Ascent of Blackhead on 2014-10-26

Climber: Matthew Ledwith

Other People:Solo Ascent
Only Party on Mountain
Date:Sunday, October 26, 2014
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Car
    Location:USA-New York
    Elevation:3940 ft / 1200 m

Ascent Trip Report

Decided to campout at the Batavia Kill Lean-to's on Saturday night and hike Blackhead on Sunday. Left the Albany area at 6:30p and arrived at the Big Hollow Rd TH at 8p. Got my gear in order and left the trail register at 9:03p. Hiked via the Red Trail in pitch black. Recent rains gave me a couple of tricky stream fords. Took the Yellow Trail at the junction and made the Batavia Kill Lean-to at 10:27p. It promptly began raining somewhat heavily. The Lean-to was occupied so I set up at an established camping spot about 200 feet upslope. Pitched my tent, made dinner, and relaxed watching a very active lightning storm to the northwest. I hit the hay at 1a. At 2a an unforecasted thunderstorm hit with sheets of heavy downpour and stiff winds. Each wind gust sounded like a freight train coming down the mountain. I didn't fall asleep until 4a when the storm calmed and I grew desensitized to the continual freight train buffeting my tent.

I am ashamed to admit that I didn't wake until 10:30a which completely defeated my original plan to hike Blackhead, Black Dome, and Thomas Cole. I only had enough time to hike Blackhead before I had to return my bear cannister rental, so I took my time packing up and making breakfast. I left the lean-to area at 12:23p and made my way up to the escarpment and the trail junction with the Long Path/Blue Trail a little before 1p. I took the Blue Path south along the escarpment. There were a couple of ledges with beautiful vistas looking east towards Green and Rennselaer counties with the Hudson River in between and the Berkshires barely visible on the horizon. It looked like a much better day then it was here. The wind was very strong and the occasional flurry was visible.

I continued easily along the escarpment until it turned southwest and began getting increasingly steep. My steps were a little more deliberate to avoid slipping on wet leaves and exposed boulders. At 3500' it flattened out briefly to give a good view of the wooded summit and then turned slightly more westernward and alot steeper. This was the toughest section of the climb. There were large boulders and exposed scrambles. I was grateful for my quality boots and hiking poles to help negotiate this part. At this point I was hit by a flurry squall that diminished visibility slightly but otherwise had no substantive impact on my hiking/climbing. Near the summit it leveled out into a dense coniferous sub-alpine woods. I could tell I was getting close when I made out a large exposed section of bedrock bulging out from the trees. I bagged the viewless summit at 1:47p. The only thing of interest here is the bedrock and the trail junctions.

I rested here briefly. Drank some Gatorade, ate a couple of peanut M&M's, consulted my map, and took off down the Red Trail back towards the Batavia Kill area (although ~half a mile down slope from the Lean-to). This was my favorite part of the hike. The descent was pretty constant, but nothing like the Blue Trail up. What it did have was an excellent view of a cloud covered Black Dome and the descending valley between both mountains. The only down side was coming across a beautiful ledge that had "OWENS 02" carved into the bedrock - how'd Owens know that was the only thing missing from this beautiful scene. I reached the trail junction and took the Red Trail at 2:28p. I descended for a while past little but growing streams, a tree that had been freshly pecked by a woodpecker, and a delicious looking spring (2:47p) - that I must admit I didn't drink any of but I did refresh my face with. After this point the streams became much more substantial and waterfalls plenty. I reached the next trail junction at 3:20p and made my final push down the Red Trail back to the TH. I passed over a couple of foot bridges that I had been unable to really see the night before and reached my car at the Big Hollow Rd TH at 3:36p. Fun camping despite the adventure. Great hike.
Summary Total Data
    Elevation Gain:1740 ft / 530 m
    Elevation Loss:1740 ft / 530 m
    Distance:5.2 mi / 8.4 km
    Route Conditions:
Road Hike, Maintained Trail, Unmaintained Trail, Scramble, Exposed Scramble
    Gear Used:
Ski Poles, Tent Camp
    Nights Spent:1 nights away from roads
    Weather:Drizzle, Cold, Very Windy, Partly Cloudy
Variable drizzle on ascent from Batavia Kill Lean-to to the Blue Trail Junction. Snow flurry squall
Ascent Statistics
    Elevation Gain:1740 ft / 530 m
    Distance:2.5 mi / 4 km
    Route:Red Trail>Yellow Trail>Blue Trail to summit
    Trailhead:Big Hollow Rd TH  2200 ft / 670 m
    Time Up:2 Hours 24 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Elevation Loss:1740 ft / 530 m
    Distance:2.7 mi / 4.3 km
    Route:Yellow Trail>Red Trail to Big Hollow Rd TH
    Trailhead:Big Hollow Rd TH  2200 ft / 670 m
    Time Down:1 Hours 36 Minutes

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