- Peaks: Panther
- Type: Out & Back
- Time: 5.0 h
- Distance: 8.0 mi
- Elevation Gain: 2060 ft
- Hikers: Dan, Alex
Perfect sunny day for a winter hike. I saw the day before that there was a Catskills 3500 group going up Panther. I contacted Christopher, the group leader, but they were meeting at 8:15, which was earlier than we wanted to go. Instead we had a leisurely breakfast with John (crumpets, eggs, chard) and were on the trail around 10:50. We drove through Ellenville, which was a new (and beautiful!) approach to the Catskills for us. Other hikers must have been taking advantage of the perfect day – the parking lots for Panther and Slide were both overflowing.
Giant Ledge came surprisingly quickly, but then the hike from there up to Panther peak was pretty long. I understand why we didn’t go for the summit last April. There was relatively little snow at the bottom, then lots of ice and snow once we got past Giant Ledge. We didn’t put on spikes until the hike down, but in retrospect we would have been happier putting them on after Giant on the way up. We crossed paths with the Catskills 3500 group on their way down maybe half a mile after Giant Ledge. There were eight or nine of them — I’m pretty happy we did the hike on our own.
The way down was mostly uneventful. Alex got tired and our pace wasn’t great, but we were never in danger of hiking in the dark… until we were on the home stretch and Alex said a stream crossing didn’t look familiar. Oops! We’d gone down the wrong trail at a junction 0.7 miles back. The options were to retrace our steps and hike back out the correct way (~1.5mi), continue on the new trail to the exit and walk back on the road (~2.5mi) or bushwhack down the creek to the correct exit (0.5mi). It was ~4pm so bushwhacking was the only option that would get us to the car before sunset.
Alex was more open to going off trail than I was expecting, so we put our spikes back on and did that. I thought it was fine. Alex had a few “this was a terrible idea” moments but it all took less than 25 minutes and we were clearly making progress, so nothing too bad. I think the bushwhack saved us 15–20 minutes. The part that bothered Alex most was hiking on angled terrain, i.e. following a river along a riverbank. There may be some techniques for this. In any case, another Panther hike, another wrong turn! Hopefully the third time’s the charm when we do it again this summer.