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Rocky & Giant: The Hard Way (New Russia Thru-Hike)

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  • Rocky & Giant: The Hard Way (New Russia Thru-Hike)

    Prelude:

    I had been wanting to do this thru-hike for a while now. Giant from New Russia, over Blueberry Cobbles, Mason Mountain, Bald Peak, Rocky Peak East, and Rocky Peak Ridge, then back down to Route 73 via the Giant's Washbowl. I figured this route would be less crowded than coming up from 73 and made plans with my hiking parter Chris to organize a 2-car approach to save us the walk back. We were hoping for a break in the weather over the weekend and chose Monday to give ourselves a fair chance at finding parking (the crowds seem to leave on the Monday of any holiday weekend). It was a good plan, and still "only" 10-ish miles, so what could go wrong?

    Well, "what could go wrong", started the night before when Chris told me he had been sick and didn't think he could survive a strenuous hike the next day and didn't want to hold me back. No problem, I told him not to push it. Besides, I've done most of my hiking solo anyway. The only trouble was what to do about the "thru hike"? I decided I'd go anyway, perhaps do an "out and back" from New Russia to Giant, with a backup plan of descending to 73 and making the treacherous walk back to New Russia on the road.

    Monday Morning:

    I didn't sleep very well or very long the night before, but it was shaping up to be a beautiful day and I didn't want it to go to waste. Despite getting up early, a series of setbacks and inconveniences held up my travel to the trailhead. Unfortunately, I didn't get to sign in until 9am. No worries, I've started late before and carry plenty of light, food, and clothing with me. The parking lot only had 3 other cars (with room for at least 15 more). I set off towards Blueberry Cobbles.

    Blueberry Cobbles:

    The trail up from New Russia was surprisingly well-maintained. Lots of blowdown had be recently cleared as the sawdust and cuts seemed fresh. The trail was still buried under plenty of leaves however, not very heavily traveled, and there was quite a bit of distance between trail markers. I had to stop and look a few times, but never needed to pull out the map & compass. The trail itself was very dry, well-hardened, and almost reminded me of the west coast trails with their rocky, gravel-ish soil. A steady, but moderate incline the whole way. I met a couple and ther dog coming down the hill, the only people I'd see for several more hours. They warned me there were bug ahead, they weren't lying! Swarms of mostly non-biting black flies made an appearance as I came to the first of many overlooks from the Cobbles around 10am. Very pretty, but I had to keep moving to get away from the bugs and make up for lost time. I felt pretty good about my pace at this point.

    Mason Mountain/Bald Peak:

    The first of MANY ups and downs of the day, lead me up this "bump" called Mason, back down, and then up-up-up the rocks and exposed scrambled of Bald Peak. At just over 3,000 feet, Bald *feels* like a high peak and has a long, mostly open, summit with lots of overlooks. I had it to myself and really enjoyed discovering this hidden gem around 11:15am. Still making good time I thought, although looking over at Rocky, "man, that seems far". And it was. I descended from the summit, only to climb back up another false summit, before Bald finally let me go. Dipping down into a col, passing Dickerson Notch, I was on my ascent towards Rocky and its 63 false summits. The good news is this is where the bugs disappeared, and stayed disappeared, for the rest of the day.

    Rocky Peak Ridge:

    This is where things took a turn for me. Making my way up the bulk of the elevation, I felt the fatigue from my restless night setting in. The terrain, unsurprisingly, became rockier here, but still rather dry. Though I had brought spikes with me, there was still no snow on the trails, and only some clumps on the sides (something that would not change the rest of the day). Clouds had rolled in by now, and the bright sunny day was seemingly taking an ominous turn. I finally made it to the top... only to see several more "tops" of increasing elevation ahead of me towards Giant. From col to final summit, this ridge is about 2 miles long, and I felt every inch of it. I arrived at the official EAST peak of the ridge around 12:30.

    The vegetation grew shorter and suddenly more colorful here. Hues of orange, and yellow, and brown supplanted the green and white birch forest I was emerging from. Somewhere before "Lake" Marie Louise I passed a group of 4 hikers heading towards New Russia. The lake (pond) itself was welcome sight, complete with a new "bridge" (2 very long timbers). I began to climb again, finally summiting the "real" summit of RPR at about 1:15pm. It was somewhere around this traverse when I began to consider activating my "backup plan" of bailing out after Giant. I did some quick math and decided to press on. Had there been no backup, and no way to exit quickly after Giant, I would have had to turn around here. But knowing my body and my limits, I knew I could get to Giant and down. Whether I could make it back to New Russia or not, depended on how long it would take me to get to Giant from here, and how hard I found it to be.

