Ascent of Giant Mountain on 2008-02-09

Climber: Scott Ireland

Date:Saturday, February 9, 2008
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Giant Mountain
    Location:USA-New York
    Elevation:4626 ft / 1410 m

Ascent Trip Report

Snickers already checked us in and told of our hike on Dom Day, but I wanted to share my view (and few pictures) as well.

My trip to this day started just over a year ago - I found and joined the forum in January 2006, hoping to get up and hike in February and over the summer. That was not to be, as I broke my hip in January and had to put all that on hold. After finally getting back into gear, and doing some Finger Lakes hiking and Esther in January, I thought I was as ready for this weekend as I was going to be.

The weekend started on Friday, as we drove up early and arrived at the Loj around 1PM...there was definitely a lot of snow around. We took a short hike around Heart Lake, and went to meet Little Rickie, Rookie, and jkc1222 for dinner at the Lake Placid Pub - cheers! We swung by the Ark to see who had checked in yet, and met TeeJay, Yvon and Snickers in the lobby, and of course Kathleen, our wonderful hostess for the weekend.

I didn't sleep too well Friday night, being a bit nervous about the hike - this was only my second High Peak total, both in winter - except that the first one came the weekend after the big January melt-off and was pretty tame. In addition, I knew I was hiking with some experience - billandjudy, and Snickers - and was afraid I'd fall way behind.

As we met at the Ridge trailhead on Rte 73 at about 8AM, it appeared the first big challenge would be simply to get over the berm created by the snow plows, which was taller than my wife! We scrambled over, and Bill signed us in and we trudged off. Luckily, someone had solo'ed the day before and the trail was somewhat broken out. We entered the woods and went up - the first part of the trail switches back and forth nicely, and although it didn't take long to remove a layer, I maintained a reasonable pace. But not for long...
As the trail straightened out, and decided to go more directly up, several things happened. First, I was sweating like I was in a steam room. I was drenched! Second, the trail breaker from the day before turned back, so we (and by we, I mean Bill primarily, and Judy and Cindy) had to break the rest of the way up. Third, I convinced myself I couldn't make it any further.

Thankfully for me, they slowed the pace down a bit, and were very encouraging. While there were definitely times I might have turned back alone, hiking with these three is a true joy. Bill, Judy and Cindy are truly excellent hikers, and absolutely wonderful people - the first of many I would meet that weekend. We trudged on, on the steep spots taking a step up and forward only to slip half a step back each time. There were a few spots going up with beautiful views - we could see the full Dix Range and over to the Wolfjaws, and could hear the ice climbers across Chapel Pond. That didn't last long either. As we ascended an icy bump we saw the clouds rolling in from off Rocky way, and soon were thick in the clouds and snow. As we finally neared the summit, Bill and Judy, who had done Giant before, stood aside and offered the last quarter mile to Cindy and myself. We were soon on the summit, and while we had no views beyond the ledge we were on, it was amazing. After Cindy's apparently trademarked woo-hoo (you didn't hear it on the other mountains? ), we took a few moments to remember Dominic and say a prayer for Neil, Sylvie and the boys. We left the tattered bits of a rose Cindy carried up, and a few prayer flags (please don't tell the rangers).

At this point, it was nearly 1PM, and while the rest of the group may have been able to make RPR, I wasn't so sure I could, so we decided to go back down. Man - no one tells you it's not over until you're at the car!

While the hip doesn't bother me going up, coming down is different, and it didn't take long to get sore (Yvon, where are those 222's you mentioned!) I was also surprised to learn that even with my MSR Lightning Ascents, I was still able to 'ski' the snowshoes quite a bit, which is a blast, until you think about it, then fall and butt slide the balance of the track you happen to be on. With but little incident, we made it down to the bump in no time (OK there was one incident, but what happens on the mountain stays on the mountain)...Bill pointed out that what took us nearly an hour and half to ascend only took us twenty minutes to come down! After passing a group of younger folks, and then a pair of guys (we asked them to take Cindy's rose petals we kept finding to the top for us) we made it to the Washbowl, and the switchbacks. Bill thought it would be more fun to head straight down across the trails (and save time) so we cut off into some deep powder and slid a good part of the way. We returned to the car around 4 - I was soaked and steaming, and knew it would only be a few minutes until I was cold, so we head for the Ark and hot showers - this too was part of the adventure for me. I was actually staying in Placid with my wife and step-daughter, and it didn't make sense to get a ride there, so TeeJay let me shower in his room. Of course, he told me as I headed off, he thought the hot water was a 'little tricky'. Which meant there wasn't any - it took my breath away! Not exactly what I needed, but I quickly changed and went into the lounge, where Neil was playing his flute.

About the same time, others began wandering in, and I met so many people I don't remember them all. But what I, and my wife and step-daughter, can say is this...never have I met a group of folks who are more open, honest and caring about life, each other, and the pursuit of their outdoor ambitions than here. This is truly a passionate crowd that 'sucks the marrow' out of life, and enjoys just being together and being in the mountains. And I knew, as the night went on, that I had found a place where I felt at home. Thank you all for a wonderful experience.

I also understood how, as difficult as Dom's loss is, the forum was able to help Neil and Sylvie through all this, because as Neil once posted, it really is a big family -
Summary Total Data
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Snow on Ground
    Gear Used:
Ski Poles, Snowshoes

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