“There’s no small irony in the fact that New York’s tallest peak is merely the last challenge on this classic loop-and far from the toughest. The route scales nine peaks, including six 4,000-footers and the aforementioned 5,344-foot Mt. Marcy. But numerous cols and false summits, plus heinously eroded trail beds, wear you down physically and psychologically. From Keene Valley, the murderer’s row of peaks includes Rooster Comb, Hedgehog, Lower Wolf Jaw, Upper Wolf Jaw, Armstrong, Gothics, Saddleback, Haystack, and Marcy, from which you descend the Phelps Trail. Gut-check moments include a half-mile of teetering above a 700-foot drop on a knife-edge between the Wolf Jaws-inevitably followed by a steep climb-and the southeast face of Gothics, a scary-steep, exposed descent over open slab rock. (The face used to have cables to aid hikers, but, fittingly, they’ve been removed.) There are long stretches of scrambling and ladder-climbing, and you’ll need to carry enough water for the day. Contact: Adirondack Mountain Club, (518) 668-4447; www.adk.org”
Backpacker Magazine rate as the third AMERICA’S HARDEST DAYHIKES
Score: 90 Miles: 25 Elevation Change: 17,600 feet X Factor: Endless ups and downs
On Friday night, Chang and I drove to the Keene Valley Hostel. We were going to do a run in the Adirondack Great Range Traverse on Saturday early morning. To find this hostel at midnight was a bit tricky. Luckily we found the sign, it just next of the Roostercomb Parking lot (we found this parking lot on the drive back tho).
We woke up super early, and we started to shove our asses out to the wilderness around 6:30 am. And we managed to make ourselves get lost for a good 15-20 minutes. We just could not find the trail head. Apparently, the entrance was hidden across the school yard. Then, we saw the beaver pond and found the trail around the pond. The trail started with a steady hike, not flat for sure. After a couple of miles, we found a trail mark that pointed us to the Roostercomb Peak. It was a half mile out and back, but it was worth every single steps. It was just beautiful. We were able to see all the peaks that we were heading.
After we got back to the main trail, the rolling hills become more technical. The one that was stand out in my mind was the first high ladder and our first slipper slide butt scrubbing rock. When we arrived at the Lower Wolfmaw peaks, we met three hikers from Albany. It might have been their first time met a trail runner, they took a picture of us. They said they had never seen our set up like that before, they meant our running vest. The trail was pretty well-marked, and the direction, at the junctions, was really good. As long as we know what would be our next peak, we were able to find the direction. Also this trail had many frogs. It crossed in my mind, if there was plenty frogs, and the environment was pretty wet yet it’s warm, there could be snake hiding somewhere.
After the Armstrong, the uphill was started to getting technical, which mean involving more climbing then running. The downhill also got a bit hairy with plenty butt sliding rocks. After we passed the junction and heading to the Gothic Mountain, the terrain became unforgiving. The climbing had plenty scrambling and bouldering style with slippery wet stone from the previous rain. Also there were plenty enough mud to change our shoes and socks into more natural color. And we had to climb a couple more of stairs on the vertical slab rocks. It felt like the uphill were never end. But when we got into the Gothic Mountain peak, I immediately felt those hard-works were worth every inch. The view was amazing. It was a 360 degree of high-definition of never end mountain landscape. I felt like I was at the Misty Mountain (The Hobbit), minus the snow.
The trail between the Gothic, Pyramid, and Sawteeth was pretty magical. Special on the peaks, where we run on the back of the mountain and surrounded by lines of peaks after peaks. The trail itself was pretty neat, we ran on the rock path that surrounded by patches of grass. Felt like running on the red carpet made of white rocks. People say good things come with a price. This time the price was a ridiculous technical downhill thru rocks, most of them were bigger than me. Believe me or not, I am a person that has height-phobia. I scaled down those rocks like a little girl slide down from a slider in the playground for the first time. After The Sawteeth, we got lost a little bit to find our way to the Basin Mountain, some of the mark was hidden behind a giant stone. The way up to the Basin peak had a lot of climbing, a real vertical climbing. It was too many of them that broke down my will so many times. But when we got into the peak, it was worth every sweat. We sat down to devour our snack while looking on to the Little Haystack, Haystack, and Marcy peaks. Behind them, there was a layer of mountains and hills with dark clouds as the decoration. After the last bite, we continued to run. We preferred not to get caught by thunderstorm, when we got into those peaks.
On one section between the Basin and Little Haystack, the slopes were so steep and smooth, that we needed to use the cables to repel down. It was a bit scary but also a lot of fun. When we got to the bottom, we started to find water sources. And just before the next ascent, we re-filled our water bottles. There was no water source before this point. On the next uphill, there was water flowing through the rock. I had to hopping around like a frog from one stone to the next one. When we got into the junction, we found that the trail marked was broken and missing some of the boards. It took us a few minutes before we figured that the trail on our left, which was going up, must be to the Haystack, and the one on the right was a turn to Marcy or back to the Roostercomb parking lot, where would be our final destination. So we started to climb up the rocks, and I realized the immediate vegetation change into small plants or less/no leave plants. And the further we went up, the vegetation were close to none. The hike from Little Haystack to Haystack was a lot of fun. It was a lot of rock scrambling and jumping, one of my favorite technical run/hike. The Haystack peak was stunning, but we could not stay too long since we had a race with the thunderstorm’s cloud. We ran down those rocks pretty fast. It entertained me that I felt I got my second wind.
When we got into the junction to go to Mount Marcy, we met two ladies from Colorado. They said that the rangers were escorting all the hikers down because of the oncoming thunderstorm. So we decided to run back, we were running out of time anyway. The trail on the way to Roostercomb parking lot had a lot of river crossing, roots over rocks, and muds, but it was not that too technical. Also it was going down most of the time. About 3-4 miles away from The Garden parking lot, there was a base camp hut, and all the hikers were cheering us. It was so nice of them, they made my day. From the parking lot, it was a good couple of mile of down hill on the road before we got back to the town. I was so happy when we got into the hostel. Plus, the rain started to pour right after I took off my shoes. Perfect Timing!
- Activity: Running
- Distance: 22.80 mi
- Duration: 9:29:58
- Average Pace: 25 min/mi
- Calories Burned: 2,613
- Activity Link: http://runkeeper.com/user/cm134/activity/407035024
- Start Time: Sat, 2 Aug 2014 06:39:12
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