Catamount Mountain

(Not one of the 46 high peaks)


Topographic map courtesy of Strava.

Wanting to break out of the crowded high peaks region a bit, we looked northward to a trail less-traveled. Catamount is a shorter, but very challenging peak with really great views from several great ledges, the false summit, and summit. There is a marked trail now, with yellow DEC markers, though I would say that in many locations, this peak almost feels like an unmarked, herd-path type of trail. I found us looking around for the next trail marker quite often, especially once we got up on the last third of the mountain.

CAUTION: this peak is challenging/strenuous, and may not be suitable for young children and many dogs. We brought our 16-month old black lab and had to help her up, and down several bigger drop-offs and ledges. There were a few areas higher than the infamous “Chimney” that gave us pause, and took us longer to negotiate with the dog. We did successfully summit, and make our way down without any major injuries, but knowing how some of those tricky sections went, I’d probably opt to leave her home if I were to do this hike again. Luckily, the kids with us didn’t have much of a problem with the technical scrambles, but did need some cheering on from their parents every once in a while.

Because of these unforeseen delays, what should’ve probably taken us about 4 hours, or 4.5 hours, took us more like 5.5 hours. This is with a lunch break atop the false summit, and some motivational speech breaks up near the summit, which took some time. It wasn’t really the technical challenges that slowed us down, just general “I’m tired of ascending” issues.

The peak is 3,168 ft. high, and the ascent is 1,543 ft. The trail leads about 1.87 miles to the summit, (about 3.75 miles round-trip), though the first 0.7 miles is absolutely delightful flat walk through the forest, to the base of the mountain. The first half of the ascent is typical ADK rock-hopping and a few rooty and smaller slab sections. After a great lookout ledge that faces south, the fun really begins, with the infamous Chimney, and really technical boulders and slabs after that. If you’re not too cool with feeling exposed and precariously balanced on the edge of cliffs, then this section may give you some mental hurdles to overcome, somewhat reminiscent of the cliffs on Saddleback, perhaps.

After a slab scramble, you arrive at the false summit, which offers wonderful panoramic views. Given the difficulty of the section just below that, you may worry about trying to get to the summit, (“will it be the same kind of difficulty?”), but that climb is a lot less technical and problematic; I recommend you just push on! The summit is quite wide open as well, offering broken views all around. You can see over Lake Champlain and into Vermont!

Collin, Andy, Lexi, Karen, Jen Alex, Nate and myself on the trail. Our black lab Leia is in there somewhere as well, but her fur absorbs light like a black hole, and it’s very rare that we even see her.

Leia waits as I huff and puff up the bouldery trail.

We took a lot less photos on the way down, unfortunately. But like I said in the beginning, everyone arrived back at the cars in great spirits, and unharmed. We were blessed with cool temperatures, dry paths and rock, and amazing views. It was an epic adventure we won’t soon forget.

The End.






False summit


The trailhead is just off the rough Forestdale road, north of the Stephenson Range and Wilmington.

The first quarter of a mile is a flat trek through the forest full of colorful fall leaves.

Leia is attached to my wrist for the entire journey. She helps me up the steep inclines with her four-paw drive, which I’m thankful for!

After a while, the forest floor is comprised of mosses.

Nate strikes a pose with Leia at a small bridge/boardwalk feature about 0.7 miles in. After this point, the climbing begins, gently at first...

The boys were moving so fast, that my poor camera couldn’t even focus on them!

The trail has started to climb a bit, as you can see the foothill of the base of the mountain going up to the right.

Layers are starting to be shed, as we start climbing a bit more...

After a small stream crossing, the real climbing begins.

Up we all go!

Alex and Collin ascend through the trees.

Lexi heads up the first rock slab. There’s an optional easier route up around the right that Andy is looking at.

A steeper section, which offers a few different paths you can take.

Never forget to stop along the way to appreciate the little things... (and take a drink of water and pop some trail mix into your mouth).

The boys walk along what looks like a brontosaurus’s back. At this point, we’re almost to the first open ledge lookout.

A seam of white quartz crystals in a rock.

The infamous “Chimney”, a narrow crack in the cliff that is the only way up.

The kids on their way up the chimney. I had to help my dog Leia up a few times, by lifting her up to the next ledge within the confines of the chimney.

The top third of the chimney is so narrow, that you have to remove your backpack and squeeze through sideways, as Alex and Collin are demonstrating.

At the false summit, we stopped to eat lunch. I photographed eastward, over distant lake Champlain. You can see the very faint Green mountains of Vermont off in the distance.

Nate triumphantly emerges from a narrow crevice. Notice the small arrow of brown rocks helping to denote which way to go...

To the south, Morgan Mountain in the Stephenson Range, followed by Esther and Whiteface.

The view to the west.

The view to the north, showing the summit.

Nate stands at the top of the false summit.

Lunch time at the false summit.

Zoomed-in view of Esther and Whiteface. The Veteran’s Memorial Highway is a clearly visible white ribbon going up the mountain. You can also see the castle on the right side of Whiteface, and the weather station buildings on the summit.

The view as I sit and eat an apple, looking south towards distant Esther and Whiteface.

The lovely hardwood forest we walked through on the way to the mountain.

Alex heads up the open slab section, as we near the top. The false summit is behind. We found many cairns (small piles of rocks), near the right side as you ascend. Finding official trail markers is tough here, but all paths lead to the summit, so it isn’t that big a deal.

Interesting lichen concentration on a rock approaching the summit.

Some neat moss!

One of the two summit markers we found atop the summit.

The other summit marker.

A larger cairn at the summit, looking south toward the Stephenson Range.

Looking west towards Union Fall Pond and beyond.

Myself, Alex, Jen and our dog Leia at the top.

I found the resolve of a tiny “Charlie Brown Christmas Tree” living on top of a slab of rock to be very inspiring.

Nate getting some hydration, (very important!).

The boys take a break back at the false summit, before we head back down the mountain.

Our family photo at the false summit.

Karen descends through the Chimney with Andy offering moral support from above.

Nate preparing to head down a small slap halfway down the mountain.

October, 2018