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Old 12-15-2015, 06:22 PM   #1
Neil's Avatar
Join Date: May 2004
Posts: 6,118
Panther Gorge

Last Saturday I went into Panther Gorge. Not from Elk Lake but from the Phelps Trail.

Picture Set

Trip Report:
At 5:20 am Mastergrasshopper (who is back!) and your humble servant signed out for "a big one" and proceeded to hoof it up the Van Ho. Headlamps off at Indian Falls and spikes on. The trail became a river of ice and continued in that vein as we dropped down the Phelps Trail. I rammed my left quad into the butt end a sawn-through piece of blowdown and contused the hell out of it. My instant thought: "that's gonna hurt all day" and popped some pain medication.
We left the trail and headed south between Marcy and Haystack into what is arguably the most spectacularly beautiful area in the High Peaks. To boot, the gateway is 5 minutes from a marked trail. This and many other examples makes me wonder if peakbagging the high peaks has more importance than putting oneself into extraordinary geographical locations and enjoying uncommonly beautiful experiences. But I digress, maintaining trails is expensive.

We spent 10 minutes in thick, gnarly woods and then I heard Glen explode with a series of ecstatic utterances. From my previous trip in there I knew exactly what he was seeing and hurried up so I could see the same thing. Click, click , click said the camera and we stood there in awe. I also said a mental thank you to Mudrat, Mr. Panther Gorge, who has fed me beta.

We spent several hours slowly traversing the Marcy side looking for the sweet spot between exposed views and avoiding cliffs, big drops and thick woods. The sun was on us and we peeled off the winter clothing. Just below a nice ice fall we clambered up onto a ledge and I suddenly got hit in the head with a hammer blow and went down for the count with a bell ringing in my ears. Glen was calling out if I was OK and I guessed I was. I got up and nearly fell over. I had taken a chunk of ice on the left forehead about an inch above my eye. Right where the frontal bone is at its thickest, which in my case is a very thick skull. After a quick neuro check we continued on but if I rotated or side bent my head I became dizzy. This lasted for about an hour and then gradually dissipated. After a bit of reading up on it I'm self-diagnosing a concussion of 1 out of ten on the severity scale.

Just before the ice on the head episode I had noticed that the entire knee of my light beige hiking pants was soaked in blood. Turned out that I had torn a wart off from the front of my knee cap and it had leaked a bunch of blood.

Other than these physically sensoriel-rich events the hike was downright pleasant. Once we reached the end of Marcy East Face and the Ranger on the Rock climbing route we decided not to go straight down to the beaver ponds but try and stay high and cut over to the trail about a half-mile away. We soon regretted this decision and experienced a severe case of blowdown shock. We remedied this condition by angling downwards until we got to a blowdown free zone and then we made our way to the trail.

Now on the trail we began our second hike of the day. Ie. we hiked up to 4 corners, dropped packs and scooted up Skylight for arguably the finest views in the High Peaks. The trail of course was a river of ice. The cone of Marcy , facing south, was dry rock. My little thermometer read 0 degrees Celsius and the wind was in the mild-moderate range but it felt distinctly chilly when we stopped and put the spikey footwear back on.

The hike out was an easy-going stroll with a beautiful break at the old lean-to sight to watch the colorful sunset clouds blow over Marcy and change color minute by minute. The headlamps came on somewhere between the Hopkins and Tabletop junctions and we were back at the HPIC parking lot after 14 hours of outdoors fun and dopaminergic brain stimulating experiences.
The best, the most successful adventurer, is the one having the most fun.
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