Adirondack Hike: Giant and Rocky Peak Ridge
For this hike, my friend Kory and I were able to coordinate with another hiking buddy, Candy. Candy had already done eight of the high peaks, including Allen (which is a rough one). So, she was actually the most experienced hiker of our group as Kory and I had only done four of the forty-six high peaks of the Adirondacks to this point.
In actuality, this was only our second weekend of hiking the high peaks and Kory and I had done Mount Colden the day before on a cool, overcast day. That trip was our longest one at fifteen miles, so there was some soreness.
Giant ranks as the twelfth highest peak with an elevation of 4,627 feet and Rocky Peak Ridge is the twentieth at 4,420 feet. The day was scheduled to be sunny and warm, with temperatures in the mid-80's.
Candy had driven up separately, so we decided that the best plan of action was to start the hike at the base of Giant but finish on the back side of Rocky Peak Ridge. So there would be no backtracking and we'd do it as a hike through. Our plan was to drive both cars up in the morning and park one on the back side of Rocky Peak Ridge and then take the three of us over to the trailhead at Giant on Route 73.
Mistake #1 - Underprepared
Having driven up in the morning and hiked the same day on the day before, combined with so much mileage during that hike to Colden, I was wiped out. I remember nearly falling asleep at dinner and then crashing in the clothes I wore out to eat as soon as we got back to the hotel.
When I awoke at our usual six a.m. rise and hike time on the morning of our Giant and Rocky Peak Ridge hike, my body was still feeling the effects from the day before. My achilles was sore and I was tired, so much so that I was considering just spending the day in the car while my friends did the hike.
With this plan leading my decision making, I had a light snack for breakfast and filled up my pack with water and food. Filled up was a deceptive term though because using the hotel sink, I was only able to negotiate about two liters of the two and a half that my bladder was able to hold.
Considering I only drank about two liters the day before for a fifteen-mile Colden hike, I assumed I'd be fine with the same amount over eleven miles. This decision would be my first mistake.
Mistake #2 - Poor Planning
The previous night, while I was in my semi-fatigue/semi-food coma in the hotel, my friends planned the trip out and when we'd be departing to put the cars at both locales. Not being part of that was an early mistake I made, and often. I relied on others to know where we were going and approximately how long it would take without any thought of the supplies needed.
We got on the road around 6:30 a.m. and headed out towards Rocky Peak Ridge where we were going to stash Kory's car. We ended up getting a bit off course and had to backtrack a bit on the drive and that caused us to add about forty minutes onto the initial drive to the trailheads.
We eventually got to Rocky Peak Ridge trailhead and then loaded into one car and headed over to Giant. But the day was already off to an ominous start.
Once we parked on the side of the road on Route 73 and geared up, my body started to loosen up a bit. We were on the trail around 8 a.m. or 8:30 a.m. There was a short walk to the registry and then some moderate hiking to the Giant Washbowl which is a nice water formation at the bottom of the mountain. Shortly after that though, Giant is three miles of steep terrain.
Giant & Mistakes #3, #4, & #5
We kept going up Giant and took a few more breaks than we had the day before, one because I was still fairly spent from the day before and secondly because Candy paces herself different than Kory and I on the ascent, which she warned us about.
My second personal mistake (and third by us on the trip) was taking in water on each of these stops. This day was already starting to heat up, so I figured that if I hydrated early on, I would not feel the effects as badly later on.
My third personal mistake was dressing in my hiking pants, as I had done for the first few trips. The day before was near sixty, so pants were warranted. With the mid-80's expected and the open-faces along Giant, the sun and heat were causing much more sweat and water loss than any of our previous three hikes. This realization didn't come to me until after the trip, so this was the last Summer hike where I wore full pants. I would unzip the bottoms of them and go with shorts on each subsequent hike (and be much happier with that decision each time).
Near the top of Giant, we took a break and this would lead us to the fifth mistake of the trip. Candy and Kory both carried bandanas on the trip, but Candy's had sentimental value as it was given to her by a close friend who had gone through some tough medical troubles. Somehow, that bandana had fallen off on our rest stop and we did not realize it at the time.
Giant Summit & Mistakes #6, #7, & #8
We finally made it up to the summit of Giant in about three hours. My legs were pretty sore from the steep elevation climb, but if I was to do another mountain again, Giant is a good one because the views on the climb were quite impressive. There were many spots with open views and the summit was a similar experience.
We grabbed a sandwich at the top, took a few photos with the survey marker, and then I was ready to head out and start the steep descent on the back side towards Rocky Peak Ridge.
Both Candy and Kory were good on the descent but the technique I used to go down the mountain was putting way too much pressure on my knees and this was mistake #6 - not knowing enough to descend without pain. I was using the poles too much and bending my knees at awkward angles. On future hikes, I realized that I preferred to not use the poles on the descent and that I like to grab trees and use them as stabilizers in a technique I have aptly dubbed, The Flying Squirrel Technique.
So as I got a head-start, I left Kory and Candy to enjoy more scenery and Kory loves to ham it up with other hikers while I'm more introverted. I figured he could be a while and would easily catch up to me so I took off. This was mistake #7, breaking up the group with no means of communication.
