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Old 03-22-2016, 03:02 PM   #1
undoubtedly0
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Question Considering Gothics in May

Hi all! Planning a three-night backpacking trip for about ten guys in early May. Hoping to lead them on something remote, challenging, and breathtaking. Some of us have backpacking experience - some do not.

Was wondering if Gothics would be a good goal for us.
  • In early May, can Gothics be climbed without gear (ropes, crampons, etc)?
  • Are there marked trails to the peak?
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Old 03-22-2016, 03:58 PM   #2
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  • Typically, yes.
  • Yes. There are several trails leading to the summit of Gothics.

Here's a map: http://caltopo.com/map.html#ll=44.15...844&z=13&b=mbt

Here's a summary of the DEC Regulations for the High Peaks: http://www.adk.org/page.php?pname=dec-regulations

The regulation that affects your plan immediately is: an overnight group is limited to a maximum of 8 people.

FWIW, Gothics is often done as a day-hike. Day-hiking groups are limited to 15 people.

Another idea: create a base-camp at a campground and day-hike to three different summits.
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Old 03-22-2016, 04:33 PM   #3
DSettahr
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Some good resources for you to use while planning your trip:

NYS DEC's Regulations for State Land Camping and Hiking (Note that some areas, like the High Peaks Wilderness, have additional regulations than those listed on this page- Trail Boss' link above is a good resource for the High Peaks Regulations.)

Leave No Trace Principles

The size of your group is going to be a complication. Overnight groups on State Land in NY are limited to 9 people max; in the High Peaks Wilderness (which includes Gothics) this limit is 8 people max. Note also that in the High Peaks, associated groups must maintain at least 1 mile of separation at all times, so even if you split into smaller groups, those groups cannot have any contact with each other. The reason for these limits is that large groups (even well-meaning ones) tend to have disproportionately large physical and social impacts in the backcountry. Two smaller groups hiking and camping separately tend to have less total combined impact than one larger group hiking together does.

In Wild Forest areas, you can get a permit for a group of up to 12 people to camp together. This precludes camping in the High Peaks, though- only 2 High Peaks are located outside of Wilderness Areas, and the camping options in the vicinity are pretty limited.

I agree with Trail Boss' recommendation to reserve a couple of sites at a campground (if you can find one that is open in early May), and do day hikes together as a group. As he noted, the limit for day hiking groups in the High Peaks Wilderness is 15 people, so this should work for you. Ultimately, this is probably the easiest way for you to get such a large group out into the outdoors without generating undue impacts or violating any regulations.

With regards to Gothics specifically, yes, once the snow and ice has melted, no special equipment is needed to climb it if you stick to the marked trails. There are 3 marked trails that lead to the summit. If you don't already have one, I would strongly encourage you to invest in a physical hiking map (Both the ADK and National Geographic make goods for the High Peaks, the ADK map is better in overall quality). A guidebook isn't a bad idea either if you're unfamiliar with the region and the trails.

The timing of your trip may also be worth considering, though. Early May is still mud season. Most years, the DEC institutes a hiking ban during mud season and asks hikers to stay off of steep trails in the High Peaks. During this time of year, soils that are still saturated with melt water are particularly susceptible to adverse impacts from hikers. The soils in the High Peaks are pretty sensitive to hiker traffic to begin with, and erosion in particular is already a problem on my High Peaks trails. Hiking during mud season can significantly exacerbate this issue. The ban is purely voluntary, so you won't be ticketed of fined if you hike in the High Peaks anyways, but ultimately complying with it is generally in the bests interests of protecting resources in the High Peaks. If you're determined to do something in the High Peaks and are interested in helping to protect the area at the same time, I would encourage you to at least consider postponing your trip for a few weeks.

That doesn't mean you need to stay out of the woods entirely- there are plenty of other options in the Adirondacks besides the High Peaks, which comprise only a small portion of the Adirondacks. The Lake Champlain valley/Lake George region in particular tends to dry out sooner than the High Peaks, and offers a lot of peaks with astounding views. Mountains like Pharaoh, Treadway, Black, Sleeping Beauty, Buck, And Fifth all have really nice views (better even than many of the High Peaks).

