After our Lower Wolfjaw summit break, we headed down, retracing our steps a bit before diverging off of our ascent path. We were now going to stay on the range trail for quite a while, over the summits of Upper Wolfjaw, Armstrong, and Gothics.
We bottomed out at the Wolfjaws col and the started the very steep ascent up to Upper Wolfjaw. The range trail over these peaks has some quite steep, even scrambly, spots, and with the rain, we had to choose our lines carefully.
In relatively short order we were on the summit of Upper Wolfjaw. Still socked in, with no views whatsoever. I was hoping that we were saving up our good-view karma points for Gothics, since that would be the summit with the best views.
From Upper Wolfjaw to Armstrong is a relatively flat-ish and short hike, with only one big ladder-assisted cliff to surmount. The very wet conditions had turned many of these flat sections into mud-bog mazes, though, which added a bit of [unwelcome] challenge back in. And, to top it off, another solid squall of rain hit us during this section of the hike.
As we approached Armstrong's summit ledge, the skies lightened, the rain stopped, and we even felt a bit of warm sun on our faces. We stepped out onto the ledge, still not seeing much in the way of views, but grateful for the brightness and the feeling of the sun.
Continuing on from Armstrong, we soon reached the junction with one of the connector trails down into the Ausable Valley. At this point, many people in the group were ready to call it quits (and skip Gothics and Sawteeth), but the seeming improvements in the weather and the closeness of Gothics' summit persuaded everyone to at least make it to the top of Gothics. We could then decide whether to abort and come back down this way, or continue on to Sawteeth.
The ascent to Gothics was rain-free. In fact, I was excited to see bits of blue and glimpses of valley bottom around me, along with some dramatic-looking cloud formations. This little weather window didn't last long, though, and by the time the rest had climbed up to join me, the monotonous in-cloud gray had returned. Oh well, at least it was still dry.
Gothics summit was actually a bit breezy and cool (up to this point, it had been rainy but relatively warm and calm). We did get a few glimpses through ragged holes to the terrain below us, but overall we didn't see too much. Although it did seem like the weather was showing signs of lifting, everyone had pretty much decided that we should descend via the trail in the Gothics/Armstrong col. No Sawteeth today!
After a good snack on the summit (the highlights of which were Mirek's rum flask and Brian's Canadian-style Sour Patch Kids), we turned and headed back down the way we came up.