Back to the Cats: Completing the February Grid

“There’s no rush.”  Wise people counsel patience when I explain I’m trying to complete the Grid for the Catskill High Peaks, an obscure project that entails climbing the thirty-five peaks in each calendar month.  But the project is important to me, and I feel a sense of urgency to get it done.

February has been weighing on my mind.  To start with, it’s a month of challenging conditions — and not surprisingly, my log shows I’ve tended to steer clear of the Catskills during February:  only fifteen of the high peaks are complete, which means there are twenty to go.  That would be a lot for a full month, but with a trip to New Zealand scheduled for the first half of February, those twenty peaks will need to be climbed when I return, that is, within a two-week period, of which, after subtracting various commitments and appointments, only a handful of days is available.

Some nights I lie awake, reviewing different approaches for each of the twenty peaks, trying to devise the most efficient routes to get them done in the available time.  Be safe, I remind myself, it’d be fine to finish off February next year — but then I go back to calculating how to pull this off — and wondering whether I have the strength to do so —  and feeling vaguely uneasy.

And now the plane from New Zealand is touching down at JFK, and here I am back in New York…

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Back to the Cats: Completing the February Grid

In the Beech

The fall foliage this year has disappointed, possibly due to warm temperatures persisting into late October, but on the drive up to the Catskills, the maples growing high atop the  Shawangunk ridge were glowing in such exotic shades of yellow, orange, and red — and creating such a kaleidoscopic effect that it took a conscious effort to focus on the winding road.

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In the Beech

Notes from Recent Catskill Hikes

Half-way through July, and I’ve completed just over half of the Catskill high peaks, many at night due to limited windows of opportunity during the day, but the rest of the month is tighter, and time is running out.  The Grid has become a burden, and I feel a little like Sisyphus, doomed to push a rock up the mountain only to see it rolling back down again.  But without burdens, life would be unbearably light, which is why Camus wrote that one must imagine Sisyphus happy.

Without enough time to write full articles on each climb, here are some notes from recent hikes, mostly for my own purposes in keeping track of the Grid Experience:

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Notes from Recent Catskill Hikes

First-ever Winter Bushwhacks

On the drive up to the Catskills, the early morning clouds were tinged with red, and then as the road snaked higher into the mountains, a burning eyeball appeared in the rear view mirror, a circle of fire smoldering between mountain ridge and lowering sky; it was like someone had opened a furnace door.  But on reaching the trailhead, all was gray again, and snowflakes were twirling in the air.

A few minutes later, my friend Amy arrived.  Her friend Serguey was supposed to meet us, too, but he was running late and had texted her not to wait, so the two of us set off.  My weekend goal was to bag six peaks, four of them off trail, and these would be first-ever winter bushwhacks for both Amy and me…

[Author’s note:  after writing this blog post, I recalled that my first ever winter bushwhack was almost a year earlier, when some friends and I attempted to complete the Nine.]

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First-ever Winter Bushwhacks

Seven Miles to Doubletop

Spring had arrived early, it was quiet at work, and so I made plans to take Friday off and head to the Catskills, with the goal of bagging two or maybe three more mountains in my quest to hike all thirty-five of the highest peaks barefoot.  The forecast called for temperatures in the 50s, reports indicated that all the ice was gone, and the 90% chance of rain seemed only a minor consideration.  How could a person not want to be in the woods on a day like this?  And what about a dog?  Feeling in good spirits Friday morning, I hopped out of bed, gave a shout for Odie the Labradoodle — and off we went, arriving in due course at the Seager trailhead deep in the western Catskills.

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Seven Miles to Doubletop