Sugarloaf (Roaring Kill)

camera32gps_pictalltrailscaltopomapmyhikeOn Saturday, December 9 I was committed to an all-day track meet at West Point. On Friday the meet was cancelled due to the forecast of snow and I was free to plan a hike. I decided I would try one again to go to the Blacks and asked Cindy if she would like to go. I was very disappointed when she said “NO!”. We had been hiking together on Saturdays and, I thought, we had taken some very nice trips. I did a few quick chores around the house and was ready to leave by (;00 AM. It was only 25 degrees so I put on a full baselayer and wore my Columbia Omniheat pants. I wore a heavy Mammut pullover underneath my Mammut hoody. I wore light gloves and a hat but brought warmer gloves and mitts along as I did not expect the temperature to rise much during the day. I decided I would go to Sugarloaf which was a little closer than the Blacks. The forecast was for cloudy skies and light snow in the afternoon. My plan was to park at Roaring Kill and hike up the eastern side of Sugarloaf. After hiking over the summit and down the western slope to Mink Hollow, I could decide whether or not I wanted to try Plateau. We left Livingston Manor at 9:00 AM and Sheila seemed very happy to be getting out of the house. I headed out the DeBruce Road and turned left at the end onto Route 47 which passes by Frost Valley and the parking areas for Big Indian, Slide and Panther. There were a few cases in each lot. I turned right on Route 28 and decided to drive all the way to Phoenicia. I turned left on Route 214 and headed north through Chichester. At the end of Route 214 I turned right on Route 23A and then right onto Bloomer Road. When I got to Platte Clove Road I made another right and drove 3.3 miles to Dale Lane. I turned right and followed Dale Lane until it change to Roaring Kill Road where the surface was gravel. Shortly after that I turned left into the parking area and parked next to the only other car present. There was a slight wind blowing and the air seemed “raw” with an air temperature of 26 degrees. I set my electronics and we were on the trail by 10:00 AM. The first part of the trail to Pecoy Notch was frozen mud. After only .25 miles on the yellow Roaring Kill Trail we came to a trail junction. The blue Mink Hollow Trail turned right but we continued straight ahead on the blue Pecoy Notch Trail. I noted that having two different blue trails at the same junction is confusing! We continued on the trail ascending gently and began to run into evidences of bluestone quarrying. The trail flattened and then descended to Dibble Quarry at around .9 miles. Here visitors have built “furniture” and walls from the bluestone left lying around. I looked over toward Kaaterskill High Peak and Round Top and saw that they were enveloped in snow. So much for the forecast of snow in the afternoon! I knew this would not be good the snow would soon reach our location making the rocks slippery. It would mean the drive back home would also be interesting. I took pictures of the two mountains and then a few of Twin. I also took shots of the furniture. Sheila sat on one of the stone chairs and I took some photographs of her and the stonework before continuing. I knew that the beaver pond was not too far along and we arrived there at about 1.4 miles into the hike. There was no evidence the beavers had been at work recently. The pond was greatly reduced in size and was no on two smaller parts. I stopped to get some pictures. We walked to the area below the dam and had no problem crossing as the water level was so low. I stopped again to take a few more pictures of the pond and a few of Sugarloaf. The snow was now falling lightly and I put away the camera so we could continue on our way. We crossed a small stream and I took a few more pictures. As the snow fell, the rocks became slipperier and it was hard to see the patches of ice. Sheila was great help as I could see where she walked and either go the same way or avoid a questionable spot. From about 1.2 miles to 1.4 miles there was a steeper grade which led to a flat spot just before the trail ended at the red Devil’s Path at Pecoy Notch at 1.9 miles. We made a right turn on the Devil’s Path to continue up to the summit.

After making the turn, we began to encounter more than a thin layer of snow and ice on the rocks. This is due partly to elevation but also to the fact that the trail at this point has a northern exposure. As I was hiking along, I was being very careful to watch my footing and to watch where Sheila was going. I have had some interesting experiences on Sugarloaf. One winter I was hiking over a slab of ice with spikes. The ice was so hard I lost my footing and took a nasty fall. Fortunately, I was with other hikers and it was in an area where I could not slide very far! Another winter I did a solo ascent through several feet of snow. I remember that as I made the final approach to the summit I would take three steps forward and then slide back two! I am not sure how I finished that climb. I do remember that the return trip was much quicker. I was thinking of these things as we continued up some very steep rock scrambles which I knew would be worse on the way down. Just passed 2 miles we acme to a lookout toward Twin Mountain and I stopped to take a few pictures even though the snow was no falling more heavily. We went back to the main trail and started up the steepest part of the climb. There seemed to be less snow but more ice the farther up we went. Sugarloaf is one of the mountains that I always underestimate despite my checkered history on its slopes. I always think of it as a relatively easy hike and it is until the turn on the Devil’s Path. After that turn, the next .5 miles average a 26% grade with some places being nearly vertical. Sheila was scampering ahead of me and doing a good job in most places of showing me a good line. Sheila and I continued through more steep places and until the trail leveled slightly as we approached the summit. We met no one on the way up as we passed the summit at about 3 miles. There was about an inch of snow in places and some ice but it was all manageable on the fairly level areas near the top. We started to head down the other side to make the loop but I noticed that going down was VERY slippery. Just a few hundred feet passed the summit is a spur trail to the left which gives views to the south but I was disappointed when we arrived as the views were mostly blocked by trees and obscured by the falling snow. Standing on the open stone ledge was very cold as the air temperature had dropped and the wind was blowing. At this point I decided we would abort the loop and return the way we had come. We headed back on the Devil’s Path and across the summit to the descent. The increasing amount of snow made me think about every step I took and every foot placement I made.

At the lookout toward Twin I noticed I could barely see the mountain. Just below this as I was trying to negotiate a downclimb, Sheila began to bark and advance on the trail. I called her back and saw another hiker coming up the mountain. I moved off to the side of the trail but he stopped for a moment. He was wearing Microspikes which I had avoided as they do not work well on rock. He said we had just come down Twin which I knew was a very steep descent. Hew was determined to continue his climb and passed us as we continued down. There were still a few more steep rock scrambles and I had a few close calls. By 1:45 PM we had hiked about 4.6 miles and were back at Pecoy Notch. We turned left off the Devil’s Path to take the Pecoy Notch Trail back down the mountain. This trail is not as steep as the areas on the Devil’s Path but the increasing amount of snow made the going slow. Eventually we crossed the small stream again and walked passed the beaver ponds. I stopped just Before Dibble’s Quarry and took some pictures of the piles of bluestone and the areas where it had been quarried. At Dibble’s Quarry we stopped again so that I could take pictures. This time the rocks were nearly covered in snow and Twin was barely visible. The valley below and Kaaterskill High Peak were completely invisible. I picked up my pack and we continued won the trail until Sheila alerted again. This tome two young men were hiking toward us. We said “Hello” and I warned them about the ascent of Sugarloaf. I have been a volunteer EMT for some time and think often in those terms. I hoped none of these hikers would take a fall! We continued down the Pecoy Notch Trail to the trail junction where we picked up the Roaring Kill Trail back to the car. We arrived at the car at 3:05 PM after hiking 6.1 miles in 5 hours. The elevation gain was 2100 feet. As I have said before, climbing the 35’s can be a humbling experience. The trip back was very slippery in places even though the road crews had advanced warning of the storm. The trickiest part was driving up the hill by the Giant Ledge and Panther Mountain parking area and trying to allow for the inexperienced drivers without winter tires or all-wheel drive!

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