Ascent of Couchsachraga Peak on 2008-07-05

Climber: Matt Nuesell

Date:Saturday, July 5, 2008
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Couchsachraga Peak
    Location:USA-New York
    Elevation:3793 ft / 1156 m

Ascent Trip Report

In terms of weather, I don't think I could have asked for a better day to climb this range. There was still plenty of boot-sucking mud to deal with, but probably not as much as there usually is, as it's been dry, warm, and windy the past 3-4 days. To put it very simply, this trip was miserable. I've never done a trip that completely sapped by motivation or spirit so thoroughly. Narrow, sharp-edged trails, endless ascents and descents, impossible stretches of knee-deep mud, and views that were less than satisfying for the work. Enough with the complaining, here's the trip report.

I set out solo from the Bradley Pond lean-to parking area, just off of Upper Works Road near Tahawus, at 7:30am. The first couple of miles fooled me into thinking this would be an easy day. A well-marked turn off put me onto the blue trail where I steadily began gaining elevation over the next 2 miles or so. The turn-off for the herd path is on the left, just short of the Bradley Pond lean-to and was marked by a small cairn on a swaybacked rock. The trail is easily discernible, so even if you miss the cairn, just turn around at the lean-to and walk back until you see the trail. I reached this point in about 1:45. From there, the walk around Bradley Pond and up Panther Brook to Times Square was quick and easy.

I reached Times Square at 10:53am and had a quick bite to eat while I planned the rest of the trip. I decided to take the advice of pretty much everyone I spoke to regarding this trip and completed Couchsachraga first. The round trip was supposedly 2.8 miles. No way! After about an hour of descending and losing all of the elevation I had just gained, I came to a swamp that I navigated with surprising ease (stick to the right-hand path and follow it in a semi-circle counter-clockwise to regain the trail). Another 15 minute ascent and I met 2 French-Canadian gentlemen who informed me it was another 30 minutes to the top! What?! Miserably, I plodded up the side of Couchsachraga until beaten and hungry, I reached the top. I had a quick lunch with 3 more Canadians that had been playing leap-frog with me all day and tried to enjoy my 26th summit.

I felt a little more energized after the food and started the long climb back down and up to Times Square. It wasn't long before I hit the wall. By the time I got back down to the swamp, I was stopping every 5 minutes for water and a rest. God bless the creator of the Camelback. TWO HOURS later I arrived back at Times Square, having thoroughly convinced myself that there was no way in hell I could continue. I had literally taken my first step back down the trail to Panther Brook when my three Canadian friends came off the trail from Panther. I chatted with them briefly, and they told me the walk up to Panther was an enjoyable 15 minute stroll. How could I come this far and not have the satisfaction of a 15 minute stroll to a 46r summit? I sucked it up, had some Gatorade, and feeling moderately refreshed, made my way up to Panther. Excellent views on a clear, sunny Adirondack afternoon greeted me and I enjoyed a quiet 10 minutes on a very empty, very buggy summit.

The time was now 3:15pm. I trekked back to Times Square and made the quick decision to go for Santanoni. I really didn't think I'd be able to do it, but I pushed on and found myself at the summit at 4:30pm, alone and wondering how the hell I was going to make it out of here in one piece. A gentleman I met at Times Square earlier in the day had told me about the new/old Santanoni trail and how it was a "short-cut" down to the other side of Bradley Pond. He gave me brief instructions on how to find it. As I had not seen the turn-off on the way up, I didn't think I'd be taking any short-cuts this afternoon. However, I literally stumbled upon the marker just off the summit and after a minute or two of indecision, decided it was my best chance to make it back before dark and with both knees still attached. The trail was steep, but a lot less muddy and miserable as the alternative. An hour or so later, I was at Bradley Pond and stopped to fill a water bottle and enjoy a late-day snack in the setting sun.

After rejoining the blue trail, I waddled for another 2+ hours and finally made it back to my car where an ice-cold Adirondack Grape soda was waiting in a cooler. Bugs were miserable on the trek out and I made about a pint of donations to the mosquito population. From the description, you might not think this trip was that bad. And honestly, every minute that goes by seems to soften my views on it as well. I still don't think I'd go back and do them again though. Although Santanoni and Panther without Couchsachraga wouldn't be a bad day-trip, especially if there was similar weather conditions. Physically and mentally drained, I headed for home, 12 short hours of hiking later. 28 down, 18 to go. Looking forward to the Dix Range in late July. Thanks for reading!
Summary Total Data
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Unmaintained Trail
    Gear Used:
Ski Poles
    Weather:Hot, Calm, Clear
Ascent Statistics
    Route:Panther Brook to Times Square
    Start Trailhead:Parking area near Tahawus  
Descent Statistics
    Route:New/old Santanoni trail
    End Trailhead:Parking area near Tahawus  
Ascent Part of Trip: Santanoni Range

Complete Trip Sequence:
1Couchsachraga Peak2008-07-05 
2Panther Peak2008-07-05 
3Santanoni Peak2008-07-05 

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