Ascent of Panther Mountain on 2016-11-25

Climber: Melissa Hoffmann

Others in Party:Jessica Lagoa
Date:Friday, November 25, 2016
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Panther Mountain
    Location:USA-New York
    Elevation:3720 ft / 1133 m

Ascent Trip Report

Black Friday hike with my always-willing and intrepid hiking partner, Jess. Cats got a decent amount of snow in the week leading up to Thanksgiving and varying temps, so we were unclear on gear requirements. Planned a hike up Balsam Lake Mountain for a simple hike and to test the snowshoes, on which I am a definite novice and Jess is untested. We were being dropped off, and we saw on the GPS a huge apparently shopping-related traffic jam on 28 at Phoenicia.. so we quickly reconsidered to do a drop-off at Woodland Valley (before the jam) and head up the Phoenicia Branch trail to the Giant Ledge-Panther trail. Such spontaneous redirection does not bode well for good planning. We didn't know how much we were adding to the hike.

Seemed like dusk the entire time we were hiking. It created some stress. Thought we were beating the dark the whole time. And then we were definitely trying to!

Wouldn't recommend the yellow trail from Woodland Valley. You gain elevation immediately, only to lose it completely and start over. The descent was down some well-constructed stone stairs, but it was a pain in the 2-3 inches of snow cover. The re-ascent is largely up a woods road, unrelenting in grade. I'd much rather be climbing boulders than huff and puff up a rocky gravely road. Thankfully, I didn't know it was almost three miles to the junction or we might have given up. We made it, exhausted, facing both the residual climb up to Giant Ledge and then on to Panther...

Some areas were bare, others were muddy bogs, other spots up high had 12+ inches of snow. Got to Giant Ledge, but we were wiped already. Having done Panther once before, I knew it was doable but would be tough. It was after 1 p.m. on Giant Ledge and we had to get to Panther Summit to get cell service and call my husband to tell him we'd be bailing at Route 47 after the summit... this would knock two miles off the return... no Woodland Valley descent would be possible without a lot of pain and trouble. The timing was sketchy and we knew it. Had shitty flashlights with us but forgot the headlights at home. And we needed both hands and poles for a tricky descent.

We finally summited Panther at about 2:30. Had a brief lunch and celebration. Cell service was spotty even at the summit, but I was able to make the call last long enough to establish "route 47 Giant Ledge parking area in about 2 hours."

We headed down and cheered when we got to the junction, which indicated 0.75 miles down to the Giant Ledge trailhead.

Then we headed down the wrong path.

It seemed like the right way, and was a woods road in the middle of fucking nowhere, and also had footprints to lull us into that this-is-the-right-way mentality. I even said at one point, "maybe it's not blazed because it's so obvious." But some drifts on the trail had no footprints, and on a leading trail to Giant Ledge, that would be basically impossible. Finally, though dark was gathering, we retraced about a tenth of a mile and saw where we lost the trail (it was clearly marked and we were too exuberant to see, I guess).

We lost 15-20 minutes there, and it counted. We rejoined the trail and had trouble staying on blaze the way down. Got dark so fast. Pitch by 5 p.m. Came out in the dark to a waiting, idling, warm car though :)
Summary Total Data
    Quality:5 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Snow on Ground, Scramble
    Gear Used:
Ascent Part of Trip: #OptOutside

Complete Trip Sequence:
1Giant Ledge2016-11-25 
2Panther Mountain2016-11-25 

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