The Great Range

Finally, the weekend I have been waiting for! We had one goal, climb 8 mountains … the Great Range:

1. Lower Wolfjaw (4,175 ft)

2. Upper Wolfjaw (4,185 ft)

3. Armstrong (4,400 ft)

4. Gothics (4,736 ft)

5. Saddleback (4,515 ft)

6. Basin (4,827 ft)

7. Haystack (4,960 ft)

8. Mount Marcy (5,344 ft)

We drove up Friday night bringing two cars, one we would park at the Adirondack LOJ and the other we would park near St. Hubert’s Country Club.

We woke up early Saturday morning and headed to the trail head. We walked through this amazing golf course, with a view of the mountains, after .6 miles we came to the lake road trail.  Here there is an amazing gate made entirely out of wood … thus our adventure begins

Over the first two miles we picked up about 1,350 feet of elevation gain. At 3.6 miles, we come to a fork in the road.  We took the left fork (sign said trail to Upper Wolfjaw), but unfortunately, we learned that we should have stayed right at the fork. It would have taken us to Lower Wolfjaw (unfortunately there was no sign saying this). We followed the sign and went left towards Wolfjaws.

We came to a sign at a junction and realized that we were about .5 miles past Lower Wolfjaw. We weren’t going to not summit the mountain, so we took a sip from our water bottles, grabbed a snack, and left our packs to head to the top of Lower Wolfjaw (we were going to have to back-track the ½ mile to the summit, so why carry heavy bags when we can move light … worker smarter, not harder).  Just before the summit, there is a slightly steep incline. Have fun!

We got to the top and what a view! 1 DOWN 7 TO GO!

We headed down Lower Wolfjaw, grabbed our packs, and headed towards Upper Wolfjaw. The views from Upper Wolfjaw were better than the ones we just left!!! 2 DOWN 6 TO GO!

Our next goal was Armstrong, about a 1 mile walk from the summit of Upper Wolfjaw. The trail has a ladder that that you use to get through a steep portion of the trail.

We headed towards the summit of Armstrong and the views just kept getting better! 3 DOWN 5 TO GO! Time to refuel, and eat some lunch … or in my case a protein bar. I decided since we were only going to be out for 2 days, and I never really carried a heavy bag before, I went light on the food front … mostly bars.

Time to head to Gothics, a .9 mile walk to the summit!  I had heard that the views from Gothics were some of the nicest in the Adirondacks.

We headed towards the top, and it started to rain…great. We stopped and put our pack covers on, but no rain jackets in this heat the lite shower was welcome.  As we got to the top the sun came out and we were able to enjoy the views, and they definitely delivered! 4 DOWN 4 TO GO!

After you summit you have to walk on these steep slides (barren rock faces), which I don’t love! My dad always tells me “trust your feet.” I prefer the slide-on-my-butt method. I can’t fall if I am already sitting …right?

After about .5 miles we get to a steep drop with garden hose covered steel cables tied in to metal hooks on the ground…I felt my heart drop. This is what my dad likes to refer to as Type 3 fun … while you are doing it you want to die, but after you do it, every time you tell the story it gets better and better, so here I go. I grabbed the hose and slowly inched my way down the cord, shaking a bit … okay, so maybe a lot (in the below picture the smile is soooooo forced). But in hindsight it was amazing!!!

We headed down into the col between Gothics and Saddleback.  I’ll be honest, at this point I was starting to get tired, as I had never climbed this many mountains before in a single day and pretty much all of them had false summits. On the way up there was a nice rock scramble. I tried to step up on a rock to start toward the top and I completely lost my footing. I started to fall, and luckily, my dad was behind me and grabbed the back of my shirt. I swung around and hit my stomach right on the edge of the rock…OUCH! It hurt, but I didn’t die.  No time to stop, a few tears and up we went.

As we were going up the mountain we passed several groups of people, all of them telling us how steep the drop on the other side was, and how they couldn’t believe we were going down that way….not going to lie I was filled with a little dred, but I put it out of my mind, lets focus on getting to the top first, before we start worrying about the other side.

5 DOWN 3 TO GO!

Now time to see this “precipitous drop” that everyone keeps talking about.  Just when you think it can’t get any worse, here comes the rain. I am not going to lie, it was steep, but not as bad as I thought it was going to be. It is important to take your time and not rush in these situations. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other, or just, you know, slide on your butt…..and maybe even rip your pants (now I know how Sponge Bob felt)….luckily my underwear matched my leggings, so was hard to tell. At least that’s what I told myself to make me feel better.

