As it was programmed to do, my alarm clock went off at 4am. I slid out of bed, got dressed, ate my bowl of cereal, and hit the road by 4:45. I stopped a few times on the way to the Route 73 trailhead for food, drink, and the discharge of metabolized by-products of such. A totally uneventful drive, but how much can you really remember at 5am?
I parked in the last good spot along Route 73, and was on the trail at 8:15. My plan was to bushwhack along the North Fork of the Bouquet River, over a height of land, and finally connect with a herdpath along the South Fork. The herdpath would bring me to the base of the Great Slide, which I would take up to the summit of East Dix (to be renamed Grace in honor of the first woman 46’er). From there, I would hike over South Dix (to be renamed Carson, after some guy named… Carson), over a bump called Pough (pronounced Puff) and finally to Hough (pronounced Huff). Get it… huff and puff? From Hough, I would backtrack down to the Hough/Pough col, and bushwhack back down to the South Fork herdpath.
The bushwhack along the North Fork was quite pleasant, with firm footing and an open understory. I soon reached a beaver pond, which forced me to go inland a bit further to navigate around the shoreline, which was quite swampy. I got tangled in a couple of raspberry bushes, but after a few more minutes of bushwhacking, I reached the herdpath, which brought me to the South Fork. The herdpath was one of the best trails I’ve been on. Dry dirt with relatively few stones or roots, along a picturesque brook.
I was hiking at a very quick pace, but this leg of the trip took more time than I anticipated. I finally reached the base of the “minor” slide at around 10:30. There was a group of about 8 people at the bottom of the slide that I quickly passed. This portion of the slide was quite wet, and the red algae growing in these areas was as slick as ice. I hit a patch of this algae, and found myself having to move laterally to the edge of the slide in order to gain a foothold. I knew that the main slide was to my right, so I continued hugging the right side of the minor slide until it came into view. A quick hike through 15 feet of scrub brush and I was on the main slide. This slide was much drier, and also became steeper. I could look directly up the slide and see the headwall near the true summit.
Although the trail up the slide angled to the right, I took a line straight up to the headwall. After all, I needed some scrambling practice for my upcoming trip to Colorado. As the pitch became steeper, the climb became a Class III scramble rather than a steep slab hike. The best part came at the bottom of the headwall, where the pitch became very steep.
I had to search for the best route up the rock, but there were plenty of hand/foot holds, and nice ledges to take photos. I took my time on this section, stopping to take photos from the numerous ledges. One of the people in the group I had passed at the bottom of the slide was hiking up the trail along the side of the slide, and quickly reached the top of the headwall. The final pitch to the top of the headwall required me to ascend a small chimney , which was the best part of the whole climb. On the top, I met the guy who had passed me (a student from Colorado), and asked him if he would take my picture coming up the chimney… I just HAD climb that section again!
I reached the true summit at around 12:15. It had nice views, but was a bit of a let-down compared to the slide. There were about 10 people on the summit who had come from Carson, and the group I had previously passed were making their way up. So it was time for me to move on.
The hike over to Carson was pretty uneventful. Views to the east (West Mill Brook basin) would sporadically present themselves. Since I plan on bushwhacking up this basin to Carson some time next year, I studied the terrain with special interest. I reached the summit of Carson at around 1:00. I had ascended this summit last year, so was quickly on my way to Pough and Hough.
The hike over Pough was just as I remembered it… a boring pain in the butt. The only positive thing about Pough is the two nice views from the wooded “summit” towards the south (Elk Lake). At around 1:30, I had reached the Hough/Pough col. I had already summited Hough, but really wanted to summit it since I was so close. However, I was running behind schedule, and had no idea what the bushwhack conditions were like between the col and the South Fork herdpath. So I ate a sandwich and decided to head down. The understory was unexpectedly open, and thought to myself “Maybe this is going to be much easier than I anticipated”. Once again, I was wrong (have you noticed a common theme in these reports?). As the grade got steeper, the blowdown became thicker (though still not as bad as the south face of Macomb which I bushwhacked last year). I tried hiking on both sides of the now apparent brook, but it didn’t make a difference. I tried hiking in the brook, but the rocks were too slick (this may be a good route if conditions were drier). While hiking near the brook, I had to test every step to make sure that it was firm. Many areas looked solid, only to find that it was a hollow between rocks covered by moss (a sod hole). I soon found that the ground was firmer about 50 feet from the brook, and kept my distance for the remainder of the bushwhack. Once the grade started leveling again, the understory began to open and the bushwhacking became easier.
I reached the herdpath at around 3:00 (still about an hour behind schedule), and quickly made my way back to the trailhead. Since I wanted to make up time, I stuck to the path instead of bushwhacking along the North Fork. The whole trail was quite delightful. On my way out, I again passed a few people from the group I met at the base of the Great Slide. I reached the car at around 5:00 and changed into dry clothes. While driving through Pottersville, I saw a grey fox scoot across the road. Thanks to all the slow Sunday drivers who got out of my way, I set a new record for the drive home to Syracuse… 2 hours, 45 minutes!
Every 46er I know refers to the bump as Pough. I have no idea who coined the name... that'd be a good research project :-)
Off topic: let me know when you're gonna attempt the Great Range traverse. I did it a couple years ago, and would like to make it an annual event. You'll definitely have a sense of accomplishment when you finish!