I am honored to have climbed Giant Mountain with 5 new gal-friends yesterday, all who have climbed the 46 High Peaks in the Adirondacks not once but twice and in one case, three-times over.
They all agree that Giant Mountain, the 12th highest of 46, remains a favorite because of the continuous vistas seen from the incredibly scenic Zander Scott Trail.
I’ve driven past the trailhead(s) along Route 73 in Keene Valley countless times, always marveling at those who have the time, energy and dedication to hike regularly. And, yes, I’ve climbed the excessively popular Cascade Mountain dozens of times but I often question the seriousness of it when I see others wearing makeup or sporting tennis Converses or puffing on a cigarette on their way up.
On the contrary, at the sign-in box for Giant Mountain, I observe a poster pronouncing an experienced hiker missing in the woods near here, a reminder of the dangers of hiking alone.
The most ambitious climber in our group, her name is Nola, leads the pack. Like the original survey party that mapped out the Adirondacks in 1797, Nola tackled Giant first when she started climbing in the early 1970s.
She paces us over a pond called Giant’s Washbowl, past several prominent rock slides, around the remains of rubble from Hurricane Irene and up steep rocky pitches.
One of the intrepid with us, her name is Meg, actually fell and broke her leg here years earlier. But, like confronting PTSD or a serious phobia, she has found a way to resolve her fear and talks about the trauma as she passes the spot.
It takes a few teases or “false peaks” to get to the top. The first at a 3000-foot exposed rock face called “Nubble” where I marvel at Chapel Pond and a string of 4,000-footers behind it. The other is just as beautiful about a half-mile past that, not sure of the name.
When the bald top finally appears we hunker down with extra layers and warm tea. The view is outstanding, unlike anything I’ve seen. Three minutes earlier we were sweaty and hungry and now, with dozens of ranges, basins and peaks before me, I feel so small, so insignificant. There are others taking time out for a well-earned lunch and thoughtful reflection.
Before the leaves ripen and fall to the ground, find the time to do this fabulous trail but not without walking sticks. Many thanks to Allie for saving my knee caps!
Round trip distance is about 7 miles and will take about 3 hours 30 minutes going up and 3 hours coming down. You’ll shave off even more if you have a big, strong dog pulling you forward.