Cables, Ladders, Rock Hops and Summits

Order in ranking: Gothics 10, Armstrong 22

Orebed slide

After our hike up Seymour, Steph and I drove to Keene Valley and to the Garden parking lot.  The sign said that the lot was full, but we continued on, as we had seen at least two cars heading from that direction, and thought we might get lucky.  (We did, we got a spot right away.)

We finished packing up our things into our large packs for our hike into JBL.  We were meeting friends who had arrived earlier in the day and had already hiked in.  We set off around 4:00, and arrived just in time for dinner at 6:30.  (We arrived fifteen minutes ahead of dinner, so had time to change into non-hiked in clothing.)

The next day at 8:15, after a great breakfast of pancakes and eggs, we started off on our hike up Gothics and Armstrong, which had been derailed the summer before due to rain.  We were doing a loop – up Gothics, and the infamous cables, over to Armstrong, and down via Upper Wolfjaw.  The friends we were with were also hoping to tack on Lower Wolfjaw.  Steph and I had decided to skip it as we had done it previously, and after our Seymour hike the day before, we wanted a bit of a rest (Ha!  Rest.)

Oh, stairs, how I love you!

The climb up Gothics was pretty relaxed.  We followed the trail, taking photo breaks, until we came to the Orebed slide.  We clambered through the rubble until we hit the stairs, where we started the long trek up.  A few people commented on feeling a little vertigo on the stairs, and on how difficult they were climb – they certainly cause a burn to form in your thighs!  But they are much better than handling the slide itself.

Not too long after the stairs, at 10:10, we hit an open area, where the junction with the trail to Saddleback meets the trail up Gothics.  We took a quick break, spoke with some summit stewards who were hauling rocks up to Saddleback, and then headed up and over to Gothics.  The stewards had told us that shortly after the junction we would exit out of the tree line, and hit the open rock faces, and the cables.  We were only .6 miles away from the summit, and we were excited.

True to form, the trail quickly left the trees behind, and we hit rock face.  It was not too far in before we hit the cables.

Climbing the cables

I was expecting metal cables, but these are encased in tubing, which are great for you hands.  Additionally, the rock face isn’t exactly that steep – most of the people in our party didn’t use the cables at all.  (Apparently, they are much needed when you’re going down.)  We quickly scrambled up and over the cables, before hitting more rock face (slightly steeper this time) with no cables.  Which is where my fear of heights kicked in.

I slowly climbed up, breathing deep and trying not to look behind me.  I finally hit the top and quickly got up and moved farther away from the sloping side I had just gotten over.  We ended up on a bit of a false summit – wonderful views, but not our destination. We took a quick break to wait for the rest of our party, before pushing on, back into the tree line, and scrambling up more rock faces until we finally hit the summit.

Not a garden path

There was another group up there, preparing to head out as we arrived.  After a bit of a chat, and a promise to see each other on Armstrong, the other group left and we sat down to lunch on the summit.

After lunch, we headed back out to Armstrong, following a path of rock cut into the surrounding trees and moss – it really did look like a winding garden path.  There is one section, where the path looks like it splits – keep going straight, over rock, and veer to the right, over dirt.  Go right – the straight path takes you over a giant split rock.

We hit Armstrong in time to meet up with the other group briefly, along with some other folks that had climbed up in the opposite direction.  We didn’t wait too long here, preferring to keep going.

The hike to Upper Wolfjaw was uneventful.  We passed the first group, as they were slowing down, and swung up and over many a tree branch and rock, and down one perilous looking ladder.  Actually, there was a bit of a traffic jam on the ladder – between several groups coming down, and others going up our pace slowed down.  It was a bit of a shocker seeing so many people – Steph and I have been doing some of the less pleasant (i.e. no views from the summit) climbs recently, and usually have the trail either to ourselves, or only sharing with one or two other people.

Just don’t fall between these two rocks

As we approached the height of the trail (and the junction with the trail to the summit of Upper Wolfjaw, which is 20 yards off the trail) we could hear people.  And it sounded like a lot of people.  A LOT of people.  The summit was packed – there was no room for anyone else – it was crowded with a large group of teenagers (teenagers, early 20s, somewhere in there) and their massive backpacks.  Steph and I squeezed in for a photo (Steph and I want to compare our summit photos, from last year’s misty day to this year’s sunny day) and quickly took off for JBL.  The rest of our group hung out a little longer, before heading off to Lower Wolfjaw.

 

Total climbing time: 8 hours 27 minutes
Left trailhead at: 8:15, returned at 4:42
Summitted Gothics at 11:19, Armstrong 12:27, Upper Wolfjaw 1:27
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