Half of the Great Range from Roostercomb Trail
Due to unexpected in climate weather and no sleep on day one we cashed in and did 1/2 the Great Range instead of the entire range. Number 1 rule for safe hiking...Know when to call it quits. Our first day out, it poured on us for most of the day. We worked so hard making sure our stuff stayed at least a little dry. We were only able to climb Lower Wolf Jaw and Upper Wolf Jaw. By the time we got to the col between Upper Wolf Jaw and Armstrong Mtn we were spent, feet squishy wet, and I was frozen. (I can undergo much pain and physical strain...but I'm not gonna lie, I was sobbing). Defeated, we decided to make camp and call it a night. Our things were slightly damp but not terrible...accomplishment! A "scooby snack" for rewards? Yes I think so! In the tent, we had tuna sandwiches, checked out our map, and found things to talk about and laughed for a long time. My mood had lightened...yay! The tent hovered about 50 degrees despite it being about 35-40 outside. After a while, we decided to go to sleep...then it got real cold! I was fairly warm but poor Paul's things had gotten wetter than mine. We huddled together the best we could and had a VERY long night (We decided right there that it was best to NOT spend another night out here). Still, when the sun came up we were in good spirits! Opened the tent and looked outside.....it had snowed, and all that rain turned to ice!!! Still..."ok, we can do this! We brought our spikes! Look how beautiful it all is!!!" We warmed up some rice (GROSS!), and had a sandwich. Time to pack up...they seemed a little lighter after night one at least (oh, ya...did I mention they were between 60-70 lbs to start with!) The first half mile was sketchy! I hadn't found my balance yet and the climb was intense, with major rocks to negotiate coupled with ice, not a good formula. At least the sun was shining right!? After a while, our muscles loosened, balance was regained, and a momentum was established. Things were looking up....literally! On top of Armstrong, we got our first REAL view...breathtaking!!! We saw the back side of Marcy Mt. and all the peaks behind her...amazing! "Worth it" we said to each other. As we gazed at Gothics, it appeared extremely intimidating. But after the Adam-Hayden dance we promised to do, to Gothics we went!!! The descent of Armstrong wasn't as bad as the ones on the two Wolf Jaws. We got to the col and noticed it was the site of a major rock slide at one time (no surprise since there are thousands of these all over the Adk's High Peaks). We got a clear view of Gothics AND the CAVE! It's called a hidden cave because when you are climbing, you can't find it...we didn't :( I should have used the Garmin and locked the compass on it...but, I didn't. So no cave...another time! As we got close to the summit, we ran into our first human contact...haha. He was super nice and was doing a large loop which encompassed Gothics Mt. I asked about the cave but he didn't even know there was a cave. He told us to watch out for the wind up there on Gothics, it was whipping! We knew. Had heard it all night! But, up we went! The top of Gothics Mt. was surreal...and yes the wind was intense, especially with big bulky packs. Paul lost balance once...now that's wind! The views from up there were again, something we'd never seen before. Major rock slide views, Marcy and all her majesty, Haystack, and the rest of the Great Range. Was it worth it? Yes definitely. As a matter of fact we began contemplating dropping the packs at the bottom of Gothics and climbing 1 or 2 more as Gothics was to be our last before the trail that lead back to the car. But as we began to see what the descent looked like to get off this mountain, our minds quickly changed. We were looking at steep grades of sheer rock (again...so glad we had our spikes), heavy packs, and a CABLE to hang on to get us down. A feeling of tears welled up within me again, but this time I didn't give in. I had to keep my wits. This was no time to freak out!!! Slowly we made our way off this mountain, packs shifting every now and then. An hour and half later, we were at the bottom..."we made it!" Two hikers were down at the intersection of trails eating. We decided to join them and get some much needed calories in us. They had been up since 2am and were determined to climb the entire range in one day. It was 2pm at this point and they had already done Marcy (which they had been stuck in a whiteout at 5am, huddled together for sometime...ah, yes the snow we woke up too!), Haystack, Basin, and Sattleback (the other half of the range we would not be doing). They, however, did not have large packs. They shared just one small pack that had food and water in it. After talking about the mountains that each of us hadn't accomplished yet and after discussing mileage (which we figured out that we each had the same amount of distance to cover to get back to our cars, however in two different directions as we were going down and they were going across the mts...We had been parked side by side...how funny!), I gave them a couple of Reese's Peanut Butter Cups and bid them farewell. Down the Ore Bed River trail we went...down down down...forever. All of a sudden beside us was the biggest slide I had seen yet! It was the full length of the mountain. Do we have to go down THIS???? Oh please no, my nerves cannot handle another Gothics experience today.... Thankfully, the trail continued beside it for a while until we got to the largest staircase I had ever seen. How nice of people to build this...and how much work it must have been! Down down down again...At the bottom of this thing, there was a beautiful waterfall! Time to fill our water jugs! Pop in the purification tabs...done! From then on, we had easy trail walking (easy with the exception of the crazy amount of mud to get through...at one point I mis-stepped and slid into it, my pack flying sideways and pulling my shoulder muscle...another point I mis-stepped and what looked like leaves was a big water hole..."oh well, my feet were already squishy, what is more"). The last few miles I'm certain we were delusional. We were making up songs that rhymed with certain words like crane, mud, etc... Our packs were so heavy by now and the trail was NOT marked well (thank goodness for the Garmin, or we would have been thoroughly lost several times...plus it was going to get dark soon). We ended up at a dirt road. A ways down, we ran into people..."how much further??? - Only about 1.5 left...the best news ever!" Walking that last .4 down rte. 73 was amazing! We smelled diner food (fooooooooood), had a smooth surface to walk on, and could see in the distance the parking lot to our car! As we finally made it to our car it was dark. We noticed the hikers finishing the Great Range weren't back yet. "We beat them...hahahahaha!!!!!" Should have left a note, but didn't. Kudos to them for doing the whole thing in one day. Even though we didn't, we felt very accomplished and extremely tough for having undergone the tests of trust and endurance. These mountains are not to be reckoned with. Respect for them is essential. As we were lying in the tent after day 1, we could hear the wind above us blowing so hard it sounded like a freight train, yet it didn't touch us down below in the tent. While we were trying to shiver ourselves to sleep, they were very much awake and their power was completely evident to us. All I could think of, being surrounded by such power was how these things were "created!" The power they had and the power it took to make them. Awe-inspiring for sure...But we made it! In Saranac I craved a pizza like no tomorrow. Little Italy provided the best pizza ever...either that or I was just so famished I would have eaten one off the street! haha...Finally, home we arrived. I had myself a shower, took some aspirin for my crazy headache, and went directly to my warm, soft, did I mention warm, and dry bed!!! Great adventure happened in a great place! I definitely <3 ADK!