Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Hiking Breakneck Ridge

Breakneck Ridge
On Sunday I returned to Breakneck Ridge for the official Rambler hike, clocking in at 11 miles with 2,900 feet of elevation gain. The weather and hiking conditions were almost identical to the previous week.

It's a tough hike - we started off with a steep climb up Breakneck. Not the scramble up its face, mind you; the trail itself is still challenging enough. Then we went down its north face, then back up Sugarloaf, then down and up over and over, with a last climb up Mt. Taurus before heading back down to Cold Spring.

There are many nice official viewpoints along this hike, and in the winter there are many more vistas through the trees.

Breakneck Ridge is a very heavily visited area, particularly the trails near the Hudson River, so going in winter is a nice way to see it without the usual crowds. However, the impact of the high visitation is visible, especially on the Washburn Trail. It could really use some trail work, maybe even aggressive hardening like at Bear Mountain.

One thing of note; the previous week at Sunset Point we had noticed one of the two platforms was missing several stairs. On our return, they had been fixed. Thanks, park employees or volunteers!

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Scouting Breakneck Ridge

Breakneck Ridge
Next week, I'm leading a hike for the Ramblers around Breakneck Ridge, so yesterday a few of us went out to test-drive the route. It's going to be a good hike, with quite a few tough hills. I'll save a longer writeup for after official outing, but here are a couple of pics of what people can expect.

Above is the hike along the top of Sugarloaf, with views of Storm King across the Hudson. Below is a hiker coming up to the top of Sugarloaf.
Breakneck Ridge

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Hiking Eagle Mountain

Eagle MountainSince our first attempt to hike Eagle had been stymied by a deep stream crossing, we decided to try again. The Rider Hollow route, the shortest, was out, as the water would still be high. The Seager Road route is by far the longest, and it has several stream crossings. That left McKenley* Hollow, with a couple of easier stream crossings, a medium length - and a lot of elevation gain, about 1,000 feet more than Rider Hollow.

The warm weather meant that the lower slopes were almost totally bare of snow. It was well above freezing, so what was left continued to melt. We started off with bare boots, with no need for any kind of traction devices.

The 1.9 miles up the Oliverea-Mapledale trail to the junction with the Pine Hill-West Branch trail comprise the toughest part of this hike. It’s quite a steep slope as you follow the creek. Fortunately, the trail moderates at a little over 3,000 feet at the col between Eagle and Balsam Mountains. 

Eagle MountainThere, we put on our microspikes for the final 2.1 miles, since there were icy rocks and slushy snow. The trails follows a long ridge before heading up for a final climb to Eagle’s 3,600-foot summit. We were worried about time, and I was afraid we might have to turn around to avoid hiking in the dark. Fortunately, we met a group of hikers returning from the summit with a GPS, and they told us it was .75 miles to the top. We didn’t necessarily enjoy the last climb, but we made it.

Eagle’s summit doesn’t have a view. The summit itself is off the trail, although canister-less, and marked by a cairn. To get any views at all on this route, I recommend hiking when the leaves are off the trees; you’ll get glimpses of some mountains as you go. 

With Eagle down, I have only one peak left to complete my Catskills 3500. SW Hunter, here I come.

*The map shows it as McKinley, but the signs say McKenley. I’m not sure which is right. 

Monday, January 23, 2017

Hiking Slide Mountain

Slide Mountain
J has started working on her 3500 peaks, so for the Winter Weekend we decided to join a led club hike to Slide, one of the required winter peaks.

The weather had been rather warm for the previous week, with some rain and freezing rain, so there was as much ice as snow. It was going to be another weekend I couldn't use my new snowshoes, alas. Microspikes were a definite necessity - although we saw a few folks without them, I think that's just asking for trouble. I was the only one without poles, which I keep meaning to buy eventually, so it's safe to say most people would prefer them for a little extra stability.

We came up Slide from Frost Valley Road, taking the most direct route. Despite the icy trails, we were blessed with sunshine and relatively warm temperatures. Compared to two weeks earlier, it felt positively balmy.

Despite the ice, this hike is pretty non-technical. There are no rock scrambles, and the stream crossings were all easy. That makes it one of the easier winter peaks. And there is a nice view at the top, which always feels like a nice reward.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Diamond Notch falls

Diamond Notch
On Sunday, we did an easy hike, up from Rider Hollow to Diamond Notch Falls. The falls were frozen, which was cool, but it wasn't easy to get to a good vantage point. In summer, it's no big deal to walk down to the stream. In winter, you wouldn't want to go sliding into the icy water.

By comparison, here is what it looks like in summer:
Diamond Notch Falls