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Snow, Windburn & Pricker Pants on Halcott & Rusk

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  • Snow, Windburn & Pricker Pants on Halcott & Rusk

    April 27, 2012

    I was able to clear my schedule for the second week in a row, a blessing or a curse for the self-employed depending on how you look at it. Right now I’m considering it a blessing since I’m trying to knock off these last few Catskill peaks before the foliage gets too dense. The weather report was looking favorable, a little cooler and windy. A quick look at my e-mail indicated that I would also be going solo as my sometime hiking partner had bailed on me. So, I resigned myself to being totally self-sufficient for the two first-time bushwhacks of Halcott & Rusk the following day.

    On the road around 7:15am, there was a definite chill in the air and, as the highway broke out into exposed areas, I could feel the wind pushing the car around. Once on the Kingston-Rhinecliff Bridge, some pretty rugged cloud formations were visible over the Catskills and heading west on Route 28, sprinkles started hitting the windshield. It looked like snow was falling over some of the peaks in the distance. A quick stop at Stewarts for a cup of richer roast, a banana and a PB&J for lunch had me turning onto Route 42 a short while later. Now, a steady light snow was falling and any flags on display were straight out and whipping. I pulled into the Halcott PA on Route 42 at 8:30, donned my power stretch fleece jacket, and was on the trail by 8:40.

    Walking south up the short path, I crossed the first stream and paralleled the road for a short distance, then angled up and away from it looking for the second stream. I came upon an area with a bunch of cairn-like stone structures and altered my course to a more westerly direction which, with any luck,would provide a direct line to the summit. Eventually I did come to the second stream and had to descend a little to cross it, going up the steep bank on the other side. Keeping an eye on my compass and peeping through the thin foliage whenever possible, I tried to keep on course. The slope was steep and eventually brought me through a series of small ledges & outcroppings.

    There were a lot of cave-like features that looked like nice potential bear den areas. I imagined a bear poking it’s head out and saying “What the heck are you doing here? You’re trying to get up to Halcott, right? Don’t you know how to read a compass?”. To which I would reply, “Well, Mister Bear, I’ve only been using a compass for a few weeks so, I’m really not sure. You see, I’m more of a trail hiker really.” This imaginary bear never appeared, though the thought amused me as I plodded up the steep slope.

    Cresting what appeared to be the last ledge, I thought that this could be the summit area and started looking for the canister. But that was just wishful thinking because the canister is always just a little bit further than that last ledge! I charted a course to the south for fifty yards but, that didn’t look like it was bearing any fruit. Heading west a little, I paralleled this route back, looking at every tree until I passed the point at which I had topped the last ledge. Through the trees I could just make out a little bump so, I headed toward it since there was a definite gain in elevation there. Reaching the top, the sun popped out and I spotted the canister (Hooray!) at 10:15 which was good because I had other plans for the afternoon.

    The descent went relatively smoothly, shading a little more to the north and crossing the stream a little higher up than on the way in. Climbing up the other side and following the ravine down was fairly open with good views below. I ate a Cliff Mojo bar to keep my energy up and kept moving. My course was good and I once again found the area with the many stone cairns, crossing the waterfall stream and making my way back to the car around 11:20.

    Still feeling my legs had some life in them, I made my way over to Spruceton Rd under cloudy skies with Rusk in my sights. Man, it seems like a long way back in there to the Spruceton trailhead! As I stepped out of the car, it was noticeably windier(?) and still quite cool, probably in the low to mid 40’s. I switched out a water bottle, got re-organized and signed in at the register at 11:45.

    The first trail section is a woods road so, progress was quick up to the hairpin turn where I set a course by compass in a northwesterly direction. The slope soon became steep and remained so for the duration of the climb. There was no sun so, I was going by compass, a little visibility through the trees and a visual of the East Rusk ridgeline to my right. As I gained elevation, I could see what I thought was the high point through the trees and, since it was generally in the direction I was heading, moved directly toward it.

    Negotiating some very steep ledges and cresting the ridge, I glanced to my right (north) and saw the true summit area in the distance. It looked like I had gone off course about a quarter of a mile but, the initial disappointment of the mistake and the yearning for the PB&J in my pack probably added to actual distance. There was no choice but to head toward the summit. It was here that I found myself head-high in thick growth and prickers. Let’s just say that my Marmot Rockstar pants now look like shag carpet! I guess they are now my 70’s Rockstar pants and designated bushwhack attire from here on out. That’s OK, since I still have a few more to go.

    One last very steep ledge had me standing in yet more thick growth on a flat area very near the summit elevation. It was snowing, cloudy, windy and I was getting peckish. The steep climb, battle with killer prickers and hunger were starting to dampen my enthusiasm as I pressed through the thick brush. I have solo climbed many of these peaks, as well as many in the Adk’s and Whites but, I have never felt so alone as I did in the thick brush on Rusk. Breaking out into a clearing that MUST be the summit area, I again found no canister. From here, I could see another opening ahead and, mercifully, spotted the canister at around 1:15.

    Signing the summit notebook, the wind was really blowing and I began to shiver. I slipped my rain shell on, hurriedly ate the PB&J and also put gloves on my now freezing fingers. Retracing my steps off the summit and down through the ledges, I managed to avoid the prickers by staying a little more to the east. Checking the map and compass many times on the descent, I hit the corner of the private land which is a perfectly straight line back to the trail. Finding a good spot to cross the stream, I finally hit the trail about a tenth of a mile below the hairpin turn. And, after the short downhill walk, signed out at the register at 2:30, completely satisfied with finding my 32nd and 33rd Catskill 3500' peak. I hadn't seen another soul all day!
    Limped thru the Northeast 115...

  • #2
    Nice. Rusk was my first solo bushwhack. It's not the hardest 35'R peak, by a long shot, but there is a certain sense of accomplishment when you find that canister.
    молоко хорошо, ну а водка ещё лучше.


    • #3
      Isn't that Halcott cairnfield fascinating? Great job on getting both peaks.


      • #4
        Killer pickers!

        Congrats on the two bushwacks!


        Life is a short, warm moment
        And death is a long cold rest.
        You get your chance to try in the twinkling of an eye:
        Eighty years, with luck, or even less.
        -Pink Floyd


        • #5
          Originally posted by Halia and Flammeus View Post
          Isn't that Halcott cairnfield fascinating? Great job on getting both peaks.
          Yeah, it was kind of eerie being in there alone on a gloomy day. I wonder what the history of that area is?
          Limped thru the Northeast 115...