    Giant Mountain:

    From Rocky, it's over a 600 foot drop into the col before re-ascending 1,000 feet to the summit of Giant. This was, by far, the most challenging part of the day. The col is steep, eroded, and full of those wet Adirondack boulders and slabs we've all come to know and love. Still, not a lot of mud, just a lot of STEEP. I fought and slogged my way through it all for about an hour, finally coming up to the alpine intersection on Giant around 2:15pm, meeting up with 2 hikers going up, and several going down. The climb to the summit was short and sweet. By 2:30pm I was enjoying the expansive views that have made Giant such a fan favorite: Keene Valley, Great Range, Whiteface & Esther in the distance, a still snow-topped Marcy, the Dix Range, and most of the rest of the 46. I plopped down, devoured the rest of my trail snacks, and contemplated my fate.

    A summit steward was on site for his first weekend of the year. There were only a handful of others up there on this holiday, so I talked with him for a bit. He said there was another guy who had come over from New Russia, camped out at Marie Louise Pond, and was hoping to hitch a ride at the bottom. It sounded like a good plan to me. I made the call. It was the first time I've ever fallen back on a backup plan, but I literally just told my friend not to "push it" the night before. Now I'd have to take my own advice.

    I was certain that, yes, I *could* get back to New Russia the way I came. I could stay warm, and hydrated, and I had plenty of light. The trail was rough though, and I was exhausted from my lack of sleep. It would take quite a while. Plus, I remembered that the trail markers at the beginning were sparse and difficult to locate in the daylight. Sunset would make that worse. I had 2 maps and a compass, I knew which way I had to go, but it just seemed like a bad idea. I'd be making things harder on myself, and likely be getting home very late if I backtracked from here. So instead, I began my descent. Leaving the summit at 3pm.

    Giant's Washbowl/Route 73:

    The hikers who had ascended the final bit of the trail with me said that their ascent from Roaring Brook had been "super steep" and "almost straight up". Turns out they were from Cleveland and this was their first Adirondack peak ever. I caught up with them on the descent and while it was anything but "gradual", there weren't a lot of slabs or anything really worrisome to me. I only used my hands (and butt) a few times. It was a typical Adirondack trail for sure, but it was no Allen or Seward. Passing the junction for Roaring Brook I bid them farewell and made sure they took the right trail down (they had started heading towards the wash bowl at first). Not long after that I caught up with the other guy who needed to get back to New Russia. He was an older gentleman, moving even slower than I was at this point, I made a mental note to come find him later if I got to my car first.

    I reached Route 73 just before 5pm. There were only a few cars left and I was scanning up and down the road debating which side to start my walk on when I heard a voice call out, "Do you need a ride!?" Do I ever.... I graciously accepted a ride from a couple who had passed me on their way down, just before the summit. We had spoken briefly, and they knew I was going to be headed back to New Russia. The ride shaved about 3 hours of road walking off my journey, and though it felt a bit like "cheating" I reminded myself that this *was* actually the original plan before my hiking partner fell ill. I thanked them for the ride and set out to scoop up the man I had passed on my descent.

    Returning to the trailhead, I saw no sign of him, but did see that my gas tank was getting dangerously low. I decided to fuel up in Keene while I could and come back to find him. When I did, there was still nobody on the road. My gut told me to check the New Russia trailhead, and when I did I saw that he had already been given a ride back! No worries. The important thing was that everyone was getting home safe.

    I knew I was "doing things the hard way" when I planned this hike, and it certainly lived up to the billing! Regardless of the challenges I faced along the way, it was still a beautiful day in the Adirondacks, and the challenges are always just part of the adventure. At the end of the day, not a single salamander was harmed.


    Snow Report: NONE on Giant or Rocky. Snow clearly still visible on Marcy, Algonquin, Gothics, Basin, and possibly Dix.

    Bug Report: Swarming below 3,000 feet, but not biting. Nothing above 3,000 feet.

  • #2
    Blueberry Cobbles:

    20190527_094737 by akoszuta1, on Flickr

    20190527_095814 by akoszuta1, on Flickr


    Bald Peak:

    20190527_103801 by akoszuta1, on Flickr

    20190527_111155 by akoszuta1, on Flickr

    20190527_120516 by akoszuta1, on Flickr


    Rocky Peak Ridge:

    20190527_125002 by akoszuta1, on Flickr

    20190527_132231 by akoszuta1, on Flickr


    Giant Mountain:

    20190527_143906 by akoszuta1, on Flickr

    20190527_143840 by akoszuta1, on Flickr


    Full Album:

    https://www.flickr.com/photos/136461...57708807698277

    Comment


    • #3
      Nice job! Looks like the conditions were really cooperative for you.

