The Mission and Route
The mission for the day was to conquer the Lower Great Range's five formidable summits. With Sawteeth, Gothics, Armstrong, Upper and Lower Wolfjaw all on the agenda we departed at 6:30 in the morning from Lake Placid to the Saint Hubert's parking area (on Ausable roadoff route 73, about 8 miles West from exit 30 on I-87). With a bit of a chill in the air we set down Lake Road to begin our hike.
We weren't long on the trail before the hike started paying dividends. After contemplating whether to take the scenic route up Sawteeth we opted for the "unscenic" Weld trail route, but weren't at all disappointed. After a steady and constant ascent we were rewarded with views of the beautiful Rainbow Falls and one of the funniest trail signs I've ever seen (see below). After taking in the sights the climb up the Weld trail was one of the steepest I've done in the high peaks. With very little flat ground we gained a couple thousand vertical feet in just a few miles. The steep ascent continued up The Sawteeth Scenic Trail to a less than impressive, mostly wooded summit.
From the rocky outcrops on Sawteeth we could see some ominous clouds rolling in over our next destinations, Pyramid Peak and Gothics. We were all prepared for rain, but hustled anyway. Since I've longed considered Gothics the most beautiful mountain in the ADK's it was thrilling to get a close up glimpse from adjacent Pyramid Peak. Gothics itself ended up being much more elusive. Gothics was the17th high peak my climbing party and I summited, but not realizing that the mountain had several faux summits from the direction we were hiking, we congratulated each other with high fives and shouts of “17!”, about three times before finally finding the Geological Survey marker. At that point the thrill of summiting was almost lost, until we took the time to enjoy the 360 degree views from the mountain's bald summit. Any frustration was quickly fleeting.
After a quick break it was time to set out for Armstrong Mountain. It was about here that we started to really notice the major dips and climbs involved with so much peak bagging. We came across a trail marker that indicated Armstrong was about 1.5 miles away, but it was a long mile and a half. Armstrong didn't disappoint though, with some of the greatest views of the day. As we sat down to take in the sights and grab a quick bite, we tried to retrace our steps through the heavily wooded range. That didn't last long though, as we were eager to get to both of the Wolfjaws. Neither WolfJaw seemed all too impressive after coming from Gothics and Armstrong, but we hardly had time to think about it as the Black Flies, which were still around in late July due to the heavy summer rains, started eating us alive. We took flight after a couple ineffective spritzes of bug spray. Unfortunatley, water started to become and issue.
On the way back down we felt accomplished and happy, at least for awhile. It wasn't long though until the lack of water turned into an issue. Unfortunately, the one in our climbing party who ran out of water also suffers from a gluten allergy, making the sports drinks the other two of us were carrying, just as harmful as dehydration. Refusing to let anyone fall too far behind we adjusted our pace until we got back to the trailhead. After 17 miles, 5 peaks, and countless trips, bites, and incredible laughs, it was time for a cold beer, big steak, and a nap!
For more pics, videos, and trip reports (including the Upper Great Range)you can follow my blog at: thetraillustproject.blogspot.com/
Thanks for reading!