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  1. #1
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    Default Northern 100 miles vs. Catskills

    I've been spending a lot of time hiking in the Catskills prepping for the LT, and I'm wondering how the two compare in terms of difficulty, terrain, etc. I haven't done Devil's Path yet but I finished the Escarpment Trail, Slide-Cornell-Wittenberg (with Phoenicia East to make a loop), and now Black Dome Mountain trail. Probably the toughest hiking I've done so far, with most peaks around 3900' and rock scrambles everywhere. Could one expect to hike at roughly the same pace in both places, or is the northern LT going to be considerably tougher?

    I did Camel's Hump as a dayhike a few years ago and don't remember it being as rocky as the Catskills, but I might be wrong.

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    The terrain isn't all that difficult. If you've done rock scrambling and have already experienced Camels Hump (difficulty is over-hyped imo) then you'll be fine The mental aspect of being in a green tunnel for the majority of the trail was the most difficult aspect for me.

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    Are you doing the Cats with a full pack, properly weighted and equipped to stay a few nights out as you would on the LT? If not you are really missing part of the training, getting to know your gear as you would use it. Personally I would rather do the training on the easier sections of the AT, with full gear and overnights then day hiking the Cats.

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    There's a certain level of difficulty beyond which a trail is no longer a hiking trail, but a climbing route.

    The slab on the east side of Slide, the Cornell Crack, and the scrambles surrounding the viewpoint ledge on Black Dome are very close to that edge. Devil's Path is only fractionally harder (I won't do the west side of Sugarloaf in winter without a rope - I likely won't need it, but if the ice is bad, I definitely will!), and likewise for the Long Trail.

    You might find the LT different - not harder - because the scrambles tend to lower-angle but the rock isn't nearly as grippy.

    Both are harder than any of the scrambling on the AT, with the possible exception of Mahoosuc Notch and Katahdin, or Beaver Brook before they built the steps. Thomas Cole-Black Dome-Blackhead, or Wittenberg-Cornell-Slide, or Plateau-Sugarloaf-Twin-Indian Head are good prep for virtually any mountain hiking in the East.

    Shoot me a PM when you get back from the LT. I've still got six trailless peaks to go in the Catskills, I'm always hard up for hiking partners, and I don't bushwhack solo. (I'm comfortable with leading, and even teaching as I go.) Assuming you can stand a slowpoke. From what you're writing, you're well on your way to the 35.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Another Kevin View Post
    Shoot me a PM when you get back from the LT. I've still got six trailless peaks to go in the Catskills, I'm always hard up for hiking partners, and I don't bushwhack solo. (I'm comfortable with leading, and even teaching as I go.) Assuming you can stand a slowpoke. From what you're writing, you're well on your way to the 35.
    I don't want to hijack a thread but are "trailless" peaks in the Catskills equivalent to trailless peaks in the ADKs? If so, just do them on weekends... you won't be alone. If you insist on company...

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    Quote Originally Posted by Deadeye View Post
    I don't want to hijack a thread but are "trailless" peaks in the Catskills equivalent to trailless peaks in the ADKs? If so, just do them on weekends... you won't be alone. If you insist on company...
    Sarcasm the elf and I did four over a three-day summer weekend a couple or three years ago, and didn't see anybody. The 35's aren't as popular as the 46's. Although it's a crapshoot. I found Blackhead downright crowded once in a five-foot snowpack! (There was a big Meetup group, plus the obligatory busload of Koreans. And it was the first day of winter, and a lot of people were trying to knock it out before the weather got any worse.)

    All of the 'trailless' 46 have unmaintained paths. I actually would solo most of the 'trailless' 46's. I might draw the line somewhere short of Allen because that one is a long slog. I don't get up to the High Peaks all that often, for various good and not-so-good reasons.

    In the Catskills (some of this is secondhand, take it with a grain of salt):

    Kaaterskill High Peak, Bearpen, Vly, Southwest Hunter and Graham have well established unmarked trails (and of those, only Vly and SW Hunter have canisters).

    Big Indian inexplicably has a canister, even though it's right off a trail. It makes no sense to me that Big Indian has a canister while Eagle doesn't..

    North Dome has an established unmarked trail, but most of the trail is on posted land, and they don't welcome hikers. (Understandable, they're a summer camp and there are kids about.). It's good to do North Dome with someone that's been there before because getting around the cliffs can be tricky. I was glad to have a companion who knew the way when I did it. It's better on snowshoes if you aren't using the trail, because the nettles are awful - I've heard the col between North Dome and St Anne called the Field of Screams.