I'm not sure how long after I left before Candy incurred her second mistake of the day. She took a bad step on the first step off the summit and rolled her ankle really good. Maybe in the throes of pain and wondering how to wrap it, she discovered that her bandana was lost. Some others who were coming up after us had seen it and relayed to Kory how far down it was and where they saw it tied to a tree.
So now we were with an injury, had to backtrack, and also had to catch up with me. They made the quick decision to send Candy after me while Kory would head back down to grab the bandana and then to catch up with us.
The Giant Descent & Rocky Peak Ridge
The descent off of Giant is very steep and was slow going. It didn't take Candy long to catch me, about twenty minutes, even with her being a bit hobbled. I had stopped for a bit to chat with a group of hikers that included someone I knew from work, oddly enough.
So when she caught me and relayed the story of how she got hurt and where Kory was, I was concerned. But we were so far down Giant by that point and the thought of going back up and then down three miles of steep hell that would be Giant wasn't as thrilling as just continuing on. So we forged ahead with Kory catching up to us about two-thirds of the way down Giant.
It took us about an hour down and then another hour up moderate terrain that wound up through the woods before opening up to another nice open-face summit. It was like a party up here as there were a lot of groups just chilling out, tanning, eating and having a merry old time.
We snapped our usual summit photos with our number six displayed for Kory and I and Candy with a full ten. And then my water decisions came back to haunt me as I took the last swigs of my water from my pack. Were were six and half miles in with another five to go on the descent, with an injured hiker. Rut Roh, Shaggy.
Which of the Following Mistakes Have You Made on Your Own Hikes?
Rocky Peak Ridge Descent & Mistake #9
The hike down Rocky Peak Ridge included some open-face scrambles for a while and some descent elevation. We stayed together as a group and started to take stock of our combined water situation. Candy was getting low and Kory was letting me use his backup water bottle (as I made a note to carry one to two from now on).
We found a noted trail mark at Bald Peak and made the tough call that Kory should go ahead to reach his car and double back (again) with spare water that he had in the trunk of his SUV. I would stay with Candy and help her down the mountain, which included many butt slides down the steeper parts and me holding her poles during this process.
We did run into some nice Canadians and they saw our plight and gave us an extra water bottle they were carrying shortly after Kory had left us. I made another mental note that two extra water bottles to be able to lend out might be better because we definitely needed to pay this kindness forward on future hikes.
One thing of note, there is a trail marker leading you up to the Blueberry Cobbles. If you go left, there is a trail that takes you around all that elevation. We took it, and thankfully, as it saved us from some unnecessary climbing.
On the way down, I set my backpack down to eat some trail mix. When I put it back on, the half-zip top I was carrying across my pack in case it got cold on top of the mountain (on this day, no chance) must have fallen off and neither of us noticed until another mile down the mountain (Mistake #9). At that point, were were scraping the last drops of water from our gifted water bottle and heading back up was not an option.
We were about three miles down and into some easier wooded pathways when a family of three caught up to us. Were had one sip of water left and they noted how they were in the same boat, that they had run out of water a long time ago. I started to imagine this is how horror stories begin in the woods, one family looking out for another has to beat another group of hikers to death with their own poles to survive in the wilderness. Maybe three bottles from now on.
We had nothing to offer them and they motored past us as were rested up Candy's ankle a while longer. It was getting a little later in the afternoon, so we could see the sun through the wooded canopy moving to the west and knew we had to keep moving to avoid a sunset issue.
A couple more miles down the trail and we found our first stream and water source. I was carrying water purification pills and filled up Kory's water bottle and dropped two in and followed the directions. The water turned a dark brown and we needed to let it settle, so we covered our heads with the cool liquid and continued down the trail.
Kory found us not soon after, with water bottles, so we didn't need to use the purified water. We drank our fill and then kept moving out of the woods and towards the parking lot. Another mile of hiking and we were there. We took one last shot and then piles into Kory's SUV and drove back to Candy's. I drove hers back towards home where we met her parents and then Kory and I headed home.
I have to give it to Candy, she was a warrior on this hike. She hiked eight and a half miles on a bum ankle and didn't complain once. She didn't panic and made the whole trip an enjoyable experience. And it's funny, once she got hurt, I completely stopped thinking about any soreness I had from the previous day. So it made my hike a lot better.
And Kory, he must have hiked an extra two to three miles with all the backtracking he was doing. Both of my friends were awesome on this day. And at the end of the day, with help, we survived.
But boy did we learn a ton of lessons on this hike. Hopefully, you can learn from our mistakes and not find yourselves in trouble like we were on this trek.
Ranking the Peaks
These two were our fifth and sixth peaks and they were entertaining. Both afforded great views and there were a ton of people to see. All in all, a fun hike I'd enjoy doing again.
1. Big Slide
4. Rocky Peak Ridge
Other Adirondack High Peak Trip Recaps
- Adirondack Hike: Tabletop and Phelps
A summary of the hike of Tabletop and Phelps in the Adirondack Mountain range of New York.
- Adirondack Hike: Street and Nye
Hiking Street Mountain and Nye Mountain in the Adirondack Mountain range of New York.
- Adirondack Hike: Mount Colden
A summary of our hike up Mount Colden in the Adirondack Mountains. This hike was our fourth high peak of the forty-six that qualify.