Friday, July 28, 2017

The Gothics (ADK 12/46), Armstrong (ADK 13/46) and Upper Wolfjaw (ADK 14/46), New York, July 19, 2017

The Gothics (4,734'), Armstrong (4,446') and Upper Wolf Jaw (4,203') via Johns Brook Lodge to Ore Bed Brook (8) and ADK Range (4) Trails, 7/19/2017

Mileage: 8.4 ish (15.4 if hiked from The Garden)

Elevation gain:
  3,300'ish (3,900' if hiked from The Garden)

Trailhead: Today the hike started at the John Brooks Lodge, a back country facility run by Adirondack Mountain Club.  The easiest way to reach the Lodge is to park at The Garden parking lot (see prior report for directions) and hike 3.5 miles (600' gain) to the Lodge.  

Hiked with Jill, Ken and Ed today. I felt horrible on this hike from my first step onto the trail.  

A Great Range traverse is one of the most exciting and beautiful hikes in the Adirondacks.  The trail holds your interest with slides, ladders, cables, ledges and steps, and of course beautiful views.  And the day was gorgeous but I guess I hadn't recovered yesterday's hike up Haystack Mountain (see previous report).  My legs were heavy and rebellious and if not for the excitement of those trail features, I might've strung my tarp in at tree at one of the cols and napped til I felt better!

We left Johns Brook Lodge late, around 8:45 - my fault, already I was struggling with gear and food.

We negotiated the water crossing in front of the Lodge, which was high from Monday's torrential rains, and headed up Ore Bed Brook trail, a mellow path with a few more water crossings.

The trail is muddy and eroded dipping down to a brook crossing. At the crossing I tested what appeared to be a stable rock and once my weight was on it, the thing flipped over and my boot went deep into the brook.  Not what you want to happen, especially one mile into the hike!
Erosion here; near where my boot went into the drink.

It wasn't long before the woods opened up to the base of the slide. Hurricane Irene beat up this area badly and you'll see a mess of tangled trees and what looks like plowed earth.  
There are yellow blazes at your feet at the base of the slide but we didn't follow them. Instead we ducked left into the woods (there's a disc on a tree at the entrance to the wooded path).

Open area by the slide.

We were ascending in the woods for just a few minutes when we arrived at the base of the famous stairs. These steps are awesome and feel secure, though the pitch is steep and the steps a bit shallow. Without these we would have quite a challenge getting up the slide - they're fun!

At the top of the steps we headed left and back into the woods where we climbed steeply past the Saddleback junction -  and then up to open slabs.  Here is where things got tricky as these lower slabs were really steep, wet and a bit mucky, particularly the first few. We hugged vegetation to get up these. After that things got drier, easier.

Junction sign. Stay off the plants! Bury your poop!

Take it from someone who is squeamish - even panicked- when it comes to exposure: the cables are no big deal.  At the base of the cables is a lip, so if you slipped (unlikely on dry slab), you'd slide down to the vegetation.  Not once did I feel like it was scary, though one of the cables toward the top was nothing more than a garden hose that stretched when you grabbed it (boiiiiinnggg!). The lower slabs weren't all that steep, some of it Jill low-walked up.  I imagine if wet and icy it would be a different story, and going down these cables might need caution but up was absolutely fun!

On a lower slab.

Cool picture (Not as steep or scary as it looks.....)

We topped out and could see the summit in the distance.  A few minutes of trail later, and very little elevation gain, we were on top.

Approach to the summit.

The summit is so beautiful; a generous slab of rock that today was filled with happy people and 360° views. I still felt awful but a bit more hopeful that I might make it back to the lodge in once piece. At 4,734', Gothics (one summit with several mini peaks - hence the name) is the highest mountain we will hike today. It's all downhill from here (well, kinda).

One view from the summit of the Gothics.

 Ray, a hiker from Philadelphia, summitted Gothics as #46!

Big crowd for a Wednesday.

Time to head to Armstrong. I'd heard it a was long (one mile) and mellow trip to the next summit.  I needed that break, though it seemed to me the "down" took a long time while the "up" came too quickly (how can that be?!). 

Views as we ascended Armstrong.

We passed the junction where Beaver Meadow trail comes in from St. Huberts - and continued on to the summit. The level portions of the trail were quite muddy and puddly.

Armstrong's smaller summit was filled with most of the people we saw back on Gothics. They were all still happy!

View of where we came...

No USGS marker here.  We did rest on the summit for a bit, long enough to learn from another hiker how tricky our descent would be...

The stories we'd heard about the descent were pretty accurate. Continuing on the trail and down the other side of Armstrong is steep and ledgy, the mountain reaffirming that it's not for the faint of heart. Crazy steep slippery walls of ugly with "root fingers" taunting you!  I got down the muddy, slimy, mocking ledges slowly, often using those roots for hand or footholds, with one or two butt slides (not ashamed).

One of the crazy ledges.  Some take a few minutes to figure out the way.

The long ladder near the col was such a welcome sight! And, as we got lower we enjoyed more forgiving terrain.  Soonafter, we reached the col between Armstrong and Upper Wolfjaw.  

Lovin' the ladder!

We climbed yet again, our last climb of the day. Upper Wolfjaw was our last summit. We jumped up rocks to the short trail on the left that takes you to the top.

The hikers we saw on Gothics and then Armstrong were less happy now, leaving Upper Wolfjaw, "over it" and anxious to head down.

Not that big a summit.

The summit is a big old rock that you hop on. No USGS marker and limited (nice) views. Again we heard rumblings from others about how tricky the hike down Upper Wolfjaw is and I hoped I had enough left in me to make it safely down whatever muddy steep cliff awaited.

View from UWJ.

With Ed's help I was able to get down the shiny black, treacherous walls that are the back side of Upper Wolfjaw.

Immediately we were thrown into a descent off ledges.

We got safely down and walked past the path that went to Lower Wolfjaw. Save that one for another day!

We sailed down the Range trail over to the Woodsfall trail (6) and back to the Lodge.

We got back at the Lodge a little after 5 pm, washed up and had dinner.  My legs and feet were burning and spent and the next day we hiked out and to our car.

Despite my broken state, I was glad I was lucky enough to hike this ridge on such a beautiful day.  The hike has everything you'd want for a fun hiking adventure.  

NE 111 (81, 82, 83/115)

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