Debar Mountain in the distance
Debar Mountain (3300 ft)
Difficulty: Gradual, except the final push, which is steep
Date of Summit: 4/11/2009
Trailhead to Summit: 3.7 miles
Trip Time: 4 hrs
Ascent: 1700 ft
Temperature: mid-40's (Snow in mid-April? Why am I not surprised...)
We were so close. We could see the top. We knew that even if we made it past this harrowing final push, we would still have to descend that very same route, and that's what scared us. As my hiking partner, Martin Heintzelman, said more than once (probably hoping to make us both feel better), "discretion is the better part of valor". This proverb could never be more true, especially when you're staring up at a stepped-cliff, covered with a frozen waterfall of sheer ice.
I'm starting to think that a failed summit attempt must have to occur roughly once a year for me, so that my humility is reset for the following season of hiking (this happened last year, attempting St. Regis). Or perhaps this was karma, for me leaving my wife and 5-week-old baby home alone on a Saturday to hike with a friend! Regardless of why it happened, it was still an extremely enjoyable hike. 90% of the trail is gradual and relaxing, as it utilizes old logging roads, until it arrives at the base of Debar. That's when things get tricky.
We shared the trail with a group of 11 students from SUNY-Potsdam, who appeared to be a bit more prepared than us. After a bit of post-holing and slipping on the ice, it quickly became apparent that we just weren't equipped properly for this hike. Since it was mid-April, we didn't expect to see such a presence of snow or ice on the trail, so we didn't have snowshoes or Stabilicers with us. I firmly believe that an ice axe would be almost essential on the final section of the trail at this time of year (this was confirmed when I saw the SUNY student's carrying them). Overall, it was a beatiful hike with great challenges. I KNOW that I will return to this peak in order to properly bag it, but I can guarantee that I'll wait until things are a bit warmer to attempt that!
There's nothing we can do but turn around