November 30, 2013

The Adirondack Lower Great Range

By Stephon Boatwright In ADKs

Peaks: Sawteeth, Gothics, Upper Wolfjaw, Lower Wolfjaw and Armstrong
Distance: ~20 miles
Trail Map

Peak bagging: [peek bag-ing] verb; An activity where hikers summit multiple mountains in a single hike or overtime.
Peak bagger: [peek bag-gur] noun; One who engages in the act of peak bagging.

The ADK Great Range is so great in size (pun intended) that it can only be hiked in two separate trips.  The Upper Great Range contains a staggering five mountains in the chain, which can be summited on a twenty mile loop.  Me and the crew made the fateful decision to combine this hike with two more twenty mile loops over a period of three days, but more on that disastrous plot when I get to the Nippletop trip.  We took off from Johns Brooke Lodge off route 73.  The area is a bit bizarre to me because it houses the Ausable Club, a private organization of people who do…..well I don’t think anyone knows but them.  However, you have to hike through their golf course, tennis courts, “clubhouse” (read mansion), and then down a private road (to another “clubhouse”) before finally reaching the Arnold Weld Trail.  It all strikes me as a bit much for being nestled in the wilderness, but I digress.


The hike up the Weld Trail is as beautiful as it is brutal.  One of us had to use natures restroom, ran up ahead, then yelled “holy crap!”and sent the other two of us into a panic.  No, it wasn’t a bear, just the first glimpses of the beautiful Rainbow Falls.  The waterfall was the last pleasurable part of the hike for a while.  The hike then turned into the most brutal one I’ve ever taken.  The grade of the trail was so steep that as some points we had to bear crawl up some of the exposed sections of rock.  With our thighs burning and sweat stinging our eyes we reached the first target of the day, Sawteeth.  It’s a partially wooded summit so views were only mildly impressive, but it felt good to conquer our first target.

The decent to the col between Sawteeth and Gothics went quick, far quicker than actually getting to Gothics.  Gothics is the 8th tallest and most stunning mountain in the Adirondacks due to its large rockslide that gives it a gothic appearance.  It also has quite the ridge line too, with several false summits.  Since Gothics was Brian’s and my 17th peak in the ADKs we continually yelled “17!”, until we realized it was just another faux summit.  Around the third time around, we were finally there!  Gothics has 360 degree views that make you want to stay all day, but we had to get to Armstrong, number three for the day.  To tell you the truth, Armstrong is the least memorable mountain I’ve ever climbed, so much so I can’t remember why it was so uninteresting, and with no photo evidence I would guess I dreamed the whole thing if I didn’t need to climb it to get to the last two mountains.

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Upper Wolfjaw was next on the list and by then it was break time.  After fighting the urge to sleep we took off for the last peak, Lower Wolfjaw, the lowest and most insect covered of the day.  We took in the limited views for a brief second while swatting at the late season Black Flies and were off again.  By the time we were closing in on the end of the loop we began to run out of water.  By the time we reached the end of the loop we looked like were in the backcountry for days and were ready for a beer….or 6.  It was a successful trip; 5 mountains, 20 miles, and many thousands of vertical feet gained in elevation, but the mountains demanded a sacrifice that was payed the very next day when we tried to repeat this task on another range, that’s another story though.

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