I’ve finally had an experience that I’ve heard many aspiring 46ers eventually have – an attempt without reaching the summit. To be fair I really only hiked a mile or so in. I was itching for a hike after a few weeks break soaking in a fabulous vacation. Luckily I grabbed the last spot at the Garden Parking lot (#victory) and hit the trail on a sunny but very hot day. Two miles in drama ensued. A mother/daughter hiking trip had an unexpected twist while they were taking a selfie on one of the low bridges. The mom lost her balance and fell backward hitting her head on the way down. Please people no selfies on bridges with no guard rails. At the end of the day, it was no big deal and no major injuries. But after walking the two out and waiting for her husband to pick her up I ate up too much daylight to make the venture to Haystack so back to Burlington it was. On the upside I enjoyed an unplanned ‘open weekend’ in Vermont with a picnic in the park and moonlit waterfront stroll so all is well that ends well.
The next weekend (8/29) I was determined to not miss out again. You’d think 6:30 am was early enough to get a parking spot at the Garden. Nope. Luckily, the shuttle was running but I was feeling the time pressure. If I wasn’t back before the last shuttle I’d be walking a few extra miles. With an average hike time of 12 hours, I was going to have to shave an hour and do it in 11.
I once again hiked the 7 miles in past John Brook Lodge, up to Bushnell Falls and to Slant Rock. The third time this year and every time it is a little bit drier and I do it just a little bit quicker, but seven miles is still seven miles. Then I took the Storey Shortcut (again) that was just as I remember. Steep, steeper yet with rocky footing to only descend and give up all that elevation gain. At least I wasn’t bitter this time since I knew it was coming. Up to this point I only saw one other group. Yes and thank you:)
Now at the junction, rejoining the State Range Trail it continues a steep decent before climbing quickly with a rough and eroded trek for about . 6 miles. Not the smoothest but not the most challenging. Really I should have taken some pictures but figured I get them on the way back but I decided to descend via the trail toward Marcy so there are none. Not my fasted of the day – I’ll take scrambles over rock hopping, eroded trails any day.
Turning left at the junction the trail follows yellow markers to the first ledge and it is a dosey. And then the real fun begins. Some hiker’s call it “Devil’s Half Mile” a stretch full of extremely steep terrain. It is essentially a mix of calf burning open rock climb with some extra fun scrambles to the top of Little Haystack where you realize you’ve gone so far but still have the hardest to go. Climbing down Little Haystack is slightly nerve-racking, zigzag on ledges on a very steep open rock decent, but after Saddleback it’s a piece of cake. And as my bouldering/scrambling chops have improved – other than being exhausted – pretty damn fun.
One group decided to not venture down – once they were 1/2 way down Little Haystack and had a nervous time getting back up. But really just take your time and focus on one section and it is not too bad. Don’t get me wrong, you need to be careful and it is challenging, but it’s not mountaineering. A quick walk through the col and then you climb some boulders, zigzag through ledges and another open face rock calf burning climb.
“The view from the summit is considered one of the finest with the abyss of Panther Gorge and steep cliffs of Mt Marcy.” Yep, I would totally agree. I soaked it in and probably longer than I should have, but it really is remarkable.
I also got to witness a lovely woman completed her 46 with a big group joining her for the celebration. After chatting about hikes and she realized I’m doing them all solo, she proceeded to introduce me to everyone else who made it to the top as the girl doing them all solo and that it’s incredible. Awe. I liked her for sure. You never know how peeps will react on hiking solo. But I’ve found the higher my number gets the less I get the judgey cautious folks.
After a quick climb back to the junction with the State Range Trail I decided I had no desire to be on the Storey Shortcut and made it a loop continuing on the State Range toward Phelps/Marcy. It climbs steeply to the top of a ridge. And then starts descending at a moderate grade, getting progressively steeper until it is at a near “vertical pitch” to the pass at the head of panther Gorge where the Phelps trail comes in. You can continue to Mt Marcy (left) or as I chose going back down to Slant Rock and back to the Garden.
I hiked it out fast. Normally I would have stopped for a snack but I was going to make that shuttle. And, I did with 15 min to spare and some jogging out at the end, with a hike time of 10 hrs 45 min. Wooohooo!
This marked the two-year mark working on my 46 with #38 done and only 8 to go! Not too shabby a way to celebrate the anniversary.
I’ll close with what others have said about Haystack and I couldn’t agree more. It’s demanding but not overly challenging and your body will feel it but worth every step.
Haystack is one of the most demanding hikes of the 46 High Peaks due to its rugged terrain and hiking distance. The summit of Haystack is a bald dome in the shape of a stack of hay. Its appearance is not like the other High Peaks in the Adirondacks. For the main approach it requires the climber to hike over Little Haystack as well, which may not seem like much, but adds even more elevation change for the day. Heavy winds often buffet this peak, but if you have it in you, it’s worth every step.