      You got lucky with that ride. I can verify that completing this traverse from 73>NR and walking back to the trail head on 73 sucks. Something that may or may not put your mind at ease is if you had descended back down to NR and had taken the optional route around Blueberry to avoid that last bit of unnecessary elly gain, that trail is pretty easy to follow in the dark.
      My mind was wandering like the wild geese in the west.

      Comment


      • ndru
        ndru commented
        Editing a comment
        Ha! Sounds like you know from experience. I would definitely have bypassed the cobbles on the way back. Between the darkness and the bugs, there'd be no point.

        I had already accepted the road walk as my fate, convincing myself that 3 hours of that would still be better than 3-5 hours of fighting my way back across the ridge & Bald Peak, possibly in the dark. Looks like the road is *mostly* downhill to New Russia, but it is nearly 9 miles, and not really the safest place to be. Traffic was eerily sparse though.

        At least I didn't call a cab from the summit.

    • #4
      Thank you for the great report. This trip is on my short list (although probably just an out and back from New Russia to RPR)

      Comment


      • ndru
        ndru commented
        Editing a comment
        I was thinking about it later. That wouldn't be an awful out-and-back hike on it's own. Adding Giant really put it over the edge though. Bald Peak and Blueberry Cobbles are really pretty!

    • #5
      Stashing a bike at 73 and riding back to NR via Malfunction Junction might be an option?

      Comment


      • ndru
        ndru commented
        Editing a comment
        Also something I thought of, but wasn't 100% certain I'd be road-walking or back-tracking. I did walk from the Garden back to Marcy Field once. This would be roughly 2.5x that distance, or 2x the walk down Lake Road from Lower Ausable Lake to the hiker parking lot.

        Either way, I had accepted my fate.

        \_(ツ)_/

    • #6
      That is one of my favorite hiking routes. Glad you got a nice day on the ridge!

      Comment


      • #7
        Nice report and great pictures. Thanks for sharing!

        Comment


        • #8
          Great TR! Rocky from New Russia was my first high peak. In fact, my avatar is from that trip. I think I was on Bald for the picture, but I forget. The views and trails were outstanding. I do remember the trail markers early on as being sparse. I wouldn't want to try that in low light conditions either.
          24/46 (19 solo)
          12/12 solo 4/12 W solo
          0/9
          0/6

          Comment


          • ndru
            ndru commented
            Editing a comment
            I mean, I'm sure I would have figured it out eventually, but I was already mentally fatigued when I started and would have been even more physically fatigued after traversing the entire length of Rocky Ridge a second time. I had the proper equipment to hike well into the evening, or even spend the night, but why do that when you already have a backup plan established?

            And wow, that's a hell of a first peak!

        • #9
          From a classic but still relevant old post:

          Originally posted by Trail Boss View Post

          New Russia
          To RPR: 4400'
          To Giant: 5300'
          To Chapel Pond: 5350'

          Chapel Pond
          To Giant: 3080'
          To RPR: 3700'
          To New Russia: 4350'


          Fun Facts
          • Compared to all other High Peak trail-heads, New Russia is the lowest (~620').
          • The ascent from New Russia to RPR (~4400') is practically the same as RPR's elevation above sea-level (4390').
          • Comparing direct routes for all High Peak summits, New Russia to RPR has the most elevation gain.
          • The descent from RPR to New Russia involves an ascent of 640'.
          • The route from RPR to Giant involves an elevation gain of 850' (plus ~50' for the descent to Chapel Pond).
          • The ascent for an out-and-back from New Russia to RPR is 4400+640=5040'.
          • RPR to Chapel Pond involves only 260 more feet of ascent compared to backtracking to New Russia.


          -Joe

          Comment


          • ndru
            ndru commented
            Editing a comment
            Thanks for digging this up! Kinda confirms what I had suspected (and certainly what I felt) on this hike. I knew it was a lot of elevation gain, but didn't realize just how low New Russia was in comparison to other trailheads.

        • #10
          Anyone ever whack from the RPR/Giant col to Dipper and then to trailhead? That climb back up Giant if you do the usual Zander Scott to Giant and RPR trip is brutal.

          Comment


          • Makwa
            Makwa commented
            Editing a comment
            I'm pretty sure I've read a trip report about that route on here at some point.

