Upper Wolf Jaw and The Loop That Wasn’t

Order in ranking, number 29.

I decided not to blog right away about Upper Wolf Jaw.  Things have been busy with life in general, and other up-coming trips.  But here it is, finally.

So some back story if you haven’t read my post on our HaBaSa adventure:  We were, in the end, supposed to hike HaBaSa on the Saturday, and then on the Sunday do Gothics-Armstrong-Upper Wolf Jaw as a loop, in that order.  Only on Saturday night, the forecast was for rain and possible thunder storms, so we decided we’d switch the order, so that at least that way, we’d get Upper Wolf Jaw done, if nothing else.

Why did it matter that we got Upper Wolf Jaw done?  Well, you see – we’ve been buying patches for the hikes.  After we complete a hike, we buy the patch.  Only, after finishing Lower Wolf Jaw, my hiking partner Stephanie, realized that…..the patch is for “The Wolf Jaws”.  That ‘s’ is very important.  Being the honest people we are, we held off getting the patch until we had completed Upper Wolf Jaw.  So we were really anxious to finally get the thing.

Anyway, Sunday morning dawned with lots of clouds, and those clouds were moving pretty quick.  A note about the weather in the Adirondacks:  If it says it’s going to rain, even if it’s a 10% chance, it’s likely it will.  And the weather can change in the mountains – it blows in quickly, and while it may be ok at the base of the mountain, at the summit it’s windy, freezing, windy, rainy, windy and incredibly cloudy.  And if lightening should happen when you’re on exposed rock, there’s not much you can do but hurry.

We decided to push onwards anyway.  Our plan was to re-evaluate the plan at each summit, and turn back when we felt the weather was too inclement to continue.

JBL’s former generators

After a brief delay, as we took the wrong path out of JBL (where we saw generators that had been used at JBL) The walk up Woodsfall trail to the five-way junction (and the Ore Bed Trail, which we didn’t take) is pretty easy, but man…..our legs were killing us.  The 11-hour hike from the day before was letting us know that even if the weather cooperated, our bodies might not.  But, for the most part, the trail is level and easy to walk, so we made good time.

We took the ADK Range Trail and headed to the junction with the trail that leads to Lower Wolf Jaw.  I remember this trail being quite nice – it was fairly level, with a few ups and downs, but nothing that pushed us.  It was a good warm-up for what lay ahead.

Again, we made excellent time to the junction, and the weather seemed to be holding.  We thought, at this point, that we would definitely get Upper Wolf Jaw, and quite probably Armstrong, with a slight possibility of Gothics.

I live for these signs on my hikes.

We sat down to have a snack, and while we were there, a French couple came up the trail that we had just been on.  Their goal was also Gothics.  We warned them about the weather, as they seemed completely unprepared (small daypacks, that obviously didn’t have rain gear, or much food, running shoes, shorts and tank tops), but they seemed confident.  And then they asked us, “Does Gothics have a view?”  Well, not in this weather, no.  It was still very cloudy, and the occasional spit of rain was still coming down, so the chances of there being a view from Gothics in that weather….not going to happen.  They kept going, and were long gone by the time we started up again.

The trail up Upper Wolf Jaw is, well, it’s got its scrambles up rock, but after HaBaSa the day before, it seemed a treat.  The only bad part was that the rocks were slick.  It does take some negotiating, but the trail is really not too bad.  You do have to hike yourself over some rocks, and there was one spot that could have caused us some troubles – you either have to haul yourself up a huge slab of rock, or if you’re thin enough (and not too claustrophobic), squeeze between two huge slabs of rock to get to a spot where you can easily climb up.  We squeezed, but anyone much bigger than us would have issues with it.

Almost a fairy land.

At this point, the trail started to become misty.  We were high enough that we had actually entered into the clouds.  While this sounds awesome, it was a little wet.  Not as wet as it would have been had it actually been raining, but everything was damp.  We seemed to keep going and keep going and keep going.  The trees began to thin, and the wind picked up.  We had a brief huddle and decided that when we reached the summit, we would take a quick picture of our feet (tradition) and a picture of us, and we’d run down to some shelter and have a snack.  And then we’d go back to JBL.  We were tired, our legs were tired and we just couldn’t face the thought of dealing with the mist, rain and wind for two more summits.  The closer we got to the summit of Upper Wolf Jaw, the more resolute we were to turn around after that.

It’s right there.  how did we miss it?

And then….we saw a small trail branching off the main trail, leading to a rocky out-cropping.  “Is this it?” we thought.  We took the path, battling the wind and mist, and stood on top – quickly snapping our pictures, before running back down.  But then we had to determine if that was actually the summit or not, as we hadn’t seen any markers, or signs or anything.  So we continued on the main trail, and it…..abruptly started descending.  So back we trudge, and as we past the trail leading to the out-cropping, we saw the sign.  How we had missed it originally, I don’t know, but it’s right there “Upper Wolf Jaw summit, 20 yds”.

We started back down immediately.  The trail down was no more difficult that going up, which is surprising because my experience in the Adirondacks is that if it’s easy going up, it’s hell to come down, and vice versa.  But this trail we seemed to fly down.  We met a few other people who were on their way up, but it was fairly quiet for the most part.

We returned to JBL to pick up our packs (yes, you can leave them in the Great Room on the day you check out, if you’re planning a hike), use the washroom, and buy our patch.  Then it was back down the Phelps trail to The Garden.  It was slow going – we were tired, our legs were sore, and we’d already hiked over 5 hours that day, but we made it.

Battered, bruised, and muddied

Our options at this point for Gothics and Armstrong is to hike in from the AMR side (by the fancy country club) and go over Pyramid and Sawteeth (another 46er) and back out that way, or to have someone drop of us at the AMR, hike over Pyramnid, Sawteeth, Gothics, Armstrong and Upper Wolf Jaw again.  Alternately, we could do the loop we had originally planned to do, and leave Sawteeth and Pyramid for another hike.  It won’t be this year, that’s for sure, but perhaps next.  And this way – we’ll get another stay at JBL!

Total climbing time: 5 hours 28 minutes
Left JBL at 8:27, returned at 1:55
Summited at 11:21

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