I hope this helps!
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Old 03-22-2016, 04:54 PM   #4
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FWIW, "Open All Year": http://koa.com/campgrounds/lake-placid/
Plus you can build a camp-fire there. You can't do that in the Eastern High Peaks zone (banned).


There's also the Wilderness Campground at Adirondack Loj: http://www.adk.org/page.php?pname=wilderness-campground

It lies in the midst of the EHP but, because it is on private land, I believe you are allowed to build a camp-fire.

Last edited by Trail Boss; 03-22-2016 at 05:12 PM..
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Old 03-22-2016, 05:40 PM   #5
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Quote:
In early May, can Gothics be climbed without gear (ropes, crampons, etc)?
FWIW -- a few years ago on the 2nd weekend in May we climbed LWF/UWF/Armstrong from the Lake road and intended to climb Gothics as well. The south facing slopes were free and clear, the north facing slopes were very icy. Made for a long day, bailed before Gothics and had a narrowing snow spine to hike down back to the lake road.

Conditions this year may be drastically different, but the Adirondacks are still very unpredictable.
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Old 03-22-2016, 05:40 PM   #6
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^^ Dittoing the above recommendations for the KOA or the Loj Campground. Both are decent car camping options that would allow your group to legally camp together and still enjoy the High Peaks region.

And rdl is correct- spring seems to be getting in full swing early this year, but winter may not be over in the High Peaks just yet. We could easily still get a storm that drops a foot of snow in the next few months. A few years ago, the High Peaks got 14 inches of snow over Memorial Day Weekend.
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Old 03-23-2016, 11:09 AM   #7
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The other requirement to be aware of if camping in the High Peaks is the need for bear canisters. You will be required to have enough bear canisters to store all the food for your group. So that would be a substantial quantity of canisters given your group size.

And at that time of year, the bears will be coming out of hibernation and they love nothing more then the tender fresh of some hiker to fill their bellies :-)
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Old 03-23-2016, 11:36 AM   #8
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Another option that occurs to me is that you might be able to rent a couple of the lean-tos or one of the cabins at Johns Brook Lodge. I'm not sure what the capacity of those sites is off the top of my head, but it's possible that they have an option that would accommodate 10 people.

EDIT: Camp Peggy O'Brien sleeps 12 people. http://www.adk.org/page.php?pname=johns-brook-camps

The Lean-tos sleep 6 each, so you would have to rent 2 of them. Bear canisters are available for food storage on site after Johns Brook Lodge opens in June, but fires are not permitted at the lean-tos. http://www.adk.org/page.php?pname=johns-brook-leantos

Last edited by DSettahr; 03-23-2016 at 12:15 PM..
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Old 03-23-2016, 12:26 PM   #9
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@DSettahr

Did you just point out a loophole in the DEC's "max overnight EHP group size = 8" rule?

It never occurred to me that a group of more than 8 people can camp overnight in the EHP provided they do so on the private land of the Adirondack Mountain Club. For a price, the regulation can be circumvented.
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Old 03-23-2016, 01:01 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Trail Boss View Post
@DSettahr

Did you just point out a loophole in the DEC's "max overnight EHP group size = 8" rule?

It never occurred to me that a group of more than 8 people can camp overnight in the EHP provided they do so on the private land of the Adirondack Mountain Club. For a price, the regulation can be circumvented.
I wouldn't really call it a loop hole. It's private property, with all of the rights that generally go along with private property. You're not camped in the Eastern High Peaks Wilderness at all, but at what is essentially a private campground. As far as the regulations are concerned, once you leave the JBL area and pass into state land, you are hiking as a day use group.

JBL isn't the only piece of private property in the area, either- there are a few private camps up and down the valley. The south side trail I believe served as an ATV access route for people to get to these camps (not sure if this is still possible since Irene). Most of these camps are pretty well hidden but evidence of them can be spotted with a careful eye.

