventures. Some were skiers, many were ice climbers. I learned ALOT! Great people. My bourbon and ginger reward never tasted so sweet.
It was the perfect end to a venturesome day. My heart would still need some time to adjust to 2020 in the days to come, but that is okay. Seymour and the Sewards electrified the pivoting and pendulum shattering that would take place in the weeks ahead…I just didn’t know it yet.
Mr. Seymour, both you and Donaldson will forever hold a special place in my heart. Even though my soul was spooked out a few times out there, the Universe kept an eye out on things!
Onto Mount Marshall,