With the official start of the winter I decided to try to bag a few winter peaks hikes over the holidays. With a week off from my day job I thought I might be able to get six peaks. This old body thought otherwise, but I managed to get three peaks in and a first time hike with a friend.
Giant and Rocky Peak Ridge – 26 DEC
I left Schroon Lake at 7:30 on a spectacular morning. Crystal clear bluebird day save for a low cloud here and there. I pulled in to the ridge trail parking area behind a group of three. They got out just ahead of me but we were all on the trail by 8:30. There was a dusting to an inch of snow, and a couple nights of single digit temperatures had taken care of any mud. I bare-booted up the switchbacks and made pretty good time.
I hit the first significant ice around 2700 feet and stopped to put on microspikes. Continuing up the views were incredible on the open ridges. There was plenty of ice the rest of the way, but there wasn’t anything that made me uncomfortable with microspikes and poles. I was happy that I’d touched up the points . I saw the group of three on their way back down, just below the Giant summit junction. They tried RPR and said there was a lot of ice and turned back. One of the three had no traction aids.
I had been debating whether to push on to RPR and hit Giant on the way back, but decided to do Giant first. I made the summit of Giant at 12:30, refueled and took some pictures. More spectacular views until another low cloud came in. I packed up and headed for RPR. I met a second group of two just below the summit on their first high peak hike, winter or summer.
I hit the most ice of the day on the back side of Giant and saw the place where the group of three turned around. It wasn’t bad climbing down, but I wouldn’t want to try getting back up it without traction aids. I got into the col and up to the RPR summit by 2:30, my turn around time. I took a few pictures from the summit, where the views were absolutely spectacular.
I headed back down the way I came up, stopping in the col to refuel in a sunny spot out of the wind. I got out my headlamp and got ready for the hike out. I made the Giant summit junction just after sunset and started down. The open ridges that had such fantastic views on the way up were pretty cool in the dark, too. Still crystal clear, now seeing stars and a sliver of a moon, with the occasional car headlights passing on 73 below. The rest of the trip down was uneventful, except for a little tumble about a half mile from the trail head, I was out of the woods by 8:30 and on my way home.
Porter – 02 JAN
My first hike of the new year was also my first hike with a partner since Shelby & I hiked Blue Mountain two summers ago on a trip out from Michigan. I’ve been trying to get out for a hike with Mark & Sharon Piper (of the Schroon Lake Bed & Breakfast) for months, but we just couldn’t get our schedules to mesh until now. This was a much different day, from the Blue Mountain hike with Shelby and the solo hike on Giant & RPR the previous Monday.
We were on the trail from the Garden by 6:30 with headlamps. Just a dusting of snow, the ground was frozen for the most part. We donned traction aids (microspikes for me, yaktrax for Mark) about a half mile in, as it was just slippery enough on the first downhill. Crossed Slide Brook on an ice bridge in the dark, only to find the log bridge on the opposite bank, remnants of Irene damage, I assume.
Continuing up we hit had snow showers on and off, adding to the snow that got deeper as we climbed. By the time we got to Little Porter there was about 4″, and up to almost 8″ on the summit ridge. We heard the wind howling in the trees all along the ridge, and by the time we made the summit it was snowing and blowing up a storm. We took a couple summit pics with the snowman. We had planned to try to get Cascade as well, but Mark had had enough after about 15 minutes on the summit, so we headed back down.
The snow had completely filled in our tracks on our way back down, but we had no problem following the trail for the most part. As we got into the switchbacks below little porter the snow got pretty sticky and started balling up on my microspikes. That’s when I noticed that the front inner chain on one of my microspikes had pulled through the rubber grommet. I’m not sure if it’s related to the balling (I knocked ‘em off before it got bad), but I didn’t have 75 miles on these. Had zip ties in my pack and could have made a repair, but I decided to just hike out on them as is.
I’ll admit that I was a little disappointed when Mark didn’t want to push on to Cascade, but at the end of the day I was pretty happy to be out of the woods with some daylight left and not chilled to the bone. And, besides, this way he might actually hike with me a second time, something not many others have done.