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TRIP REPORT: Busy day on Rocky and Giant
February 19, 2012 - Morgan Ryan
Up and down and up and down and up and down and out. That was the story of the day.
We left the Roaring Brook trailhead at 9:30 in the morning and almost immediately started climbing on the way to Giant Mountain. Any question we had of whether or not to bring snowshoes was answered quickly as we walked through sections of dirt and rocks interspersed with icy patches. Microspikes would be just fine for this hike.
The trail was mostly brown until we hit the Giant’s Nubble junction at about the mile mark. It was more like a chilly mid-November hike than what you would expect on Feb. 18. Just as the trail turned to white with a thin layer of snow covering the icy ground, it started to get steep.
The sun came out several times during the initial climb up the mountain. At one point I thought that maybe it was a bad move leaving my sunglasses in the car. Sun reflecting off the white snow into your eyes can be quite uncomfortable.
After almost three hours of uphill hiking, we reached the junction with the Rocky Peak Ridge trail. The views were incredible from there, with mountains stretched out for miles and miles. Around the corner, Lake Champlain was in sight. Our intended destination for the day was Rocky Peak Ridge, but with the top of Giant just one-tenth of a mile away it’s a no-brainer to at least check it out.
As we came down off Giant to begin our trek over to Rocky Peak, the wind picked up and clouds started to roll in.
It’s only 1.2 miles from the Roaring Brook Trail to the top of Rocky, but it’s not an easy 1.2 by any means. The first part is very steep going down, which is discouraging when you realize how much elevation you‘re losing in a short amount of time. You know you’re going to have to climb right back up this section on the return leg of the out-and-back. This is where the down and up and down and up comes into play.
Snow squalls turned into a legitimate snowstorm (haven’t seen one of those in a while) as we hiked between the two mountains. Snowflakes and everything.
We had the summit of Rocky Peak Ridge all to ourselves at first. The heavy clouds prevented us from getting much of a view, but I remembered my first time on the mountain in June 2005 when I was in awe of the 360-degree panorama. On Saturday, we didn’t see much more than Bald Peak along the ridge and the many slides on Giant in the other direction. What was clear was how far down and back up we were going to have to travel to get back to the Roaring Brook trail.
Just as we were getting comfortable at the oversized cairn on top of Rocky Peak, we heard voices coming our way. It was a man and a woman at first. Then another two guys. Then a couple more women. Then a bunch more guys. By the time the whole group had filed in, we were on the mountain with 16 other people. They were a chatty bunch too. They told us they were a hiking group from New York City, doing a point-to-point hike from Route 9N to Route 73.
Uggh. I wasn’t expecting this many people up there. We left soon after they arrived, and they weren't far behind. We were all headed in the same direction. It’s definitely a different experience being on the trail with so many other people.
We went down into the V then back up to the Roaring Brook trail. We took a short break there then headed down the mountain and back to the car. We reached the parking lot around 5:30, just as it was getting dark.
There were still several people on the trail - not including the 16-person group - as we pulled away. I sure hope everyone had flashlights with them as they navigated the slippery ice on the way down because darkness was definitely setting in.
Total distance traveled: 9.6 miles
Giant of the Valley
Order of height: 12
Rocky Peak Ridge
Order of height: 20
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Nice views on the way up Giant Mountain.