Submitted By Michael Virdone
The Mountains & Stats
People On The Trip
Last year we did a great range lite (Ha -> LWJ), and this year I wanted to get the real thing (We got all the peaks, but we didn't do the "official" fkt route). The weather looked decent for the weekend (nice day, but hot) so we made the plans. On Friday night, Nicole and I drove separate cars up to Keene Valley (plus we packed a bike). We left 1 car at roostercomb, the bike at the garden (as a bail out option into the Johns Brook Valley) and then we drove into South Meadows to camp for the night. We were in bed very early that night (there was still a hint of light in the night sky).|
The next morning the alarm went off at 4:15. We were so excited for our upcoming hike that I was really surprised with how quickly we were up and out of bed. We had dressed, packed the sleeping bags, and broke down the tent, and packed the car in 15 minutes. We drove to the Loj where we used the HPIC for some final preparations prior to starting our hike. There was a group of 2 ahead of us who we would see throughout the course of the day.
We made good time to Marcy Dam, it was interesting to "pre check out" of a trail register (as we were doing a thru hike). Along the way we saw the nearly finished replacement bridge, it really is an impressive structure. We stuck with a quick, but slow and steady pace, we never really stopped for long, eating and drinking on the go. For some reason I was really hungry, so I was snacking all along the way.
Eventually we were at Indian Falls where we took the opportunity to sit down and eat breakfast. We enjoyed the views (and the meals) for a little while before continuing on. One thing we did a really good job of, was drinking [I]a lot[/I] early in the hike. Usually we don't drink enough, until we're thirsty, but both of us drank a lot prior to Marcy. We knew our only opportunity to re-fill was going to be near snowbird, so we wanted to make sure we were well hydrated through that point.
After Indian Falls we continued up to Marcy, it was the least crowded I have ever seen the summit (even in winter!). There was only 2 other groups on top when we arrived. Just as we were leaving, a 3rd group arrived, and much to our surprise it was Ike (Paul). We were happy to continue our tradition of making cameo appearances on his hikes. We didn't linger long on the summit as we had a lot of ground to cover.
The first exciting part of this trip was the trail between Marcy and the Haystack trail junction. This is the first time in a while that Nicole and I were on an unfamiliar section of trail in the high peaks. It's not that we've been everywhere, but more we tend to do the same hikes over and over. Having been on Haystack and seeing how "far away" Marcy looked I was interested in seeing how long it would take (and what the trail would look like).
Overall the descent was the typical great range trail: steep and rocky. We met another forum member who was scouting for their future GRT. I kept expecting to see the Haystack Jct around every turn, but eventually we found it. It was nice to come [I]down[/I] to the junction for that climb (the bump before Little Haystack) rather than climb up to it for a change. We went up and over the bump and began our climb of Little Haystack. Nicole noticed a party ahead of us on the ridge, and when we finally topped out, we found that the party ahead of us was actually our friend Siobhan who was working with her father to help him finish his 46 (they were doing HaBaSa).
We spent some time on the summit, but we knew we had to keep moving. We headed out, re-climbing little, prior to heading down (and down, and down) towards Basin. At the trail junction we stopped to pump water. Nicole and I were both pleased that our hydration bladders were nearly empty. Filling the hydration bladders was a bit of a challenge for a few reasons:
1) The bugs decided to come out of the woodwork and become ruthless. I actually tweaked out briefly until I got my bug hat on.
2) Nicole and I had different hoses/fittings on our bladders, so it was difficult to connect both to the filter
3) It is always fun to try to not fall in the stream while pumping
Eventually we were all topped off, and were ready to continue our climb.
Right after pumping water we began our climb of Basin. Here we ran into a group of guys doing the GRT fast and light who were looking for some water, we pointed to where we had just filtered. The climb of Basin was nice and slow (because it [I]never ends[/I]). We climbed the ladder and I noticed that the stupid infamous rope was still there. One: the rope was already falling apart, Two: the knot that was connecting it to the tree was pretty half-assed, and Three: it was litter. Needless to say I got to carry some additional training weight for the remainder of the hike.
After some more walking we were at the top of Basin. On a previous hike we had seen someone bring an avocado along and we were very jealous. Same thing happened on the top of Basin, and I may have loudly exclaimed "Oh man, that guy has an avocado, I can't believe this again, that looks so good". Well apparently he heard me and generously offered me a quarter of his. Sir, if you are reading this, that was one of the highlights of the hike, thanks again!
