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 ADK's Lower Great Range Traverse - 7/19 & 7/20 
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 ADK's Lower Great Range Traverse - 7/19 & 7/20
My bear can has been gathering dust for a while now so when my friend called and said he couldn't hike again until October, well, I just had to go! So Saturday afternoon, after he got stuck in traffic coming from Boston, we left Exeter at two o'clock and headed for the Empire State. After dinner and a couple beers in Middlebury, Vermont to carb load we finished off the 5 hour ride, arriving at dusk, signing in and hitting the trail around 9 PM.

Our route for the traverse of the Lower Great Range. 16.3 miles w/ 5000 feet of gain
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Signing in at dusk to start the hike
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The Great Range is the ADK equivalent of the Presi's in NH and is the highest most rugged stretch of real estate in the Adirondacks. We decided on a Lower Great Range traverse, hiking over five 4000 foot peaks, at least three of which for added fun have double humped summits. This hike starts off with a 4 mile walk on a private dirt road owned by the Ausable Club, which as near as I can tell is a private club for millionaires that owns 70,000 acres including a lake, cabins, golf course and a huge hotel-ish looking clubhouse and restaurant. They are nice enough to allow access to their road for foot traffic to get to some of the hiking trails in the area. It was dark so there wasn't much to see as we climbed 700 feet gradually before getting to the actual trail around 10:30.

Not much to see other than signs when hiking it at night
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The Weld Trail starts it's climb up Pyramid Peak and Gothics Mountain by crossing a river on a long bridge, and then passes Rainbow Falls, a 125 foot drop that we could only hear, and after that it wastes no time going up. Over the next 2.3 miles it climbs 2700 feet, and without much to see we made pretty quick work of it, scrambling up a rock slide that supposedly has a nice view and finishing off the rough climb to the summit of Pyramid in about two hours. We were hoping to see the stars but it was overcast so we retreated back down the mountain a ways searching for a suitable place to take a nap in out hammocks. Eventually we found one and let the wind rock us to sleep.

Night time scrambling
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It would have to be a pretty ambitious bear to get up this high but we stashed our food to be safe and legal
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4 hours later my friend woke me up and we folded up the hammocks and headed back up to the summit to watch the sunrise. Pyramid Peak is kind of like Guyot in NH. It is 4600 feet high but too close to it's neighbor, even though it has a saddle, to be a 46er according to their criteria. What it does have the distinction of is being home to what most consider the single best viewpoint in the Adirondacks, so as we popped out on the summit ledges at sunrise we were greeted with an amazing sight! The Great Range is both laid out before you but smack in your face, and in the early morning light it was almost like a religious experience to watch the orange glow and shadows cast about on this spectacular range of mountains. Now I haven't seen all of the Adirondacks, but I've hiked about 1/4 of their 4000 footers/46ers and I've hiked the rest of the Northeast 111, and I don't think I'm exaggerating to say that this is indeed one of, if not the best, single viewpoint around. Katahdin from Pamola Peak or maybe the view from Mt Clay of the Great Gulf and Northern Presi's can give it a run for it's money, but other than those two not much even comes close IMO. It was just awesome, and in the morning light it was hypnotic. I just stood in awe watching the lighting change and taking pictures for about 45 minutes while munching on Blueberry Crisp Cliff bars for breakfast.

Sun rising to the east
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Lower Great Range at sunrise
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First rays of the day hitting Mt. Marcy and the Upper Great Range
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More sunlight
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It was hard to leave the best view in the Dak's from Pyramid Peak behind, so watched the show a bit longer
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Next up was to summit Gothics
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After that we dropped steeply down a couple hundred feet before climbing just as steeply up to the summit ledges of Gothics. The trail wraps around the side of the mountain on the ledges that plummet 1000 feet into the valley, providing more spectacular views that take your mind off the climb and before you know it you're at 4736 feet atop the 10th highest mountain in the Adirondacks. we had breakfast there and took another extended break to look around and try and familiarize ourselves with the surrounding peaks from this spectacular spot. It's many peoples favorite summit and is often crowded even though it's almost 7 miles to get there, but thanks to the early arrival we had it all to ourselves.

Where's Waldo??
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Looking back at Pyramid
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Hitting the open upper ledges of Gothics gave more great views
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Yours truly enjoying the views from the summit
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We was here
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One we were moving again we followed the Great Range Trail down a few hundred feet before climbing another 200 up to the summit of Armstrong Mountain, which at 4400 feet ranks it 22nd among the 46ers, and just like it's neighbor provides amazing views.

