- Peaks: Slide, Cornell, Wittenberg, Friday, Balsam Cap, Rocky, Lone, Peekamoose, Table
- Type: Loop
- Time: 16.5 h
- Distance: 23.6 mi
- Elevation Gain: 5500 ft
- Hikers: Dan, Max, John G
- Tracks: AllTrails (reconstructed from photos)
When I started thinking about completing the Catskills 3500 peaks in 2022, I looked over a map to try and find good multi-peak hikes. What jumped out were six peaks in a row that I hadn’t bagged: Wittenberg, Cornell, Friday, Balsam Cap, Rocky and Lone. I figured it would be a hard but possible hike.
That summer, I met Barefoot Ken at a dinner party and talked about my plans. Ken had recently completed “the grid” (hiking every peak in every month) and had also hiked every high peak barefoot. Suddenly hiking all the high peaks didn’t seem so crazy! Ken thought my idea of doing those six peaks in one hike was a good one. In fact, it had a name! It was part of “The Nine”, the others being Slide, Table and Peekamoose.
Learning that your idea has a name is a powerful thing. It validates it and makes it much easier to learn more about it. So I started planning an overnight trip for the fall, when there would be more pleasant temperatures and less brush to deal with.
This was my first time truly bushwhacking and I had some trepidation about it. If anything, this led to over-preparing. I put lots of pins on my map for various features I’d read about and came up with a few backup plans in case we needed to bail mid-hike. But overall it went great! Conditions were perfect and we never had too much trouble finding the peaks and keeping up our pace. After really being “in the woods,” the blazed trails felt so tame in comparison.
We went clockwise (opposite of the AllTrails route), filled our water bottles at the Slide spring (it was gushing) and made camp halfway between Slide and Cornell. We left our bags at the camp site and got Cornell and Wittenberg the first afternoon. This was a good strategy since it balanced out the mileage on the two days (about 10–12 miles each day) and let us get right to the bushwhacking on day 2.
We left the trail and entered the woods at 8:30 am on day 2. We started on a herd path but lost it within a few hundred feet. Not a good start! We used the AllTrails track to find our way back onto a path and were able to follow it all the way to Friday. One trick we quickly learned: look for fallen, rotting logs that have been stepped on in the middle. These were such a clear indication of a herd path that we started calling them “blazes.”
We took a meandering route from Friday to Balsam Cap, staying above the dashed line on the map (“the rim”) and keeping our elevation. There was a clear herd path that took us all the way to Balsam Cap. We lost the trail again near the col between Balsam Cap and Rocky, but once again, we were able to use the AllTrails track to recover a herd path.
All in all, we were on clear paths for probably 95% of the bushwhacking portion, which took us almost exactly six hours. None of the canisters were hard to find: they were all bright orange and either on a clear path or at a clear viewpoint (Friday).
One quibble with the AllTrails map: it shows the mileage from Balsam Cap to Rocky and Rocky to Lone as both being around two miles. In reality it’s half that. It took us about an hour to an hour and a half between each of the peaks.
I came away from this hike with newfound confidence about bushwhacking. It’s not just something you need to do to join the 3500 club. It’s actually quite enjoyable! There were lots of cool rock formations and sudden changes in ecosystem as we went over them. You really feel like you’re in nature, not just walking through it.
This hike took me from 13 to 19/33 of the high peaks. Big progress and a nice boost of confidence that this really was something I could do.
- 10:30 am depart
- 1:00 pm slide viewpoint, lunch
- 1:30 pm Slide summit
- 3:00 pm Pitched tents
- 4:00 pm summit cornell
- 4:45 pm summit wittenberg
- 7:00 pm roaring campfire (~7h hiking for the day)
- 8:15? am depart campsite
- 8:37 am begin bushwhacking
- 9:48 am Friday canister
- 11:22 am Balsam Cap canister
- 12:35 pm Rocky peak
- 1:30 pm Lone canister
- 2:36 pm back on the trail (6h total for bushwhacking)
- 2:57 pm summit Peekamoose
- 3:35 pm summit Table
- 5:13 pm back at junction
- 5:41 pm back at car (9h30m hiking for the day)