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

Back to the Sewards

Order in ranking: 34

Ok, I know that technically Seymour Mountain is not part of the Seward Range, however they are accessed from the same trailhead, and (sort of, if you take the wrong trail) follow the same trail partly. 

Our experience in the Sewards was not a good one (for a refresher, see here) and we weren’t looking forward to our Seymour hike, but it had to get done.  We had been planning to come down, stay at Johns Brook Lodge, and hike Gothics and Armstrong, so we figured why not come down a day early and tack on Seymour?

Typical Adirondack trail

As is our custom with out of the way trailheads (Upper Works, Elk Lake, and Coreys Road) we car camped the night before at the trailhead.  Bright and early the next day we quickly ate breakfast, drank a little coffee and finished gathering up our things.  We were off before 6 am (we’re getting better at this!), knowing that after this hike, we still had the 3.5 miles into JBL.

This time we started out  in the light, so we managed to find the trail that we had missed on our first go-around when we did the Seward Range.  The trail is marked with a small ‘trail’ sign – it’s easy to miss, especially if you’re hiking in the dark!  At any rate, the junction is about 15 minutes past the trail register.

After a little up and down, we came to the junction with the truck road that (if you turn left) will take  you to Calkin’s Creek Trail.  We continued on over the flat terrain, crossing a few streams (one with a rickety bridge, several others require rock hopping) until we came to Blueberry Lean-To at 7:55, two hours after our starting time.  From here, it was an easy walk past the cairn marking the Ward Brook trail up Seward (which we shook our poles at) and over to the Ward Brook Lean-To, where we stopped for a quick snack just after 8.  

Cairn and bucket marking the Seymour trail

There was a bit of blow down along the path – one in particular was a massive tree that required some negotiating – the branches were in rather awkward spots to get around.  Soon after this, we hit the cairn + metal bucket that mark the start of the herd path up Seymour.

 

We started to climb up the easy grade, enjoy the day and the hike.  The path was quite nice – it started out at a moderate grade, and got steadily steeper (although not rock face steep).  We certainly got a workout climbing up.

We hit the summit early, and walked past it a little to look out over the Santononis.  We took a few pictures then headed back to the summit for lunch (at 10:30).  We were alone and enjoyed the peace and quiet, until a group of about 5 guys showed up.  We headed back down, as there wasn’t much room up at the top.

 

View of the Sants from Seymour

  The walk down took us about as long as the walk up – 2 hours.  We ran into a family of 4 who were hiking up, but otherwise didn’t see anyone else on the trails.  It was a fairly uneventful hike – it’s a very cute hike (yes, I called it cute) – that can be broken into 2-hour chunks – it’s about 2 hours in from the trailhead on a mostly flat trail, 2 hours up the herd path to the summit, then 2 hours down, and 2 hours out.

Total climbing time: 8 hours, 16 minutes
Left trailhead at: 5:55, returned at 2:11
Summitted Seymour Mountain 10:10

Cloudy with a Chance of Summiting Colden

Order in ranking 11

I’m sitting here listening to the rain thunder on the roof, and watching a lake grow in the parking lot out front, so it seems an apt time to write a post about climbing Mount Colden.
Not that it rained when I climbed Mount Colden, but it was forecast to.
I was set to climb Colden the day after my Mount Marshall trip with ADK.  On the Sunday, the forecast was for thunderstorms (not good), but the forecast had been changing a lot over the days preceding it, so I thought I’d wait until morning and check the forecast for the day at the Loj.
I woke up to the pitter patter of occasional raindrops on my tent.  I hurriedly packed up everything, and went over to the Loj for a better idea of whether this was to get worse, remain the same, or clear up.  50% chance of rain was all the forecast said.  Utterly uselessly.  (Side note:  If I knew the American  version of Nav Canada, I’d go to their  website for an aviation forecast – it’s so much more detailed.)
I decided that 50% was ok – I’d head out, along my planned route – through Avalanche Pass, up and over Colden, and down via the Lake Arnold trail.  I figured I could evaluate the weather situation at Marcy Dam, and then again at Avalanche Lake.  From talking to the other hikers the day before, I had decided not to descend via Avalanche pass (and was I ever happy with that decision!)
Bridge along Avalanche Lake

The hike to Marcy Dam was great – I’ve done this hike countless times, but every time I still think “Wait….did the path turn this way here?  I don’t remember this little down bit….I though it went left, why are we going right?”  until I come to boardwalk area (that’s what I call it, I have no idea what other people call it) and then I feel confident that I’m on the right track.

I hit Marcy Dam in about 40 minutes – I must have been really motoring.  I had given myself a turn-around time of 12:30 – it rain and/or thundershowers were to start, I did not want to be anywhere near the summit.
From Marcy Dam towards Avalanche Lake, the trail continues relatively flat for about 1.1 miles, which is where the junction with the Lake Arnold trail is.  At about this point it starts to get a bit rockier – it’s hard to maintain a rhythm as you dodge between rocks, but it still isn’t too steep.  There were also lots of bridges over muckier and/or wetter areas.
When I hit Avalanche Lake, I was a little confused.  There’s no sign post telling you which way to go, and I couldn’t see any trail markers either.  I was also getting a little nervous, as I had only met people heading back to the trailhead (all of them had massive packs, so I assume they had camped at lean-tos), and the summit of Mount Colden (and in fact, most of the peaks) were covered in clouds.
I looked at my map and decided (rightly) that right was the way to go, and quickly picked up the trail on the edge of the lake.  I’d read on several forums (and in the guide book) that the mile of trail around the Lake was challenging, and to give yourself extra time to get through.  As I walked along, scaling boulders, shimmying down ladders, and trudging over the bridges, I made up a little song:

