March 6, 2014

Giant Mountain and Rocky Peak Ridge

By Stephon Boatwright In ADKs

Peaks: Giant Mountain and Rocky Peak Ridge
Distance: ~11 Miles
Trail Map

If you’ve read my hiking stories long enough, you’ve probably been introduced to my Bears, Allie and Brian, but you might not have met my Gator.  One of my best friends/practically family is named Patrick, but through a series of comedic events he has been dubbed Gator Boy, or GB for short.  GB is the consummate outdoors man, with big dreams of attending the NOLS wilderness education school and landing a job in the outdoors.  These days he lives in Indiana so I only get to see him back out East so often.  One summer visit he wanted to take on some high peaks, thus begins our climbs of Giant and RPR.

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We drove up to the High Peaks region the evening before, after a full afternoon of boozing on another friend’s boat.  Brian was wheel-man while the crew tried to sober up on the ride.  Needless to say, we slept well.  A fourth friend, Julian, also accompanied us on the trip.  The last time I saw Julian he was skinny and got winded a bit easy.  About three years and 10 lbs. of muscle later, Julian could literally run up the mountain if he wanted.  The hike is short enough that we were able to take our time getting up and play with the fluffy gray cat that patrolled the campgrounds.  We made our way down route 73 where an oddly enormous sign marked the parking lot and trail head from the road.

The ascent was unusually easy for a good many miles.  It was a surprise given the stature of the mountains.  Giant earns its name due to its relative isolation from other peaks combined with its enormous width and considerable height.  The peak looms over the town of Keene Valley below, making an ominous shadow at the right time of day.  We moved through the woods at a considerable pace until the worst happend, I uttered the words “This is a joke!”  Almost immediatley thereafter, as if on cue, the gentle and gradual ascent of the trail gave way to endless rock scrambles; “Hello foot.  Meet mouth!”  I wasn’t upset, I love to scramble, but God was it a hot and sticky day.  It was the type of day where your vision was blurred by the sweat rolling down your face and into your eyes.  The trail levels out and you have the option to cut right and head to RPR, or cut left, up a rock wall, and bag Giant.  It was about a mile either way.  We opted for Giant, not realizing we could even hike two peaks in one day; we hadn’t quite got the whole peak bagging thing down.

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Right before the split we met a girl in her mid-20’s, covered in dirt, with a yellow bandanna who could unleash more words per minute than any human being possibly should or be able to.  After a barrage of needless anecdotes, she informed us she was going to bag both mountains, that it was the sensible thing to do, and even implied in her tone that we were fools or lazy for not considering it.  We bid her adieu by silently kicking the air a few feet from her behind as she turned to climb Rocky.  The summit of Giant was crowded, as is expected in the summer due to the easy accessibility of the trail head to the road.  The four of us could have stayed there all day, chatting with veteran 46ers who were up there for their 3rd or 4th time.  There was also a group of hikers from Canada who were apart of a club that seeks to hike every mountain above 4,000 feet in the Northeast, all 111 of them!  The crystal day was turning a bit grim in the distance, but we figured we were looking far away given our altitude.  After a little coaxing I talked the crew into taking on RPR too.  Not too long after leaving the summit we came across our ripe smelling friend who offered the advice to hike Giant and RPR in tandem in the first place.  Apparently she got to the bottom of the col between the mountain and realized she was too tired to take them both, so she made her way back up to Giant.  I felt bad, but the irony was too much not to let out an internal chuckle.

We set off for RPR, which was separated from Giant by a col that dipped before abruptly climbing again.  We got there in no time and made a few more friends while taking in the view.  We may have been building as hikers, but definitely not meteorologists.  The sky was outright black now, pounding the mountains in the distance with torrents of rain we could only imagine.  None of us minded getting wet, but no one had a change of clothes, nor did we want to sit for four hours in a car soaked.  We hustled back down the col, but as we started ascending Giant again, we had to stop so Brian could nurse a pretty bad cramp.  I have no idea how we made it back before the rain, but all hell broke loose a few moments after hitting the car.

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This is one of the “easier” climbs in the ADKs with one of the greatest rewards.  The views from Giant are breathtaking, and well worth the sweat and colorful strangers.

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