    Rusk, Sherrill, Halcott, Doubletop, Fir, Lone, Rocky, Balsam Cap, Friday all involve pushing through spruce, circling ledges to find a spot to scramble, and similar joys.They have faint herd paths near the summits, but you surely can't follow them the whole way. (Lone, BC, Friday also have some well defined herd paths at the breaks in the ledges - when there's only one good spot to scramble, the hikers beat a path) Fir is in mostly open forest with a number of good approaches, so there aren't beaten paths in any direction (or so I hear). Rusk has a pretty clear path from the east along the ridge. That isn't how I went up - I started from the hairpin turn in Ox Hollow and bashed north through a sea of nettles and prickers. I used the path on the way down, but lost it in a pile of blowdown from Irene, and dropped off the ridge into a maze of ledges. That's the only time in the last few years that I was a day late getting back from a trip. No trouble, just hellish luck with route finding.

    Risk tolerance is an individual thing. Until a few years ago, I didn't hike solo at all. Now that my daughter is grown and on her own, I'm willing to hang it out a little bit farther, for instance, I did a solo thru-hike of the Northville-Placid, which is a trail where you can easily go for a day or two, even in the less-popular southbound direction, without seeing anyone. But off-trail, where nobody really knows where I am, is still beyond my personal limit.

    The peaks in the Cats that I still need and would like company for are Friday, Sherrill, Halcott, Doubletop and Fir. (Don't ask how I managed to get Balsam Cap without Friday, or North Dome without Sherrill. I surely wouldn't mind repeating those if a companion needs both.) I figure that a small group, even with a slowpoke like me, could do Doubletop, Big Indian, Fir, and Eagle on a 1-2 night backpack, and Sherrill/Halcott, Balsam Cap/Friday on day trips. I could, of course, bag any of them on club outings, but on club outings, I'm always uncomfortable. I worry about slowing down the group. I'm slow, and the outings to the trailless peaks generally draw the leaders who set a fast pace.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Starchild View Post
    Are you doing the Cats with a full pack, properly weighted and equipped to stay a few nights out as you would on the LT? If not you are really missing part of the training, getting to know your gear as you would use it. Personally I would rather do the training on the easier sections of the AT, with full gear and overnights then day hiking the Cats.
    I can't answer for the original poster, but I'm slow enough that I don't attempt the loops he describes in one day. The Burroughs Range loop is 14 miles and about 9000 feet of elevation change, with several sketchy scrambles. The Black Dome/Escarpment loop is about 16 miles (including a 3-mile roadwalk to get back to the car), and I haven't tried to calculate the elevation, but it's also significant, and again, it has scrambles. I plan at least two nights to do the Devil's Path (25 miles or so, 18000 feet of elevation change). These are all really nice trips for a clueless weekender - and they're trails that would be at home in northern New England.

    I think that backpacking those loops is actually pretty good training for almost anything that an East Coast backpack can throw at you.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Another Kevin View Post
    All of the 'trailless' 46 have unmaintained paths. I actually would solo most of the 'trailless' 46's. I might draw the line somewhere short of Allen because that one is a long slog.
    Allen is indeed a long slog, but I ran into as many people there as on some trailed peaks. FWIW, I soloed all the trailed peaks mid-week, and saved the trailless peaks for the weekends. That kept things very tolerable, crowd-wise, and I was able to hit quite a few summits completely alone. The same approach might work in the Cats, but it sounds like some of their trailless peaks are truly trailless, in which case I'd want company, too.

  9. #9

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    I live in the Catskills and hike here frequently, both on trails and off. I've done the Devil's Path in a day many times, and will continue doing it many more times - it's just that good!

    It's difficult to compare the Catskills to the northern section of the LT. The northern section of the LT is quite rugged, absolutely. However, it is differently rugged than anything in the Catskills. The terrain just doesn't lend itself to a comparison. Looking back at my LT journal, it looks like I was able to cover roughly the distance of the Devil's Path on the northern section of the LT in about the same time it takes me to hike the Devil's Path. If my personal experience is transferable, then perhaps go hike the Devil's Path to get an idea of the mileage you will be able to make on the northern section of the LT.

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    All were done as 1-2 night overnights with the same gear I'm taking on the LT, just a few pounds less in food weight. I did two nights on the AT in NJ this summer when I was able to have someone else handle the car logistics, and it was easier going than I'd expected. If given a choice I prefer being in the Catskills. Plus I already have the maps, so why not.

    With those hikes, I think I'm at 7 peaks now out of the 39. I'm not super-fast either and I've not tried bushwhacking yet, so I'd be happy to have a partner for the trail-less peaks. Or for the winter hikes if you have any left to do.

