Monday, July 21, 2014

Catskills 3500: the Wittenberg & Cornell Mountain

Almost immediately after my canoeing camping trip, visiting with college friends and running the boilermaker, I made plans to go hiking with my uncle the following Sunday. He knows me well enough to know that I love hiking new to me trails and suggested Wittenberg and Cornell mountains in the Catskills (both Catskills 3500 peaks). 

Come Sunday morning I had to take care of Marcy, my class guinea pigs, as well as a friends cat before meeting my uncle in Altamont. 

People with children: I don't know how you could ever get out of the house on time. Somehow I managed to get there within the agreed upon range, but it was likely because there is light traffic and limited police presence at 6am on a Sunday. 

The mountains we chose are considered to be in the southern region of the Catskills and took about 2 hours to get to the trail-head. We paid our 6 dollars for a parking fee (New York state campground - unsure if empire pass would have worked) and headed up the trail. 

There are a few major differences between the Adirondacks and Catskills- one being that the Catskills are more approachable, many trail heads starting straight from the road. This makes it easy to get to, but does make the hike steep quicker than ADK. Another differences is the rocks. So many rocks all the time. But I'll come back to that. 

We crossed a stream via bridge and immediate started climbing. The sign in box was 2 minutes up the trail, so my uncle and I speculated how often the rangers actually check it for a while on our hike. We also made many comments as to how our 6 dollars were being put to use.

We continued a steady climb for 30-45 minutes before it flattened out some with occasional switchbacks.  We ran into a handful of people panning on making a big traverse including two additional 3500ft mountains nearby. 
After 2 miles & change we came to a junction which marked the last mile (1.3 to be exact) to climb with roughly 1100 feet to still gain in elevation. There were some scrambles and traveling with dogs would have made  it tough

We reached the summit at about 12:30 and enjoyed a nice long lunch. We had the summit to ourselves and spent time soaking in the great view. 

NYC folks:  Here's your water source Ashokan Reservoir 

Around 1pm a couple showed up so we decided to make moves over to Cornell Mountain which was about .8 away. We were cruising and reached that summit in less than 30 minutes. Since there is no real clearing we stood around for just a few minutes before heading back to Wittenberg. 
view of Wittenberg from Cornell 

can you spot the rock hanging from a tree?
There were more people on whittenburg now, so we stopped and chatted. A few people from Albany & their dogs, and another couple that didn't engage in our conversation. One of the Albany folks is doing a 8day backpacking trip in ADk in a few weeks, I've been hoping for good weather for them in advance. After a nice rest we began our descent. 

Here is where all those rocks came to torture me. Because of the excessive rocks, my feet hurt. My boots do great in the Adirondacks where there is more woods, mud, roots and just overall variety. However, my boots lack the cushion needed to absorb the impact. The rocks also made our descent slow. Not having poles and no poor saplings to cling t,o limited my choices as to how to propel myself down the mountain.

 My uncle has a theory (which maybe he got from somewhere else) that the Catskills were
Once really mighty mountains and all the rocks on the lower parts are actually in fact the remains of the summits. I like to believe that's true if for no other reasons then it keeping me from hating rocks. (where that logic comes from is beyond me)

The weather was perfect and my uncle and I enjoyed the hike.  The view from Wittenberg is beautiful and overall an enjoyable day. I was surprised however, how tired my legs were when I got home, they ached more than after hiking Haystack, Basin & Saddleback which was twice the length.  It's a reminder that with hiking, just like running somedays are just like that.  

the Wittenberg (3780) Ranked # 14
Cornell Mountain (3860) Ranked # 9

Mileage: 8.85 (according to catskillmountaineer)

Time: 7 hours 

Gear Used: Asolos, Smartwool socks, St. Johns Bay Shorts ( not a fan, became too loose), Dueter bag, Hydroflask (40oz & 32oz) 

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