It was starting to get later, but we had to make it over Basin to the campsite before we could stop. I had a slight headache starting.  It is important to stay hydrated. I chugged some water and took some Tylenol.  This helped a lot.

About half an hour later, we summited Basin …. Totally awesome views! 6 DOWN 2 TO GO! Those will have to wait for tomorrow.  For tonight, it was all about getting to our campsite for the night.

After Basin, we walked about .9 miles.  We found a stream to fill our water bottles (the Quantum steriPEN worked awesome) and decided to camp there as the main campsite about ¼ mile up the mountain was full.  We probably should have practiced setting up the tent prior to camping (it was still new, never used), but why not live with a sense adventure.

It was starting to get dark, so luckily our friend Tristan was able to help put the tent up. We climbed inside and ate a nutritious meal of flavored tuna packs and Scooby snacks (yum).  When camping in the Adirondacks you need to always have a bear canister….so after we ate dinner we put all the uneaten food, wrappers, tooth brushes, and tooth paste in the bear canister (it is important that everything goes in the cannister since bears have a keen sense of smell) and passed out.

Naturally in the middle of the night I had to pee, that’s what happens when you drink an entire Nalgene before bed. I was a little hesitant to get out of the tent, I mean we need to have bear canister so there must be bears out there, right. After much internal battle I decided that it wasn’t worth losing sleep when we still had 11 miles to hike in the morning …

Sleeping Bag: Marmot Atom

Sleeping pad: Thermarest Neoair Xlite

Tent:

5:00 am wake up call, time to pack up camp and get going. While we were packing up, I found several Scooby Snacks in the bottom of the tent … oops must have dropped them … lucky there were no bears.

We started the climb up Little Haystack; it was a steep walk early in the morning and I didn’t quite have my mountain legs yet….I was a little wobbly. Every time I thought (more like hoped) the uphill was going to stop….it would continue. I won’t lie, I was feeling it.

When we got to the fork signifying .6 miles to the summit of Haystack, I was a little worried, was I going to be able to finish this. I said to myself, “There’s no quitting now.”   Luckily to summit of Haystack was an out and back, so we were able to drop our packs and travel light. Haystack was one of my favorite mountains of the entire trip. The rock scrambles, the views, the sun on the horizon, it was all so awesome; even though it was super windy at the top. Haystack had 2 false summits before we reached the actual summit.  False summits are like my favorite things ever; it’s like riding an emotional rollercoaster. 7 DOWN 1 TO GO!

After finishing Haystack, I had a new sense of energy, we were SO CLOSE. I was going to do this! We took the red trail 1.2 miles before it merged with the blue trail, which was the trail to Mt. Marcy, the high point of New York State and the final peak on the Great Range.  We were once again able to drop our packs. I was so excited. At some points I actually think that I ran a bit. The high point of the trip (literally), we summited Mount Marcy. 8 OUT OF 8. I can’t even explain how amazing it felt!

But we weren’t done yet, time to make it to the final summit, the car, which was 7 miles away. I wasn’t long before both the euphoria of climbing eight 4,000 footers and the adrenaline wore off, and all the pains of the hike returned. After about the first 1.5 miles down, my ankle started to hurt.  Every step was painful; it was all I could do to hold back the tears. About ½ mile later, my dad took my pack and I wobbled down the mountain.  This was probably the hardest part of the hike, but I went slow and steady.

When we reached the turnoff for Phelps, we met a 4 year-old girl and her mother.  They had just summitted Phelps and were on their way back to their car. She had summitted her first ADK46er in June, and Phelps made six for her in less than 2 months.  She was a tough little girl.  I watched her fall down, jump back up, laugh, and keep going. I thought to myself, “that’s what I need to do too!”  Finally, we reached the car.  The Great Range was conquered, though it definitely threw some punches.

Now time for ice cream. Just thinking about it kept me going…I am kidding kind of.  We stopped off at Stewarts for a black raspberry milkshake!

This hike pushed my limits, I had never climbed 8 mountains before, I had never camped before, but honestly I can’t wait to do it again.

Stay tuned presidential range this September!

Total distance: 76,987 steps (thanks fitbit), 21 miles

Elevation gain: 9,500 ft

Total time: 2 days

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