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Old 06-02-2019, 05:47 PM   #1
Eddie Fournier
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Dial & Nippletop 6/1

After over 2 months of inactivity, I was really looking forward to getting back into the woods. I decided for a clockwise loop of D/L, going up the HG Leach Trail and coming back through Elk Pass and Gil Brook Trail, since I’d rather deal with the elevation sooner. Also, there were thunderstorms in the forecast for the end of the day and I’d rather much be on Lake Road than anywhere else if that happened.

The hiker parking was already over 1/3 full when I got there at 5:45am. That is to be expected with the parking situation as it is this year. Half a dozen hikers were getting ready as I was and 3 other groups started off for Dial/Nippletop at about the same time. Weather was overcast, on the fresh side and with a few refreshing drops of rain.

Turn off for the HG Leach was easy enough to spot and trail was easy to follow if not that well indicated. This first portion goes through what I call “Walking Dead”-type forest – a wooded area with medium sized trees where you can easily spot zombies and run away if you are not acting like an ass. A lot of bird songs (including two personal favorites: white-throated sparrows and wood thrush). And no bugs!

After a while, I entered the area that burnt down some years ago and got to the Noonmark shoulder not long after. There is a nice West-facing viewpoint here.


What followed was a not insignificant drop into a col – the first of many – before a strenuous 0.6mi climb up Bear Den Mountain. No view here.



A lot of ups and downs eventually got me to the first 4000-footer of the journey – Dial Mountain. Climbing on the rock there gives you a fabulous view of the Great Range. I was ahead of my rough schedule and considered making a detour to Indian Head on the way back.



The next col is perhaps not as deep as the previous ones, but there are a number of ups and downs, comforting me in my decision not to come back this way. Indeed, I thought the way down Elk Pass would be easy compared to this.

I was glad to finally come up to the trail junction which told me there were only 0.2mi remaining. That’s nothing, right? Well, that’s Adirondack mileage, which I think converts to 150% of actual miles. Anyway, when I thought that perhaps I had overshot the summit, I saw a mountain towering up ahead and thought this has to be Colvin or Blake. But no, it was indeed Nippletop. But, truth be told, the last climb was easier than appeared. Here, the view of the Great Range is even more spectacular. The view also extends south and there is a really nice view of the Dix range. I was still surprised by the lack of bugs, but other hikers on top mentioned the situation was completely different the day before when there were enough bugs to “carry a person away”.



Turning left at the junction, I headed down the steep Elk Pass trail. I was glad to be going down, but it was slow going. This part is made up of boulders and rockfaces that require careful footing, placement of poles and root-grabbing. Nothing truly difficult, but I was going extremely slow – I even had to take breaks, which I almost never need to do when going down. At the bottom of the pass, there are two wonderful ponds and camping site. And then the trail goes back up for a little bit, before resuming the boulder obstacle course. Finally getting to the turn-off for Fish Hawk cliffs and Indian Head, I was already spent and the detour did not appeal to me at all.
At this point, the trail becomes the Gil Brook Trail which follows the like-named brook and there are a lot less boulders. For a long while, I could only hear the brook without seeing it, but the last portion is right next to it and it is spectacular. There are a lot of small waterfalls, ravines and shallow water running across flat rock surfaces.



By the time I got back on Lake Road, my feet were awfully sore, I had zero energy and, for the remaining 3 miles, I shuffled forward zombie-like. Still, what a great day! Total round-trip, including summit breaks, took me 10 hours.

Last edited by Eddie Fournier; 06-05-2019 at 07:52 AM..
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Old 06-03-2019, 09:53 AM   #2
tenderfoot
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Ed,

Thank you for this report. My daughter and I did the same route opposite direction in winter last year and crossing that noonmark area after sundown with the winds whipping and being exhausted is one of our finer memories.

Mud? Black fly?
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Old 06-03-2019, 02:45 PM   #3
Eddie Fournier
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Originally Posted by tenderfoot View Post
Ed,

Thank you for this report. My daughter and I did the same route opposite direction in winter last year and crossing that noonmark area after sundown with the winds whipping and being exhausted is one of our finer memories.

Mud? Black fly?
Only a little mud on higher elevations and no black fly until mid-afternoon and then just a few. And I was walking very slowly by then so they had no excuse not to catch up!
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