          • Makwa
            Makwa commented
            Editing a comment

          • Gregory Karl
            Gregory Karl commented
            Editing a comment
            I've done that in reverse. And I've descended the S ridge of Rocky then followed Dipper Brook to 73 (after ascending Rocky from Owl's Head Lookout.)

        • #11
          A couple of points regarding my only traverse, which was Chapel Pond to New Russia. Having two cars available, we left our home in Etown and left one car at the New Russia trailhead. Reached Chapel Pond at 9:00 AM. Started up, got to the summit of Giant, then went down and up the col to reach RPR at about 2:00. Continued our leisurely trek with a brief stop at Marie Louise Lake. By the time we got to Blueberry Cobble, it was getting dark, but my wife hates to use headlamps! We were able to pick our way down the trail, determining whether we were on the trail or not by feeling the tred with our feet. I had GAIA on my phone with the trail on it (is this cheating more than headlamps?) to confirm we were actually on the trail and finally made it back to the car at 7:00. It was October. (Yes, we did have lights with us but chose not to use them unless we had to. If you look at my reported times, you'll see that RPR was the halfway point - 5 hours from Chapel Pond and 5 more to New Russia. Yes, we were slowed down a little by the dark, but for people comparing the through hike with CP - RPR - CP, I would do the through route any day, assuming I can solve the transportation problem. Living in Etown, the trail up to Bald is a favorite, but I've never gone all the way to RPR from that direction.
          Mike

          ADK 46r #8003; 6W
          2nd round: 16
          SL6r #596
          Catskill 3500 21/39; 11W

          Comment


          • #12
            Mike, the transportation solution there is spot a bike (and a helmet) near Chapel Pond. Pretty easy roll back to New Russia, mostly downhill and flat.

            Comment


            • ndru
              ndru commented
              Editing a comment
              I gave some thought to bringing a bike, but ultimately decided I felt safer walking against traffic along the side of a 55mph highway, than riding with said traffic in a single lane for 9-ish miles.

              I really lucked out getting a lift!

          • #13
            Originally posted by 2505 View Post
            Anyone ever whack from the RPR/Giant col to Dipper and then to trailhead? That climb back up Giant if you do the usual Zander Scott to Giant and RPR trip is brutal.
            Yes, twice. IMO, it's not worth it. I think it's easier to climb back up Giant than fight with the blowdown in that col.

            Comment


            • #14
              Sorry to bump this thread up, but I figure it's on the topic of RPR from NR.

              I'm wondering if the Mary Louise pond is the only designated camp sites in this area. I've got Giant already, but couldn't get RPR same day due to weather concerns. Which led me to researching this route. I was interested in turning it in to an overnight opportunity, but the High Peaks Trails book only lists the Pond area. It seems considering its proximity to RPR, camping there may be a bit silly, no? Not to mention carrying the extra weight of camp gear over Bald Peak doesn't sound appealing. Open to suggestions
              14/46 - 4 Solo, 1 Winter
              ADK46er Journey Blog: www.joewilderness.ca

              Comment


              • #15
                Originally posted by JaymieSecord View Post
                Sorry to bump this thread up, but I figure it's on the topic of RPR from NR.

                I'm wondering if the Mary Louise pond is the only designated camp sites in this area. I've got Giant already, but couldn't get RPR same day due to weather concerns. Which led me to researching this route. I was interested in turning it in to an overnight opportunity, but the High Peaks Trails book only lists the Pond area. It seems considering its proximity to RPR, camping there may be a bit silly, no? Not to mention carrying the extra weight of camp gear over Bald Peak doesn't sound appealing. Open to suggestions
                Bumping threads is cool, and this one isn't that old.

                To your question, Marie Louise Pond is the only designated campsite I saw (and is mapped) along this route. There are a few down by Giant's Washbowl, but that doesn't really help you much either. Do note that you *can* establish your own site along the trail, even with the new regs, since Giant/RPR is technically outside of the "High Peaks" proper. Having said all that, I'm not sure I'd want to haul a full pack over any of these peaks, unless you're into that sort of thing! =P

                As another option, there are also several sites down at Chapel Pond. You could make the drive the night before, set up camp, and have an early crack at the trail first thing in the morning!

                https://www.openstreetmap.org/#map=1...4113/-73.74307


                There's also a lean-to on the North Trail to Giant if you want to get really crazy.

                https://www.openstreetmap.org/#map=1...7672/-73.72187


                Official map from DEC:

                https://www.dec.ny.gov/docs/lands_fo...apgiantmou.pdf

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