A Vacation Weekend in the High Peaks
Submitted By Michael Virdone
The Mountains & Stats
People On The Trip
I was busy at work last week so I didn't have time to plan a hike. Nicole and I had been doing some more difficult hikes lately but we weren't in the mood for an uber-hike this weekend. Our friends were staying at Sharp Bridge Friday & Saturday so we headed up there and hoped to figure out a plan by Saturday morning.|
Once the tent was setup, Nicole took to planning the hike for the weekend. Previous threads about Nun-da-ga-o had piqued her interest so she focused in on that area of the high peaks guide. After figuring out the distance for the ridge we realized it was too short for a full day so we decided to add hurricane which we had previously hiked as part of the fire tower challenge.
We went to bed and were treated to a few torrential downpours during the evening but our tent kept us dry. We woke the next morning and headed out under blue skies. We arrived at Crow Clearing at around 8:15 after a breakfast stop at Stewart's.
I wanted to push to the summit of Hurricane as fast as possible. We cruised, occasionally jogging on the old road, making it to the leanto in 17 minutes. The actual climb beyond the leanto was a bit more challenging as all of the rocks were slick from last night's rain. I kept a quick but steady pace and in no time we were at the upper junction. I really pushed from the upper junction to the summit enjoying the rocky scrambles along the way. I arrived at the summit 1:09 after leaving the car (yes, not actually fast, but it was bignslow fast). Nicole was nipping at my heels the entire hike and could have easily done it faster.
We spent 45 minutes having the summit all to ourselves, soaking in the views and watching the cloud ceiling (at ~4500') bounce of the high peaks. All things considered Hurricane has a tremendous bang for your buck. I especially prefer hikes with a warm up before the climb begins. After we had our fill of the views we decided to descend. Due to the slick rocks our descent was only 5 minutes faster than the climb. At the leanto we saw the remnants of a tough night camping out (namely a tent with 2" of water inside of it).
After the leanto we continued on and began the climb to lost pond. This was a nice climb which followed a old woods road and a nicely switchbacked trail. The climb was more intense than I expected and we took a little while to reach the 2nd leanto. We had a snack break at the lost pond leanto before completing the (very steep) climb to the summit of Weston mountain. Despite the fact that the trail is minimally maintained there were DEC markers sporadically on the trail to the summit of Weston.
The descent down to the first col on the ridge was very gradual and reminded us very much of the Sleeper ridge in NH which we had done earlier this year. This trail had one of those phenomenal cols where there were literally only 2 steps of level ground after the descent ended and before the climb began. The next climb was punctuated by a lovely set of ledges where we decided to have a long lunch break while soaking in the views.
What impressed us most was how near the ridge seemed from Hurricane, yet how far Hurricane seemed from the ridge (I think looking down on things make them seem easier/closer). From the ledges the climb undulated up, down, and around the ridge. The trail was mostly easy to follow, a few times we had to look where to go (as opposed to being on auto-pilot) but it was never difficult.
The ledges along the way were enjoyable, especially watching the views change as we traversed the ridge. I really enjoyed the different view through cascade pass between Cascade and Pitchoff. Nicole commented that her favorite component of the hike was the lack of people (to this point we had only seen 2 people since leaving lost pond), it was not 10 minutes later when we came out on the last ledge of the ridge to find a group of 20-25 people enjoying the view (I guess we jinxed it).
From here the descent was very steep (unlike the gradual undulations on the ridge). We weren't really prepared for all the bumps on the descent and the started to test our patience. Eventually we reached the end of the herd path and the marked trail. From here we cruised back to the car. I would say if you're looking for an alternative to a high peak and looking for an easy day I would recommend Hurricane or Nun-da-ga-o or if you're looking for a bit more of a challenge go for both (~10mi, ~3k' gain). If I had to pick Hurricane vs Nun-da-ga-o I would pick Hurricane (~6mi, ~1600' gain) based on the 360 views from the summit (but I tend to enjoy the destination more than the journey). If you enjoy an interesting hike more than views from the top, then Nun-da-ga-o (~6mi, ~1600' gain) is the way to go.
After the hike we stopped at Stewart's for a celebratory ice cream, followed by some shopping at the Mountaineer. We headed back to camp and prepared some dinner. By 7pm we were done with dinner with nothing to do. We noticed the sun was setting so we decided to make a run for Belfry (the easiest fire tower 0.4 miles, 120ft gain) to try and catch sunset (roughly 25 min from Sharp Bridge). We made it there in time, but sunset itself was behind Giant. We enjoyed the purple's and red's on the clouds surrounding the high peaks but missed the sun going over the horizon.
We went back to camp and settled in for the night. The next morning we got up, broke down camp, and headed to the Beer Walls for some rock climbing with friends. We did some leads and TRs on some of the easier routes (I'm not much of a rock climber). I'm more experienced with sport climbing and I had only trad climbed in the gunks, so I found the trad a little more difficult (and more "rugged" with dirty holds and cracks). After climbing we stopped at the Black Bear Inn in Pottersville for lunch/dinner before driving home.
Overall it was wonderful to spend some time in the high peaks without being concerned with hiking long difficult hikes and then heading straight home. Nicole and I both agreed it was nice to take a "vacation" in the high peaks rather than just a hiking trip. As someone who has been very list/goal oriented I underestimated the amount of fun you can have in the high peaks when you take a break from your quest for a weekend.
The Good and The Bad
Good views from Hurricane
Slippery rocks on Hurricane ascent
|Stayed at Sharp Bridge|
Had dinner at Black Bear Inn in Pottersville