hello spring: Windham High Peak Winter summit

Acra Point, Black Dome, Blackhead Mtn, Burnt Knob, Dutchers Notch, Elm Ridge, Thomas Cole, Windham High Peak

hello spring: Windham High Peak Winter summit

New postby Jon » Sun Mar 25, 2018 2:51 am

So what a winter! I went from the end of Fall semester, right into the holiday season, only made a single hike up to Slide Mountain with a buddy of mine. Then in January I did three weeks of field research in Tierra del Fuego, Chile. After I got back Spring semester had begun, I got two weeks into it and wound up with a bad chest cold/flu and turned into Pneumonia! :shock: I went to the Doc and he said with all my stress & illness I had lost nearly 30 lbs since the last time I visited, so he was pretty concerned. Got all my checkup and tests done, and I'm fine. Turns out to just be bad stress. So he said "what is your hobby? You need to relax". I said "hiking". He said, "when is the last time you went on a hike?....maybe you should get outside".

So even though spring technically started on the 20th, the catskill 3500 club counts any hike from Dec 21st - Mar 21st as a "winter summit" so with Winter Storm Toby bearing down on Pennsylvania, the Fourth of the great For'easters of 2018, I decided to head north, out of the storms path and bag my only winter summit for the 2017-2018 winter season. I still had to finish my work, so I got up with a dusting of snow on the ground, and prepped for the next day's class. I was done by 9 am and grabbed the gear, tossed it in the jeep and headed to NY.

By the time I had reached MIlford, PA there was no more snow. By the time I got on the Thruway it was pretty nice looking skies. I got off the Thruway and up Route 23 to the trailhead by about 12ish. There was only one other car in the lot, and she was just there to walk her dogs. So I headed over rt. 23 to the trailhead, The snow was packed very thick. I didn't even need to don the snowshoes, but after the first 5 minutes I put them on just to reduce the lateral slipping of my boots. The switchbacks were a breeze, and I made it to the Elm ridge lean-to in under an hour. I then realized that I had made this huge ham sandwich, and hadn't eaten anything but a granola bar all day. I sat at the lean-to and chowed down on it some. The snow was just as high as the floor of the lean-to, and about 1/2 of the floor was covered in about an inch of packed snow drift. They should really spin this thing around so it faces the other way.

I started to get cold as I sat and ate. I realized that I had sweat through my clothes, and was it was getting to me. Yes I still have the cold allergy, so I decided to throw on some layers and book it up the mountain. I kept heading up the Long Path, through the two spruce forests and then onto the southern flank of Windham. It was at this point that I forgot how many false-summit and "you're almost there" promises that Windham gave you. It seemed like I was always just another 5 minutes away.

As I passed just under the third spruce forest I heard a great *crack* and a huge window maker fell just to my left. I didn't realize what it was, I just saw the snow flying up and I froze in my tracks as I thought it was a bear falling out of the tree. When I saw it was just a branch I kept snowshoeing along. I got around to the "steep" part of Windham, if you can call it that, and it looked like someone had a difficult part as I saw a deep snowshoe print near a fallen tree, and someone else had avoided that spot entirely. Some drama had occured, and I just walked right over it like nothing had ever happened.

I was always hoping that just over the next ridge I would run into another person, but it never happened. I was truly alone on the mountain. I finally got to the top, not without stopping to catch my breath about 30 or 40 times. Boy am I out of shape! Not only had I been really super sick, but I hadn't hiked in months, and snoweshoed since last winter. I passed the 3500 sign, and new it was only a mere feet more. The sign was very close to the snow, I don't know how high it normally is, but I estimate at least 3 feet of snow. On the top there were definately some large snow drifts. What were usually tiny trees seemed to just be a bunch of sticks coming up through the snow. There were many more viewpoints than I remember, and there was no way that I could find the benchmark disc.

To be sure that I got the summit, I walked all the way to the eastern side, past what seemed like the highest spot. I could see the view to the north, and the mountains in Massachusets to the northeast. To the south, the great Blackheads were standing there. I knelt down to drink some of my 1/2 frozen gatorade, and ham sandwich it up. I realized at this point two very important things: First, I was looking at Thomas Cole, and that was the last 3500 peak I had hiked for my winter patch, January 18th 2017. It was over year since I had snowshoed a winter 3500 peak, and there it was just standing there, like it hadn't even cared about that year at all. I thought about everything I had done, and not done in that year and it left me in awe. How do we do so much, and the mountains so little, and yet they seem to be so much more important than we can ever dream of being?

The second thing I realized was that the snow pants I had worn were not very good at venting moisture, and that my legs were now 100% soaked in sweat, and as I knelt I could feel the itchy-burning sensation all over my knee as the water froze to my kneecaps. I made an emergency shirt-change, with my bag full of warm cozy clothes. However, I knew there was nothing I could do about the legs breaking out in hives. I had only one option-run. I got up, and started snowshoeing back down. I stopped for pictures at the 5-points view, and the Blackheads view, but other than that I didn't stop until the parking area. Again on the way down I was alone on the mountain. I thought each time I rounded a corner that I would run into some avid climber who was joining me on this, the last day of winter hiking, but it never happened. Each corner was just full of snow, and each forest full of trees, and my mind was meant to do this alone.

I passed through all of the spruce forests, each time I heard the loud creak of the trees overhead, and I thought about that widow-maker that had fallen on my hike up. What would happen if a tree fell on me? I just snowshoed faster. I got down past the lean-to and decided not to stop for a break. I passed the switchbacks and all the un-broken trails and made it back to the trailhead a quarter to four. I popped my snowshoes off to walk across the bridge and saw no one on Route 23 as I made my way over to the car. I sent a text to my wife, and she said there was quite a bit of snow on the roads back in PA. I had to deal with my wet clothes, so I hopped in the jeep and took off those horribly wet snowpants and put on some warmer attire. I took a few pictures of the Jeep with Windham in the background, and then made my way back down the roads I had come.

pics or it didn't happen!
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Re: hello spring: Windham High Peak Winter summit

New postby SNEAKers » Mon Mar 26, 2018 8:04 am

Great read! Thanks for posting as I know how long these can take to write up.
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Re: hello spring: Windham High Peak Winter summit

New postby CANOEBLAZER » Mon Mar 26, 2018 10:38 am

Great posting! Chased my Monday morning blues away.
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Re: hello spring: Windham High Peak Winter summit

New postby Jon » Mon Mar 26, 2018 3:37 pm

Thanks guys! Sorry I have been so absent lately. Maybe I should go fix that post for typos? LOL I was super pissed after finishing revisions on a paper at 2:30 AM. Sometimes it helps to write a little blurb about something fun to relieve some stress.
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Re: hello spring: Windham High Peak Winter summit

New postby SNEAKers » Mon Mar 26, 2018 4:19 pm

Definitely relieves some stress and is fun to do back and read in the future! I just returned from Iceland and may do a write up with pics.
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Re: hello spring: Windham High Peak Winter summit

New postby mike » Tue Mar 27, 2018 9:18 pm

Good to have you back. A lot of people were sick this Winter. Hope you get back to 100% soon. Real nice write up. It's been a real weird Winter. A lot of people didn't hike as much this winter.

Sneakers, hope you post your trip of Iceland. It is an awesome place.
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