My nemesis. My white whale. Well, ok, I only attempted it once, but trying to work this one in proved to be a bitch. This peak has a nasty reputation, though it you see it tucked away between Carrigan and the Hancocks, it appears as an insignificant bump. Ethan had scouted an excellent way up before, skirting the cliffs, and where I made it up to the last time was confirming that nicely.
So, try number 2. Kris came along with Joe and I, wanting to have a go at it. It was to be a beautiful day. Sunny, not too warm, not humid. And indeed it was. Alas, the Captain was about throw nastiness at us. But I'm getting ahead of myself.
We met at the end of Sawyer River Road, driving instead of biking like last time. Gosh, that's so much easier and my legs feel fresh! Go figure! We set off up the forest road, passing landmarks familiar to Joe and I catching glimpses of Carrigan early on, and eventually (dah-dah-daaaaaammm) the Captain.
It was pleasant going. We hit the big clearing and followed the herd path. Last time we lost this several times before giving up, but followed it easily on the way down. I don't normally do this, but I plugged in the trail location this time, taking no chances. Of course, that went awry. We found ourselves following flagging off the route, lost that, and then had to fight through stick woods to regain the herd path. And it happened yet again before the little campsite. Sheesh. Then from the camp, we lost it for good. Why does everyone else get to follow this to the base of the cliffs???
Being especially anal about this peak, I had a map showing the locations of 3 ledges/slabs on here. The thought was to skirt one near the cliffs and hit the col. As we went on, though, I noticed we were heading more and more right, at one point aiming for Carrigan. To be fair, the woods were pushing us that way, but this was getting way too off track for my tastes. And then came the steeps, where the woods opened up decently.
And then it got really steep!
We passed the elevation I had to turn around at last time, and considered that a victory. It was tough going up the steep portion, but I was feeling good enough. By now, we were so off track that we had to stay right to avoid a long set of ledges. As a bonus, a sharp ravine not seen on the maps blocked us from going left anyway. Crap. Crap crap crap. But we got some viewpoints out of it. Oh look, there's the summit WAYYYYYYY over there.
This is the point where I start getting frustrated. All my planning went to hell, and this was going to be a much longer whack than I anticipated. It may not be fair, but I like to stick to a plan, deviating only if woods dictate. Oh well, c'est la vie. At this point I just wanted to get to the ridge where this relentlessly steep climbing ended. And so we did. Our reward for that was nasty blowdown/young fir woods. Believe me, this is one of the better sections.
This went on for a good long while. At one point, I had to stop and smoke, because now I was getting pissed. There was no reason for us to be this far off. I swore if this didn't break soon, I was turning around, and I'd be done with stupid lists forever. Let me stay at 2 peaks from the finish until I died for all I cared, this was bullshit.
I know I wasn't being rational, I knew I wasn't being fair, but I'm just telling ya what I was thinking at the time. We carried on, and then were greeted by this (again, a better section):
OK, now we're talkin'! Seriously, this was a relief to me. I could move somewhat decently through this crap. We reached the col, and actually had some nice, albeit soggy, walking. The thought of going to Carrigan Pond, a mere 800 feet or so away, had long gone to hell. I just wanted this peak, and that was that. Heading back up, the woods were pretty good (relatively speaking at this point...), we had some ledges to skirt, and Joe found a nice viewpoint.
What you can't tell from this photo is Joe was standing on the end of a dead log, perched over a sheer drop. I handed him my camera for this shot. I then just booked it to the summit. I really, really wanted it bad. Again, woods were moderate, and as I mounted one bump, I suddenly realized I was there. #175 was complete. Wow, what a trip. Everything was forgotten about the tramp over (well, except for insisting we stay on track on the way down), I was here. Finally. Here. Joe and Kris caught up, and I had a big dump grin on my face.
After a time, we set off and Kris took the lead, keeping us in real good woods and avoiding all but one small ledge on the way down.
We arrived a little south of the col, and aimed for the west side of the slab we meant to pass on the way up. Of course, we ended up east of it, but not by that much. No big deal, whatsoever. Around 2500' we crossed the brook and set off trying to find the herd path again, having to push through some crap, but we finally came across it and had no issues again following it out to the road. From there, it was a numbing walk out. It took quite a long time to get up (down, not so much), my feet were getting sore, and right near the end shin splints hit me. Then two figures were walking up the road. Greg and Brian! They figured for sure we would be out by now, but on a whim drove up to find our cars still there. We related our adventure.
So there it was. The peak I swore I would never leave as the last bushwhack peak on the list was just that. Had we gone up the way I wanted, it wouldn't have been bad at all, but like I said, that's the way it goes, and we did get some neat side shots of the cliffs out of it. Lord knows I've led people into some nasty places before, so blaming anyone is ridiculous. I just don't think about these things whilst on the hike, my emotions just take over (at least quietly to myself...). It certainly did make me feel like I earned that peak in earnest. That leaves one more peak for the NH3k finish, which, thanks to schedules will have to be in mid-July. What's another few weeks after 5 years.
Joe swore he'd never go back up there, but I must see Carrigan Pond someday. I might try from the north (reportedly very ugly), seeing if a particular logging road still exists. At least I've got a known good way up there now from the south. Those long ledges will likely also beckon me for a good close shot to the cliffs, but I think I'll come in from the west. Perhaps I can convince Joe to come with me at some later point. :)