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The Catskill 9, 06/18/2022

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  • The Catskill 9, 06/18/2022

    Besides expanding my slide resume and doing more backcountry camps in the high peaks, I have set a bunch of personal goals for this summer to include a GRT, doing the Saranac 6 as an ultra, and the Devil's Path as a whole (I have done both halves separately). Another goal I have had the last couple years is doing the Catskill 9 as a loop, and while I understand this probably not to be as "difficult" as its other list-mates, I am hoping after completely it Saturday that it was a good warm-up to the others.

    I had the day Saturday open to solo adventure, and my first choice was to hit an ADK slide I haven't been to yet. When the forecast for the peaks solidified in the past couple days, I knew this was a no-go and shifted to my Plan B of taking a hike back up Marcy to look for my GoPro that I lost up there in January before adding on Tabletop and Phelps. Waking up at 2am after a few hours of sleep I saw there was too good a chance for some cold cold rain, in addition to the ice and snow, and i settled for my Plan C, and got two more hours of sleep before waking back up ready to take on the Catskill 9. Before leaving the house I took some consolation in not going for Plan A or B by the quick unloading of a puffy/goggles/microspikes/balaclavas/mitts/etc from my pack that I figured would be needed for any hikes in the ADK but not necessarily for the Cats on Saturday.
    When i got to the end of Denning Rd around 645am there were a bunch of cars in the lot as expected, and I saw 2 other solos already signed in for the Catskill 9. They didn't specific which direction they were headed, but i included a note I was headed counterclockwise. I chose this direction for a few reasons, but mostly that I loved having the options of bailing out down to the Neversink after any of the bushwhack peaks. I have done a bunch of different combo's of these 4 mountains and table/peekamoose, and while never more than 4 summits on one hike I have gone up or down at least once between the river and each of these peaks except Balsam Cap. I set my initial goal of the first 6 mountains, from Table through Friday, but hoped for the possibility of all 9. At 7am I started my watch's tracker, popped an earbud in, and started down the old road. I could smell the campfires right as I got to the first junction at the FLT's eastern end, and while at least one designated campsite was open I was surprised by the number of campers in the area of the fisherman's path junction and the valley, with the majority in the process of waking up for their days. As I approached the spring below Table's summit I could see that I was catching up to a hiker ahead of me, but I turned off for the spring while they did not. I knew if I could make it to peaks 7/8/9, this spring was my last reliable water before Slide's eastern spring, so with having broken a good sweat already I guzzled at least a half liter of electrolytes before topping both that bottle and my water bladder off.
    Right after doing this, i had my scariest moment of the hike as I experienced something that has never happened to me. As I removed my earbud I was horrified to see the rubberized cap was not on it, and poking a finger to my right ear I definitely felt it in there resulting in wondering if a local Catskill clinic has ever successfully removed an earbud cap from an ear canal. Then I thought of my Swiss Army knife and their tiny tweezers buried in my pack's oh-schit-kit, and considered running to catch the other hiker to have them remove the small piece of rubber from my ear hole. Luckily I collected myself and was able to pull it out myself, with my own fingers, and sighed and laughed and felt embarrassed a bit. I might have to bring my over-the-ear sets with me for some of the not-as-interesting approaches and exits from now on.
    Anyway, after this interesting little moment I summited Table in the mist, as well as the completely socked-in Peekamoose, while meeting the other solo hiker who was also going for the 9 Saturday. After setting my compass's bearing I headed back down to the Table-Peekamoose col and started the whack towards Lone a bit early in a different spot than I usually do, and had a more difficult but interesting descent before coming onto the herdpath in the col, and followed that for the most part up to the canister. I was the first to sign in there Saturday, and after refueling a little I headed over towards Rocky. I stayed a bit higher between these two to the south than I have before, and while there was some blood shed in this area luckily it wasn't as violent as some of my other crossings have been. I didn't stay too long on Rocky's summit, and again purposely started a bit south between Rocky and Balsam Cap than I have in the past to try something a little different. I actually drifted a bit north of where I had intended resulting in a pretty thick and rough whack up to Balsam Cap's summit, and going up some ledges I saw an obvious den containing some leg bones that I'm hoping were from a deer, and within 20 feet found a Gatorade-type bottle that was crushed and torn with multiple canine tooth punctures in it. Pretty neat, and packed out. I hit one of the main herdpath's just north of Balsam Cap's summit just a stone's throw from the can, and after signing in took my first seat of the day at the nearby viewpoint, with the tipped-over stump that is a perfect seat, and while enjoying the view I cleaned a good-sized bloody skin tear on my right knee sustained during the last stretch of whacking.
    Just north of the viewpoint there is at least one split in the main herdpath, and as I have done most times between Friday and Balsam Cap I try to stay west of and above the high major cliff band between these two mountains, and while I still broke the first cobwebs on the day on this stretch I was surprised at how well used this route seems to have become since my last time here, as I got poked and prodded much less frequently this time. I climbed one large ledge band by finding a weakness back to the northwest before hitting the summit area, and signed into my fourth and last canister of the day. Here I took stock of my water, food, legs and lungs, and decided to go for Cornell instead of dropping down and out via the Neversink. I have heard not so nice things about the Dink, really nothing good at all, however after initially pushing through some very thick stuff just off the canister area by working north-northwest off Friday's summit I had an honestly pleasant whack that was surprisingly open and non-violent. I worked my way back due north to Dink's summit, and then stayed close to it's eastern drop-off.
    Before I knew it, I could see a larger tunnel-like opening through the trees ahead of me and knew it was already the marked trail. Here again I took stock of myself, to make sure I was good to head for Cornell and Wittenberg first instead of just going towards Slide and the trailhead, and decided to head east for 7 and 8. I took a quick pic at the illegal campsite, I mean Cornell's summit clearing, before downclimbing the Cornell Crack and seeing the first humans I had seen in 4+ hours. I crossed paths with a couple others before getting to Wittenberg's amphitheater, where I was lucky enough to be just below cloud-level while I took another seat for a few minutes among several other hikers enjoying this spot. I reclimbed Cornell before descending forever to the col and campsites and then climbing up into the clouds to the spring, where I added a fleece layer as the temp seemed to plummet in the drizzle. I topped off my electrolytes bottle here as well as getting some water in my pack bladder while talking with a couple of campers for a few minutes, then climbed the rest of the way up to touch the plaque and summit my 9th different peak of the day. I finished the rest of my pack's food as I felt a wave of relief at the old tower's concrete pad; even though I still had 5ish miles back to the truck I knew it was almost all downhill from there. I love the Bruce Hornsby trail, I mean the Curtis-Ormsbee trail, and made good time down to the next trail junction to head back toward Denning Rd. I saw a scary amount of fresh bear scat on this stretch, as well as a fisher that ran across the trail not far ahead, but before long I could smell the campfires down by the Neversink. I passed its trail junction, and soon rounded the last corner to the register and trailhead.
    While my watch's battery stopped tracking my route between Cornell and Slide, checking what it had recorded and considering the rest of my route I think this loop from Denning ended up right around 20.5 miles and 6.5k ft elevation gain, taking me 12hrs15mins from truck to truck. While there were at least 3 others going for the Catskill 9 on Saturday alone, and that some who do this loop complete it in hours less than I did it on Saturday, I am very proud that I was able to achieve this goal I have had for a few years now, since I was able to complete the whole loop instead of bailing out after 4 or 6 peaks, as I have unfortunately let my conditioning slip and weight rise a bit the last couple months. However feeling as surprisingly well as I did during the hike and at this point past it, I am optimistic of also completing the Devils Path, GRT, and Ultra SL6er hikes this summer/fall.
    "...don't assume you can't do it...we all make mistakes and sometimes fail. Keep working and learning, and be committed to improving fitness, and there is no limit to what you can do." Joe Bogardus
    "I believe it is in our nature to explore, to reach out into the unknown. The only true failure would be not to explore at all." Ernest Shackleton

