Peaks: Cascade and Porter
Hiking in the winter adds an entirely different dynamic to climbing, particularly if there is a lot of snow and wind. This was our second hike in winter conditions, but the previous one up Phelps was early enough in the season that it didn’t get truly wintery until the last half mile. We wouldn’t be so lucky this time. Just driving to the trailhead involved a 5 hour cruise through near whiteout conditions. Brian and I we’re considerate enough to fall asleep in the car and allow Allie to drive through the blizzard in solitude (insert sarcasm, she wasn’t happy). After a brave drive it was time for a brave hike. Barley able to see the cars headed down the road, we jumped onto the trail and made haste.
Cascade and Porter are considered the easiest climbs in the ADKs. The trail is one of the shortest and the views are very rewarding considering Cascade is almost completely bald. What you don’t hear is how the trail gains thousands of feet in altitude in that very short hike. It was by no means hard, but the gail force winds that day made for frigid hiking at the exposed sections. Without snowshoes or microspikes even, we made it to the outskirts of Cascade’s summit in quick time. Feeling good about ourselves, we dropped our packs where the snowpack ended and made our way to the rocks to take in our first winter view. The wind had other ideas.
The day had partial visibility, making for a sublime panorama. The winds at this point were gusting well over 80 mph. You could lean back as if in an armchair and have the wind hold your weight for a few seconds. The virtual skating rink that encased the rocks made for a pretty easy form of transport, just put out your arms and let the wind slide you across. It was a thrilling experience, even though we all got pinned to the side of the mountain on several occasions, unable to move or even look up. As we turned to leave after snapping a few shots, a gust came down so ferociously that every hiker on the summit simultaneously ducked so they would not be blown over. It was some of the most fun I’ve had climbing before, but it was brutal, painfully so.
The climb over to and up Porter was quick, but chilly after the ice blasting we got on Cascade. We celebrated our second peak of the day, took a few more shots, huddled for warmth and then got the hell out of there. Despite the periodic pain from the cold, this was one of my favorite climbs. I also learned a great remedy for the cold in our post-climb downtime: hot cider and carmel vodka. In the words of Sylvia Plath, “I began to think vodka was my drink at last. It didn’t taste like anything, but it went straight down into my stomach like a sword swallowers’ sword and made me feel powerful and godlike.”