Five of us met at Market 32 in South Burlington at 6:00 AM for the ninety minute drive over to St. Huberts, NY to hike Dial and Nippletop Mountains. En route we picked up one hiker in Addison before meeting up with two others at the parking lot. After preparing our gear we were on the trail by 8:00 AM.
We made quick work of the first 2.5 miles as they were a relatively easy walk along the Ausable Club road from the lot to the Gill Brook Trail. We were fully expecting the trail to not be broken out after the large storm a few days previously so were pleasantly surprised to find it was broken.
We headed up the trail alongside Gill Brook but after just a half mile or so we encountered a few slowly moving hikers. It was immediately evident that they were actively breaking the trail. They were very happy to see our larger group as it meant more feet to stomp the path up. Our groups temporarily merged for the common goal of breaking the trail out to the summit. Twelve of us ended up in a hiking conga line slowly beating a path upward. At times we came to some dead stops while the front of the group was pushing up, other times we had better momentum. At one point with Liana and Chris in front of the group we were just noses down trying to get through the increasingly deep snow and made a wrong turn. We were on the path to Colvin and Blake! So we had to turn back to find the correct route (The snow depth was so great that many signs and trail markers were at ankle level or just completely buried).
We continued to Elk Pass which is the final col before the very steep ascent up to Nippletop. We took a quick break here and then headed up (all members of the other groups stayed behind for a bit (to take advantage of our trail breaking!)
Over the next 0.7 miles we would gain approximately 1200 feet of vertical. We would also lose the trail periodically and have to reassess our position. The snow got deeper and deeper and we learned that having a couple of the lighter members of our group up front didn’t help all that much as they weren’t breaking the trail – they were just walking on top of the crust! That all said, we did eventually forge a path and break through the tree line to the turn off for the summit ridge and we made our way.
We arrived on the summit at 1:45 PM to some excellent views of Giant Mountain and Rocky Ridge Peak on one side, Dial behind us, Colvin and Blake in the lower foreground and the Great Range to the rear. While taking some time for the views and some much needed lunch I told the group that I didn’t think the planned loop to Dial (and Bear Den) would be a good idea today. We’d still have around 5 miles of hard trail breaking and it was already 2:00. Additionally, we’d expelled quite a bit of energy reaching the summit so we were not going to be in top form. There were no objections (at least not vocally) so we began our descent.
The descent was generally uneventful since we had a very nicely broken trail to follow down. But during one moment of hypoglycemia induced rage from the group we made quick work of the bag of cookies offered by Michael. Many of us were willing to pay large sums for a single cookie at that point as the return hike was feeling pretty long after the difficult ascent.
The day wasn’t without other drama though. We had sticks in the eye and branches poking us all day long due to the trail having several feet of snow pack on it. And at least three of us fell in spruce traps at various points (some of us more than once!) requiring assists to extricate ourselves.
We all arrived back at our cars at 6:00 PM – ten hours and thirteen miles after we departed in the morning. After packing up the gear we said our goodbyes and made our way back to Vermont for some seriously needed rest.
Despite the challenges, this was a strong group of hikers and I think we all had a pretty good time on this Adirondack outing.
Participants: Julie Cimonetti, Liana Edwards, Jill George , Michael Mortelliti, Andrew Julow, Corinn Julow, Clayton Cameron and Chris Luczynski (Trip Leader)