  • #2
    Good one.
    We had a much less ambitious hike in the Cat's Saturday and were satisfied that we did after reading mbowler's high peaks report. It was chilly for June.


    • bikerhiker
      bikerhiker commented
      Editing a comment
      What did you think of the wind Saturday where you were? I didn't put it in my write-up, but the wind i experienced throughout the day on the summits was definitely the strongest i have felt in the Cats yet

    • Hear the Footsteps
      Hear the Footsteps commented
      Editing a comment
      It was windy but you had to have had more. We climbed Big Indian and Fir.

  • #3
    Great job!!! Enjoyed your trip report and the chance to follow along on a hike that's also been on my wish list for several years.

    I've always had a bit of trouble finding the herd path, or a clear route when leaving the marked trail between Peek and Table, aiming for Lone - never found the herd path from that direction. But coming from Lone heading west, even 12 years ago, the herd path was so defined it was probably in better shape than some maintained trails. It's kind of a shame that the herd paths are so clear now because I really enjoyed finding the canisters when the herd paths were barely there and we actually had to use our navigation skills. Still, probably better than having dozens of paths created the way it used to be in the Adirondacks. Anyway, good luck on your other hiking goals for the year!
    We don't stop playing because we get old; we get old because we stop playing ~ Satchel Paige


    • bikerhiker
      bikerhiker commented
      Editing a comment
      Thanks Deb. Yeah, it was crazy to see how nice a trail that was in the col to the west of Lone, i don't remember it being that defined last time i was there within the last year or two. It is a weird situation bushwhacking some of these busier peaks: like you said it is nice to self-navigate and get that really wild feel, however at the same time by taking the herdpath you do possibly stop foot traffic from spreading in some of these places by consolidating usage. That herdpath west of Lone is so nice though, not an eroded mess for most of it, felt very pleasant on the feet and easy to move along except for the one fun main ledge, just like the herdpath up on Bal Cap. When i came upon a defined herdpath through the bushwhack stretch i think i took it most of the time on Saturday as long as it was headed where i wanted to go, for the reasons above but also this last weekend the weather rarely allowed for any good visuals on other peaks or features for navigational assistance with your bearing, and when you hit one of those bomber herdpaths up high you know where they are going.