Friday, June 16, 2017
SW Hunter, my final Catskills 3500 hike
SW Hunter was my only remaining Catskills 3500 peak, and it was becoming my nemesis. Not because it is so challenging, but because we simply tried it at the wrong time twice.
Backtrack: I began hiking the Catskills peaks three years ago with Hunter Mountain. As a solo hiker, new to the Catskills, it didn't occur to me to hike it with SW Hunter, although that is how it is frequently done. Fast-forward to January of this year, when J and I spent a weekend in the Catskills. After doing Balsam on Saturday, we had planned to do SW Hunter on Sunday. But with the weather being exceedingly brisk, we scaled back to just going as far as Diamond Notch Falls. Then in March we again spent the weekend, trying to get some peaks in before the official Club end of winter (March 21). Naturally, we came up right after a major blizzard, and once again we only made it as far as the Falls. Meanwhile, I had finished Eagle, my penultimate peak.
So back to this trip, where neither snow nor below-freezing temps were likely to be a problem. We started out once again from Rider Hollow, where we encountered a group of four 3500 club members setting out to do a one-way hike of SW Hunter and Hunter. They zipped by us as we hiked the easy stretch (seen in the photo at the top) to the Falls.
We then got on the Devil's Path and started going up. Most of the hike is fairly unremarkable. Oh, sure, it is uphill, and it is pretty woods, but there are no major landmarks, intersections, or scrambles. Finally, we reached Geiger Point, the only real viewpoint on the trip, seen below.
Now, SW Hunter is considered trail-less because it can't be reached by trails formally maintained by the DEC. But it's like Bearpen, Vly, and Kaaterskill in that there are use trails or old roads - it's not bushwhacking. We found the old logging road to turn off on pretty easily, after only one false turn to a campsite. The next turn, off of the old logging road to the summit, was well-marked by cairns.
Because of this, the canister is easy to find; you don't have to hunt for it. We found it and signed in, finding a note from Tom (thanks!). In addition to my final peak, SW Hunter was also J's first trail-less peak, so it was an exciting moment for us both. We didn't linger long, however, thanks to the flies.
The trip back down was only notable for a brief rainshower near the end.
So ... there it is, the end of my 3500 quest. What now? Do I work on the winter patch? The grid? Red-lining? New England's 100 highest? So many decisions?