Black Head, Black Dome, and Thomas Cole Mountains

Last month I did my first winter hike. A seven mile hike covering three of the Catskill 3,500 mountains is a decent challenge. A seven mile hike over three of the Catskill 3,500 mountains in the dead of winter, with two feet of snow, is an even more intense challenge, but hey, why not?

6 am Sunday morning: my Dad, our friend, and I piled into the car to head up to the Catskills (we are working on climbing all the Catskill 3500s … I now have 9 completed!)  We started the drive to the trail head to climb Black Head, Black Dome, and Thomas Cole.

When we got to the trail head, we realized it was 12 degrees… we were expecting it to be closer to 40. Whoops. Luckily we packed extras layers, but not necessarily for our hands … I guess that’s why they make pockets!  We started our journey up the trail to the juncture between Black Head and Black Dome, which was fairly steep. 

Black Head was our first goal. This is the only one of the three mountains required to be completed in the winter for the Catskill 3500. I have to be honest- it was harder, and steeper, than I expected. The snow added an extra challenge. It is important to remember to always stay on the path because the snow on the path is compact. If you step off the path, you will sink in the snow (often referred to as post holing). I say this from personal experience, as I may have done this once or twice… or like 30 times. Just before we reached the summit, there was a steep incline. This is where you really need to use your micro spikes… or you will slide right down the mountain (again speaking from experience). We grabbed a quick snack at the summit. I never knew it was possible to almost chip your tooth on granola bar…turns out it is.  

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After climbing Black Head, we hiked back down to the juncture.  At this point, we had the chance to turn back and go home. I’m not going to lie, I really wanted to, seeing as I was cold, wet, and tired, but I didn’t, instead I pushed up the trail towards Black Dome.

On the way up to our second summit, Black Dome, there is another steep incline. As I started up the incline, I slid back down. I stood up, wiped myself off, and said to myself, “let’s try again.” This time I got, half way up to the top of the incline before sliding down again. Okay one more time, after all, they say 3 times a charm…and there I went again, sliding down the incline past where my dad was standing. “Okay” I thought to myself, “you got this, you can do this!” and I proceeded to crawl up the mountain. It wasn’t graceful, but it was effective!  The view from the top of Black Dome was amazing, totally worth the crawl.

After we summited mountain number two, we went on to our third goal, Thomas Cole.  For those of you that hike in the Catskills, heads up, if you are considering climbing Thomas Cole, the summit is not clearly marked…pretty sure we walked right past it. We turned around to start the descent, and I was psyched … downhill is so much better than uphill.  20 minutes later, we reached the cull between Thomas Cole and Black Dome and the realization set in … I had to re-climb Black Dome.  I slowly trudged my way back over Black Dome and finally, back down to the juncture. Yes, we made it!

Now just a two mile walk back down to the car.

When I got to the juncture, I got a second wind! I went from the back of the pack to the front, which is not easy, considering my dad is 6’ 3” and has really long legs.   The feeling of accomplishment was what motivated me to finish…oh yeah, and the thought of my warm and dry sweatpants in the car. Every hike is challenging, but hiking in the snow is more difficult because… I had to push myself with every single step. It’s important to not get discouraged and to be able to laugh at yourself. This hike was one of the most mentally challenging I have ever done, but also the most rewarding.

Total distance: 33,000 steps (thanks fitbit), 7 miles

Elevation gain: 4,914 ft

Total time: 6.5 hours

What to wear: during winter hikes layers are necessary. For this hike I wore:

  • Under Armour Cold gear leggings and shirt
  • North Face Etip gloves Click here to buy
  • SmartWool NTS 250 Mid-weight Sport Hoodie Click here to buy–Love this piece, great light weight mid-layer. Warm, cozy, and great fit!
  • North Face Apex Bionic 2 hooded jacket Click here to buy–Great jacket, kept me warm the entire day. It has hand warming pockets! Sizing is on the small size, I recommend you size up.
  • SmartWool hiking socks

Don’t forget to wear micro spikes on your hiking shoes. These will help to provide traction when walking on ice/snow. Click here to buy

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