Armstrong and UWJ ahead
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Trail was like a sidewalk along the ridge in spots
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The ridge we followed to get to Armstrong
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Armstrong's amazing view
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After that the trail got really rough, with dozens and dozens of small ledgy scrambles and drops 6-20 feet high. You won't come home clean from a hike of the Great Range for sure. You and your clothes will be filthy by the time your done with all the scrambles and slides, but it's a ton of fun too. Footing isn't as rough as the whites with a lot of ledge and dirt and roots but there's a whole lot more hands on climbing than most trails in NH. But after about a mile of this you climb another 300 feet and hit the summit of Upper Wolf Jaw, which is ranked 29th on the list and stands 4185 feet tall. Another nice view ledge on top gives 180 degree views in the opposite direction the others did which was nice for a change. Another soak in the sun and we headed off for the last summit of the day.

Descending Armstrong was much steeper/rougher than the previous trail section with lots of ledges and scrambles
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Even had a ladder
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Looking back at Armstrong from UWJ
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Getting in a little R&R before tackling LWJ (in the background)
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The drop in between the Wolf Jaws was the last of our day, but it was a good 700 feet down and back up again, and very rough. Once you hit the bottom of the col it's .5 miles and 700 feet up to the summit of Lower Wolfjaw, where there are restricted views in a couple spots. we took our last break of the day there, lunch we'll call it, consisting of Snickers bars, Reese's PB cups and beef jerky.

Steep rough descent made quick work of the 700 foot drop between the peaks
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Lower Wolf Jaw ahead of us
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.5 miles but 700 feet to go
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Most of that 700 feet looked like this
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VFTT
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We made our exit from the Great Range there, taking the somebody White trail down. The trail started with a climb of the second summit and a nice wooded ridge top walk before descending gradually, climbing down a very steep and rough gully and continuing along to the bottom of the mountain. There wasn't much for scenery or excitement but the footing was amazing, soft earth and pine needles most of the way, which while boring was just what the doctor ordered for our knees on the tail end of this rugged hike. Only one area of switchbacks in the whole 4.5 miles and we were taken easily back to the Ausable Club, where we signed out and walked the final .6 miles back to the hiker parking lot.

One steep 50 foot gully along the way required some butt sliding and veggie holds
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A second bonus summit was our last real up of the day
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After that it was smooth sailing and gentle on the joints
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Not much of note other than one last view of Giant Mountain across the valley
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Over the river and through the woods, to the Ausable Club we go...
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This was an amazing hike. One of my favorites I've ever done. The scenery was jaw dropping, the trails were rugged and fun, and the sunrise was spectacular to watch from up there. Kind of long but not terrible, and about the equivalent of a Bonds Traverse, with easy beginning and ends and lots of climbing in the middle. 16.3 miles and 5000 feet of elevation to be exact, but 2900 of it on the 2.7 miles from the road to Gothics. Another 700 on the road walk, 1300 along the Great Range's ridge in the forms of ups and down over the 5 summits, and one last 100 foot up on the exit trail to gain a final view. There's not much in the way of water and we both brought 4L with us, but wished we'd brought 5. I would love to do this one again some day, probably by climbing up the other side of Gothics on the cables route. But that was more than enough for that day and 24 hours after starting out we were in the car again and on our way home.


Last edited by Granite Guy on Wed Jul 23, 2014 6:34 am, edited 1 time in total.



Wed Jul 23, 2014 4:54 am
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Dam GG! Did you have your camera side ways here? :lol: That's steep!

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Wed Jul 23, 2014 5:43 am
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Great stuff GG, the range looks amazing and quite different than the Whites.
Fantastic photos as always. Nice job

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Wed Jul 23, 2014 5:55 am
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What a nice trip. Camping out there over night must make the following day so much easier. Time to start some research out In NY. looks like quite the stunning area.


Wed Jul 23, 2014 6:13 am
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Another one of your TR's that make me say, WOW! Amazing pictures!

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Wed Jul 23, 2014 6:14 am
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500 ft of gain in 16 miles? Even I could handle that. :wink:

And what's with all this night hiking on this board?

Great trip!


Wed Jul 23, 2014 6:17 am
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Me likey. I gotta head out there one of these days... my fear being once I start them...

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Wed Jul 23, 2014 6:31 am
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 Re: ADK's Lower Great Range Traverse - 7/19 & 7/20
Granite Guy wrote:

It was hard to leave the best view in the Dak's from Pyramid Peak behind, so watched the show a bit longer
Image



This one may have finally put me into, plan a trip to the Adirondacks mode. Breath taking.

That looks like one rugged hike though.

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Wed Jul 23, 2014 7:02 am
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 Re: ADK's Lower Great Range Traverse - 7/19 & 7/20
Petch wrote:
the range looks amazing and quite different than the Whites.


It's an interesting change of scenery and trail conditions for sure. You should go try the Great Range Traverse (25 miles/11000 feet of elevation) while you're still in super-hike mode. It actually ranked right behind the Pemi Loop (at #'s 3 & 2) of Americas hardest day hike in Backpacker magazine.

thegibba wrote:
Camping out there over night must make the following day so much easier.


