Ascent of Bearpen Mountain on 2015-04-18

Climber: Matthew Ledwith

Other People:Solo Ascent
Only Party on Mountain
Date:Saturday, April 18, 2015
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Car
Peak:Bearpen Mountain
    Location:USA-New York
    Elevation:3600 ft / 1097 m

Ascent Trip Report

Route to Trailhead (Heading South from Albany)

NYS Thruway I-90 S to Exit 21 Catskill, NY. Took Route 23 thru Windham to Prattsville. After you cross the bridge over Schoharie Creek at the far end of town, take an immediate left onto Country Route 2. Eventually you will climb an uphill with ‘Rough Road’ construction signage. At the crest of the hill, an impressive valley vista opens up with Bearpen’s massive northeast flank opposing you in the distance. Follow the road into the valley and take a right turn onto Don Irwin Road. The left onto Heisinger Road is almost immediate. Follow it a short distance to the end. The parking lot area is unmarked – this is not a DEC trailhead, but obvious, with a creek passing underneath through a culvert. There are two roads, one is gated and locked with a path around to its’ right, and the other is clearly marked with many signs reading Private Property/No Trespassing. The gated road is the trail. It is a jeep path that leads right up to the summit area. This must be the easiest and best trailhead for the mountain. Having bagged Vly Mountain a couple of weeks before from the south, I know there are snowmobile trails leading from the Hunter’s Lodge (snowmobile trail junction between Vly and Bearpen) to Bearpen, but I can’t imagine there being anything as easily approachable as this trail. This is a good trail for beginners and inexperienced hikers.

I had cellphone service (AT&T) throughout the entire hike. Make sure you don’t block either road if you can help it! Due to Bearpen’s orientation and topography, this mountain is capable of having more snowpack than is typical of the rest of the Catskills (it is technically outside the blue line of the Catskill Park).

I left the trail head at 2:00p. The day was clear and gorgeous. The temperature hovered in the low 70’s for the whole hike. There was a stiff breeze but it was the perfect counter for the slight heat. The road began climbing at a reasonable grade almost immediately and it was twenty minutes before I saw my first spot of snow. At first the snow was very isolated and mostly off the trail, but the amount increased as I ascended. For most of the hike you can see your proximate destination, a quite large summit ridge that runs northwest to southeast. In order to attain this ridge, you climb the northeastern flank which is segmented by streams into about eight shoulders. The jeep trail climbs the main shoulder via a dozen or so minor switchbacks, but generally heads south. Within thirty minutes I had a decent backwards view to the north across the valley of another mountain. After the first major switchback turned me towards the north, the amount of snow and ice on the road increased. The second major switchback at 3:15p brought me back toward the southwest. At this point the snow dominated the trail and I post-holed a couple times up to my knees. This was also the steepest section of the trail.

At 3:30p I came across a snowmobile trail junction to the north. I continued on the same trail without turning and found the snow still pretty deep but rutted by some wheeled motorized vehicle. On my right, a very steep slope appeared to lead to a clearing, which I rightly assumed was the summit area. Rather than continue on the road, which would have been easier and very short, I opted to bushwhack up the steep slope for about two hundred feet through the deepest snow of the day. It was moderately exhausting and took nearly ten minutes, but I finally crested the small clearing at the top at 3:37p. There were wide open views to the north. I took some pictures and enjoyed the moment. As I turned around to survey the area I noticed a series of trails leading off to other areas on the summit ridge. Also, there was an old rusted out rope tow left over from the mountain’s skiing past in the wooded area on the edge of the clearing.

Consulting my GPS, I decided to take the trail to the southeast and very quickly came across another, even larger clearing with a fire pit in the middle, and another great view to the north. There is signage posted here for the Big Valley Trail Breakers snowmobile club that maintains the trails between here and Vly Mountain further southwest. By 3:45p, I had bushwhacked to the topographical summit of the mountain, which was very close behind the clearing.

I went back to the clearing and while admiring the view I noticed the road was right in front of me. After enjoying the scenery, downing a liter of Saratoga water, and bagging the peak on my iCEBreaker app, I headed down. I left the summit at 3:58p, ran down the deep snowy parts, and made great time back to the car. By 5:00p I was back on Country 3 and driving home.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:1733 ft / 528 m
    Round-Trip Distance:5.3 mi / 8.5 km
    Route:Jeep Trail
    Trailhead:1867 ft / 569 m
    Quality:2 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Road Hike, Maintained Trail, Snow on Ground
    Gear Used:
Ski Poles
    Weather:Pleasant, Breezy, Clear
Ascent Statistics
    Time:1 Hours 45 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Time:1 Hours 

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