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Ascent of West Kill Mountain on 2016-09-09

Climber: Melissa Hoffmann

Other People:Solo Ascent
Date:Friday, September 9, 2016
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Car
Peak:West Kill Mountain
    Location:USA-New York
    Elevation:3880 ft / 1182 m

Ascent Trip Report

Thunderstorms Thursday night and some fog, clouds and drizzle in the morning scared off most hikers; I was the first party on the mountain at just before 8 a.m. Unfortunately, this meant I had to break through all the spider webs stretched across the trail from the overnight. (Eventually, another solo hiker caught up to me and passed me, and unwittingly took over this responsibility.)

West Kill's red blazes begin at the junction with the blue-blazed Diamond Notch trail at the Diamond Notch (Buttermilk) Falls. The trail is steep and rocky from the outset. It's supposed to be the easiest mountain to climb on the infamous Devil's Path, but it's still a real huff-and-puff hike, and I had to stop to catch my breath more often than usual. At a few points along the trail, the grade levels off—but briefly—and as the hardwoods mix in with spruce and other conifers, you may think you are nearing the summit. The summit is much further along than you think—but impossible to miss, as you pass the gorgeous Buck Ridge Lookout less than a quarter mile before the true summit, which has a sign and a cairn.

We've had a hot summer, and it's still in the 80s and 90s in the first couple weeks of September. The recent rain was clearly welcome in these woods, and I saw a large variety of fungi and mushrooms greedily soaking it up. There is some foliage falling already at elevation. The trail was a little muddy and slippery, but this didn't become too much of an issue until the last mile or so of the hike, which required some scrambling up the Northern Catskills' typical stair-step topography and exposed ledges. You have to shimmy up boulders and use roots to pull up, and that was all pretty wet and slippery. Still completely manageable, though.

In the last mile and a half between the Rock Shelter and the summit, there were plentiful blackberry brambles with many ripe blackberries still on them. Some berries were still ripening, which was surprising so late in the season. Evidence of the presence of bears, in the form of fresh scat, was visible on the trail.

I hit the summit at 11 a.m. Buck Ridge Lookout and the summit were a nice spot to lunch, but there has been some vandalism. A well-used fire ring had been constructed in the middle of the trail between the lookout and summit, which I dismantled. A new view was cut a few feet away from the illegal fire ring, and someone had left a used feminine hygiene product on the trail (that unfortunately remains). Despite the relative difficulty of this climb, it's clear there is some still traffic from those who are not familiar with (or don't care about) the importance of Leave No Trace.

Descent was made somewhat difficult by the slippery and muddy trail, but it was still a beautiful day for a hike, which I capped off with a dip in the falls before heading back to my car at the Spruceton Road trailhead.
Click on photo for original larger-size version.
Part of the gorgeous vista viewable from the Buck Ridge Lookout. The Burroughs Range are the furthest mountains visible, toward the left edge. (2016-09-09). Photo by Melissa Hoffmann.
Click here for larger-size photo.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:1786 ft / 544 m
    Quality:10 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Scramble
    Weather:Pleasant, Calm, Partly Cloudy
Cool in morning with fog, humid all day, hot in the afternoon
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:1786 ft / 544 m
    Route:From Spruceton Road trailhead
    Start Trailhead:2094 ft / 638 m
Descent Statistics



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