Twin Mountain is so named because it has twin peaks, and they are twin pains in the backside on the final ascent from either direction. After almost two-month hiatus, Twin was my 29th Catskills peak and this one seemed liked the most challenging yet. Hikers say Sugarloaf is the most difficult, but not so, in my humble opinion. I ascended Sugarloaf in icy conditions in February and last week’s summer ascent of Twin was much worse. From Pecoy Notch, on the last 0.7 miles to the summit of Twin, the path turns into mostly sheer rock face like this below:
The red disks are trail markers that you have to follow. Where’s the path? You might be wondering. Well, that is the “path” – straight up the rock face. There was some nerve-jangling after getting halfway up and then “looking down”, you know, as in don’t look down. Then, there was a feeble wave of the white flag and some wimpering before the quick realization that I had to get over this granite hurdle complete the Catskill 35. The episode continued with some vertigo-induced hyperventilation, followed by a mad, spiderman-like zig-zag up the cliff. Not to mention some minor embarrassment when I realized I had an audience in some brush on the ledge above. “I just suffered some badass vertigo,” I offered the descending strangers, as explanation of my impression of Cheryl Strayed losing her toe nail. “It’s like that for the rest of the way up,” the hikers nodded gravely, and sympathetically, in unison as if they knew what it would look like when I did it. Here’s another part of the “path” further on, up which the dog had to be carried.
Our intrepid hiking dog would have found his way around that in the trees, but we didn’t want to lose him over a hidden cliff. This is the Devil’s Path, so caution is necessary. There is also a large cave on this portion and you have to slide sideways up the side of it to ascend to the summit.
The hike to the base of Twin from Roaring Kill parking area via Pecoy Notch has some unique and fabulous features like a small, mossy swimming hole with a waterfall that crosses the trail and appears to fall over side of the cliff; Dibble’s Quarry, which opens up to a spectacular view of Kaaterskill High Peak; a stone path through a light swamp, with a stand of what looks like angelica covered in industrious bees, over which Sugarloaf towers ominously. Pecoy Notch’s path is very rocky after the quarry, but I’ve hiked this notch before and it always occurs to me that it’s the perfect hike to take city visitors. The abandoned quarry is like an auditorium that is built into the side of the cliff with a lot of manmade seating, “box seats” and stone sculptures, with a back-drop of the aforementioned Kaaterskill High Peak.
Our trusty guide, Catskill Mountaineer suggests that you approach Twin Mountain from the east via Jimmy Dolan Notch, but I wanted to visit the quarry again. I find Pecoy Notch to be more charming in general.
To do this hike, park at Roaring Kill parking area which is all the way at the end of Elka Park Road just South of Tannersville, home of the Catskills best burger joint, Mama’s Boy Burgers, which you will need on the ride home along with some of their ice-cream.
Take the yellow blazed Roaring Kill trail for 0.25 miles. Then hang a left at the signage which starts both blue blazed trails and take the Pecoy Notch trail for 1.75 miles. At the top of the notch, go left up the mountain for the aforementioned, daunting thigh-busting 0.7 mile climb, paying special attention to your footing and full advantage of the roots of the trees that jut out from underneath and over the rocks. Hiking time is about four hours, but take your time on this climb and never do it when it has been, is, or will be, raining.
There is some mobile phone service on this trail, so on the descent, I downloaded Mama Boy’s menu and decided on my burger even before I got to the restaurant. In what I saw as a sign, the owner himself flipped my burger, which was cooked to perfection along with the sautéed mushrooms. In what has to be a first for a food journalist, I was too exhausted to take a picture of it. You’ll just have to take my word for it and try it yourself.