Hitch up Matilda
                You want boulders and rocks?  It’s got plenty
                It’s got ladders and bridges galore
                You want hitch-up matildas?  It’s got 20!
And I’m taking a few liberties there – there aren’t actually 20 hitch-up matildas.  It was actually a really fun portion of the hike!  There was one moment where I thought I lost the trail – I’d been skirting some blowdown when the trail disappeared……over the blowdown.  Once I figured that out, it was smooth sailing again.
I signed into the interior register at 9:50, and started my ascent.  The first little bit is uphill, but not terrible too steep.  It also evened out every now and then, so you didn’t feel like it was relentlessly up.  I flew through this, stopping once to eat a bit, but just kept going.  And then it hit.  It was like the trail just suddenly went vertical.  It didn’t it just felt that way.  Rock face and rock face, steep rock face.  I’d climb one bit, take a breather, climb another.  I swear it was an hour of just trudging up rock face.  Wet, steep rock face.  It thankfully wasn’t too slippery, but I could just picture myself slipping down, down, down – not getting hurt, just losing all my hard-won altitude!  (Second side note:  I did slip once, but only lost about a foot, and several layers of skin on my knee)
I came across a broken ladder (*sob* the only time I would have gladly climbed a ladder), and just kept going until…..I was in cloud.  I had reached cloud level, and just about then a ladder appeared, leading up a cliff, and then the tree line disappeared, and I was in the alpine zone.
I was slightly nervous on the exposed rock in the clouds.  I desperately did not want to step off rock – as far as I knew I was the only one on the mountain, given the previous days forecast.  I just kept putting one foot in front of the other, watching for yellow paint blazes (follow the yellow paint trail!), and keeping an eye on the surrounding rock.
At 11:21 I finally hit the summit, to some clearing clouds (not enough for a good view), and two other hikers (coincidentally from the same city as me).  We chatted a bit, ate some food, and then I was off on the L. Morgran Porter trail, incredibly happy not to be climbing down all those rocks faces.
Summit selfie, sun in eyes

 

The trail continues over the rock, and down into the treeline, before reaching a col.  It then climbs a little, goes over more exposed rock, and then veers sharply right to descend back down into the trees.  There are some paint blazes that lead the way, making it hard to lose your way.  It’s about 1.4 miles to the junction with the Lake Arnold trail, you’ll one sign points towards Lake Colden, and a little yellow marker with a hand-written “Marcy Dam, 2.6” is just under it.
I hit the junction  at 12:37, nearly an hour after leaving the summit.  The trail down had been steep in places, but easily handled – it was very similar to other trails in the Adirondacks – giant rocks in your way that you have to awkwardly step down, tree roots in your way, same old same old.  The Lake Arnold trail was similar – it honestly felt like 2 hours of “when is this going to end?”  There was nothing to break up the monotony of the trail.  I came up with another song (I got a little bored):
                This is the trail that never ends, it goes on and on my friends, some people started walking it,
not knowing what it was, and they’ll continue walking it forever just because…
Try getting that out of your head.

From the split it’s about 1.5 miles to the end of the trail, where you re-join the trail from the morning, following along Marcy Brook for 1.1 miles to Marcy Dam.  And did that trail ever feel nice after the rocky trails down!  Just going flat (ish) was a nice change of pace!

 

Total climbing time: 7 hours, 55 minutes
Left trailhead at: 7:38, returned at 2:33
Summitted Mount Colden 11: 21

The Legendary Mount Marshall

Order in ranking: 25

Ever since Steph and I decided to hike the 46 High Peaks, we’ve been hearing horror story after horror story after horror story of hikers not being able to climb Mount Marshall – having to turn around and try again (and again, and again).  We were told we would need a map and compass, and more than just a passing knowledge of how to use them both.  We were told there were so many false herd paths, that it was easy to lose your way, that it was difficult to get to and would be a long hike.

So we put off hiking it, thinking our skills just weren’t there yet.  We thought we would hone our skills on other unmarked trails first.  But we’re getting to that point where there isn’t much left – it’s time to tackle the legendary Mount Marshall.

But of course, as our plans have always shown us, there was a wrinkle.  The plan was to climb Mount Marshall in August – have a girl’s weekend camping at Wilderness Campground at Heart Lake, and do the hike then.  Then I went and bought a plane ticket to Mongolia for August, which squashed my attempting it in August.

Enter in ADK’s guided day hikes.  They had a hike up Mount Marshall at the end of June, conviently coinciding with the Canada Day weekend.  I signed up, and promised to give Steph an idea of the trail for her attempt in August.

First, a note about the guided hike.  There were 8 hikers, including myself, on this hike.  Besides myself and one other young woman (I’d say in her 20s) the rest were people in the mid-40s to 60s (I’m not good at guessing ages).  If you’re a fast hiker, a guided hike might not be the best idea.  If you’re a slower hiker, this is a wonderful way to meet people, and gain confidence for longer hikes, or unmarked herd paths.  Our guide was great – knowledgable about the area (gave me some great recommendations for GF restaurants in Lake Placid), the vegetation and the birds – he identified several birds by their calls, which I found impressive because I have no clue.

