After a generous thirty minute break, we packed up and headed back down the Van Hoevenberg trail to the junction with the Tabletop herdpath route. We had chosen in advance to put snowshoes on at the end of our break, because we had noticed that the herdpath route - although broken out - was narrower and looked softer. We also knew that there would be a few steep sections that would likely require more traction.
The climb up Tabletop was steep but straightforward. A nicely-packed out, twisty-turny track soon led directly up the western slopes of the upper mountain, giving us some very nice views out over the mountains to the west. The grade lessened as we neared the summit ridgeline, and simultaneously the trees shrank to a dense forest of short fir trees, all prettily coated in soft, popcorn-like snow.
Now roughly on the summit ridgeline, the grade of the track lessened and we began a really neat hike through a narrow snowy tunnel through thickly-snowed forest. Nearly every surface was covered in soft snow, even downward-facing surfaces. It seemed as if sticky snow flew around in all directions during the last snowstorm and coated everything.
After a fun few minutes of hiking through the interesting snowscapes on Tabletop's ridgecrest, we arrived at the summit. Although the summit is not bare, there is a good south-facing lookout at the top, and with this year's big snowpack, the view from that lookout was more expansive than usual and definitely fabulous, with clear skies and snowy peaks all around - chiefly among them Mount Marcy, visible directly in front of us only a mile or two away.
We congratulate Brian on his twenty-sixth winter 46R peak, and that he has now arrived at the point where he is exactly twenty peaks away from achieving his winter 46R completion. The distant goal is now visible, I believe!
Enjoying the elevated view
It was positively balmy up here on the summit of Tabletop today. There was not a lick of wind, and the sun was definitely feeling strong and springlike. Snow and ice was sloughing off the trees all around us, sometimes surprising us with sudden sounds.
After chatting with fellow summitters and generally getting our fill of the wonderful scene and conditions up here, we set off back along the trail, starting our descent. We took advantage of a good butt track to slide down the steepest stretch of the route, and not long after, we arrived back at the Van Hoevenberg trail.
The rest of the hike back was fast and basically uneventful. We kept snowshoes on until the steep stuff was over, down at the crossing of Phelps brook, then returned to bare-boot hiking. The Marcy Dam area felt genuinely hot, and the snow was in places starting to turn to wet spring snow.