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    Quote Originally Posted by James GAME2009 View Post
    I live in the Catskills and hike here frequently, both on trails and off. I've done the Devil's Path in a day many times, and will continue doing it many more times - it's just that good!

    It's difficult to compare the Catskills to the northern section of the LT. The northern section of the LT is quite rugged, absolutely. However, it is differently rugged than anything in the Catskills. The terrain just doesn't lend itself to a comparison. Looking back at my LT journal, it looks like I was able to cover roughly the distance of the Devil's Path on the northern section of the LT in about the same time it takes me to hike the Devil's Path. If my personal experience is transferable, then perhaps go hike the Devil's Path to get an idea of the mileage you will be able to make on the northern section of the LT.
    How does the terrain of Devil's Path compare to Slide-Cornell-Wittenberg or Black Dome trail (mileage aside)? I haven't been yet, but I wonder if DP is considered the hardest because of the higher mileage and limited water.

    Were you able to use your hands/upper body on the northern LT like you sometimes can in the Catskills, or is it all leg? For me that makes a big difference.

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    Quote Originally Posted by lumba View Post
    How does the terrain of Devil's Path compare to Slide-Cornell-Wittenberg or Black Dome trail (mileage aside)? I haven't been yet, but I wonder if DP is considered the hardest because of the higher mileage and limited water.
    There is plenty of water on the Devil's path. You need to drop down off of it about 0.3 miles in two of the culls on the eastern half (between Indian Head and Twin and Twin and Sugarloaf). It's hard because you are going over 'practically' 6 mountains on a very rough trail with scrambles and lots of vertical and miles. It is also hard because it's the Devil's path and has a reputation for being so.

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    Quote Originally Posted by lumba View Post
    How does the terrain of Devil's Path compare to Slide-Cornell-Wittenberg or Black Dome trail (mileage aside)?
    The DP has more continuous steep up's/downs, with little rest (flatter trail sections). Don't really expect the nice ridge run from Wittenberg to Cornell, but more like the climb up Blackhead then over to Black dome, but a lot more of them put together.

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    Quote Originally Posted by lumba View Post
    How does the terrain of Devil's Path compare to Slide-Cornell-Wittenberg or Black Dome trail (mileage aside)? I haven't been yet, but I wonder if DP is considered the hardest because of the higher mileage and limited water.

    Were you able to use your hands/upper body on the northern LT like you sometimes can in the Catskills, or is it all leg? For me that makes a big difference.

    Sent from my SM-G900P using Tapatalk
    The terrain on the Devil's Path is the most challenging in the Catskills, by a good bit. That's what makes it so much fun. Water is no concern the way I do it. At the halfway point the Devil's Path crosses a road and I cache water there. I carry 2-3 liters starting out (depending on the weather), reach my cache at the halfway point, drink quite a bit, and then refill.

    I use trekking poles when I hike, which help me significantly. I'm able to use them effectively even when boulder hopping or scrambling. On the northern LT you could stow them and use your hands in some of the steeper sections, with the same holding true on the Devil's Path.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Starchild View Post
    The DP has more continuous steep up's/downs, with little rest (flatter trail sections). Don't really expect the nice ridge run from Wittenberg to Cornell, but more like the climb up Blackhead then over to Black dome, but a lot more of them put together.
    The hard parts are about as hard - the Cornell Crack, the slab on the east side of Slide, the scramble at the Black Dome overlook compare with the Corkscrew Chimney on Indian Head, the ledge on North Twin, or the scramble near the overhang on the west side of Sugarloaf.

    But the Devil's Path has more of them, closer together. It does have its share of nice flat runs, though. The walk in the balsam forest on top of Plateau is level and beautiful. The path between the summits of Twin is nice, and the trail moderates a lot once you get to Devil's Acre on the shoulder of Hunter. West Kill still gets the blood pumping, no question, but it's no Sugarloaf.

    In any case, if you're hiking any of those routes with full gear, it's good prep for just about anything that the Northeast has to offer. You might need different technique (and stickier shoes) for the climbs on the LT, but they're no harder, just different.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Deadeye View Post
    I don't want to hijack a thread but are "trailless" peaks in the Catskills equivalent to trailless peaks in the ADKs? If so, just do them on weekends... you won't be alone. If you insist on company...
    The Cats and the Dacks are different. With the Dacks you have globs of mud, boot-sucking mud and long distances to get to the peaks. Many of these peaks involve overnight trips (arguable). With the Cats, everything is closer to a trailhead and you don't have the mud. The Dacks have herd paths that are generally well defined. In the Cats, the paths aren't as developed due to more of an open hardwood forest.

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