If you do go on a group hike, some things to remember:
1.  If you move a branch, don’t let it whip back and hit the person behind you.
2.  Keep your poles under control, don’t whip them back behind you and stab the person behind you.
3.  Be patient – everyone has their own pace, and you’re all on this hike together.

All of the hikers met up at the Adirondack Loj at 7 am, and after a brief round of introductions (“Hi, I’m Anya, from Ottawa.  This will be my 32nd High Peak”) and instructions (be respectful and patient, we go at the pace of the slowest person, if you want to leave the group, you can sign a release form) we set off towards the Indian Pass trail, skirting around Heart Lake and signing in at the trail register there.

Sign post for the Cold Brook Trail

Our guide set a moderately quick pace, but everyone had no trouble keeping up.  The first 4.9 miles are relatively easy (by Adirondack standards).  The terrain is flatish, with a few ups and downs, but nothing steep, no large rocks that break up your walking rhythm.  Just after passing through Scott Clearing (a large, grassy, meadow-ish area with few trees) we came to a sign post along the river marking the beginning of the Cold Brook Trail.

Here we began to slow down as this trail is no longer being maintained.  It is still marked with yellow disks, and is still relatively open, which makes it easy to follow.  There was a bit of overgrowth, but thankfully there wasn’t much blowdown.  The terrain, though, was much rockier and rougher, and started to climb, albeit gradually at the beginning, but getting steeper as we went along the trail.  We crossed Cold Brook 6 or 7 times in total – we were lucky and the water wasn’t too high, so it was easy to rock hop across (or if you’re like me and have terrible balance, it’s easy to turtle it across.)  We hit a few mud patches, but for the most part the trail was dry….unless the trail was in the brook (which it was from time to time) but at this point the water was only a trickle.  I enjoyed this trail – it was a fun challenge.  It was one of those challenges where you think “YEAH!  LET’S DO THIS!” and not “Oh dear god, what was I thinking?  Why am I doing this again?  Can I quit?  Will someone carry  me out?”

As we followed the trail, we slowed down a bit more, as it got steeper and rougher.  Not only did this allow us to “not blow a lung” as one person put it, but to also get to know our fellow hikers.  We chatted and joked as we ambled up to the height of the trail (around 1.7 miles), which is where the cairn marking the herd path up Marshall is.

Cairn marking the path up Mount Marshall

This is where the trail became steep.  Even then, it felt like an ordinary-Adirondack-level of steepness – there were rocks to avoid, rocks to step on, rocks to scramble over, but it wasn’t the steep scramble that you find on Saddleback, Colvin or South Dix.  This was your regular scramble over a giant boulder.  We took it easy here, as we adjusted to the new terrain.  More rocks, more scrambles, more dodges around trees.  And not once did we lose the trail.  I’m not sure how we could – this herd path was well defined.

Near the beginning of the trail, one of the members of the group decided to bow out.  His legs were cramping up, and he didn’t want to risk our not making the summit.  I’m sure this was a rough decision for him, I know I felt bad that he couldn’t continue with us.  Our guide asked him to wait for us at the cairn, to be sure that he wouldn’t get lost on the way out, and to be sure that his leg cramps didn’t become worse as he descended.  At this point, we were not very far from the summit – I would guess maybe another 30 or 40 minutes would see us there.

We promised to be quick, and continued up the herdpath.  As we climbed, we could see Iroquois (“Ear-o-kwah” in Canadian, “Ear-o-kway” in American,  apparently) across from us.  Cold Brook actually passes between the two mountains.  Just as with the Cold Brook trail, this herd path up Marshall was free of blowdown, but lots of overgrowth.  It’s worse on the way back – the branches are much more “grabby” in the other direction.  It was also incredibly muddy when we went through – our guide nearly lost a shoe when he stepped into what we all thought was just a bit of mud.  Sank nearly up to his knee.

Great views of Iroquois

After being on this path for a little bit, you come out to an open view, and see a peak way off in the distance.  This is Marshall, but it’s the Nippletop Syndrome – it looks forever away, but it’s really less than a mile.  The path dips down, then starts climbing again.  Eventually the path came to a sort of T-junction.  You can go left (down) or right (up).  Left takes you down Marshall, along the Herbert Brook trail, right takes you up to the summit.

Immediately after this junction, the trail splits again.  You go right again and shortly after come to a large boulder on the side of the path, with a summit sign on top.

I’m glad that I signed up for an ADK guided day-hike.  It was lots of fun, it was great meeting other hikers, and I didn’t have to worry about whether or not I was on the right trail.  But I do feel that hikers that I talked to when I was first starting out were lying to me.  Mount Marshall, while being a long hike (~17 miles) is certainly not as fear-inducing as they had led me to believe.  The trail was easy to follow, there were no signs of other, misleading herd paths, at least not on the route that we took.

Group shot!

 

Total climbing time: 10 hours 59 minutes
Left trailhead at: 7:15, returned at 6:14
Summitted Mount Marshall at 1:00

The Dix Range and the Kindness of Strangers

Order in ranking: Macomb 21, South Dix 37, Grace Peak 42, Hough 23, Dix 6

Not three weeks after getting back from the ‘Dacks, Steph and I were back to climb as many of the High Peaks in the Dix Range as we could.  We were aiming for 5 (Macomb, South Dix, Grace Peak*, Hough and Dix itself) but would settle for four (all but Dix) if the weather, our legs, our stamina or the bugs didn’t cooperate.


