Gothics / Armstrong / Upper Wolfjaw

Date of Hike 6/4/12

Phelps Trail: 3.1 miles
Orebed Brook Trail: 3.1 miles
ADK Range Trail: 5.4 miles
Phelps Trail: 3.1 miles
Total Miles: 14.7 (3,300 feet elevation gain)

Trip Report:
- Sunday, Tom Diaz (my roommate from my 'College of the Quinnipiac University' days) came up with his brother Chris and their hometown friends Josh and Gideon.  Last year Tom, Chris, and I attempted a two day Great Range backpacking trip but weather changed our plans the first day and fatigue got to Tom the second day so it cut our hike short.  This year they were determined to finish what they started but chose to do a day hike of Basin, Saddleback, Gothics, Armstrong, Upper and Lower Wolfjaw.  To shave off some miles Tom, Chris, Josh, and Gideon hiked into the W.G. Howard Lean-to Sunday night and I was to meet them there Monday morning. 
- The plan was as follows, Tom and Chris leave an hour early from the lean-to and hike Basin through Lower Wolfjaw, while Josh, Gideon, and I hike up the Orebed Brook Trail and meet Tom and Chris on Saddleback Mountain or the Gothics/Saddleback col at 11 / 11:30 and hike the rest of the day together.  That was the plan but sometimes the mountains and weather have other ideas for hikers.
- First off the weather was crummy, constant drizzle with highs struggling to reach 50 in the valley and hoovering in the high 30's low 40's at higher elevations.  Second, Tom and Chris had not left an hour earlier than us and I told Tom he was crazy to head up the cliffs below the summit of Saddleback in this weather but he was determined so I told Chris and Tom to be careful.  I had a bad feeling about the weather as it was more March like than June and because of this I packed for it - hat, face and neck warmer, extra gloves, mittens, extra long sleeve shirts, socks, winter windbreaker, extra pants, etc., and I would need all of it!
- Gideon, Josh, and I headed up the Orebed Brook Trail, the first two miles of the trail is gradual but usually muddy, Monday was no exception and as an added bonus the trail had turned into a stream.
- Once passing the Orebed Brook Lean-to the trail ascends near a huge slide from Hurricane Irene then steeply over and up the slide for a bit then up a bunch of well placed ladder steps on the left side of the slide before the trail enters the woods and finally makes it way to the Gothics/Saddleback Col.
- Hiking through the slide was slow going, the slide is massive and the bottom of it looks like a wrecking ball has gone through it leaving a wasteland of downed trees, boulders, and mud. Further up the slide becomes very steep over open slab with patches of mud near the edges, it's pick your poison on this stretch, walk up the very well placed ladder steps or venture out and up the slab, either decision = steepness!
- Once back in the woods I rushed on up ahead to see how close we were to the col and was happy to see that we were making decent progress towards it.  We made it to the col and knew right away there was no way of waiting for the Diaz brothers, it was to chilly to sit and wait.  Gideon and Josh only had one change of dry clothes left and I was also getting chilled so it was decision time.  The smartest thing to do was to never have left the lean-to, and the smarter thing to do would probably be to turn around right now, so of course we continued on up one of the steepest half mile of trail in the Adirondacks...the cable section up the steep slabs of Gothics!  Luckily the wind was audible and the guys assured me that they were now warmed up and not cold from the steep ascent as we popped up above the trees and slowly chugged our way up to what is heaven on a clear day and pure hell on a day like this.  Unfortunately for me I would go ahead to take pictures and then get chilled waiting, I wasn't in any danger but pretty soon I would need to move on ahead to keep my body temperature up. 
- I was happy when we made it through the steepest part prior to gaining the ridge over to the summit of Gothics, however Gideon cramped up and was out of water and Gatorade, I had a full Powerade that I gave him which helped him out and Josh and Gideon decided that they would bail out to the trail down from the Gothics/Armstrong Col and I would speed ahead over Armstrong and Upper Wolfjaw and down back to the car and pick them up at the AMR Ausuable Golf Club.  However in my rush to get going to raise my body temperature I told them to head to the Ausuable Club at the next junction and with that I rushed off to get a move on completely blanking that the next junction is actually just before Gothics true summit which heads basically strait down and the strait up to Pryamid Peak before finally dropping down all the way to the dam at Lower Ausable Lake.  It's a great hike in great conditions but a sufferfest at best in conditions like these and I hopped that they would look at the map and see my mistake and just head over to the next junction in the Gothics/Armstrong Col, but the map doesn't show Pyramid Peak on it just Sawteeth so there was no way of knowing what they were in for.  Luckily it was around noon and they had plenty of daylight and would be below treeline from here on out and they made it down to Lake Road with a stop at Rainbow Falls along the way before hitching a ride to the golf course while I  speeded off back to the car.
- Meanwhile the Diaz Brother's progress was slow going and they were only at Basin's summit at 1pm (our meet up time was Saddleback's summit at 11 or the Gothics/Saddleback Col at 11:30). But they were far from finished, next up was a frightening steep burst up the cliff of Saddleback, another awesome experience in great weather, a little hairy but thrilling.  In the rain it was downright scary stuff, especially the part where they went a little to far to the left then had to cut back to the right were the yellow blazes were as they hugged and clawed their way to safety up above on Saddleback's summit ledges.  In weather like this when your fingers get too cold they lose their dexterity, and for Chris this happened and simple tasks like opening a candy bar wrapper, tying a shoelace, or opening a water bottle become confusingly difficult.  It was time for the Diaz Brother's to get the hell out of dodge and back to the lean-to by way of the Orebed Brook Trail but not before Tom went 'all in'.  Instead of taking the Orebed Brook Trail all the way to the DEC Interior Outpost using the suspension bridge over John's Brook they banged a left to head to the Johns Brook Lodge where there was no bridge and they'd have to deal with the water crossings.  Tom fell in up to his neck, he was already cold, and now he was freezing, luckily they were close to the lodge and were able to go in and warm up and grab a coffee before heading to the lean-to to pack their gear and get to the Garden.
- At this point I was at the Ausable Golf Club picking up Josh and Gideon to head back to the Garden to pick up the Diaz Brother's.  Josh ended up walking back to the lean-to to get his overnight gear and Chris and Tom helped out bringing the gear back as well.  We all made it out, albeit very wet and cold.  It was quite the experience and quite foolish to be up there but it all gets chalked up to a learning experience and if you can hike those peaks in those conditions without losing their cool and panicing then Tom, Chris, Josh, and Gideon could hike everyone of the 46 High Peaks in good weather and enjoy the views and mud.
- We headed back to the hostel, got cleaned up, had a nice dinner at the Baxter Inn, and drank some cold ones and had a good time back at the hostel.  Tuesday we ended up getting some breakfast before heading our separate ways, hopefully we will all be back next June with better weather and get to enjoy the dramatic views of the Adirondack High Peaks!

