Rocky Peak Ridge Traverse to Route 9

Order in ranking, number 20.

This past weekend, I headed down to the Adirondacks yet again, but this time with a gaggle of girls.  Besides my climbing partner Stephanie, there were four other women who were keen on hiking and camping in the Adirondacks: Terri, Mel, Nath, and Christine.
We drove down in a thunderstorm, but thankfully the rain let up long enough for us to erect our tents….and tarps over the tents.  It proceeded to rain most of the night, but Friday morning dawn with a cloudy sky, but no sign of rain.
We set off for the trailheads – our plan being to park one car at the trailhead to Rock Peak Ridge on Route 9, pile into the other car and park at the Roaring Brook trailhead to Giant Mountain and Rocky Peak Ridge on Route 73.  We got off to a slightly later start that we had hoped, but it was still early enough to get parking.
While Stephanie and I have climbed Giant before, the women were new to climbing the 46ers, with the exception of Christine, who accompanied Stephanie on her hike up Big Slide.  Giant is certainly an interesting choice for a first climb – most people would start with Cascade or Porter, as the two easiest.  But Giant is a nice climb, if a little steep in places.  It also involves some minor rock scrambling that isn’t very scary.
We took a few breaks on the way up – Stephanie wasn’t feeling too well, and the other women wanted time to soak in the experience.  We weren’t trying to set any records, so we meandered along, taking breaks, chatting, and going at our own pace.
It’s funny how trails seem to change – there was lots of stuff that neither Stephanie nor I remembered, but other places that we recalled in great detail – such as the first rocky slab that you have to scramble up.  The first time we climbed it, we stuck to the edges, rather afraid of falling down the rock, and anchoring each other as we took pictures.  This time, however, we were much more confident (thank you, cliffs of Saddleback) and strode out to take photos from the same lookout.
After a bit, Stephanie made the call to send the other women on ahead of us as she was feeling a little out of sorts and wanted to take a bit longer of a breather.  The reasoning was that they wanted to summit both Giant and Rocky Peak Ridge, and if they went ahead they could summit Giant, and we would meet up with them at the junction for Rocky Peak Ridge.  Neither party would miss out on what they wanted, and no one would have to wait for the other.   So the four women went on, and I stayed back with Stephanie.
We slowly made our way up, chatting with each other about our hike that day and the next, and about what hikes we might like to do next year.  We moved at our pace – we’re slow, but we’re steady.  We rarely need to take long breaks, because we don’t push ourselves too hard above what we’re comfortable with.
Relaxing at the junction
When we passed the junction for the Zander Scott trail (also known as the Ridge Trail), with .7 of a mile left to the summit of Giant, and .6 of a mile left to the junction of Rocky, Stephanie decided to send me on ahead as well.  She had made the difficult decision to not summit Rocky Peak Ridge.  She was feeling exhausted, and wanted to be fresh enough for our climb up Street and Nye the next day.  (Stephanie had done the majority of the driving the day before, in torrential rain, so it’s no wonder that she was exhausted.)
So I set on a little bit quicker, and reached the junction to Rocky Peak Ridge, to learn from other hikers that the other women had just left to summit Giant. I sat down, and prepared to wait (and enjoy the sun that had burnt off the clouds).  After a quick wait, both Stephanie and other women joined me.
We decided that Christine would stay with Stephanie, as she had only intended to hike Giant, and Nath, Mel, Terri and I would hike over to Rocky Peak Ridge.  After that, Nath would return to meet up with Christine and Stephanie, and Mel, Terri and I would continue the traverse to the Route 9 trailhead.
The “steep descent” on the col between Giant and Rocky Peak Ridge wasn’t that bad.  I felt it was on part with the rocky steep bits on Lower Wolf Jaw – perhaps a bit less.  The ascent on the way to Rocky Peak Ridge was steep, but no more so than most Adirondack hikes – there at least was no rock scrambling involved.  All in all, it’s very doable if you’ve done several hikes in the Adirondacks that involve some rocky scrambling.
We quickly hit Rocky Peak Ridge, and took various group and solo photos.  From there, Nath headed back, and Mel, Terri and I headed on.
The trail to Route 9 is lovely, descending to pass by a pond (Mary Louise Pond) before ascending to Rocky Mountain (not to be confused with Rocky Peak Ridge).  Lots of open rock face, and lots of great views from here.  Then it was another descent, before climbing again to Bald Mountain.  Again, lots of open rock and some fantastic views.  The trail is clearly marked over these peaks with not only with yellow paint blazes, but also with cairns that lead you around the rocky summits to the path on the other side.
The map we had, had one more name on “Blueberry Cobbles” so we figured we were fairly close to the end of the hike.  We set on, and descended and ascended yet again.  Here we were faced with not only open rock face, but very slanted open rock face.  I was reminded of the cliffs of Saddleback – although these were not as steep, nor as perilous looking as Saddleback, they were intimidating.  We took it slow over the rocks, as we slowly starting to descend yet again.
From here, we thought it would be a straightforward hike to the trailhead.  And then….a sign.  There seemed to be no reason for this sign (although, it could be that it was marking the junction to a short cut, that we found out about after the fact) that said “Blueberry Cobbles Rte 9 2.4 miles”.  Had we gone 2.4 miles since Blueberry Cobbles?  Did we have 2.4 miles to go?  We had no idea.
Great view, long hike
And then, suddenly….another ascent.  That’s right – our fifth ascent since leaving Rocky Peak Ridge.  We were going up again.  When, we wondered, would this hike be over?
We continued to follow the trail, and started another descent when we saw a sign for a red-marked trail that was a short-cut around Blueberry Cobbles summit.  I’m not sure how much time could have been cut off if we had followed this trail, but it may have given us one less ascent/descent.  We picked up the pace, as much as we could given the fact that it was nearing on 8 hours of hiking at this point.
We were moving on auto-pilot, when we saw something in the distance.  We didn’t want to be fooled – far too many times we had seen a small clearing in front of us, and we had thought it was the parking lot to no avail.  But this time was different.  This time we could see sun glinting off of metal.  And it was – we had finally, at 6:20, hit the parking lot.
The traverse is a nice hike, but it’s long, and the constant up and down as you climb and descend the various peaks between makes it feel even longer.  But the views are quite nice and almost make up for it.  Still, I’d recommend climbing Rocky Peak Ridge from Giant.
Total climbing time: 9 hours and 28 minutes
Left trailhead on Route 73 at: 8:52, hit trailhead on Route 9 at: 6:20
Summited Rocky Peak Ridge at: 1:43
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