The Dix range can be hiked from several points – You can access Dix from Round Pond (and originally we wanted to do a traverse starting from here), Grace from Route 73 (I want to find that trailhead, I’d love to do Grace Peak again), or from Elk Lake.  We decided on Elk Lake, and do a loop – up Macomb, to South Dix, and quick jaunt to Grace Peak and back, over to Hough, up Dix, and then down Hunter’s Pass.


We car camped at Elk Lake, and started off early in the morning – it wasn’t quite six when we signed in to the trail register.  We quickly hit the Slide brook lean-to – it only took us an hour to go the 2.3 miles.  We did briefly get lost once at the lean-to, so let me give you some helpful advice – when you see the first campsite sign, just prior to Slide brook, turn right, into the campsite.  That’s where the trail to Macomb is.  (For better instructions:  You will go over a wooden bridge, and soon after see the yellow campsite sign.  If you hit another bridge, you’ve gone too far- turn back!)  The Macomb trail is marked by a cairn.

View from the base of Macomb Slide
The trail to the Macomb slide is quite nice, although there were at least two sections of blowdown that you have to hike through.  You will see the slide off to your right through the trees as you approach it.  (Don’t worry about the gushing water of the brook – it slows to a trickle the closer you get – or at least it did when we went) 


Side view of Macomb Slide

We hit the Macomb slide at 8:10, an hour after starting out on the herd perth.   Wetook a quick break to have some trail mix, and so I could put on my GoPro to film our ascent.  The slide was a lot of fun – steep, but not too steep, and enough rocks that you can step firmly and not get bogged down by the scree.  It was a little eerie to hear rocks skittering down the slide as you stepped, and once I did dislodge a bigger rock that nearly landed on my foot, but all in all it was a lot of fun.  It only took us 45 minutes to get to the top – not bad! 


Shortly after the slide climb, we hit the summit at 9:05, where we paused to enjoy the view.  Then at 9:20 it was up and over to South Dix. We descended down Macomb, and hit a cairn, where we turned right towards South Dix.  From there we climbed up, and hit the rock face, where I put on the GoPro again, and we began our scramble up – again, lots of fun!  Just enough of a scramble to make it interesting, not so much that it was terrifying (Cliffs of Saddleback, I’m looking at you.)


Near the summit of South Dix we hit another cairn.  The trail to the right takes you to the (treed) summit, marked with a yellow disk on the far side of a tree, as well as an X and S. Dix.  (I should note that just passed (like 4 steps) the summit is a rock lookout with great views.)  Here we paused to put on sunscreen……and lose the GoPro.  (Not that we knew that at the time.  We found this out later.)  It had only taken us an hour to get to South Dix from Macomb – we hit the summit at 10:05.


Carin marking the path to Grace Peak

We hurried over to the Grace Peak, continuing on the path past South Dix’s summit.  We finally started meeting people – there were 3 guys on their way back from Grace Peak.  Until this point, we had been along, other than meeting people in the campsites near Slide Brook.  

The trail was clear, although the tree branches were overgrown, causing our poles, arms and legs to get caught.  Mostly flat, although with several small down and then up portions, you eventually come to cairn that marks where the trail from Rte 73 joins up with the herd path from South Dix.  Turn right to stay on the trail.   There was a very short rock “scramble” and several rocky outcroppings that I kept thinking were the summit, before we hit the actual summit of Grace at 10:50, with the summit marker being a yellow disk attached to the back of a large rock. Here we took a short break, refuelled, and enjoyed the view, the sun and the breeze.  Be careful on the way down – I missed the cairn and started down the trail towards Rte 73.  If it hadn’t been for Steph, I wouldn’t have noticed until it was too late!  Besides the cairn, and the E (for the former name, East Dix) carved into the tree, there were branches laid across the trail to indicate it was the wrong way.

Nap on Grace Peak
We headed back to South Dix at 11:10, meeting a few hikers along the way.  One man asked us if we had a GoPro, which confused us.  Why would he want to know if we had a GoPro?  Turns out….he had found a GoPro on South Dix.  He had originally left it there, hoping whoever had lost it would be back for it, then made the decision to pick it up, only to find that it was gone.  


Which is when I realized that my GoPro was not in my bag.  At some point between the rock scramble and the summit, I had lost my GoPro.  I ran screaming after the other hikers to see if any of them had it – shouting out (and I have a really loud voice) – “HAS ANYONE SEEN A GOPRO?”  One man shouted back that he had left it on South Dix, so I ran all the way back, only to find…..no GoPro.


Summit of South Dix

Steph met up with me on South Dix (as I said, I ran) at 12:10, and we headed back to the cairn a short distance away, and turned right to head to Hough.  We thought we’d take a break there and see if whoever had found (and picked up) the GoPro, would meet up with us. 


Summit marker on Hough

The way to Hough was also a little tree branchy, and at one point we tried to decide if we had to go up a rock face or around.  There is a little used trail around the rock face, for those who don’t want to climb it, which is what Steph and I did.  From there, you continue along past a few false summits, and eventually hit a rocky outcropping that is the summit of Hough (marked by a cross that says “Hough” hanging from a tree) at 1:11.  Here we took a break, took a nap, and listening to the buzzing insects – none of which bothered us, thankfully. 

Hough is the second rocky outcropping you’ll see as you hike over from South Dix.  We missed the first one (by using the trail that goes around it) but if you climb up it – don’t be misled!  You’re not at Hough yet.