With regards to the camps at JBL, the fee for camping there as well as having staff on site also helps the ADK to better manage the impacts that said camping generates. It looks like they keep a pretty tight reign on those sites, based on the rules they have in place- no radios at all, bear canisters mandatory (no storage is allowed at JBL), no tents around lean-tos (interestingly enough, you can pitch them inside the lean-tos, which makes sense since they are reserved and not open to additional groups), and no fires allowed. I suspect that a lot of the impacts that are frequently an issue on lean-tos on state land (noise, improper waste disposal, vegetative trampling, etc.) aren't as frequently an issue at the JBL lean-tos. It does bug me how close they are to water, though...

EDIT: According to this article, there are 17 different parcels of private land in the Johns Brook area that are surrounded by the High Peaks Wilderness Complex.

Last edited by DSettahr; 03-23-2016 at 05:58 PM..
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Old 03-23-2016, 02:36 PM   #11
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True not technically the Easter High Peaks Area but the "Johns Brook Primitive Area", a 146 acre island of private land in the heart of the EHP area.


By grace of "spot-zoning", a large group (> 8) can legally spend the night in Johns Brook Valley. If the same large group camps a mere 0.2 miles east of Camp Peggy O, they'll be in violation.

Not a commentary about the pros and cons of the ADK Mtn Club's ownership but simply an observation that, yes, it is possible to have a large group spend a night in the heart of the EHP (although technically not on Wilderness land). "Undoubtedly0" has this option available for a group of ten hikers.
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Old 03-23-2016, 02:38 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by DSettahr View Post
That doesn't mean you need to stay out of the woods entirely- there are plenty of other options in the Adirondacks besides the High Peaks, which comprise only a small portion of the Adirondacks. The Lake Champlain valley/Lake George region in particular tends to dry out sooner than the High Peaks, and offers a lot of peaks with astounding views. Mountains like Pharaoh, Treadway, Black, Sleeping Beauty, Buck, And Fifth all have really nice views (better even than many of the High Peaks).

I hope this helps!
Thank you all so much - all of your comments have been extremely helpful!

Given the feedback (principally that my group size is slightly larger than ideal), I decided to broaden my question up a bit more. Thank you, thank you, thank you!
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Old 03-23-2016, 02:42 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by Trail Boss View Post
By grace of "spot-zoning", a large group (> 8) can legally spend the night in Johns Brook Valley. If the same large group camps a mere 0.2 miles east of Camp Peggy O, they'll be in violation.

Not a commentary about the pros and cons of the ADK Mtn Club's ownership but simply an observation that, yes, it is possible to have a large group spend a night in the heart of the EHP (although technically not on Wilderness land). "Undoubtedly0" has this option available for a group of ten hikers.
Thanks - I was wondering about this very thing! So in such a region, is it indeed legal to camp with a group of 10?

Generally speaking, on private land, how do we know the owner allows camping?
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Old 03-23-2016, 02:54 PM   #14
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Thanks - I was wondering about this very thing! So in such a region, is it indeed legal to camp with a group of 10?

Generally speaking, on private land, how do we know the owner allows camping?
No one suggested you can camp on just anyone's private land. The Adirondack Mountain Club owns property within the Johns Brook Primitive Area and rents lean-to's, cabins, and bunks on their property.

If don't want to book a place to stay with the Adirondack Mountain Club, then the regulation prevents your group of ten from camping anywhere in the Eastern High Peaks Area.

If you didn't like the suggestion to car-camp and simply day-hike to the peaks, then you'll need to forget about the Eastern High Peaks Area. Pick another region of the Adirondack Park. Wherever else you choose to go, you'll need to acquire a permit for your oversized group.

From here:
Quote:
Groups of ten or more persons OR stays of more than three days in one place require a permit from the New York State Forest Ranger responsible for the area.
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Old 03-24-2016, 03:40 PM   #15
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I've stayed at the Loj campground many times and fires are permitted. You are within a day's hike of many high peaks, although probably a little far for Gothics (~9 miles one way)! Also, you can reserve your site(s) which assures that they will be available when you arrive. Campsites, leantos, canvas tents, etc. Very popular in the summer; not sure what it would be like in May.
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