• 7:50 AM Start hiking
  • 9:40 AM Summit Plateau
  • 11:50 AM Summit Sugarloaf
  • 1:35 PM Summit Twin
  • 2:45 PM Summit Indian Head
  • 4:00 PM Back at car

  • Tracks: AllTrails (Hireni’s, mine was wonky)
  • Conditions: Warm with slushy, “mashed potatoes” snow. Mostly sunny, the rain held off until the moment we finished.

GPS Track of the hike

After my last hike with the 3500 Club I was, frankly, not feeling that enthusiastic about winter hiking. The pace had been incredibly slow, and my feet had gotten incredibly cold and wet. Even weeks later one of my big toes didn’t feel entirely normal.

Dawn on Plateau

I’d signed up for Chris G’s Devil’s Path East hike before all that, though, so I had a decision: to hike or not? It was an unseasonably warm day (it got up to 60° F at home!) and the alternative was going climbing outside. Still, I decided to do the hike. In my mind the Devil’s Path is the premier Catskills hike and I’d always been curious to try the eastern part in a day. It’s a hike that’s much easier with a car shuttle, and it would get me four of my remaining 13 winter peaks.

There were a few familiar faces from the FirBiE hike: Hireni and Steven were continuing to work on their winter peaks, and both of them had done a few other hikes in the intervening weeks. Steven should complete his winter peaks very soon.

I really enjoyed Chris G as a hike leader. He radiated energy and positivity. He was fine with people hiking at their own pace, so long as we all came back together at the logical meeting points. And he didn’t want to linger at the summits. He got into hiking during the pandemic when all the golf courses closed and he had to find a new outdoor hobby.

Hiking up in T-shirts

After shuttling to Mink Hollow, we were on the trail a bit before 8 AM. I started in spikes, though most other hikers opted for snowshoes. Plateau looked beautiful catching the dawn light. The last time I’d done this ascent was a year and a half ago, when Alex and I made a trip to see peak fall colors. I remembered it being steep, and that was certainly the case! I was quickly down to a t-shirt and at the front of the pack. I felt great on this stretch!

Plateau getting steep

There were a few very steep spots, but I think my rock climbing background serves me well on them. It feels very natural to pull myself up using both hands and feet. One moment I was proud of: I couldn’t see the next blaze, so I told the person behind me and scouted out the situation. I made the right call, but as I’ve learned, it’s important not to plow ahead without discussion!

View from Plateau

We were at the summit at little after 9:30 and I put my jacket back on for the descent. We ran into a few other groups on our way, including one hiker who was in shorts and a t-shirt!

I would have been happy in shorts, at least for the ascents. The temperature probably got up to the high 40s or low 50s and it was sunny. There was still plenty of snow on the ground, though. Very wet, heavy snow. One of the other hikers referred to it as “mashed potatoes consistency.”

Looking back at Plateau

Sadly I lost one of my gloves on the hike down. The hikers in the back saw it, but didn’t pick it up because they didn’t know it was mine. I’m not sure what the etiquette is around this. Maybe pick it up and bring it to the closest junction? I was sad to lose my glove, but it was warm enough that it didn’t matter.

Next up, Sugarloaf! I put my snowshoes on for this one, mostly so that I wasn’t just carrying them around all day. As Alex and I learned last November, Sugarloaf is steep and icy. I think it’s an easier ascent than Plateau, but it feels harder after you’ve just gone up and down another mountain.

This was the most challenging part of the day for me. Hiking in showshoes is just more difficult because you’re moving so much more weight with every footstep. I was feeling tired after the hike up Plateau and I was certainly not at the front of the pack on this stretch.

Icy ascent

The frozen waterfalls did not disappoint. They were trickling water and were an incredible, deep shade of blue.

Waterfall on Sugarloaf (10:57 AM) 📸 Photo by Hireni Patel Closeup of ice

By the top of Sugarloaf, my feet were starting to get wet and a little cold. After my last hike, I’d been thinking about strategies for dealing with this. I need to get new boots, for one. But for today I brought a change of socks on the hike, some plastic bags to cover my toes (and maybe keep them dry) and another change of socks and shoes in the car. I swapped socks at the top of Sugarloaf and put the bags over just my toes. I also took the opportunity to switch back to spikes. I’m not sure the bags did much in the end, but I felt like a million bucks when I put those dry socks on!

Dan atop Sugarloaf

I really like that you get a view of each peak on this hike before you climb it. Next up: Twin!

Next up: Twin!

I wrote last fall about how the Twin false summit is frustrating when you’re coming from the south. You have to hike an extra mile with a lot of extra up and down to get to the true summit. Not so on a through hike! This was the first time I’d ascended Twin in this direction. I felt good in my spikes again and soon we were at the true summit.

Dan climbing (1:25 PM) 📸 Photo by Hireni Patel

And then the false summit, which also has spectacular views.

Tom and Steven at the top of Twin

Next up: Jimmy Dolan Notch and Indian Head. We waited at the notch a bit for Chris and another hiker to catch up with us. This gave me and Steven time to go explore the notch viewpoint. I’d always wanted to check this out but never had time on my previous hikes. This was the one part of the day where I really could have used snowshoes! This “trail” wasn’t packed down at all. The view was nice, but not as nice as from the top of the peaks.

Icy path on Indian Head

Indian Head is the easiest of the four peaks and, after a few icy patches, the summit came quickly. We lingered for around 15 minutes here until Chris caught up with us. One of the other hikers hadn’t been feeling well and had decided to head down from the notch. Too bad! It’s only a short distance once you’ve gotten all the way to Jimmy Dolan Notch, but it’s good to know your limits.

Looking back towards the Hudson (2:00 PM) 📸 Photo by Hireni Patel

Steven and I raced back down to the notch. It was pretty fun half-hiking, half-sliding. We wondered if the other hiker would still be there waiting for us, but he’d gone ahead and we didn’t wind up seeing him again until the parking lot.

Hike down from on the blue path

The hike down was quick and uneventful. Some of the other hikers mentioned that the blue trail here was easy to lose. That was definitely my experience last November!

Getting very near the end

As I walked up to my car, I drank some water and heard it running out. My 2.5L was the perfect amount! It was also perfect timing: it started to drizzle as I was loading the car.

I really enjoyed this hike! My feet felt totally fine by the end. My sock strategy helped, but I’m sure the warmer weather did, too. Nine winter peaks left! Between upcoming travel, my batch at the Recurse Center and my upcoming book, I doubt I’ll finish them this season. But if I do another one or two in the next month, I should be in good shape to wrap them up next year and get my winter 3500 badge!

View from Sugarloaf (11:44 AM) 📸 Photo by Hireni Patel