Notes on some of the other Catskills hikes that took place this month, with a special focus on views, birds, and battling the last remnants of snow and ice…
The Grid has turned into The Grind. Last year I was busy with a high-pressure job, and every Catskills weekend was a chance to escape the office and leave behind the rigors of the corporate world. What I recall most about last year’s mountain adventures is exhilaration and joy. Now I’m between jobs and have all the time in the world. But hiking in the mountains is morphing into work.
This is partly because of the commitment I’ve made to completing the Grid’s remaining ~100 peaks in 2018, rather than letting even a handful slip to next year. The commitment is questionable, perhaps it’s insane, maybe I just haven’t freed myself of the sense of urgency and focus on results learned over a career in finance and before that the military. In this regard, I am my own worst enemy.
The winter is also my enemy. Someone inquired, if I was going to take some time off from the corporate world, why not do so during the summer, instead of the winter? (The timing of these things is often outside ones control.)
True, the Mountains served up a gift in February, with the last few days of the month featuring beautiful warm temperatures, as high as 60 F, enough to melt most of the snow and let me scamper unhindered across the ridges. But now it’s payback time: March opened with two serious nor’easters, three to four feet of accumulated snow, and a return to freezing temperatures.
Half-way through the month, I’ve endured some of the toughest and most miserable hikes of my Catskills career, and while I’ve completed seven peaks so far, there are nine left to go.
And as I write this post, it’s snowing yet again….
But the worst enemy you can meet will always be yourself; you ambush yourself in caverns and forests.
“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…
With a Nor’easter blowing in, it was touch and go, but I managed just barely to complete the Grid for October, and along the way was the chance to explore some off-trail ridges. These are magical places that make you feel like you’re walking across a suspension bridge, or the battlements of a castle. They give you a break from the claustrophobic tangles that blanket much of the Catskills, reveal the wild and soaring topography of the mountains, let you revel in space and light.
With 232 Catskill climbs under my belt, I’m 55% of the way through the Grid. I wasn’t able to put much of a dent in September, only 43% complete — there were too many conflicts, like the SRT Race and and a trip to the Adirondacks — but October is coming together nicely with 74% done and plenty of time left in the month.
Here are a few notes from recent hikes, the purpose being to document the experiences before they’re forgotten…. Continue reading “Random Notes – Fall 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:
Henry David Thoreau, transcendentalist philosopher and author of Walden, wrote an essay on the colors of fall foliage. But what about the colors of winter? With this question in mind, I set the alarm for 5:30 AM and went to bed early. Tomorrow’s agenda would be to climb four of the Catskill high peaks with the goal of making progress toward the Catskill 3500 Club winter patch, as well as the Grid. And perhaps I’d see or learn something along the way that would help me better appreciate the winter mountain landscape.
The goal was five more of the Catskills’ high peaks on one of the last weekends before winter, part of a quixotic mission to summit all 35 hiking barefoot. Odie and I piled into the car right after breakfast, and the drive to Windham went smoothly — except for route 23, where we had to stop at three traffic lights in a row, which sorely tested my patience, and then navigate a construction zone with a needlessly restrictive speed limit.
Yet once out of the car and on the trail, these frustrations vanished quickly. The path to Windham High Peak was a delight: smooth dirt at a moderate grade — a rarity in the rocky rugged Catskills — and I moved almost as quickly barefoot as I would have in shoes. From the summit, we looked south at the distinctive silhouette of the Blackhead range, which Odie and I had climbed just a few weeks earlier. Back then, we had marveled in the details: traversing three peaks and three notches, experiencing scrambles, slabs, and sometimes smooth trail, and discovering different plants and trees with each step along the way. Now for the first time, we got the big picture.