Saturday, July 11, 2020
Start/End: Rooster Comb trailhead, Keene Valley, NY
Elevation gain: 10,100′
GaiaGPS track (elevation incorrect)
I was awake at 5:15am, and left my campsite at Drapers’ Acres 20 minutes later. It had started raining overnight, and was still raining when I got in my car and drove the 25 minutes to the trailhead. I was on trail 5 minutes later, signing into the trail register, and then heading up towards Rooster Comb. I had a break in the rain for maybe the first 45 minutes before it started raining again. I wore my rain jacket the entire time, which was way too warm at the beginning, but provided me protection again chaffing, scratches, and scraps. I summited Rooster Comb by 7:15am, and then headed towards Hedgehog, arriving by 8am. I made the summit of Lower Wolfjaw by 9am; on my way down, I saw my first people, 2 folks hiking with day packs, and then a single person a few minutes later. I made the summit of Upper Wolfjaw by 10am, Armstrong by 10:45am, and Gothics by 11:15am, where I ran into two trail runners. They gave me some beta on the Cliffs, saying it wasn’t really effected by the rain, it had as much traction as usual.
I headed down Gothics, using the cables when they were available and butt sliding when they weren’t. The rock was slick and water sluiced over the top, making it exceedingly challenging. I slipped twice, once cutting up the back of my hand and once cutting up my knuckles. Even holding on to the cable, things were a bit treacherous, but I made it down the rock slab and onto more technical but less terrifying terrain. On my way down, I ran into two other trail runners, who looked shook up and less experienced than the first two I’d seen. They said that the Cliffs were the most terrifying thing they’d ever done; for my own sake, I chalked this up to their inexperience, since I was heading straight for the Cliffs and needed my confidence. I made the summit of Saddleback by 12:10pm and headed down the Cliffs. I took my time, and kept to the right, where there were more boulders and edges to use while maneuvering downward. I had to do some foot jams, but overall, I felt secure as I headed down. Almost at the bottom of the Cliffs, I ran into two hikers as they headed up. I waited for them to pass and then mirrored their ascend to get down. One of them popped his head down and shouted over the wind if I could look for his water bottle. I found it, but it was jammed in a narrow rock crack maybe 6 feet back and there was no way any of us was going to be able to retrieve it. He thanked me for checking and continued on his way. I slowly but surely headed down Gothics, being creative in managing the roaring creek that was the trail. I’d accepted that my feet would be completely soaked and just embraced that. Heading up Basin, I looked back towards Saddleback and was rewarded with my first view of the day; a beautiful look at the cliff I’d just climbed down.
I arrived at the summit of Basin by 1pm, and ran into a group of 4-6 hikers as they headed towards Saddleback. I then headed down towards Sno-bird campsite and the first official water source of the day. While the trail was a raging river on its own, most of the water was a chocolate milk color from all of the dirt and silt it picked up, so I wasn’t eager to try and filter that.
Basin’s descent was mostly civilized, even providing a ladder at a steep point rather than making me be creative. I made it to Sno-bird campsite by 2pm and stopped to filter a liter of water. I’d only drunk 2 liters of water in the first 8 hours of hiking because there wasn’t official water sources, it was pouring rain and I didn’t want to stop, and the section took longer than I’d anticipated. This bit me in the ass later, as I developed a splitting headache around 6pm that didn’t go away for 5 days. From Sno-bird, I headed towards the trail split to take me to the Haystack out-and-back. The rain had mostly stopped and the weather was getting crisper; I saw bits of blue sky for the first time all day.
I made the summit of Haystack by 2:45pm, and then headed back to the split to head towards the Phelps trail and Marcy. I made the Phelps trail by 3:45pm, and headed up for the out-and-back of Marcy, getting to the summit by 4:30pm. I stopped to sit for a quick snack and then headed back. With the breeze at the summit, some of my clothes started to dry; it was lovely.
On my way down, I stopped to filter another liter of water and to start the cold soak of my ramen lunch. I made the Phelps trail intersection by 5:50pm and started scampering down the Phelps trail towards The Garden, carefully managing the creek that was the trail.
I stopped for a few minutes around 6:15pm to eat my ramen while standing in the middle of the trail, and then kept going. I made it to the Johns Brook Lodge by 7:45pm, where they had potable water available outside. I drank 2 liters of water and filled up another liter. I rocketed down the trail, arriving at The Garden by 8:55pm. Once there, I stopped to strap down everything on my vest and then jogged down the road towards my car, making it back by 9:15pm. I’d barely made it back to my car before a large thunderstorm broke, bringing rain and cloud to ground lightening strikes. I made my way back to my campsite, looking forward to a warm dinner and a hot shower.