Ascent of Windham High Peak on 2012-04-28

Climber: Doug Harple

Others in Party:KF
Date:Saturday, April 28, 2012
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Car
Peak:Windham High Peak
    Location:USA-New York
    Elevation:3524 ft / 1074 m

Ascent Trip Report

I love ridges. Granted, I don’t have much experience with the arêtes, and I have absolutely no experience with snow-covered ones, so maybe I should rephrase that to: “I love Adirondack and Catskill ridges”. And perhaps I should really rephrase that to: “I love relatively flat, relatively narrow mountaintops”. That feeling of walking in a high place, with maybe 10’ of land on either side and a precipitous drop beyond that. I love that.

KF and I met up at the parking lot at the end of Big Hollow Road and then drove in my car to the parking lot at the end of Peck Road (off of Big Hollow Road). From here we started off at about 10:30, heading up the Elm Ridge Trail. Along the way we stopped to discuss the trail with an older gentleman and his dog, Thor. He had summitted Windham three times, but wasn’t sure if there were any junctions in the route. We explained that there was one, and KF showed him the route on the map.

We made our way up the trail, and I quickly shed my jacket. The day was warm, especially here, in the south, with the sun on our backs and the north wind blocked by the mountain we were climbing. The Elm Ridge Trail really does cut across slippery rocks, and the first half of it was wet. We made our way up to the Escarpment Trail and checked out the lean-to briefly. In the back, someone had left a deflated air mattress. Seriously, who does that?

Moving on, we made our way up the Escarpment Trail, through a stand of coniferous forest where we primarily walked on roots and saw a bit of frozen water. We crossed a slightly muddy area on hewn logs before emerging into the deciduous forest that would stay with us to the summit. The rest of the hike was dominated by mostly leafless trees and a surprising amount of grass.

We made our way up to the summit ridge of Windham, a beautiful, mostly flat strip of land, maybe 500’ long and 20’ wide. The trees were still leafless, and there were only a few evergreens, and the whole place had the feeling of a stunted forest to it. I suppose in the summer months the vegetation dominates the view. Nevertheless, there were several side trails to numerous lookout points, with excellent views either north or south.

The summit of the peak itself is viewless. I’m not even convinced it qualifies as the summit, since it appears to be a glacial erratic that the badly scratched USCGS marker is attached to. Nevertheless, KF found it at about 12:45. We posed for summit photos, and then made our way along the ridge the better vantage point that another older gentleman had directed us towards. We chatted briefly with the “school kids” that the older man had mentioned (college age kids, and possibly a few high school kids who left shortly after we arrived), and then set about eating lunch. The view was both to the north, and east, with some distant mountains visible from the Taconic range and some other ranges (Adirondacks? Greens? it was hazy and hard to say).

After lunch, at around 1:20, we headed along the trail, discussing how committed we were to climbing Burnt Knob, since it would involve a bushwhack. We decided that we weren’t very committed to it, but would happily follow a herd path should one present itself. We ended up carefully looking for a side trail on the wrong knob and by the time we were traversing under the correct knob, we refused to believe it. As we started the descent we gave up on Burnt Knob and hobbled back towards KF's car.

The final obstacle of the day presented itself in the form of a stream crossing. The Batavia Kill runs down from several streams along the cirque at the end of Black Dome Valley, which had clearly caused damage during the heavy rains from Irene. We had seen signs of the damage during our drive in, mostly in the form of every single bridge being recently rebuilt, repaired, removed or blocked off. Along the trail, we saw numerous trees down. The river itself was also swollen, making the crossing a bit treacherous, especially at the very end. We made it across without falling in, signed out, and headed out. We made it to KF's Jeep at 4:00.

All in all, it was a fun trip. The backside of Windham, with the seemingly endless ups and downs, was a bit rough, and I can see why people prefer to do this as an up-and-back-down hike. Nevertheless, I would recommend this route. The only moderately clear view of Windham that I saw was from looking back at the start of the second knob after Windham, just out of the “Passed Oldman” col (the key col between Windham and Burnt Knob, where several of the college-age kids passed us old men).

Summary Total Data
    Elevation Gain:1802 ft / 549 m
    Elevation Loss:919 ft / 279 m
    Distance:4.1 mi / 6.7 km
    Quality:2 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail
    Gear Used:
Ski Poles
    Weather:Pleasant, Breezy, Clear
Clear with occasional gusts of wind; windy at the summit and in the cols
Ascent Statistics
    Elevation Gain:1713 ft / 522 m
    Extra Loss:236 ft / 71 m
    Distance:3.1 mi / 5 km
    Route:Elm Ridge Trail / Escarpment Trail
    Trailhead:Peck Road Parking Lot  2047 ft / 623 m
    Time Up:2 Hours 15 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Elevation Loss:683 ft / 208 m
    Extra Gain:89 ft / 27 m
    Distance:1 mi / 1.7 km
    Route:Escarpment Trail
    Trailhead:"Passed Oldman" Col  2930 ft / 893 m
    Time Down:40 Minutes
Ascent Part of Trip: Windham and Burnt Knob - 28 Apr 2012 (0 nights total away from roads)

Complete Trip Sequence:
1Windham High Peak2012-04-28 a
2Burnt Knob-South Slope2012-04-28 b

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