Alas, no one met up with us on Hough.  So at 1:36 we headed off to Dix, descending to the hogback, where we took a quick break and had some food, then up, up, and up some more – climbing rocks, getting caught on trees, and sweating profusely.  At one point we came to an open, rocky area (not the Beckhorn, although at the time we thought it might be), and just stood there enjoying the breeze.  At 3:12, we finally hit Dix, and sat down to enjoy some food, and talk with the two guys already there. 
Our fifth and final peak of the day!
At 3:36 we began our descent, and let me tell you – Hunter’s Pass may be “less steep” than the Lillian Brook or Beckhorn paths, but it is still steep.  Very steep.  Our knees were screaming after only an hour.  And we just kept waiting for it to level out.  Waiting and waiting.  We hit the boulder field, and noticed snow, protected from the heat and the sun under the boulders.  Then….we ran out of water.  We had had 3 litres of water, each, with us, but it was a hot day, and a long hike.  Thankfully we always carry Aquatabs with us, so when we hit a clear stream, we filled  up our water bottles, threw a tablet in, and continued on.


We slowed down a lot for the hike out – my knee was hurting, and Steph’s ankle was hurting, so it took us 5 hours to descend Dix – we hit the parking lot at 8:24.  (And alas again, no GoPro was waiting at the trail register.)  We left a note about the GoPro, quickly got changed into non-sweaty clothing, and drove to the Adirondack Loj where we had a room booked.  A quick shower, a glass of wine, and we were out.  We barely had any dinner either – we had the remnants of our trail lunches – bagels, cheese, and some veggies.


You may be wondering what happened to the GoPro, and where the “Kindness of Strangers” comes in.  After getting back home, and telling the BF that I had lost the GoPro, I logged in to one of the ADK High Peaks forums.  And there I found a post about a “treasure in the Dix Range” – someone had found “a treasure” and if whoever owned it could identify it, they’d return it.  And yes, it was my GoPro, and yes the person returned it.  The GoPro is safe, and will never be allowed to go hiking again because it just isn’t trustworthy.

*Originally named East Dix, the name was changed to Grace Peak on June 12, 2014, to honour Grace Leach Hudowalski, the first woman to climb the 46 High Peaks.

 

Total climbing time: 14 hours 30 minutes
Left trailhead at: 5:54, returned at 8:24
Summitted Macomb at 9:05, South Dix 10:05, Grace Peak 10:50, Hough 1:11, Dix 3:12

Mt Colvin and Blake Peak


Order in ranking: Mount Colvin 39, Blake Peak 43

The Canadian May long weekend was the beginning our 2014 climbing season.  Originally we had planned to tackle some (or all) of the Dix Range – we had 5 people, and had planned on two cars, so we could do a traverse from Route 73 to the Elk Lake trailhead.  However, this was the spring that wasn’t, and by the May long weekend, the road from Clear Pond to Elk Lake (and hence, to the trailhead) was still closed.  This would have meant an extra 2 miles on top of an already long hike.  Not to mention that trails above 4000’ were “closed” as well .
So what to do, when the trails don’t cooperate?  Change your plan!  We decided instead to climb Mt Colvin and Blake Peak.  It’s also a long hike, because they’re so far in from the trailhead at the Ausable Club.  We had already book the Roaring Brook room at the TMax N Topo hostel – which has a small kitchen, a sitting room, 2 single beds and 2 double beds, as well as an ensuite bathroom – so we were close to the trailhead for those two peaks.
Steph and I have been hiking together for ages, and we’ve got a lot of shared memory built up; there are many things that we don’t have to worry about because we know the other has it under control. Having said this, it’s also fun to add in other people now and then.  I think a great climbing season is when I get a bit of both.  This time we were with two of Steph’s coworkers – Jodi and Nathalie, and Nathalie’s teenage daughter, Pascale.
The morning of the hike dawned early – we were up at 6 so that we could get on the road and get on our hike by 7:30; Nathalie had been told by one of the other guests at the hostel that rain was expected in the late afternoon, and we all agreed that we did not want to be anywhere near the summits when the rain began.  (As a side note:  Nathalie is a genius.  She brought her crock pot with her, and got a pot of chili going when we left on the hike.  When we got back, we had wonderful, hot chili for dinner.)
Of course, being up and leaving early was a great idea…..until we got out to the car and realized it was covered in frost, and we didn’t have a scraper.  Credit card to the rescue!  You gotta think on your feet to hike in the Adirondacks.
Don’t take this first trail!

 

