Ampersand Mountain and Beyond

This weekend, Ampersand Mountain in Adirondacks was my Saturday goal. With the Climb to the Castle, the fearsome roller ski race up the Whiteface toll road, looming on Sunday, I wanted to hike something fun, but not so big that I’d blow myself out for the race.

Hurricane was close to my lodging, but I’ve been on it several times.  I’ve never been on Ampersand Mountain; why not try it out?  Under six miles, with 1800 feet of vertical and a bald summit  Done deal.

The first half mile or so was flat and as wide as a highway.

Boardwalk through the trees, down low.

Boardwalk through the trees, down low.

After that, the trail began to go up.  At first it gradually traversed the fall line.

Trail detail.

Trail detail.

But why traverse the fall line when you can go straight up? Trail designers and volunteers pulled off an impressive feat to put in hundreds of steps over approximately one-half mile to prevent erosion.

amp-trail-1

Rock steps.

A couple of hundred feet below the tree line, the breeze began to pick up.  At the tree line, I stopped to put on a wool hat and a vest.

Ampersand mountain tree line

A hiker approaching the tree line.

According to the Adirondack Mountain Club guidebook, Ampersand Mountain’s summit was once wooded.  When Verplanck Colvin surveyed the High Peaks, he had all the trees removed.  A good article on Colvin’s survey can be found in the Adirondack Almanac.

I love the alpine ecosystems above tree line.  Here, plants are finding a way to live in a crack in the summit rock.

Crevasse with lichens on the summit.

Crevasse with lichens on the summit.

Below is one of several small pools of water on the summit.

A pool of water at the summit.

A pool of water at the summit.

On the summit, the wind blew steadily at around 20-30 miles per hour.  Low clouds obscured views of the Seward Range, and Couchsacraga beyond.  To the north, one could see the chain of Saranac Lakes, and Tupper Lake in the distance.  With an early start, I had the summit almost to myself for a little while.

seward-view

The Seward Range, swathed in clouds.