Lake George

Lake George
Lake George - from Tongue Mtn Range - 11/11/2011

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Gear Review - Alkai Hok 125 cm Snow Skis

I haven't done many gear reviews, but in this instance I feel compelled to do one, since this product will change my adventures.

One of the things that I've always felt that was missing from the market, and therefore from my bag of toys was a snowski... an alternate to a snowshoe.  Don't get me wrong, I love snowshoeing, but sometimes a better option (in my mind), would be a short ski.  Backcountry skiing is my number one passion, but there's been something missing from my quiver of backcountry skis.   Conventional backcountry skis are long and require the addition of climbing skins to be effective on the uphill portion.  Skins take time to put on the skis and they really slow you down on the downhill.  The real pain is when you get to rolling terrain or thicker woods.  It's not practical to take the skins on and off frequently and conventional length skis can be too long once off-trail.

Hence the snow ski... snowshoe alternate.  I'm surprised there are not more options on the market for such a product.  I didn't even know there were any options until recently.  There is a company called Alkai that makes a snow ski called the Alkai Hok.  It is available in two lengths, 125 cm and 145 cm.  The shorter one is meant to be more of the substitute for a snowshoe, and the longer one functions a little more like a ski.  The longer length gives more speed, but the trade-off is the added length takes away mobility off-trail.

The company also offers two binding setups; a "universal" binding which is almost like a snowboard binding and can take and boot,  a conventional heavy duty 3 pin telemark binding.  Of course you can mount whatever binding you like if you chose.

The universal binding gives less control, but you don't need special boots.  This is the version my wife Leesa opted for.  I wanted the additional control to do tele turns, so I got the 3 pin setup.  My bought the gear at The Mountaineer in Keene, NY.   They are super helpful there, plus you can rent the Alkai Hoks there if you want to try them out before you buy.  We did exactly that.  The Mountaineer recommended the shorter 125 cm ski for our purposes, snowshoe substitute, so we both bought the shorter version.   The ski is about 4.75 inches wide or 120 mm, which gives a nice stable platform for deeper powder. 

The hoks, have a built-in permanent kicker skin that covers the middle half of the ski.  It works fantastic.  I found that it gives exceptional climbing ability, yet there is still some glide left on the ski, which is what I wanted.                    

My 125 cm, 3 pin binding, Alkai Hoks  

Today I got my first chance to check out the performance of the skis in substantial new powder.  A storm 2 days ago dropped 12-18 inches of snow in the nearby Green Mountains of Vermont, so I wasted no time in getting to Manchester Vermont today.  Manchester itself had no new snow, but as soon as I continued east on Route 30 towards Bromley Ski area, that changed quickly.  I parked in the pull off lot where the Appalachian Trail/Long Trail crosses Route 30.  The elevation there is 1800', which is 1000' higher than town.   There was plenty of snow right from the start.  I opted to climb first, thereby heading north towards Bromley Mountain and the Bromley Mountain shelter.

I knew there was going to be one issue during the day... the temperature transition from below freezing to 40+ degrees.  I started at about 10:30 and it was close to 30 degrees.  I brought some Swix F4 wax with me, but didn't know if it would solve the expected problem of snow sticking to the skis. 

Within about 30 minutes, I had my answer... No.  The skis had glided wonderfully in the beginning , and I was skiing on on a recent snowshoe track.  About the time the snowshoer had turned around, leaving me with virgin snow, the temperature was right where I didn't want it to be.  Snow began to stick to the skis.  I was skiing in a foot of new powder, and with each step, the snow compressed and stuck to the skis.  I took them off and put on some F4, witch worked for 10 minutes or so, and then the snow was sticking again.  I knew it wouldn't be a problem on the downhill, and/or when the temperature climbed another 5 degrees.  This would be a problem with any ski,  so no discredit to the Alkai Hoks.  They were climbing beautifully.


