Thursday, April 23, 2015

A Giant of a Spring Hike 4/22/15

I recently reconnected with my buddy Justin. He was the random fifth roommate to a group of four of my friends from home. The first day everyone met he was wearing a Phish shirt so we know everything was going to be all right. We became great friends, especially after sharing an apartment together the summer after our freshman year and working together as "mobile frozen dessert vendors". As I mentioned in my trip report for the Colvin and Blake hike, he's the owner and chef of the Amazing Hazelnut Kitchen in Trumansburg, NY so we were treated to a delicious on the night before the hike.

Despite carrying on a bit too late drinking beers, telling stories from college and playing a little guitar, we both woke up early, a bit excited for the day. That early wake up proved to be a really fortuitous. On the drive up we kept popping in and out of patches of thick ground fog, each time it lasted a bit longer. As we pulled off the northway onto 73 the fog lifted just in time to see our destination looming largely to our right.

I was pretty excited for the clear blue skies to start the hike. I honestly hadn't expected very much based on the forecast. Partly sunny with some showers in the morning followed by rain in the afternoon. I chose a hike that would have some views right away in case weather did roll in and the summit was view-less. We got out of the car around 7:30 and were on the first overlook not long after. Really cool views of the Dix range, the great range and all the impressive rock on Round Mountain. At the edge of the Giant's Washbowl, there's a simple two timber bridge over some thigh deep water. It was icy and very slick. We both held our breaths crossing and were quite happy to make it across without any problems. That would've been a bummer.

As we climbed on, back into the woods, there was alternating waves of clouds and blue sky. When we got to the next series of overlooks, we were greeted with a dramatic sight. We watched a storm front pouring over the high peaks and coming towards us. A plume of cloud shot high into the sky as the system hit Dix Mountain. It was a breathtaking and unforgettable moment in the mountains. We were in for some excitement. I had hoped the south-facing rocky path along Giants ridge would be relatively snow free as it has some decent southern exposure. Well the snow was gone but there was a good amount of ice which made climbing tricky for Justin and I but not for Koda. At this point in the hike he'd quickly and easily bypass an obstacle and look down on us with disdain as we struggled up.

Eventually, much higher in elevation than I expected, we began to encounter snow. The spine was supportive though icy at times. In hindsight if we had put on microspikes, the ascent would have definitely been easier. we managed to move along at a good pace though and no teeth were broken so I guess it came out just fine. There were occasional snow showers just to keep things interesting. As we approached the intersection with the roaring broke trail we heard voices. A couple had just come down from climbing Giant and reported decent conditions for the final push.
The ascent went well with some cool views of the impressive slides on Giant. We decided on the way down we'd wear snowshoes to make the slick spots easier. The snow up high stayed supportive all day. As we got on the summit knob we were buffeted by strong winds and snow. We had hike from Spring to winter in just a few hours. On top we got a brief glimpse of the valley floor before the storm dropped the curtain on us. We threw on some layers to enjoy a snack and see if we could catch another peak of the view. It wasn't meant to be so back into the treeline we went to put on our snowshoes. This was Justin's first time snowshoeing and after some getting used to them, he was a natural. He did really awesome on the entire hike. I knew he was fit but climbing these mountains is a little...different than other types of exercise and he took to it very well.We decided that rather than go down the slick rock and over the sketchy bridge, we'd take the Roaring Bridge trail down even though it would add over a mile to our hike. We were able to get much farther down the mountain with snowshoes on then we would have been able to taking the ridge trail down. The trees and primarily western exposure meant deeper snow lower down the mountain.

It snowed during our descent and as we got lower it changed from slush to rain. The trail also changed from snow to patches of ice to mud. Justin got to experience nearly every possible condition the high peaks have to offer. Roaring Brook was doing what it's supposed to do. It was a welcome relief to walk down some more gradual terrain as we approached the intersection. Though I knew we'd be adding mileage, I hadn't realized we'd have to climb 500 ft to get back up to Giant's washbowl. Oof. As we climbed, the skies truly opened up and we just had to laugh. Rough conditions! The pond was quite pretty and we had a fun time noticing all the beaver activity which seemed pretty old at this point. The cliffs as you approach the washbowl and on the other side of the it from the trail are quite pretty and remind me of Japan. Swirling mist made them even more majestic.

We followed the shore of  the Washbowl until closing the loop with our approach. The icy bridge was no longer iced over but still looked pretty treacherous and was glad we didn't have to cross it again. The trail sign at the intersection read 0.7 mi to Route 73 which was truly a sight for sore eyes. Though we maintained a very upbeat attitude during the hike it was certainly a challenging one and the dream of being out of the rain and heading towards warm beds and dinners was a sweet one. We paused again at the first overlook and marveled at just how different conditions were. A few switch backs later we packed the car, dried off the dog as much as possible and made our way down to Albany. It was earth day and what a great way to celebrate it. Fully immersed in some dramatic conditions on a truly stunning piece of green earth. My coffee refill at Stewart's was free too which was just icing. It was great sharing the trail with an old dear friend and seeing yet another face awed by the majesty of the Adirondack High Peaks. 

No comments:

Post a Comment