03 November 2012

Giant Mountain - 27 Oct 2012

My friend, Ken, and I are of differing opinions on this hike.  I thought we did extremely well, climbing 3375’ up over 3.6 miles in 3:15.  He thinks we did better on our Marcy climb.  Well, I’ll let you know how that went once I get a chance to review that hike.  This hike, our Giant climb, was short and sweet, so I’m doing this first, to clear my mental pathways enough to allow the Marcy / Colden hike to emerge.

We headed out from the Roaring Brook Falls trailhead (across from the Ausable Club parking lot) at about 8:45, and made our way up.  By 9:05 we were at the junction with the trail leading to the top of the falls, but we decided to leave it for the descent.  Ken put me in the lead around this point, executing his strategy of letting me pace him so that he doesn’t get injured taking risks on overly aggressive moves.

Around that point the trail leveled out, and I picked up the pace a bit.  I was tempted to start running a bit, knowing full well that Ken could and would catch up once we started climbing again.  I didn’t, however, because I was in my Moab boots, and I had just gotten an abrasion a week earlier from running in Moab shoes of the same design.  Thing 1 was participating in a fun run and I had decided to go along with her at the last minute, so that I could be there to support her if she needed it.  When we got home, I took of my shoes and saw a large smudge on my sock, followed by a similar smudge on my foot.  There was no deep injury, but I didn’t want to risk something worse happening here, so I kept it to a brisk pace.

Immediately after we crossed the Roaring Brook, we came to the junction with the Nubble and Washbowl trails, at around 9:20.  From there, our path turned, and we began to ascend steeper terrain.  I kept the pace going for a while, but around 9:50, about 2 miles in, I paused to let my heart rate come down a bit.  From that point on, the trail grew in steepness.  The trail also started to ascend across bare rock faces, which were covered in wet leaves.  Our pace slowed.

As we ascended the bare rock, we noticed what looked like veins sticking out of the rock.  I don’t remember seeing these in other parts of the High Peaks, but they were all over the trail here: thin, winding strips of rock.  Ken nicknamed them either Coot veins or Codger veins (I can’t remember for sure), but they looked just like the veins that sometimes stand out on a person’s head when they’re really pissed.

We hadn’t seen anybody yet, but as we climbed up to the ridge to reach the Ridge Trail, we heard sounds of other people behind us.  As we reached the junction, at around 11:00, we were passed by two young ladies wearing shorts, sports bras and not much else.  A short while later the rest of their crew caught up, most of whom were similarly dressed.  Given the weather that day, we were amazed at what they had chosen to wear.  They wouldn’t be able to pause for very long anywhere.

We continued on up, and a short while later we paused to let another group of hikers go ahead of us.  This was a father / son duo (or something similar) and we would end up keeping pace with them for the remainder of our hike.  Shortly after they went past, we started seeing more and more hikers, mostly on their way down.  We slogged up the last few difficult sections and arrived at the summit just before 12:00.  10 minutes earlier, we had stood on a small exposed section of the ridge and stared across the valley at the Dix Range and beyond.  I had mistaken it for the Colvin Range, and pointed out what I thought was Nippletop to Ken, only to be corrected by another hiker.  What I had thought was Nippletop was actually more likely Hough, though it was difficult to pick out features with the fog and/or mist swirling in and out.  The view was incredible and incredibly beautiful, either way.

On the summit, we hunkered down for a little while, exchanging pleasantries with the other groups there and eating a quick meal / snack.  25-30 minutes later, we were on our way back down.  The wind was much stronger up top, and the day was damp.  We had thrown on extra layers once we reached the top, but it was still cold.

While we were on the summit, a team of some kind (they referred to themselves as a team) summitted from the north side of the trail.  Unlike the previous team (or whatever they were), these were all adolescent boys, a few of whom were shirtless.  It was strange enough to see one group like that, but two groups was even stranger.  Needless to say, they didn’t stick around long on the summit.

We saw many other hikers on the way down, about half of whom were speaking French.  The most interesting pair, though, we ran into about a mile down.  We stopped to talk for a while, and they asked how much further to the top.  I said it was a mile, and saw the wheels turning.  I started to do the math in my head, but he converted it to kilometers first.  While they seemed a bit daunted by the prospect of climbing up for another mile, they also stated that they were interested in doing the loop on the way down, which would have added at least 2 extra miles, and sent them over more of the ridge, which the guidebook states as having some exposure.  When I tried to warn them of this, they stated that they wanted a challenge.  We shrugged and wished them a good day.

By 14:45 we were at the top of the falls.  Visibility had improved somewhat, and the sun was even peeking out a bit, affording us a decent view of the Great Range across the valley.  The mist still swirling around the peaks, coupled with the angle of our position kept me from recognizing most of the peaks.  I’m fairly certain I could pick out Saddleback and the Wolf Jaws, but beyond that, it was a tangle of peaks.  We were back at the car by 15:15.

All in all, I was quite pleased with the way this hike went.

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