Pictures: Click here for all pictures

 Gideon making his way above cascading water on the Orebed Brook Trail
 The Orebed Brook Trail entering the Slide
 Josh and Gideon ascending through the devastation left behind by Hurricane Irene
Hiking up the Orebed Brook Slide 
 Gideon starting the steep ascent up Gothics
Josh in his 'Ghostbusters' outfit making his way up the cables of Gothics


  1. Hi Chris,

    Glad to see you're in the Adirondacks again. And you're doing hikes that aren't quite as intense as your usual. Your photos are great! Especially when I'm trying to figure out how to plan a solo hike on a trailless peak; it's good to see photos that show where the herd path junctions are.

    1. Thanks Eva,

      Glad you like the photos, those trailess peaks are fun except for when the get a little to narrow and scratch my arms up! I definitely love hiking in the ADK's and can't wait to get back there in July or August hopefully. What peak(s) are you looking to hike next??

      happy hiking!

  2. hi Chris

    Great pics! Gideon crossing the cascading water really exemplifies the daks. Thanks for the gothics pics, i may attempt it again next winter.


    1. Hi Barnes

      Glad you like the pics! I can't wait to head up to Gothic in the Winter as well, it must be awesmoe to be on top of Gothics in the winter!

  3. Fun stuff! Where is your new title picture taken from?

    1. The new banner was taken from Mount Skylight's summit with the Great Range in front of me. It's an awesome place for views!

  4. Truly awesome trip, and marvelous photos!
    Wow! Irene really did create an impressive path of destruction. She (and others like her) are unwelcome "house-guests" in the mountains (or anywhere else for that matter!) :-)


  5. I am planning out this hike but including lower wolfsjaw. Is the best lot Garden to start from?

    1. Hi Anonymous, yes you can start from the Garden to do this loop if you want to include Lower Wolfjaw, you can also hike these from the Ausable Club Private Lake Road but I haven't climbed the Wolfjaws that way yet so I can't give you any advice coming down from Lower.

      When you hit Lower Woljaw you can always head down the Bennies Brook Slide, awesome slide, not too steep after the initial entry from near the top of it. the link below has the trip report for that slide.