Tag Archives: The Catskill 35 over 3500

The Catskill 35: Blackhead, Black Dome & Thomas Cole

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski The view south from Black Dome Mountain

Climbing Blackhead Mountain is like driving to New York City via the Tappanzee Bridge for the first time. By the time you’re more than halfway there it has become ridiculously difficult and you’re suddenly slightly afraid. You’ve got vertigo and you want to turn back, but you’re on a mission and survival is obligatory. The worst part about climbing Blackhead is the realization that, once you get to the top, if you want to be part of the Catskill 3500 Club, you have to return and repeat the experience in the winter. Four peaks are required hiking between December 21st and March 21st for entry into the club – Blackhead, Slide, Panther and Balsam – and Blackhead will require crampons, snowshoes and an ice pick – or all three. I already have a superb set of crampons from Hillsound, which I will be testing out on all four peaks.

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The Catskill 35: Eagle Mountain

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

When I hiked Eagle Mountain last month, I passed a group of Asian tourists sitting cross-legged in a circle, chatting excitedly while frying the contents of their bento boxes over Bunsen burners. Along with the hissing of hibachi, the clattering of chopsticks is not the sort of sound you would expect on a Catskills trail, but there’s a first time for everything. Much to their annoyance, my puppy took a keen interest in the visitors’ elaborate picnic, but I would rather eat a hiker’s sock than be impolite, so I decided not to take a picture of the lean-to where they were lunching. The picture below is one that I took last year in October, so I hope you an imagine it filled in with lush greens.

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The Catskill 35: Balsam Lake Mountain

© J.N. Urbanski

© J.N. Urbanski

There are five fire towers in the Catskills, three of which I have visited, but I still have not mustered the courage to get to the top of one. Flights one, two and three of Balsam Lake Mountain fire tower were a piece of cake until a slight breeze blew, which rattled me to the core, then I looked down. Huge mistake; I sank to the floor (which looks like flimsy wood paneling when you’re kneeling on it), clinging on to the handrail. Is there a handrail? I can’t remember, but it hardly matters. I managed to execute a nice crawl/shuffle combination down the stairs on my bum, like a socialite spilling out of a nightclub at 3am, knees and elbows first. I spent the descent of Balsam Lake Mountain trying not to collapse in a heap, deeply in thought, musing on vertigo. Modern fire towers are steel structures bolted into solid rock, but older versions were made of wood. The earlier wooden structure on Balsam Lake Mountain was built in 1887, but was struck by lightning and burnt to the ground in 1901.

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