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Backslides of the Big Guy
With Rocky Peak achieved, it was time to turn our attention to the next objective: Giant Mountain, now looming less than a mile way to the northwest of us. Between us and Giant, however, was a fairly significant dip: a col at 3700 feet, meaning we needed to descend about 700 feet down, then about 900 feet back up to the summit of Giant. Having expended a bunch of energy with soft snow for many hours so far, this seemed quite daunting.

I had a sneaking suspicion, however, that our fortunes were about to turn: as we had noted before arriving at Rocky Peak, the western approach to Rocky Peak is much shorter and more popular than the way we had ascended. Therefore, it was logical to assume that many more feet had tramped over the trail on this side. There was a good chance, then, that even with the less-than-ideal snow conditions, the actual track of the trail might be solid enough for us to be rid of the infernal post-holing.
Heavenly Highway
As soon as we got off of the summit rocks and back into the snow, our hopes proved to be true: a solid rail of snow, packed hard by countless feet and snowshoes, led down through the trees towards the col. Our pace immediately doubled, perhaps even trebled, as we could now confidently stride along without resistance and without fear of a sudden plunge.

A short twenty minutes brought us to the 3700-foot lowpoint of the Rocky Peak-Giant col. Ahead of us was the final big ascent: the 900-foot climb to Giant's summit.
courtesy JInnes
A bit of real ice
Even though the slope up Giant's southeast ridgeline was probably the steepest ascent of the day, the nice hard track made it feel easier than much of the travel thus far, and we made good time. There was one slightly tricky solid blue ice ledge, which we easily dispatched with our ice axes and a bit of step-chopping. It felt good to top out at a lookout near Giant's summit: almost all of the day's hard work was now done.

We waited a few minutes for everyone to re-group, and then we headed off along the mostly flat final few hundred yards to Giant's summit.
Rocky Peak
Final Junction to Giant
Arriving Giant Summit
The conditions at the top of Giant were perfect - late afternoon sun, no wind, warm. A perfect spot for an extended stop - but we couldn't afford it. It was now after 5pm and we still had a 3000-foot descent to complete. Preferably before darkness fell.
courtesy JInnes
Warm afternoon sun
Grimpons pour la vie
Descending Giant
A packed rail
We knew that after our hike finished, there would be a bit of waiting around as the car shuttling operation to fetch the eastern trailhead vehicle took place. We therefore decided that Matt and I (the two drivers) would head down at a faster pace, hoping to allieviate some or all of the waiting around for the others. Even though the trail was clearly hard enough to support barebooting, I elected to keep my snowshoes on for a fairly long stretch on the descent, all the way to the first of the open slabs on the Giant Ridge Trail.
The Ridge Trail
Warm evening sun
Less and less snow
I switched to microspikes for the middle section of the descent down the Ridge Trail (even though much of the trail was clear bedrock, there were enough snowy and icy sections in between to warrant them). Speedy Peter soon caught up to Matt and I, and the three of us rapidly descended down towards the trailhead, down past the Giant's Washbowl, all the way down to route 73. We arrived shortly before 7:15pm.
Crossing the Washbowl
Lookout over Chapel Pond Pass
Arriving Route 73
We suspected that we (Matt, myself, and Peter) were well ahead of the others, so we quickly got into Matt's car and drove back to the New Russia trailhead, hoping to get back not too long after the time that Caroline, Jenn, and Brian arrived.

Dusk was falling as we arrived back at the Giant Ridge Trail trailhead. However, there was no sign of the others. A slight twang of worry crept into our thoughts, since it was now about thirty minutes after we had ourselves arrived at the trailhead. That seemed like a long time.

One has to assume the worst in these situations, so Peter and I saddled up our gear to head back up the trail. We directed Matt to go down to the Roaring Brook Trailhead - a little further down the road - in case they had accidentally taken a wrong turn.

Peter and I started back up the Ridge Trail in the thickening twilight. We had resigned ourselves to a potentially tiring climb (after having had such a tiring hike today), and began some idle chat.

Fortunately - oh, so very fortunately - we had only climbed a few hundred yards before we spotted the others making their way down the trail. Emergency cancelled!

We happily returned to the vehicles and wearily packed everything away. We were all quite looking forward to grabbing a few tasty snacks from the local Stewarts down the road. After that, the long drive home.

All in all, this was certainly an appropriate initiation to the process leading up to the Great Range Hike Redux. Thanks to all who attended!
Interactive trackmap with photo points - Rocky Peak Traverse - click map to view
Rocky Peak Traverse, East to West - Hike Data
Start Time: 8:30a.m.
End Time: 7:14p.m.
Duration: 10h44m
Distance: 16.38 km (10.18 mi)
Average Speed: 1.5 km/hr (0.9 mph)
Start Elevation: 606ft (185m) *
Max Elevation: 4667ft (1422m) *
Min Elevation: 600ft (183m) *
End Elevation: 1634ft (498m) *
* : +/- 75 feet
Total Elevation Gain: 5226ft (1593m) *
Total Elevation Loss: 4189ft (1277m) *
* : +/- 75 feet
Elevation Graph
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