A gem of the Whiteface Region
Spring is an excellent time to move away from the High Peaks where the mud outweighs the fun. While yes, many of the lower mountains and lower elevation hiking trails are still muddy, they do tend to dry out quicker and surely get much less traffic. Keeping this in mind, and the fact I didn’t want to shoulder a pair of snowshoes for the higher elevations; we decided to go for a bit of a drive and check out a smaller gem, Catamount Mountain.
The longer drive afforded us the opportunity to grab a bit to eat on the way through Lake Placid, so a quick stop to Green Goddess satisfied our cravings. Then a quick stop to do our part in supporting the oil industry, our car was also a bit hungry. But, before we knew it we were at the trailhead for Catamount.
Spring runoff can hinder travel
We found the lower portion of the trail, which is seemingly more rutted than when I was there last, was filled with water and a bit of ice. This was a very difficult section to walk; happy to see, it didn’t last long.
As we made our way further into the open forest the ground became much drier, but with periodic unstable ground. The steeper slopes we found ourselves on, as we approached the smaller summit, were not too bad, I attribute that to better drainage. Yet somehow I found myself with mud up to my knees, I attribute that to my magnetic personality. We topped out at the first excellent view just below the first summit and snapped a couple pictures before moving on.
Snow still in the mountains
Up to this point we saw and walked through only a small it of snow but once we dropped to the northern side into a dark col, the snow became much deeper. Postholeing our way through the next few hundred feet was tough but on a good note, my pants were now clean. Once we passed through the col and got onto the south side of the true summit, the snow was pretty much gone, but very muddy.
We soon found ourselves at the base of the rock chimney, which we were both happy to see didn’t house any snow or ice. The chimney is always a fun section of the trail; it sure is easier for someone with longer legs to get through. The remaining distance to the summit came fast as the grade eased up. Unfortunately the views were a bit blocked by low clouds and the wind started to pick up, putting a very damp chill in our bones. We noticed the west side of the trees were covered in a thin coating of rime ice, which added a nice touch to our day; we could hear it fall off periodically as the wind shifted directions.
After exploring the summit area and following what looked to be a herd path down a different side, which it truly might have been. We decided to turn around after dropping about 200 feet in elevation, we didn’t know where we would end up, and we didn’t want to find ourselves wallowing through two feet of rotten snow in a col filled with buried deadfall, not fun. Our descent was very slow as the mud caked to our boots made traction very limited and by the time we reached the car, we were soaked from the knees down and our boots held more water than out Nalgene’s. This would be a good time to remind everyone, bring a dry change of clothes, socks and boots for the ride home or back into town, you won’t regret it.
Interested in hiking some of the lower summits of the Whiteface Region, pick up a trail guide at a local gear shop or inquire at a local guide service for details on a guided outing for you or the entire family. Exhausted and need a place to crash for the night or want some great food with a comfortable atmosphere, Wilmington and set you up.