A nice winter outing
One of the appeals of Giant Mountain is the easy access, the trails start to ascend directly from the trailhead parking on Rt-73. The previous week, it was worm and had rained, and a local at Van Hoevenburg had told us that was the worst condition they ever had the cross country skiing open there. Not really sure what to take as gear (just shoes? crampons? snow shoes?) the three of us did a quick reconnaissance on the 29th up the trail to the Roaring Brook crossing which is a little less than a mile from the trailhead. That turned to be a great worm up and we found out that the path was well traveled and the snow packed and quite icy in sections. We also were able to check for the brook crossing, which a little downstream from the usually crossing had some trees crossing, which gave good hand rails. Driving back to Keene Valley we decided to rent snow shoes (MSR Denali) for J. and S. and I would use my crampons.
On the 30th we arrived back at the trailhead only around 8am, due to the good breakfast served in the B&B. It had started to snow slightly and we made good progress. We took a short break to adjust clothing layers at the trail junction to Nibble, but followed the left path, which is Roaring Brook trail proper. On that section, the path got wet, due to water running down or standing in little poodles and since it was not cold enough to freeze the larger poodles or run-offs, we had to skirt around them. After that, the trail is well placed in that it stays at an average incline and makes good use of switchbacks. At that point there was another group of 6 and a dog coming up behind us and we let them pass. As we were getting higher up, it stopped snowing but the wind picked up. About 0.2 miles shy of the summit we reached a somewhat steeper section that was iced over completely from left to right. It was still doable with the snowshoes, but a lot more comfortable for me just frontpointing up. The summit was windy and cold because not protected by trees. There was only little visibility and we could not see the slabs down the feather slide. We took a couple of pictures but quickly went back into to trees, out of the wind gusts.
On the way down, we discussed taking the Ridge Trail, but decided against it because we would have to walk on the road to get to our car, which was less desirable than the benefit of a 0.7 mile shorter trail and some new views. Several groups came up the trail, it seems to be a very bussy route. The clouds thinned, it got colder but we even saw some glimpses of the sun and got a good look at the High Peaks. We guessed at which peak was Marcy, Skylight and so on but I did not think about taking out the map and checking. We reached the car around 4pm, very thirsty because the pipe to our hydration packs had frozen over.
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