Giant, Howard, Phelps, Phelps North and Wallface (3 days of hiking).

All links lead to maps showing named features.

After a gentle hike on Friday with Sylvie going over Giant and out via Hopkins and the Ranney trail  Jean and I hiked to Klondike notch on Saturday and bushwhacked up to Howard (600 feet of ascent, less than a mile, easy). Too easy, so we descended 250 feet to the Howard/Fir Wave Mtn. Col and proceeded to take it on the chin for 30 minutes through seriously bad dead-fall and re-growth. I had told Jean that woods up Fir Wave would be wide open so this was puzzling and my credibility was undermined. It turns out that we (ADK Jack and High on Life) had descended further to the SE when we did it 8 years ago but I wouldn’t figure that out until I got home.

Once we cleared the rough patch (30 mins for 100 feet of elly gain) the promised open woods appeared and we got to a high point (4200 feet) with no trouble. We were unsure of our position and it turns out that Fir Wave’s summit area has two closed contour circles that are separated by about 200 yards. We were most likely on the northernmost one, which explains why there was no sign or canister (haha!). We encountered no fir waves because they are all on the west side, which we avoided like the plague.

We followed a compass bearing closely across featureless terrain, barely losing elevation until suddenly the land began to slope downwards in the correct direction. I remembered from many years ago with Cory D that we could see Phelps from there so we headed for an opening. Sure enough we could see people on the summit of Phelps. Our main handrail was the western side of the ridge that proceeds around from Tabletop, Tabletop east , Fir wave and other bumps. As you approach the ridge’s crest the woods become extremely thick but if you go over to the east just a few feet you have open woods and easy bushwhacking.

We were on the final bump before Phelps and, looking at the map, I said to Jean that the herd path that goes to the Klondike Lean-to should be pretty close and when we got going again it was 15 feet away! After a nice 30 minute break on Phelps we continued the whack after following the herd path down for about 5 minutes.

What ensued was a series of ups and downs that followed the same pattern : if the woods got too thick we bore right and were golden. The best section was what I called “The Ramp”, which descends Pelkey Basin’s NE ridge about 300 feet through very open birches and ferns. The ramp ends in a mini-col next to a 1021 meter bump. From there we swung due north and dropped into yet another col and finally, went up a very gnarly south facing slope of Phelps North. After that it was all easy downhill on north-facing slopes to the Klondike Notch Trail. Best of all was strolling into camp and cracking open a cold beer!

The next day we drove up to the HPIC (High Peaks Info Center) and began walking towards Indian Pass. After Scotts clearing you hike past a very impressive and cliffy 1009 meter sub-summit of Lost Pond Peak. The main trib of Indian Pass brook flows out of Scott Pond past this sub-summit. Thus, when we crossed this trib the flow of Indian Pass brook decreased to almost nothing and that was where we left the trail and began the bushwhack. From there a compass bearing to the summit put us very close to the wall of Wallface and we ascended very steep slopes and detoured right around lesser cliffs. I don’t know about Jean but I was huffing and puffing and the sweat poured off of me. After 500 vertical feet of a zone 4 workout the slope lay back and we had good ascending through always easy woods. We knew we were close to the wall because of the back-lighting that filtered through the trees.

Near the top at 1000 meters elly there is a great viewing rock and although I was looking for it we went past it for 5 minutes before I said so and we turned around and found it. This exposed rock is perched above 1000 feet of air across from Marshall with the Macintyre range to your left and Henderson Lake way down to the south. We detoured around some wicked blowdown and were soon sitting on the rock that indicates the summit.

After a quick snack we headed off towards the west and proceeded to the pinch point between Wallface and McNaughton right at the outlet of the southernmost Wallface Pond. This turned out to be much trickier and a lot thicker than I thought it would be. Taras and I did it in the opposite direction a year ago and the woods were remarkably open. Not paying enough attention to the map and compass led us off the desired route not once but twice. Also we wanted to avoid the long and steep drop into the cleft that separates McN and WF so we wandered too far to the right and had to correct.

We got it all figured out and the finale of this route is a very steep 400 meter side-hilling episode that brings you directly to the pond. You know you are approaching the pond because the drainage gets closer and closer on your left while your elevation does not change. Time from summit to pond: 1H45. We skirted the pond on its McNaughton side in another 15 mins. through open woods and across fens and crossed the short brook that separates the north pond from the south. We picked up the marked hiking trail (muddiest trail in the park?) and aimed our feet for the HPIC, which seemed to take forever, especially the never-ending section from Rocky falls out.

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