In a way. Only having 10 miles and 2000 feet of climbing was nice. The 35 lb pack...not so much.

wp_hiker2 wrote:
500 ft of gain in 16 miles? Even I could handle that. :wink:

And what's with all this night hiking on this board?


Yeah. Much easier than it looks! :D That's what I get for doing a TR at 5 AM. :oops:

bikehikeskifish wrote:
Me likey. I gotta head out there one of these days... my fear being once I start them...


Yep. One you pop you can't stop sort of thing. But since you've done the HH the driving is similar in time to many of those depending on where you start from, and much more enjoyable IMO. We've found some nice places to stop for a bite too along the way.

JustJoe wrote:
This one may have finally put me into, plan a trip to the Adirondacks mode. Breath taking.

That looks like one rugged hike though.


Very rugged stretches with dozens of scrambles mixed with much easier soft earthy ones. Different than the whites where footing is almost always rougher but scrambles are fewer. For you (and other avid hikers) this would make a great starter hike to see what the place is all about. or Iroquois, Algonquin and Wright.

http://forum.hike-nh.com/viewtopic.php?t=6644

Both are stunning hikes. Marcy is the biggest but not really representative of what the place is all about IMO but fun in winter.


Wed Jul 23, 2014 7:29 am
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WOW :shock: That is something. I told husband that I almost think it is better than what we have here, maybe because I've been staring at the whites my whole life, but really, those pics are like candy, I'm sure you have 1500 more or so you could share from your trip 8)

Looks like you really have had a great year for peakbagging and incredible viewscapes, Acadia to NY, quite impressive. I think it would be cool if in retirement you could just camp out there for the summer and hike, hike, hike your brains out. How could you get sick of views like that!

At least you put some of the mileage and elevation gain under you the night before. How cool to have a sunrise on one of the most popular peaks with nobody in sight, very, very cool GG.


Wed Jul 23, 2014 8:47 am
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hiking lady wrote:
WOW :shock: That is something. I told husband that I almost think it is better than what we have here, maybe because I've been staring at the whites my whole life, but really, those pics are like candy, I'm sure you have 1500 more or so you could share from your trip 8)


I kind of feel the same way but it might be for the same reason. I'll leave it at the High Peaks region is spectacular, but then so are much of the Whites.

And I usually don't link my albums, figuring the amount of pictures I take is a bit much, but since you brought it up there are a few (hundred) more, knock yourself out! :D All my stuff is public anyhow.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/104458316@N08/sets/72157645821085451/

hiking lady wrote:
Looks like you really have had a great year for peakbagging and incredible viewscapes, Acadia to NY, quite impressive. I think it would be cool if in retirement you could just camp out there for the summer and hike, hike, hike your brains out. How could you get sick of views like that!


It's been a fun year for sure, and it's only half over! Something other than NH is always nice in my book, as I'm sure when the girls can handle it we'll be spending plenty of time on the 4K's as a family. So for now a change of scenery just makes me appreciate good ol' NH that much more when I hike here.

hiking lady wrote:
At least you put some of the mileage and elevation gain under you the night before. How cool to have a sunrise on one of the most popular peaks with nobody in sight, very, very cool GG.


Yep. Love a good quiet sunrise hike. Easily my favorite time of day, and having it to ourselves was awesome. having 6+ miles and 3500 feet of elevation behind us was nice too. It also meant we didn't have to get home at midnight like we've done a few times before and only saw a dozen other people on the hike.


Wed Jul 23, 2014 10:03 am
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PLEASE, LORD, FIX MY BACK SO IT NEVER GOES OUT AGAIN!

I'm not exaggerating when I say those are the finest sunrise photos I have seen! And sunrise is nice, because I'm not trying to get home in time to get a few hrs of sleep before going to work.

How long is a normal drive to the Daks for you?


Wed Jul 23, 2014 10:54 am
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Awesome...thanks for planning a long weekend for me (next year)! :D


Wed Jul 23, 2014 11:21 am
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Thanks Beckie. Funny thing is the sunrise itself wasn't all that colorful or exciting, but I barely looked in that direction for once since it wasn't the star of the show this time! :D

The drive is 4:31 minutes according to Google maps to Keene Valley, which is the gateway to the High peaks area. We regularly do it in 4:15 (drive time) with a stop for gas and have made it home in 4 flat with no stops (must have been a tail wind) and it's an extra 20 min to Lake Placid. But I mean it when I say it goes by fast and is very scenic through the Green Mtns and along lake Champlain, and interesting, to me at least. Those little towns of Vermont and NY are a little slice of Americana that's fading away fast. It's almost like driving Route 66 and I actually look forward to it, well, as much as you can look forward to a 4 hour ride. The drive to most of the Maine peaks was much more boring (except Baxter maybe) and seemed to drag on forever in comparrison.


Wed Jul 23, 2014 11:51 am
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Awesome! Those photos are fantastic! I really wanna get back out there...


Wed Jul 23, 2014 4:38 pm
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