Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Catamount Mountain: 10/10/2016

Tucked away in an off-the-beaten path corner of the Adirondacks, Catamount Mountain wasn't even on my radar screen until just a few years ago. Now I've got a new favorite hike.

View of Whiteface and Esther Mountains from Catamount, Monday 10/10/2016.

The Saratoga Skier and Hiker, first-hand accounts of adventures in the Adirondacks and beyond, and Gore Mountain ski blog.

We climbed Catamount on the Monday of Columbus Day weekend and hit the jackpot with a combinaton of crisp temperatures, a cloudless blue sky and peak foliage.

Catamount's relative obscurity is likely due to the fact that the DEC only recently (2012) adopted the route up the mountain, adding markers, signage and a parking area at the trailhead. Word must be getting out though, as there were already a dozen cars at the trailhead when we pulled in on Monday morning (by contrast, popular trailheads like Giant, Cascade and Adirondack Loj saw hundreds of hikers that day).

The trail starts out easy enough, with the first three quarters of a mile flat, straight and smooth. There's a distinctly boreal feel to the woods, with lots of spruce and a beautiful carpet of moss and lichens. I almost thought we were going to miss out on the fall foliage until the hardwoods began to mix in once the trail started climbing.

Sylvie in the lead

Hardwoods mixing in as the trail starts to climb

An early view through the trees

Lots of leaves already down

Once the trail starts climbing, it's a steep ascent. Lower sections of the trail are somewhat eroded, but by the time you reach the first lookout ledges a mile and a quarter in, the tread is mostly on smoother bedrock. There's a great view of Whiteface and Esther, 5 or 6 miles to the south. It's an interesting perspective, with the auto road visible and the slide path that slices through two of the road's switchbacks.

Beth stretching out at the first viewpoint

Esther (left) and Whiteface (right) with a frosty coating

Just above the first lookout is where the fun really begins. There's a short but steep scramble through an eroded dike, followed by lots of open rock leading to a sub-summit with panoramic views. The official trail hugs the trees at the edge of the rock slabs, but it's more fun to scramble straight up. So few Adirondack trails have this extent of open rock, every vertical foot was a treat. The kids picked their own lines, occasionally getting turned back when they encountered a section that just wouldn't go.

Daniel and Sylvie climbing the dike

Beth and the kids at the top of the dike

Picking a line up the open rock

Beth and Sylvie on one of the steeper sections

Peak colors looking back at the Black Brook valley and the Stephenson Range

Whiteface and Esther in the distance

View from Catamount's sub-summit

The false summit is a fine destination in itself, but we continued on an additional half mile to Catamount's summit at 3173'. The trail weaves in and out across more open rock slabs, with frequent views of the sub-summit below and Whiteface to the south. The route can be difficult to follow at times, just keep heading up.

Heading towards Catamount's summit

Summit view

Franklin Falls and Union Falls Ponds

Summit panorama

Cranberry Pond and Union Falls Pond

The summit is 1.8 miles and 1600 vertical feet from the trailhead, but it's a harder climb than the stats indicate. But the reward is an interesting perspective of the northern peaks of the Adirondacks, a view not seen from most of the popular hikes in the High Peaks region.

Sylvie on the hike down

Plenty of views on the hike down

Late afternoon sun through the trees

A rare moment of sibling rapport at the end of the hike

Catamount is a real gem. I can't believe I waited this long to climb this peak.

If you go: From the four corners intersection in Wilmington head up the Whiteface Memorial Highway. Just before the toll house, bear right toward Franklin Falls on CR 72. Continue for 3.3 mi.to a right turn onto Roseman Road. Follow Roseman Road for approximately 0.8 mi. to a right hand turn onto Plank Road. Follow Plank Road for 2.2 mi. to the trailhead and new parking area on the left. Don't let the "Elevation Gain 2,362 feet" sign scare you off, it's more like 1600' vertical.

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