Bad ass, really Dan? Sans doute! Though the Precipice Trail doesn’t have the death-defying heights and drop-offs of Angel’s Landing in Zion National Park, it was physically more challenging and exhausting. Let me explain.
Having past success scaling Angel’s Landing in Utah (click here for that blog) and the Precipice’s Little Brother in Acadia, the Beehive Trail (click here for that blog), the morning of our hike I keep to myself my wonder if I am up to the challenge climbing up the side of Champlain Mountain.
Arriving at the trailhead of the Precipice mid-morning on this last Monday in September, Mitch Sakofs, my buddy from my days teaching at Eastern Connecticut State University, and I park on the Park Loop Road beyond the trailhead. I think, if so many people can climb this mountain, how hard can it be?
Immediately, we are ascending a trail of rocks and boulders. And then we hit the Massive Crucible Boulder. At this point, hikers must lift their leg high enough to step up to a three foot metal rung, then again up to another rung, grasp for a stone handhold with the left hand, and elevate to the boulder above. It’s a fabulous threshold challenge. If you can’t mount this boulder, this is not the hike for you.
Having the good fortune of hiking with an experienced mountaineer in Mitch, I have him lead, so I can watch where he steps and see what handholds he finds. Constantly encouraging, he offers these climbing tips: (1) in each stone look for a handhold in the rock, (2) whenever possible take a small step rather than a big step, and (3) finally be sure on the cliff sides and stone slopes to have three points of contact (two feet and a hand).
Much of the trail I am grabbing the stone faces or pulling myself up with the rungs sunk deep in the rock face. Every time I need a metal rung, there’s one there. Throughout the climb I’m guessing I have 200 rungs and one well-placed metal ladder at my disposal.
I never have an “oh shit” moment when I wonder what the hell I am doing or doubt if I will make it. That said, it’s a bitch; as I climb I just keep repeating in amazement this is one bad ass climb as I step and stretch higher and higher. A few times I have to kneel to boost myself up onto the next boulder.
Though the trail is but 1.6 miles to the top, it takes us nearly two hours.
Once at the top, we chat up the twenty-somethings and enjoy the vista to Frenchman Bay. To return to the Park Loop Trail, we descend on the far less steep Champlain North Ridge and Orange and Black Trails.
Will I do it again? Only if someone really wants to climb it with me. And as luck would have it, I have such a person – Hannah Banana. She’s fired up for this vertical adventure!
Click here for a five minute YouTube video on the Precipice Trail.