After 2 miles I reached the Bromley Shelter, which was my destination.  I stopped there for lunch and put some more F4 wax on the skis.  Now it was time to go downhill.  It was fantastic.  Since I was gliding and not climbing, the snow didn't stick any longer.  The 2 mile decent was quick and the skis performed as well as I had hoped.  Great control, plus I was happy with the amount of speed I could get with such a short ski and had a climbing skin built into it.  I was stoked!

The Bromley shelter

Rev is waiting next to the pack for more treats...

The skis are about the same length as my poles!l 

At the bottom I crossed Route 30 and headed south on the trail to get in a few more miles of skiing.  The snow was now warm enough that it was no longer sticking.  It was a beautiful afternoon.

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As far as the gear review, I can't say enough about these skis.  They are exactly what I was looking for.  I willing be getting a lot of use out of them in the coming years.  They have metal edges also so you can carve turns.  The picture below shows my skis on the left and Leesa's on the right with the universal binding. 


Here is a link to a review that is on the Adirondack Mountain Club (ADK) website.  They give the skis a more in-depth review than I did.  All I can say is the snowski snowshoe alternative has been lacking in the market and the Alkai Hok nicely fulfills that niche.  Try them out if you can!  You can also Google to see other reviews and some YouTube videos.  I'm a happy skier today.


Ski Stats:
Total Distance:  6 miles
Total Vertical Gain:  1250'
Total  Time (including stops):  3 hours

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Seneca and Spruce Mountains - Wilcox Lake Wild Forest - 1/5/19

My idea for a first hike in the new year was to find something new that I hadn't climbed before.  I pulled out my map and studied it for a bit and my eyes settled on the Wilcox Lake Wild Forest.  I haven't done much exploring there so I had lot of possibilities.  I decided to drive up past Stony Creek to Lens Lake Road and see if there was a place to park to hike one of the surrounding peaks.

The road was plowed past Lens Lake and almost to Middle Flow.  There was a parking lot at that location and the State Land boundary was right there.  I studied the map and opted to head for Seneca Mountain first.  

The end of the plowed road.

The followed the unplowed road until I reached the private property boundary.  I skirted left to stay on state land.  The woods were open hardwoods and a the bushwhack was easy.  It really wasn't much of a climb to reach the summit, perhaps 500-600' vertical.   Just as I was reaching the true summit, a large snowshoe hare leapt out from behind a rock and bounded off.  Rev took off in hot pursuit.   The hare quickly disappeared and Rev came trotting back.

The summit of Seneca Mountain.

From Seneca Lake, Great Sacandaga Lake in the distance.

I took a hot chocolate break and then opted to head for Spruce Mountain.   Rev and I bounded down the mountain until we reached Paul Creek.  The creek was larger than I expected and there was no way for us to cross and keep our feet dry.  We followed the creek a bit and then headed back towards the car.  At Middle Flow, I found a nice warm spot in the sun and took a break, soaking up some rays.  It felt so good I lingered for a bit.     

Middle Flow

Middle Flow

My warm sitting spot

While basking in the sun, I took another look at the map and determined I could climb Spruce Mountain by starting at the car and hiking straight East.  Paul Creek was no longer a factor.

Five minutes into this 2nd hike, I came to a small creek and saw a cairn in the water.  Looking around, I saw small orange paint blazes on the trees.  Someone had illegally cleared and marked a trail. Shortly afterwards, I saw a sign pointing back to the parking lot.   

Pointing back to where I started...

The orange blaze trail turned northward briefly before turning back eastward.  No doubt this trail was going to the summit.  Next I came to a junction... orange blaze and red blaze.  The orange continued eastward and upward, the red blaze were heading south traversing the slope of Spruce Mountain.  

I continued along the orange blaze path and soon reached a prominent viewpoint where I could see Lens Lake, Middle Flow, Livingston Lake and Great Sacandaga Lake.     

