The Spartan Race season in Eastern Canada ended last weekend so, after a much needed weekend off in the company of friends and a 12-pack of PBR, I’m starting to think “what now?”. As Krista’s away on Nanny duties next weekend, I’m planning to head down to New York State for a bit of hiking. I’ve wanted to try and do the Great Range Traverse in a day for a while, so this seems like a good opportunity. Backpacker Magazine ranked it #3 in their “America’s Hardest Dayhikes” article back in 2005.
3. Great Range Traverse
Score: 90 Miles: 25 Elevation Change: 17,600 feet X Factor: Endless ups and downs
There’s no small irony in the fact that New York’s tallest peak is merely the last challenge on this classic loop-and far from the toughest. The route scales nine peaks, including six 4,000-footers and the aforementioned 5,344-foot Mt. Marcy. But numerous cols and false summits, plus heinously eroded trail beds, wear you down physically and psychologically. From Keene Valley, the murderer’s row of peaks includes Rooster Comb, Hedgehog, Lower Wolf Jaw, Upper Wolf Jaw, Armstrong, Gothics, Saddleback, Haystack, and Marcy, from which you descend the Phelps Trail. Gut-check moments include a half-mile of teetering above a 700-foot drop on a knife-edge between the Wolf Jaws – inevitably followed by a steep climb – and the southeast face of Gothics, a scary-steep, exposed descent over open slab rock. (The face used to have cables to aid hikers, but, fittingly, they’ve been removed.) There are long stretches of scrambling and ladder-climbing, and you’ll need to carry enough water for the day.
I figure after two Spartan Beast races in two weekends, it can’t be that hard. The fastest known time for the entire route is just under 6 hours. I know I won’t get anywhere near that, but I’m hoping I can get it done in about 10 hours.