Bushwhacking on Giant

Giant Mountain

Bushwhacking on Giant

We reached the highest massif of Rocky Peak Ridge and looked outwards at the lunar landscape of Giant’s eastern face, the tarn of Mary Louise, and much further on, the drowsy Champlain valley. We reached the Peak after first climbing Giant from Route 73.

Giant Mountain
During lunch, my hiking companion revealed his plans for the return trip; Marv traced out a path which would have us bushwhack back to the Chapel Pond Giant trail after leaving the col between the latter and the Ridge. The idea of walking a trail less mile and a half at an uninterrupted 500′ angle with a probable sight distance of one yard, thanks to hedge-thick vegetation, did not sound pleasing and I formed one of those areyououtofyourbloodymind expressions. Marv gave me the old “Beaten trails are for beaten men” maxim, but it didn’t work. To Hades with adventure, I said.

“I’m not returning the way we came,” He said, referring to the trail between the two summits which includes crossing eight thick elevation lines within a painfully short distance. And the memory of that is what swayed me.

And so, half an hour later, we reached the col and Marv left the trail. I erred by following. Neither of us are babes in the woods; my 12 years of hiking and Marv’s ~anger school experiences had beaten various wilderness skills into each of us, yet I still felt we were hunting,trouble. Yup. Having walked just 25 feet or so, I triggered a widowmaker, which would not have missed had I one more layer of skin. Scared spitless, this vividly recalled the two Dead Creek hemlocks which, on successive days, nearly did me in.

Leading the way on the steep slope, Marv yelled out something about how exciting it was to walk where probably no other sapien had ventured. I replied with a scatological comment under my breath. But followed never the less. The trees suddenly ended and we found ourselves on the edge of a steep slide, which in some sections rated perhaps a 5.0. Not exactly the Eigernordwand, but more than sufficient to occupy this exact major’s attention. With much of the rock surface slick thanks to a stream, it appeared impassable. Now, now, I reminded myself, people actually climb the entire length of these sonsabitches. And enjoy it. I studied the slide again. Masochists, the whole lot, I thought. But Marvin talked me into attempting a crossing. During this painstakingly slow process, two rolls of film which documented this hike into God’s country, somehow parted company with me. Two convenient tree islands helped us psuedo-climbers pass the wet spots till by the by, we stood upon the other side.

There Marv constructed a four foot cairn vainly hoping that his handiwork would be visible from the Ridge. We skirted a bear den and climbed over the rubble at the bottom of another slide before heading up the neighboring slope. A slip nearly twisted Marv’s bad leg into a mobius strip, so I considered climbing up via the edge of the slide to avoid a repeat and the smothering undergrowth … but Lord knows how many violent spring runoffs had worn the rock smooth.

We had each read descriptions of climbers belaying up such near vertical slides … this particular concept in rock climbing etymology means to tackle a peak by the most difficult approach known. Fascinating.

We leaned up against a school bus size rock to wolf down some chocolate and allow lungs and hearts a badly needed rest. But late afternoon had arrived, and the sun was now westerning, so with our lengthening shadows trailing behind, we continued upwards.

Our path zigged and zagged to avoid several thickets and blowdowns, but we reached the trail sooner than I had expected. Still, by the time we returned to our car parked at Chapel Pond, we’d been away nearly ten hours. So much for short cuts.

The next day my bent body ached as if it had been keelhauled and those who heard out our traveler’s tale just rolled their eyes or complained about yet another cock and bull story.

Marv’s next goal is Panther Gorge.

Pie in the sky.