Saturday, July 28, 2012

Trip report - Panther Mountain, 2012-07-02

In which your protagonists abort a backpacking excursion but claim one Catskill high peak.

Kevin and Cathy originally planned for a trip spanning July 2-4 2012, making a circuit of Panther Mountain and the Burroughs range, with stops near the Woodland Valley campground and somewhere up on the ridge between Cornell Mountain and Slide Mountain.

We got off to a nice start, with Kevin trying out his Komperdell poles for the first time. We ran into a nice couple at the trailhead; he was a Modern Orthodox Jew, and she looked and sounded as if she was from southern Africa - she reminded us of a Botswanan friend from church.

We rolled - at Kevin's usual snail's pace - up to the Giant Ledge without incident. We ate lunch at one of the campsites. There was a group of about 20 kids near Catherine's age having a noisy lunch - in the trail - right at the best overlook. After they moved on, Catherine snagged a lovely panorama of the view to the east, with the Devil's Path to the left, the Burroughs Range to the right and Mount Tremper in the middle. (Bigger, zoomable version)

When we were done with eating and photography, we picked up again and continued across the swaybacked ridge to Panther Mountain proper. We passed the nice couple again, on their way back down. They mentioned disappointment that the spring below Giant Ledge was not running.

On the way up, Catherine began feeling again the symptoms of the Coxsackie virus that we thought she'd recovered from. She kept it to herself and soldiered on up to the Panther summit. As she put it, “by that point, I was so angry with the law of gravity keeping me from the top that I was not going to let it win!” Once we got there, though, she confessed to feeling quite ill and called for an abort. We ate a snack, snapped the "we made it" shot, and headed back the way we came.

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On the way down, we decided to check out the spring. We found the depression in the rock, full of water. While nothing was obviously flowing, the water had to come from somewhere. We noted that we would drink the water with filtration (and not without, it looked pretty disgusting), but since we were still decently supplied and planning to abort anyway, didn't bother to pump.

Kevin's toes started bothering him - rather bruised - on the steep descent off the ridge. Apparently walking with poles changes his stance rather a lot. So it was a slow-moving and hurting party that got back to the car and drove back to Niskayuna after telling Mary Ann to send the dancing boys home.

What went right. We aborted. It was the right decision. (In a close call, it's always the right decision!). Objective #1 achieved - come home safely. We bagged one Catskill high peak, and tested Kevin's new poles. (Verdict: They're knee savers!)

What went wrong. Catherine didn't feel well. No way to predict this, really, until she hit the rigors of the trail. Kevin had his boots laced wrong, and had a lot of pain from his toes because of it.

Lessons learnt. A well executed abort is better than a miserable trip. Catherine was not up to the 3000 foot climb that would have started the second day had we pushed on.

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