This weekend, I tackled the Great Range of the Adirondacks High Peaks. Thursday, just after work I headed up to the Gardens parking lot. I had a fear that there would be no parking as it was marked as full about 9 in the morning, but when I arrived around 530, there were a dozen or so spots. I hiked in about 3 miles and set up camp on Howard Hill, just shy on the trail from the DEC interior outpost (aka rangers). I was surprised when I hit the trail to see a party of 10, about half of which were pre-teen, getting on the trail to go to Johns Brooks Lodge, an interior lodge run by the Adirondack Mountain Club. It's a 3.5 mile hike to get there. With kids as small as they had, I was surprised they were going in so late. I also didn't realize the lodge was open, but apparently it is.
Friday, I tackled the eastern half of the range. I started going up to WolfJaw notch and then up to Lower WolfJaw (4175', # 30). It was clouded in. Oh well, but not the peak I was expecting great views from. I then went down back to the notch and went up Upper WolfJaw (4185'. #29), which I did in a college trip 20+ years ago. It's a good climb, and a false summit on the way up there, which just gives you false hope. But I got up there and the skys were clearing up some more, but it looked like the ceiling was around 4400'. The next peak on the range was Armstrong (4400', # 23). This wasn't that bad a hike. There were some good scrambles, and a ladder to go up one that was just too big to climb. When I got here, the clouds were a little higher, maybe 4600', but Gothics was clouded in. It was a bit after noon, and I'd been hiking since 7, going about 4.2 miles. Knowing I was not going to go down the cables of Gothics that means that if I went on the 0.9 miles of somewhat rugged climbing, I'd have to go back over Armstrong and Upper WolfJaw to get back to camp. I decided I had enough, so I turned around and went back to camp. Total mileage, 7.61 miles, 3700' elevation gain/loss.
Saturday, I did the western half of the range. This started with a long hike down the Phelps trail to Little Marcy (4.8 miles). The first 4ish are pretty decent. A few spots where there was extensive blow down as you were around Slant Rock, but that was mostly cleared. The last mile of it though was a slog up a trail that was essentially a stream. When I finally reached the col between Little Marcy and Little Haystack, at that point the real scrambles started. Little Haystack and Haystack (4960', # 3) are both bald, and you're just going up and over scrambling almost the whole way. There are a few trees in the col between the two, but not much compared to all the open rocks. I got up to the top though, and boy, is this really one of the best views of the park! I did this peak, and the following 2, back in the same college trip as Upper WolfJaw, just in reverse. The views though, they didn't disappoint. Everyone wants to do Marcy because she's just over a mile tall and the highest point in the state. Reality though, Haystack is more difficult to get to, so it's less crowded, and the views are immensely better. I cannot recommend it any more.
From Haystack, I then went down towards Basin, and when I was at the cutoff for Slant Rock, I thought hard, do I want to do this, because once I peak Basin (4827', #9) I am committed to go on to the next peak. I decided to go up, and I quickly became glad that I was going this direction. There are many steep scrambles that almost border on rock climbing to get up Basin from this side. I'd rather go up those than down them. I also ran into a lot of people coming the other direction that were doing a range run (start at Rooster Comb, go over the WolfJaws, Armstrong, Gothics, Saddleback, Basin, and Haystack, then go back... a very very difficult thing to do and a very long day for most). Again, the views were amazing from the top. It was just a perfect day. I was reminded at this point about the cliffs of Saddleback.
I then went on, down Basin, which again had some rather nice scrambles and reached the col between it and Saddleback (4515' #17). Then began the short hike up to the cliffs.... and well, this video (not mine) shows you basically the route I took. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y_8GTYsy6oQ Yes, it was essentially free climb up that rock face. Yes, a couple points there were what felt like leaps of faith. Yes, I came down that 20+ years ago with a full pack. This was the reason why I went this direction up the mountain because I remembered that there was a bad drop going the other way, and going down was not fun. Well, going up was not really fun either, but I did it. After that it was all downhill. I took the Ore Bed trail back down to the Phelps trail and back to camp. The only annoying bit about the Ore Bed trail, and why I am again happy I went this direction, is that there is about a 0.1 to 0.2 mile long ladder... well, really more like stairs made of wood, but they're called ladders up there. It went down the side of a slide of Saddleback. This ladder, I didn't mind too much, it was shallow enough it was really more like stairs... in the end, I did 11.64 miles, 4600' in elevation gain/loss. Long day.
Sunday, I had one more peak to do, Big Slide (4240', #27). This is often a beginner's hike where you start in the Gardens, go over the Brothers, and end at Big Slide so you can get your first peak. Somehow, I've never done it before. I went up and down the trail from the interior outpost, which had it's own set of scrambles and walking up some small slides. There was also a ladder here that was cut in the more common fashion where the notch off the corner of a 4x4 or 6x6 for your tread, unlike the planks they used on Ore Bed. Not bad going up, but I hate going down those. I did get to the top and the views of the great range were just lovely. You can also see Marcy, Colden, Algonquin, and Wright, all 46'er peaks from there quite clearly. The hike down was uneventful and then I packed my gear and backpacked the 3 miles out to the car for a total of 7.51 miles, 2200' elevation gain, 3050' elevation loss. I was in the car by 1130, and home just about 2.
In total, I hiked just shy of 30 miles, did about 11,300' of elevation gain and loss, and bagged myself 7 peaks, 3 of which were new for me. I am now officially over half way done with a single season 46'er having done 24 peaks this year, 27 peaks all time.