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Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Spruce & Hemlock Mountains(Catskills)

Met up with my buddy Jim at the Slide Mountain parking area along County Route 47 early in the morning with the intentions of hitting a couple more Catskill Hundred Highest peaks.  The goal was to leave my car at the Slide parking area and then drive Jim's vehicle to a spot further southwest along 47, and start from there.  We intended to bushwhack to Spruce Mountain and Winnisook Lake Mountain.  This was adventure #1 for the day as Jim couldn't find an area to pull his vehicle off.  So, he got creative and parked off partially on the snow bank being sure to keep the car off the road.  Adventure #2 was the impending clipper snow storm knocking on the door.  Starting at an elevation of about 2200 feet, we crossed the road and headed north into the woods.
Almost as soon as we began the hike, a light snow broke out.  Fortunately, a hard base with only a couple inches of fluffy snow on top made for easy going.
 Heading up the south-southwest slopes of Spruce Mountain we hit some challenging bands of rock walls.
 We decided to head up a fairly direct route, which is where the micro spikes came in handy.
 A glance back over our shoulders provided a glimpse through the trees towards Hemlock Mountain.
 Interestingly enough, Spruce Mountain is nearly 100% hardwoods.  Until we found a very small patch near the summit.
 A steady snow and stronger winds greeted us at the 3380 foot summit of Spruce Mountain.
 We dropped down to the col between Spruce and Hemlock Mountain's as the snow picked up in intensity.
 The nondescript 3248 summit of Hemlock Mountain.  Unfortunately there is not enough prominence for Hemlock Mountain to count as its own peak. 
 After reaching Hemlock Mountain's summit, Jim continued on to Winnisook Lake Mountain, but the increasing snowfall rate made me reconsider.  I opted to bail out here, dropping off Hemlock Mountain's southeast slopes back towards Route 47.  I had to butt slide in a couple of very steep spots and unfortunately lost a pole on one steep descent.  Once back down towards the road, I enjoyed a nice winter view southeast through a steady snow.
 Even caught a glimpse of the sun, through the steady light snow.
 Walked about a third of a mile along County Route 47 towards my car at the Slide parking area, passing by a picturesque small stream.
 Hiking a quiet stretch along County Route 47 under a steady light snowfall. 
Hiked about 3.5 miles RT with nearly 1200 feet elevation gain.  My 60th Catskill Hundred Highest in the bag.

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