At the summit we re-joined our friends and we enjoyed the traverse over to Saddle back. At the ledges below the steep section on Saddleback our group came upon a woman who had been ditched by her friends who was having some difficulty down climbing. Siobahn's father did a great job helping this woman down the steep climb. We made quick (and enjoyable) work of the Saddleback "cliffs" and we took another break on the top. Here we bid goodbye to our friends in order to continue our hike.
On the descent of Saddleback we were treated to some sounds of nature, and by sounds of nature, I mean a bunch of morons screaming on Gothics. In no time we were beginning the climb. At the first steep slab (prior to the cables) i have a rule that I have to go straight up the crack in the slab (instead of going to the right where the trees are). I had done this previously with little difficulty, but today I was a little more tired, and my shoes were muddy. I had 2 or 3 tries of sliding backwards a few feet (quite scary at the time) before I finally succeeded.
Eventually we were beyond the cables and at the false summit. We took a nice rest here (we had a deal with the sun, every time we were climbing, the sun would come out, once were were at the summit or on descent, it would go behind a cloud. This was to maximize how hot we got on the climbs...). After a dip and a bump we were at the true summit. Here we only spent a few minutes before heading down to Armstrong. Armstrong is just a hop, skip and jump, and we were over there in no time. After another nice rest we began my least favorite part of the hike.
Almost everything between Armstrong and the descent of Lower Wolfjaw is just plain steep and tough. We made our way over to Upper, we had a quick break, and then headed over to Lower. The Wolf Jaws col is always tough, it is deep and steep on both sides, but we knew we were getting close so we simply adjusted our speed. At the summit of Lower we were ready for a break and to eat some dinner. It was at this moment the bugs decided to become ruthless. All we wanted to do was eat some dinner but the bugs disagreed. We ate as much as we could as quickly as we could and then we got out of there.
The remainder of the hike was all new to us (with the exception of the approach to the summit from the top of bennies). We knew we had a good amount of mileage left, and not a lot of energy, so for the first time we both decided to listen to music on a hike. Overall I think we were pretty pleased with the experience, and I think having some fun, upbeat music, helped take our minds off of the task at hand.
The bump of Hedgehog went by quickly (though the multiple humps kinda stunk), but eventually we were at the junction for Rooster Comb. I've never been so happy to see a trail junction! The climb of Rooster Comb went by quickly and at the summit we had the biggest treat of the day. There was a strong breeze, it was cool, and the bugs were gone. We knew we were home free, so we spent a LOT of time on the summit. It was great having the views up the range, and some interesting views to Giant. Sitting in the sun, having a snack, and soaking in the views was really the high point of the day.
The remainder of the hike was a really big surprise. The trail from the summit of Rooster Comb to the parking lot was by far [U]the nicest[/U] trail I have ever been on in the high peaks. I thought I was hiking in the whites judging by all the impressive stone work. Earlier in the day I had made a rule "no downhill running" because it destroys our legs, but once the trail hit some old woods roads that rule went right out the window.
Eventually we were back at the parking lot and were excited that our hike was successful. After changing we hit up the Noonmark Diner for some well deserved dinner. Nicole got a club sandwich and I got a bacon cheeseburger "with an absurd amount of bacon on it" (and they didn't disappoint). We had enough camping for the weekend, so instead we stayed at Tmax and Topo's. As usual the facilities were amazing, the showers were perfect, and we both slept like logs. We also enjoyed spending some time with T-max and getting some beta on some state highpoints.
Other than getting some muscle pain in my right hip, the trip was totally uneventful. I'm incredibly pleased that we were able to complete the hike. I know Nicole has had it in her all along, but it took a lot of training for me to get to a level where I was comfortable trying this.
During the hike we discussed taking a page from Nancy's playbook and dedicating the hike to someone. We decided to dedicate the hike to Glen (MG). The first time I met Glen, I was really impressed with how the "super hikers" were so friendly. Glen has been a bad influence on Nicole and I, introducing us to the grasshopper loop in CNY, trying to say "hey, you should trail run more", etc... Every time I got down on myself during the hike ("Maybe we'll skip RC", "maybe we'll just go back down the valley to the garden after UWJ") I thought, "Glen would have no problem doing this hike, I owe it to him to get tough". Thanks for being an inspiration to us Glen.
The Good and The Bad
Completing a GRT
|Up 8, down 3. Lumberjack for breakfast!|