A nice viewpoint

Supplementing the orange blazes were cairns placed along the way.  The trail was not only blazed, but trees had been cut and trees had been de-limbed.  Someone had spent quite a bit of time making this trail.

One of many cairns

And even a few signs

This summit cairn was Leesa's height.
The illegal trail did not end at the summit, it continued northward down the north flank and towards  the unnamed peak a mile north of Spruce.  We followed the trail and ended up on the summit of the northern peak.

Summit of the unnamed peak north of Spruce Mountain.

Rather than return the way we came, we side-hilled he west slope of Spruce Mountain until we regained the orange blaze trail down low, not too far from the car.

Hike Stats:
Seneca Mountain & Return:  5.5 miles
Spruce Mountain & unnamed peak to the north and return:  5.8 miles
Total time  7.5 hours
Total Vertical Gain:  ~2000'  

The route

French Point Mountain and First Peak - Tongue Range - 1/1/2019

I had intended to hike elsewhere on New Year's Day, but when I woke up, there were some really interesting skies that made me think I should hike somewhere to try and capture some really cool pictures.  The Tongue Range in the Lake George Wild Forest immediately came to mind.

French Point Mountain and First Peak are the best viewpoints on the range, so that is where I headed.  After parking at Clay Meadows, I opted for the Northwest Bay Trail as opposed to the Five Mile Point Trail.  The Five Mile Point Trail is often icy, and it would be on this day.  I also didn't care to climb Fifth Peak.

The Northwest Bay Trail isn't that exciting, but it gives a jumping off point for a bushwhack to where I wanted to go.  The bushwhack starts 2 miles from the sign-in register.  As measured from the sign-in register once you turn onto the Northwest Bay Trail, there is a footbridge at 1mile, another at 1.75 miles and a 3rd one at the 2 mile mark.  These footbridges cross small drainages.  At the 2 mile drainage, there is also a large cairn about 100 feet up the drainage, that is visible from the trail.  Most likely someone built it to mark the logical point to begin a bushwhack!

The cairn 2 miles down the NW Bay Trail

The route is pretty easy from this location.  I chose to go up French Point Mountain first.  The interesting skies that I was hoping to catch had gone away but there is never a bad day on these peaks. 

Looking North.  Black Mountain on the right.

Most of the pics below are looking south  on Lake George, but from a few different viewpoints (and of course Rev gets in a few photos).  

After going down to to First Peak, I bushwhacked back the way I had come.  Rev could smell the scent and she took us back on the exact route we took on the way up.   

Surveying her territory...

The keeper of the lake...

Most of the rock faces had ice flows

Hike Stats:
Hike Distance:  9.2 miles
Hike Time:  5 hours
Total Vertical Gain:  ~ 2300'

The Route

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Algonquin Peak - High Peaks Wilderness - 12/25/2018

Our 2018 Christmas gathering was not on Christmas Day this year.  Too many conflicts with everyone's schedule.  Leesa and I chose to get out and climb a high peak.  It was cold and windy but sunny.  We opted for Algonquin Peak.

We got a pretty early start so there was only one set of footprints on the trail ahead of us.  The was a dusting of new snow that amounted to about 2 inches.  We started in snowshoes figuring the snow would get deeper, but we later switched to microspikes.  The middle portion of the trail was still mostly wet from heavy rains the previous week.

We thought about grabbing Wright Peak on the way up but the wind was fierce and we let it be for another day.  

As expected the trail was quiet on this Christmas Day.  We didn't see anyone until noon or so and perhaps only 10 people all day.

The Algonquin summit was sunny and beautiful, but the wind kept us from lingering up there for long.  Still it was great to get away from the holiday eating and get some exercise!     

Newly frozen...

The Wright Trail junction

Looking back at Wright Peak

Lake Placid down below

Ah, yes... 

I don't get tire of this summit...

Wright Peak again

Hike Stats:
Hike Distance:  ~ 8 miles
Hike Time:  5 hours
Total Vertical Gain:  ~3100'