Sunday, August 11, 2013

Rocky Peak Ridge from Dipper Brook 8/10/13

After sorting through a bunch of different hike possibilities, the one that rose to the top of the pile was an ascent of RPR from Dipper Brook. After reading some trip reports GregoryKarl had written about the drainage (an exploration of the falls, a revisiting of the falls with an exploration of the rocky south flank of RPR and a decent from the RPR/ Giant col down Dipper Brook, cutting over to the ridge trail at the Dipper). I decided to send him a message asking for any other info about the hike or if it was a good idea.

He gave me the info, some encouragement and expressed some interest in coming along....if I didn't mind adding a third wheel to my usual hiking partnership. He hadn't whacked the entire length of the drainage yet and was curious. Koda and I talked it over and we both agreed sharing the hike sounded like a nice time. We made plans to meet at 7 at the second set of parking spots for the Giant Ridge Trail.

We pulled in a few minutes early to GK waiting for us. Koda is kind of a spazz and has some quirky behaviors (to put it nicely) so I'm always a bit apprehensive about introductions to new people. He gets really worked up when we pull up to the trail head to start the hike. To this lanky 75 lb German Shepherd, 'really  worked up' means shaking the entire car by throwing himself around the car while whining very loudly. Greg took in the entire spectacle with a very amused look on his face. It looked like this was going to go fine.

We shook hands and tried to convince the dog that Greg was going to be part of the pack as we trotted southeast up Rte 73 over where it spans Dipper Brook. When we reached the far bank, we broke into the trees at a vague indication of herd path. Traces quickly faded but the woods weren't overly dense and the creek was loudly surging to our left. After a few minutes we found the path again and Greg thought we had cut into the trees a bit too soon.
a glimpse of the range over Dipper Brook Valley

The bank of the brook quickly fell away and remained very steep as we ascended high on the shoulder of the bank. Travel remained moderately easy going until we reached a band of cliffs accompanied by increased creek roar. We poked around the bank for a few minutes until Greg recognized the way down. As the banks of the Brook are VERY steep in this first section, closest to the road, there are very few ways down. We picked our way down carefully as Koda bounded down, excited by the sounds of rushing water.

The waterfall is spectacular. I was intrigued by the pictures but was blown away. It's hard to get a sense of it's scale from the images. It's a very high drop and a wide column of roaring water. This is all contained in a deep cleft, tucked between high walls. The pool is deep and radiates cold. Koda splashed around, totally in his element and Greg showed me down to the lower falls. There is a choke point full of large boulders which created this strange 'hole' falls. It was half cave and half waterfall.
Dipper Brook Falls

Scampering back up the bank, our next destination was a small rise with some glimpses up the valley for visual re-con of the next leg. There was a nice clear line of site up to the col as Greg sighted in his compass around 20-25 degrees. With the creek always on our left we continued following the path of least resistance high up on the shoulder. Eventually the bank was a more mellow and we got some looks at small series of cascades.
Greg and Koda planning the route

We ended up climbing the right bank higher on to the southern ridge of RPR and aimed to hit the tributary that comes off the ridge on our way into the upper drainage of Dipper Brook. Things were getting steeper and I was working pretty hard. We crossed a number of smaller brooks and I was glad to see Koda drinking each time. The point we reached the tributary had some really cool slabbby falls we paused at for a minute.

The scramble up the far banks was one of the tougher parts of the hike. The brush was really dense at the creek line and the bank was steep. The first few openings were a welcome site. We wandered out on a little rubbly slope failure and caught or breath. I know I'm missing some steps along the way but the next part of this hike was really pleasant. We moved through groves of white birch with grass and ferns as the understory. We followed game trails and the occasional dry creek bed. We moved through intermittent sections of this and some denser conifers as the terrain became steeper and rockier.

At this point Greg had us following more of a due north heading but as the valley constricted, it was less important. Just keep climbing and you'll reach the col. More and more blue sky appeared through the trees and we eventually broke out into a bit of a clearing with open views. Of a huge mountain. Behind us. I think we were both a little disoriented. I guess thats Rocky? Are we up on the side of Giant? We trotted down the meadow a little and poured out onto the Yellow trail. We had merely ascended about 100 ft up towards Giant and were in the col in about 2 minutes.

Success!!! We had reached the trail. Without Greg joining the hike I would have spent a lot more time floundering and might not have made it down to the falls. It was a great opportunity to pick up on some bushwacking techniques from someone with  lots of experience.  I also got to hear about stuff he had learned from other 'famous' forum bushwackers and hikers as we went. Everyone keeps learning all throughout their lives.
Perfect weather for a view

We made our way up from the col and reached the summit with some gusts of wind to greet us. One gentleman from Rochester was taking in the summit when we got there. Koda and I shared our summit tuna packet. I've been working in Utica for over a year across the street from this amazing coffee shop called the Tram. They make a ton of awesome fresh baked goods each day. I brought giant chocolate chip cookies for Greg and I's summit celebration. It was actually cold in the breeze so we made our way behind a large rock and enjoyed the sugar high.
cookie time

There was a large group hike in memory of a young man who had died in a car accident. Many kids were piling up on the summit with still more on their way. They were friendly and curious about our hike and the mountains in general. After chatting with them and a few other summit-arrivers for a while, we started heading back down. A funny moment on the summit: I got the impression that Greg wanted to summit Giant so I decided to go along with it even though I hadn't planned too. He got the same impression from me even though he didn't really want to so we both had to make extra sure no one wanted to climb Giant before we headed out hahaha.

Man that hike up Giant from Rocky is hard! Lots of rest breaks. I was definitely sucking wind.  Some conversation about catholicism. I wonder if the difficulty of the climb and the talk of religion was a coincidence? Lots more people were coming down the trail now and lots of chatting and questions. I learned a cool piece of hiking etiquette: It's customary to let the hiker descending pass. It stands to reason that it's easier and safer to stop when you're going up as opposed to down. Makes sense!  Another funny interaction all day: Apparently 2 guys and their German Shepherd were supposed to meet their friends on the summit at 6AM. The 2 guys and dog weren't there and their buddies must of asked everyone hiking in the range if they'd seen them. So we got a lot of questions and had to work pretty hard to convince people we weren't those guys.
Hunters Pass and the Dixes

Greg looks down the valley

On down the Giant Ridge trail there was a ton of people. It was a beautiful day and many had come out to enjoy it. Koda was being really well behaved and received pets and compliments from folks of all ages. Once we hit the switchbacks, things had quieted down. We reached the cars around 2:30 and said our goodbyes. It was nice meeting Greg and sharing an interesting hike. As I untied my boots and put on flip flops for the drive home, I could hear rock climbers yelling across the street. It was a beautiful day to be in the woods and every trail head was full of people enjoying it.

Round Pond

GregoryKarl! Awesome hike

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