take this (second) trail
We were off by 7:00, and took the Lake Road past the Gill Brook Path, to the next trail – the Gill Brook Cut off, which we hit at 8:00.  This route is slightly shorter, and infinitely easier!  After a short jaunt, we met up with the Gill Brook trail at around 8:25, having stopped for a quick break at the first junction.  We stopped again for a few photos, and then headed up towards the junction with Nippletop.
We had made really good time on the Lake Road, but we started to slow down as we hit the actual trails.  We hit the junction with Nippletop at 9:30, and then slowed down even more, partly because there was still a bit of ice in places, and we moved gingerly over it – we didn’t want to damage the new spring growth coming in.  We did have micro-spikes, but didn’t really need them.
We met three people near the summit – they had hiked in the night before, camped, and were contemplating whether to push on or turn around.  To be fair -there was a huge rock face in front of us that, for some, might look a bit daunting.  Having climbed the Cliffs of Saddleback, though, Steph and I were more than prepared for this challenge. So with a bit of a scramble, we got up, and soon came to the summit, at 10:30, where we had a half hour break and a snack.
Enjoying the scenery
Obligatory shoe photo
After a quick break, we headed over to Blake, which was a bit of a struggle.  You go down, down, down, then up, up, up.  You have to climb over three or four rock faces, and then…..you think you’re there.  There’s a clearing, the path is straight (in fact, if you go a bit farther, it starts to descend a bit!) but that isn’t it.  The clearing is another two-minute walk, down a bit, up a bit, and around a corner.  While the summit isn’t marked, there is a sign that points back to Colvin, and forwards to Pinnacle Ridge.
If you don’t see this, you’re not at the summit!
One of two ladders leading to Blake
To detail the trail a bit:  You start going down Colvin, and almost immediately you see a ladder.  Then you go down a lot of rocks, hit another ladder where you think “What in the world are these notches here for!?!?  Did it break?!?  Did a step break off?!?”  (And then on the way up them you think, “Oooooohhhhh…they’re handholds for people going UP” and feel really dumb for what you though going down), and then climb down a bit more rock.  Then you start going up a lot of rocks, and a lot more rock, and a lot more rock, which is incredibly steep.  Honestly, it’s probably one of the steepest climbs I’ve done.  It’s very doable – it’s not technical-climbing – you’re still just hiking, but it is a very steep grade.  We were also moving slower due to our party size.  Because there were 5 of us, we took longer to go up and over the rock faces, as we waited for everyone to climb up before moving forward.  This worked to our advantage, though, as we could pass poles, lend hands, or give advice on the best route up.
We summited Blake at 12:30, and had a half-hour lunch, then started the climb back to Colvin.  I’ve always found that the trails that are easy going up and hard going down, and those that are hard going up, easy going down, and this trail was no different.  There were a few sliding-down-on-your-butt rock faces, and a few why-was-this-so-hard-in-the-other-direction rock faces.  But make it we did, and we took a quick break on Colvin to catch our breath.

 

After that it was a long slog back to the road (which we hit around 4:40) and then the trailhead – Pascale, the young whippersnapper, fairly jogged back (or at least, in my foggy old memory, she jogged back) ahead of all us old folks – we all staged back at various times – from 5:29 to 5:41.  Our feet were sore, but our spirits were buoyant!
Yeah, that’s right, I brought a tiara on my hike
Total climbing time: 10 hours 24 minutes
Left trailhead at: 7:05, returned at 5:29
Summitted Mount Colvin at 10:30, Blake Peak 12:30

The Seward Range – The Good, The Painful, The Muddy and the Terrifying

Order in Ranking Seward Mountain 24, Mount Donaldson 33, and Mount Emmons 40

This past weekend marked the final climb of the season for Stephanie and I.  We had originally planned to do a guided day-hike with the Adirondack Mountain Club (ADK) but at the last minute, we received an email stating that we would only do 2 (Donaldson and Emmons) of the 3 summits in the range.

Normally we’d roll with the punches, but this was a bit of a big deal.  You see, Steph was at 20 summits, having decided not to push through and summit Rocky during August.  We really had our hearts set on being halfway through the 46 High Peaks at the end of this season.  So we dropped out of the guided hike, and decided to do it on our own.

We drove down on the Friday night, had supper in Tupper Lake (Pine Grove Restaurant on Route 3 is lovely.  I recommend it if you’re in the area) and then parked at the trailhead on Coreys Road.  We were all set to car camp – fairly easy when you have an SUV with back seats that flatten down.  We got cozy, had a plastic cup of wine, then rolled ourselves up in our sleeping bags and went to sleep.

We were up early the next day, and were on our way by 6:45.  There are two trails that lead from the trailhead, and we took the one straight on from the register (in fact, we never saw the other path)  In hindsight – this may have been a horse path, as the first 1.2/1.4 miles (there’s some dissension here – the book says 1.2, the signs say 1.4) was incredibly muddy, but fairly flat.  I had to do a quick sock change early on, as I got a soaker, but otherwise it was uneventful.

Turn right.  Follow the horse!

Upon reaching the junction with the tote road, the problems started, so let me just say now:
– Yes, avoid the horse trail, BUT the sign that points to the right, with the horse head on it?  Follow that.  Turn right, and follow the tote road 3 miles to the Calkins Creek Trail, which will be on your left.

So we turned left, figuring we wanted to avoid the other horse trail, that roughly parallels the Ward Brook Trail.  We should have turned right, which would have taken us to the Calkins Brook Trail.

So I’m going to describe the Ward Brook trail, just so you don’t accidentally take it. Trust me, you don’t want to.

The first 300 or so yards are on the tote road, at which point you come to a metal gate, with two paths leading in opposite directions.  (If you hit this gate, turn around and go the other direction for Calkins Brook)  We turned right, and followed the path.  (The left path takes you back to the trailhead.  You may come out to the tote road here, in which case – turn right and keep walking)

It was quite easy, very rolling with gentle ups and downs.  There were about 5 or  6 brooks to cross -all stone hopping.  One had a bridge at one point, but it is now down to one log.  It was much easier to stone hop over than attempt the log.

Blueberry Lean-to

At 9:30, we reached Blueberry Lean-To – it was empty, but well-kept.  (If you’re planning on staying, there’s a rake, a shovel, a broom, a frying pan, someone even left a pen and some crossword puzzles!)  We took a break, used the outhouse (didn’t smell great, but what outhouse does?) and kept going.

