Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Hiking The Precipice Trail - Acadia NP - 8/25/09

We had another fantastic week in Acadia last week. Cut a little short by the passing hurricanes on each end, but still awesome. We've been going to Acadia for nearly 15 years now and had never done this hike before. Most of the time it hasn't been an option since the trail is closed most of the summer for the nesting Peregrine Falcons. With my acrophobia this hike has always been a scary proposition for me anyway so the trail being closed was always a blessing in disguise. Last year the trail opened early and we talked about the possibility but I still managed to avoid the issue - with several other fantastic hikes. This year we had spent the first two days avoiding the rain from the passing hurricane (that never materialized during the day but kept us mopping up the tent at night). On Tuesday morning the weather was perfect. Natalie (my wife) has always wanted to do the hike and Jamie (our 14 year old daughter) had been feeling like she didn't want to be wasting the last week of her summer vacation with Mom and Dad and was in a generally foul mood - which I figured might be improved by a good scramble up a sheer cliff (which she has alway loved). So, let's try to put the acrophobia aside for today and get on with it...

For those that aren't familiar with The Precipice it is basically a vertical route up the cliffs on the East face of Champlain Mountain. I knew that there were iron rungs and rails on many of the tough stretches but wasn't sure how much exposure there really was (with nothing to hang on to). For some reason I'm fine with the heights as long as I've got a grip on something - but walking a narrow ledge with a sheer drop isn't so good (as I found out on the much easier Beehive a few years ago).

The lower section of the trail is a quick hike in basically to the base of the cliff. You very quickly come to the first obstacle which is a small ledge with a single rung to get up and a rail to grab over the top. It's quite a stretch and a good test for what's to come. There were actually several people who were ahead of us on the trail that took one look at this and turned around. We pulled ourselves up quite easily - although the ledge was wet and quite slippery on top which was a cause for concern for me. But on and up we go.

There isn't much to say about the rest of the trail. It is basically all straight up across a series of switchbacks up the cliff punctuated by about 100 rungs, railings, ladders, etc that go up the cliff face. The views over Frenchman's Bay start almost immediately and are absolutely spectacular. I had no problem all the way up with the exception of two open ledge traverses that had no handholds. These are like the sections on the Beehive that are a ledge a couple of feet wide with a vertical wall on the left and a sheer drop on the right . Better yet, the first one was bisected by a crack the whole length of the ledge and the left of the crack was wet and "greasy" leaving only a small (seemed like inches) dry area to traverse directly above the edge. No problem though - sit down and drag across on my butt. I have no pride...

In short order we were over the cliff and stopped for lunch before we got to the summit with its crowds from the other easier trails. We had the mountain all to ourselves and it was spectacular! Heading for the summit there was one last set of rungs and then we were on top. After a short time soaking in the views we headed down the Bear Brook and East Face trails back to the road. We've done this descent (Bear Brook anyway) the last two years when we've gone up Champlain from the other side and it is one of the nicest mountain descents anywhere. Continuous vistas over Frenchman's Bay as you wind down the open ridge. Fantastic!

I can't say how glad I am that after all these years I finally convinced myself to do this hike. Perhaps it is one more step to curing the acrophobia. All I know is that I can't wait to get back and do it again! Oh, and the best part - about 1/2 way up Jamie said "man, this is so much fun". Nothing better than that!!!

Jamie stradling the trail (down into that crack)

Rungs and railings

Quite the twisted section

One of the scary stretches with no handholds - but what a view!

Nat and I just hanging out

Shouldn't this be at the bottom?

Beautiful Champlain summit

The road down

A last look back. We hiked this?!?!

Complete album here: http://picasaweb.google.com/mtruman4...15596755531266

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