Today was a first - a "girls only" hike. Hiking Buddy and I were joined by her 11-year-old daughter and a teenage family friend. Hubby had done this peak already with the older kids and cautioned that, while not very difficult, it is steep right from the beginning.
And with those words of wisdom, we planned our route. There are three ways to approach Giant - the longest is from Route 9 near the town of New Russia and involves climbing over Bald Peak and Rocky Peak Ridge, another High Peak. If you don't have a second car waiting at Route 73, it also means making the long hike back over those mountains to Route 9. Another ascent is via the Roaring Brook Trail. The third looked to be the best to us so we chose the Ridge Trail off Route 73.
We began our hike at 8 a.m. on this clear and breezy day. The 12th highest Peak awaited our girl group. Hubby wasn't kidding about the immediacy of the pitch. We started climbing before we even signed in at the register! It didn't really feel like it was ever going to flatten out, but it did around the area of the Washbowl, a small pond on the south slope of the mountain. We hadn't even gone a mile at this point and rain was predicted for later in the day so we kept moving. We skipped a side trail to the Nubble as well.
We did stop for a short break at a scenic spot overlooking Chapel Pond. Chapel Pond is along Route 73 and ringed with white birch which sets it off from the surrounding woods. It's particularly beautiful in the fall.
Next we came to a section of switchbacks which made the climbing easier, but not for too long! There is a lot of rock on Giant and we continued to navigate it. It's not scary rock climbing and the route is clearly marked with yellow blazes and cairns. One somber part of the hike was a wooden cross to the left of the trail. We found out later that a teenage boy hiking with a camp group had died here after suffering a heart attack or stroke. His family put up the cross.
Eventually we came to a small junction marked with a wooden pole and sign. At this point we could have gone straight or around to the left and up, the route we chose. We kept thinking we were looking at the summit... and then we kept going. When we got to the sign that marked the path over to Rocky Peak Ridge, we were only .2 of a mile from Giant's summit.
When we reached the summit we were pretty sweaty and it was very windy so we were chilled. I found a spot just off the summit that was sheltered by rock and ate lunch here. Out of the wind it was actually quite nice.
After lunch I ventured back out into the wind to walk along the summit ridge for more expansive views. To the southwest, you can see the Great Range with the Ausable Club's golf course in the foreground.
We took our requisite summit photo and got a little goofy with a sign I had picked up at a rest stop along the Northway. We were the only people on the summit for most of the time we were there. Once we started our descent, it started to sprinkle but it didn't last long. We met some hikers coming from RPR and asked how hard it would be to hike over and back. They informed us it was a pretty steep descent to the col between the peaks, a fairly steep ascent up RPR and then we'd have to return! We decided RPR would wait for another day as our legs were getting tired.
We took our time going down the bare rock. Sometimes going down can be trickier than the climb up. Also, the youngest member of our group took a little spill on one of the slides and left some skin behind.
We were back to our car by 2 p.m. The route we took is 6 miles round trip so we averaged one mph (including the time we spent at the top) to climb the 4,626 ft peak, also called the "Giant of the Valley" because of the way it overlooks Keene Valley. A highlight of the day for us was getting a shout out from another all-female hiking group for "girl power"!
And on 7/19/12 with Rocky Peak Ridge...
Youngest son is playing catch up as he's a few peaks behind me in our quest to reach 46, so I decided today would be a good day to hike Giant and RPR with him. It was an absolutely gorgeous day in the mountains with low temps to start, bright sun and very little humidity. Because I've already done a trip report, albeit for Giant by itself, I will give a very "clinical" report below. One comment I will make is that this is one trip that has a lot of sun exposure so if you never apply sunscreen when you hike, this might be the one time you'll want to make an exception.
7:08 a.m. - Signed in for the Ridge Trail off Route 73. It was 58 degrees
7:41 - 1st rock rest area with a view of Chapel Pond. We had already peeled off our sweatshirts!
About 3 minutes later - at the Washbowl
8:03 - we've completed a mile, as indicated by the sign on the fork toward the Nubble (we didn't take it). The climbing resumes in earnest until a series of switchbacks
8:35 - another scenic spot on the rocks to take a break, enjoy the view and the day, and grab a granola bar
9:14 - very VERY faded sign pointing left to go around the "bump" or right to go over. We went left.
9:34 - The Roaring Brook trail came in from the left; .7 miles to go, on a mix of climbing and flat trail
10:17 - split to RPR trail; .1 to Giant's summit
10:22 - Summit! Chilled for about 30 minutes and headed back down
11 a.m. - back at the split to RPR
11:35 - in the col after a descent that tests old knees
12:12 - Mom summits RPR; son has been waiting about 10 minutes
1 p.m. - leave the gorgeous, wildly underrated summit of RPR
1:24 - col
2:11 - back on the Ridge Trail on Giant and break time. The trail down the back side of Giant is grueling (both ways). The trail up RPR is not bad at all. I've now done RPR both ways; as a through hike to Giant from New Russia and over and back from Giant.
2:30 - begin the final descent down Giant
3 p.m. - junction with Roaring Brook trail
4:08 - at the Washbowl
4:43 - out; we did slow up a bit from the Washbowl out because we met a few other hikers and were enjoying a lively political discussion that none of us really wanted to end!
Overall a fantastic day in the woods!