Friday and Balsam Cap
The next week I joined Jean, on her final peak of the winter peaks patch. She needed to climb Friday, and I offered to accompany her.
This time I got a little earlier start and got near the trailhead in time to get a good nights sleep. It was not nearly as cold as the week before, but still below freezing. No snow had fallen during the week, so there was a firm crust on the snow. This time, the route had been broken earlier in the week, and it was mostly possible to walk on the surface without breaking through. However, off the beaten down path, this was not possible, and every step involved breaking through to knee-deep snow. So we stayed on the path.
I decided to leave my snowshoes behind, and Jean stashed hers a couple miles along, as it appeared she would not need them. We made very rapid progress, first up the logging road, and then on the trail. I did not see many trail markers, so I dont know how I would have been able to find my way if it had not been for the broken snow, but Jean said she had been able to follow the route a few weeks earlier without the aid of prior footsteps. The first part of the route is unbelievably steep for a road, but it leveled out pleasantly. We were at the col in about two hours.
The snow was still covered with an icy crust, so climbing took some care. I decided to try out my crampons (for the first time). The route from the col to Friday was, in my recollection, very steep, thick with cliffs large and small, and trick even without snow. I needed all the traction available. It did not take long to get used to walking in the crampons, and they provided a wonderful sense of security. It made asking so much easier.
We turned right from the col and followed footsteps below the cliffs. The path avoided almost all the cliffs by going far around, almost to the opposite ridge, before heading up. We were up on Friday before I expected it. The peak was as I had remembered a very small clearing on an indistinct peak, about enough space for one or two people to sit down, no more.
We had a quick snack and headed back to the col. We were making such good time we decided to attempt Balsam also. The footsteps also lead to the top there, so we still did not have to struggle through deep snow. After signing the register, we headed back down. Descending below the col, the snow started to become softer, but the crampons helped me keep from sliding around. We made fantastic time going downhill. We started to look for the snowshoes, but just then we saw that we were at the trailhead. We had passed them a couple of miles back ! Thankfully it was still early, and I still had plenty of energy left, so the hike back up to retrieve them was not an ordeal.
Jean had brought along a small bottle of Champagne to celebrate here accomplishment, so we had a little party when we got down.
Go To Catskill Hikes Page