An account of our second over-the-Christmas-break trip to the Adirondacks.
We headed down to the High Peaks for two days of climbing, meeting up with Pu and Ewart, who had already been enjoying the winter trails. We picked what we thought would be the best two weather days during the week, asked my brother to feed the cat while we were away, and headed down early, aiming to meet with Ewart and Pu at The Hostel in Keene Valley (they'd been staying there the past few nights). At 8am in the morning, just past the good 'ol Noonmark Diner in Keene Valley, we pulled right into the driveway of the Hostel and up to the tidy little two-story building off to the side.
In all of my time hiking in the Adirondacks, I'd never been inside The Hostel. What a friendly and quaint little place.
Given the beautiful day that was shaping up outside, we wanted an enjoyable hike with prime views, preferably close by, and something that would help Jenn with her winter 46 list. The choice was therefore cast in stone: Giant via the Ridge Trail, along with Rocky Peak. Close to Keene Valley, superb ascent trail, and two scenic summits. Off we went!
We drove a short 5 minutes or so up the road to the start of the ridge trailhead and packed up in the early but mild morning air. The sky was a beautiful uniform blue. The forecast had said 'mostly cloudy', but it didn't look at all like that right now. Yup, we'd definitely picked the right day!
Signing in and donning our snowshoes, we trudged up the first section of trail. We encountered Rik, a fellow hiker that I'd conversed with online about planning a trip to dreaded Allen Mountain. Nice to see the people you encounter online in real-life.
On we went, switchbacking up steep ground to the little basin in which is held the Giant's Washbowl. A good trail had been broken in and the recent rain and subsequent cooling had created a firm base. The first lookout on the edge of the basin revealed a clear and warm day, as well as the usual great views of the Chapel Pond area below.
We continued on, enjoying the variety and scenery this great route has to offer: past the Giant's Washbowl we went, then up the low-angle forested slope that leads to the Southwest Ridge of Giant Mountain. It is the lower section of this ridge that offers the best scenery, climbing steeply up a rounded ridgecrest that has many open slabs and ledges, separated by stretches of conifers. I noticed that a particularly steep stretch up the lower ridge has been completely re-done, now switchbacking up in tight, well-graded switchbacks. A little bit more of the Adirondacks has switched away from the straight-up-straight-down mentality!
There isn't too much more to say about the ridge ascent, other than what I've already mentioned: beautiful sun, warm temperatures, great views, and a nicely-hardened trail. We really couldn't have asked for better. I took a lot of pictures along this section, including hanging back or going ahead to get far-away shots of Pu, Jenn and Ewart as they climbed up the trail.
Eventually, the ridge trail joins up with the Roaring Brook trail, and from this point on, the ascent is mostly in the trees.