We went over two bridges; almost immediately after the second one we found the cairn marking the route to Seward Mountain.


The route up Seward was rough, wet, and muddy.  We followed the stream for a little ways over rolling terrain – it wasn’t terribly difficult, but it was serpentine and rose and fell as it went along.  About a half hour after we turned off the tote road, the trail began to climb in earnest.
Up Seward – wet and rough
It was at first not too steep, but incredibly wet – I’m still not sure if we were actually in the stream, or if the trail was just unusually wet as it had been a very wet week.   We felt it was similar to the lower sections of Lower Wolf Jaw, really.  But it began to get steeper and steeper – rivalling the steep section on the way to Haystack (where you climb 878 feet in 1 mile)
At any rate, it was wet and slippery, and we got angry and yelled at the mountain, and vowed to never, ever again hike this trail.  We climbed for what felt like hours.  (In fact, it was – we started the trail around 10:00, and didn’t summit until 1:15)  We hiked ourselves up tree trunks and roots, shimmied ourselves up massive ledges, and if you want some bouldering practise, there’s that too.
We finally got to the end of the grind, and gained the summit ridge.  We were so busy celebrating and chatting, that we kept walking until the trail started to descend.  We figured we had missed the summit marker, and doubled back to find it.  (Thus starting a 10 minute fruitless search.)  We finally gave up, figuring we must have missed it, but confident that we had indeed summited Seward.
Turns out the summit was past this point – the trail descended slightly, before ascending again to the true summit of Seward – marked not only with a small yellow disk, but also a brown sign with “Seward Mountain” on it in yellow.  Have no fears – you will not miss this summit.  It’s on the trail, not off to the side like Donaldson, or Emmons.
You cannot miss this sign.

 

We took our pictures, and started out again towards Donaldson.  The trail was steep and rocky, but a breeze to scooch down.  We met two groups heading up to Seward, including one who was finishing their 46. We descended to the col, then started up again towards Donaldson, (not as steep this time, but just as rocky) passing the cairn marking the path to Calkins Creek Trail.
Just past this cairn, after about a 15 to 20 minute walk, we hit the summit of Donaldson, just off to the left of the trail, where a large group (possibly the ADK led group) was taking a breather.  We quickly snapped our photos and ran on, as it was 2:20 already.
The trail to Emmons was incredibly muddy and wet.  There were portions of up and down, and lots of  lowering ourselves up and down rocks.  It was on the way to Emmons, disaster struck.  I slipped on the mud and cracked my knee (thankfully no breaking anything, other than skin) hard on a root/branch/rock – I still have no idea.  I popped two Advil, and we kept running.  Then Steph got stuck – her arm bent at an unnatural angle, her pole was caught between two rocks as she was lowering herself down.  I kicked her pole, and it popped free.  At this point, near tears, we asked ourselves, “Is it worth it?”
There was no way we were turning back.  We decided our problem had been that we were rushing, and not going our pace, so if we scaled it back….we’d get there in one piece.  Bruised, battered and bleeding, but we’d get there.  We ran into another two-person team, threatened them with bodily harm if they didn’t tell us how far to the summit, and kept going.
Climbing up to Emmons
We rounded a corner and there before us was Emmons…….and man did it look far away.  But, we told ourselves, it’s the Nippletop syndrome – what looks to be miles away, is in reality incredibly close.  We pressed on, but with one caveat – that no matter what, at 4:00 we would turn around.  If that meant not summitting Emmons, so be it.
We walked and walked, wondering how much further, how much further, how much further.  The trail started to twist around, almost going in circles it felt like, and I could feel that the summit was near.  Indeed, around one last corner, and up a small rocky incline was the summit of Emmons.  We did our now-traditional shot of whiskey (missed on both Seward and Donaldson in our rush) and sat down for some food.  At this point, we had only taken two or three quick breaks for food.
At 3:40, we were up and back on the trail, tracing our path back to the cairn for Calkins Creek.  We got back to the cairn around 4:45, and took a quick break to change socks and pants (taking off our muddied and soaked hiking pants to put on rain gear over our thermal long johns).  We were back to hiking at 4:55.
Calkins Creek trail is beautiful.  It’s a very gentle grade (at least going down – we didn’t find our toes jammed into the toe of our boots) and very spongy, great after hiking on rock.  It is a little monotonous – there’s really nothing to say other than – it keeps going down/up, is very nice to walk on and is very easy to follow.
We crossed two streams before having to pull out of headlamps around 6:30.  Thankfully (the only time I will say this) the trail was fairly muddy, so it was easy to follow in the dark.  We did have a spot of panic when we came to a river crossing, with high water and few good places to ford.  This is right before the end/start of the herdpath (although we didn’t know that at the time).  We calmed ourselves, looked for the cairns (there are cairns on both sides) and then rock hopped over the river. (We were less concerned at this point about getting our feet wet).
We quickly afterwards came to the old lumber/tote road that leads back to the trail to the parking lot.  This calmed a lot of our fears, as it’s easy to follow a road (no matter how old or disused) than a herdpath through the forest.  But of course, this is the point that it started to rain.
The road was a fairly gentle ascent (descent if you’re on your way up) which annoyed us as we just wanted the climbing to be over.  We kept walking at a pretty brisk pace (it was 1.5 hours between the start of the tote road and the parking lot – so 4.4 miles, roughly).  We reached the junction with the trail we had taken from the parking lot, and followed it (now even muddier and wet) back.  We hit the car at 8:23.  (I literally hugged it, Steph hugged the trail register)

