My intention for Friday was to climb 3 Adirondack High Peaks: Haystack, Basin and Saddleback. I parked at the Garden in Keene, NY at 5:20 AM. I paid my $7 parking fee, signed the trail register and I was on the trail at 5:25. I was the 2nd one to sign the register that morning. One other group of 2 had signed in ahead of me with the same itinerary.
|Little Haystack from Haystack|
The weather forecast for the whole Northeast was looking great and I had no weather concerns. My plan was to hike the Phelps Trail to Slant Rock, then take Shorey's Short cut to the State Range Trail. I would then turn right and follow the Range Trail for a mile up over Little Haystack to Haystack. I would then come back on the Range Trail and continue the other direction over Basin and Saddleback. After descending Saddleback, I would drop down the Ore Bed trail to Johns Brook Lodge (JBL) and return to the car on the Phelps Trail the way I had come in.
|Mount Marcy and Panther Gorge from Haystack|
In the back of my head I thought that if I reached the Ore Bed trail junction early enough, and still felt great, I would not drop down, but continue on over Gothics, Armstrong and Upper Wolfjaw before dropping down the Wedge Brook Trail and out the Phelps trail. I didn't think this was likely, but the thought was there.
|The summit of Haystack|
As it turned out, I made great time. I passed JBL in just over an hour. I was at Slant Rock in 2.5 hours. In 3.25 hours I was on the State Range Trail and in 4 hours I was on the top of Haystack (9:30 AM). There were no bugs! I sat on the summit for 30 minutes without seeing a sole. I ate a breakfast and enjoyed the fantastic views in all directions.
|Basin and Gothic from Haystack (Saddleback is hidden behind Basin)|
At 10 AM I left Haystack (4960') and headed for Basin (4827'). The col between the two is at about 3900', so the trail drops about a thousand feet before going back up. I took advantage of a water source in the col to fill my 2 water bottles and I treated them both with my SteriPen. I reached the summit of Basin at 11:20 AM. Still no bugs and I was enjoying every minute of the hike. Next up would be the Saddleback Cliffs. I had not climbed them before and I had read that they are the most difficult climb in the High Peaks, especially in winter or when the rock is wet. I had also read advice that they are easier to ascend, rather than descend, so that is why I chose to do this hike in the direction I did.
|The summit of Haystack|
I reached the cliffs and began scaling them with my daypack on my back. I found them to be manageable, with only the one tricky spot that everyone talks about. I would not want to go down them though. I think the height would bother me looking down. After the cliffs, I finished the ascent and was on the summit at 12:10.
|The only flower type I could find on Haystack. They are beautiful though...|
I dropped down the back side of Saddleback and it was decision time. I reached the Ore Bed Trail junction at 12:30 and I still felt great. I calculated that I could be back at the car at about 3 PM if I dropped down the Ore Bed. On the other hand, by continuing on the State Range Trail, I would add a couple more miles to my hike and also a couple thousand more vertical feet. If I continued on, I would probably get out about 5:30 or 6. My biggest concern was my water. It was almost gone and I would have to hike about 3.5 miles before I could get water again.
|People seem to be obeying the signs|
I stared at the sign that said Gothics summit 0.6 miles and decided to go for it and continue on. After all, I had spent 4 hours hiking up to the ridge, I might as well walk on it for awhile. I pressed forward and shortly I reached the cables on the side of Gothics. They were not needed on this warm dry summer day, but I'm sure they come in handy in wet weather.
|Skylight and Marcy from Haystack|
As I was moving up through the cables, 2 guys approached from the other direction. They told me they were doing a Great Range Traverse and had started at the Rooster Comb parking lot. They planned to hike the entire Great Range and exit at the Garden (where I had started). As I continued on, I began to think the Great Range Traverse would be a great thing to do. In the end, by hiking the way I did, I hit 7 of the high peaks in the Great Range. If I had added Marcy in the beginning, I would have done a full traverse. I'm sure this will stick in my head for the future.
|A ladder on the way up Basin|
I reached the fine summit of Gothics at 1:10 PM and took my 2nd break of the day to eat lunch. Gothics is another of the better summits to enjoy. After lunch I continued my journey. The trip to Armstrong was easy. There isn't a deep col between Gothics and Armstrong. I didn't stop on Armstrong but continued on to Upper Wolfjaw. I had been on Upper Wolfjaw last December and it seemed more majestic on a crisp winter morning. It was still nice though. The far off views of Giant and Rocky Peak were beginning to look closer.
|The summit of Basin|
I dropped down to the deep col between Upper and Lower Wolfjaw. It was now 2:50 PM and almost time to go down the Wedge Brook Trail to Johns Brook. I finished my remaining water and thought about Lower Wolfjaw. It doesn't have a view to speak of, but if I went up I could say I climbed all the high peaks in the Great Range. I guess Marcy isn't technically considered part of the Great Range, although it is include in a "Great Range Traverse". Maybe someone can clarify for me...
|Saddleback and Gothics from Basin|
Anyways, up I went. I dropped my day pack so I could scamper up more quickly. I began to think this wasn't a bright idea climbing this peak with no water left. I was getting thirsty. I reached the top and did an about face back to the col and my pack. it was now 3:35 PM.
|From L-R, Haystack, Skylight and Marcy from Basin|
I shouldered my pack and began a rapid descent. After about 10 minutes I hit a water source and gladly filled my two water bottles. I used the SteriPen on them both, drank one and refilled it. The descent was quick as the Wedge Brook Trail was in good shape.
|A close up of the Saddleback from Basin|
I reached the trail head for the South Side Trail at 4:20 PM. From there I had 2.7 miles of nearly flat walking back to the car. I one point there was a small reroute necessary where one of the slides had taken out the trail.
|Slides on Basin from Saddleback|
I completed the last 2.7 miles in one hour and was back to the car exactly 12 hours after I started.
This was my most epic hiking adventure, but now I have to consider doing this again and including Marcy to have a full Great Range Traverse.
|The trail up Gothics is visible from Saddleback|
I felt surprising good when I reached the car. I was quite thirsty of course so a milk shake from the Noonmark Diner disappeared rather quickly.
|Looking back towards Saddleback and Basin from Gothics|
By adding 4 more peaks to the original 3 in the itinerary, I climbed 7 of the 8 peaks in the Great Range. It was a day to remember. I had perfect weather, very few bugs and just a nice day out. The trails were a little muddy in spots, mostly near Armstrong and Upper Wolfjaw, but not too bad.
|The summit of Gothics|
Hike Distance: 20.2 miles
Hike Time: 12 hours (including stops)
Total Vertical Feet: 8080'
|One of the slides observed on the way out from the South Side Trail|
My GPS route of the Great Range at EveryTrail
|My route shown in blue|
|An enlarged view of my route (very beginning and end is cropped out)|