Muddy leg on Emmons

So, in summary:

From the register:  there are two trails – follow whichever, but the one straight on is rough.
– Upon junction, TURN RIGHT.  You will either walk 3.3, or 3 miles, depending on which trail you took from the register.
– At cairn-on-pedestal, turn left (it’s the only way to turn) for Calkins Creek Trail
– Cross 3 streams/rivers
– Hit trail between Seward/Donaldson
– Turn left to get to Seward (roughly 1 – 1.5 hours one way), right to get to Donaldson (about 15 – 20 minutes)

 

Total climbing time: 13 hours and 41 minutes
Left trailhead at: 6:42, returned at 8:23
Summitted Seward at 1:15, Dondaldson at 2:20, Emmons at 3:30
Left Emmons at 3:40, hit cairn at 4:50

Street and Nye (or StreetnNye)

Order in ranking, Street number 31, Nye number 45.
 
The same weekend that I climbed Rocky Ridge Peak, I also climbed Street and Nye.  Unlike the day before (Rocky) when I hiked up and out with the whole group of us camping, this time it was back to the Dynamic Duo, as Steph and I set out together for our own hike.

 

Signing in.

 

 

Neither Street nor Nye has much of a view from the summit, so we figured the other women might not be interested in spending the day with us; especially considering we were trying to get them hooked on the hiking the 46.  They went off to hike Phelps instead, which has a fantastic view.

 

 

Steph and I set out around 8 – not fantastically early, but certainly not a late start either.  The trailhead to Street and Nye can be reached a few ways – we walked towards the Loj, and took the path marked “Mount Jo”; alternatively, you can head out past the parking station attendant booth, and take the path there marked “Mount Jo”.  The two paths do meet up eventually, at the register.
From there, you follow the path as it leads around the Lake, eventually splitting off from the Mount Jo path, and another Old Nye Ski Trail.  Shortly after this, there’s a large sign stating that the trail is no longer maintained nor marked past this point.  It should be noted that the trail is quite easy to follow, mostly.
I say mostly because when you get to the large river crossing, there are paths that lead from the trail down to the river bank.  We took the first one, assuming it to the trail, and crossed the river only to lose the trail on the other side.  (After much back and forth – both along the banks and back across the river – did we finally pull out the compass and use it while reading the guide book, realizing that we had crossed before the river swings north and needed to go back and get on the trail again.)  To save you this time and trouble, it’s important to note that a) there are two false paths to the river before the true trail leads down, and b) the true trail and river crossing are marked with cairns on both sides of the river.  If you don’t see a cairn on your side or the opposite side, don’t cross!

Follow these across the river.
We pulled out our river shoes to cross – I had already fallen once on the rocks and bashed my knee good, and the water was just deep enough to give me pause about walking (again) in wet boots.  The water was surprisingly not that cold – it actually felt quite nice on our feet. 
Abandoned cans, all rusty and un-usable.
From there, the trail was easily discernible as it led along the river bank, past a large meadow (and later on a beaver dam) eventually reaching the abandoned lumber camp.  Here we decided to leave a few things – it had been cold when we started out, and we had worn long pants at the beginning of our hike, so we left our pants, and water shoes, with a note stating that we had gone to Street/Nye and would be back later on that day for our belongings.  (And yes, they were still there when we got back.)
Street and Nye have a great hike up – it’s not too demanding (even the steep section is – compared to Basin, Haystack and Giant – not that bad). One thing that did surprise us – everything we’d read and Street and Nye talked about the steep bit before the trail splits for the two summits.  While there is a steep bit before the split, there’s also a not so steep section after the steep section but before the split.  So basically – once you hit the steep section, you’re just over half-way to the split.  You’re going to go through a section of what looks like deadwood, and things are going to look like you’re coming to something summit-y, and then you’ll go around a corner and….there’s still path in front of you.  
 
I can almost….reach….
We went to Street first, as we figured get the further one out of the way.  It was fairly flat for a short bit, then it got a little steep as we wound our way up.  It’s good to note that there are several paths, as people have meander their way to the summit – try to stick to the one that is the most defined to avoid trampling the surroundings too much.  I think it took us maybe 40 minutes to hit the summit – not too long, really.  Once we got there, I sat to treat a blister that was forming (duct tape over a band-aid easily solves this problem), while Steph took a few photos from the lookouts.
We quickly headed back to the split, and up Nye; it was a very quick 10 minute walk over to the Nye.  There was some gentle up and down, but the real problem was grabby branches from the bushes lining the path.
Great day for a rocky beach….
Once we hit Nye, took a few photos (of us, and the couple that we had been following to and from Street), we headed back to the split for some lunch.  There’s a nice clearing with plenty of shady places to sit at the split, which was great on a bright, sunny day.  We chatted with a few hikers (there were lots out – we met over 30 hikers, which surprised us as neither summit has a view) and then headed out – making a push to hit the lumber camp and retrieve our gear (which we hoped was still there – it was.)
We took a break by the river crossing – sitting and sunning on the rocks, and drying our feet after dipping them in water.  From there we pushed on towards the trail register, and then to the Info Centre to pick up our patch (Street and Nye share a patch.) 
Total climbing time: 7 hours and 40 minutes
Left trailhead at: 8:15, returned at 3:55
Summitted Street at 12:25 (left summit at 12:31) summitted Nye at 1:08

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

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