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Sterling Fire Tower Loop Hike | Sterling Forest State Park, NY

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Revisiting Breakneck Ridge

January 30, 2015

Submitted by James Sterling

 

This was the second time that I had the opportunity to scale the boulders of Breakneck Ridge located in the Hudson Highlands State Park in Cold Spring, New York.  My first trip to this mountain was last year.  I was with my cousin the last time I came here, and I was with him again now.  Each trip was a totally different experience.  I had come in warmer weather and the mountain was packed with people looking to get in this fun yet challenging hike.   

 

This trip was to be different.  The temperature was in the low 30’s ºF and It was a Friday.  We had decided to make the trip up on a Friday to avoid getting stuck in a forecasted snow storm. We were thinking that the trail would be a lot less busy on a weekday.  We were not disappointed. We saw only one other person on the mountain.  Our goal was to head toward the Fire Tower on Mt. Beacon by the way of the Breakneck Ridge trail.  We would then head back via the Yellow Trail.

 

 

We arrived at the trail head around 8:30 AM.  There was a small parking lot at the trailhead which we parked at.  Further along down route 9D there is another larger parking lot. 

 

We started up the trail around 9AM. Right at the trailhead you are greeted with rocks leading up to a set of stone stairs that quickly take you up to the first overlook of the Hudson River.  It is a good place to get some photos of the river as well as the train tracks that run parallel to it.  

 

From here, we continued following the WHITE blazes, scurrying up some small rock scrambles.

 

Eventually we came to a section that had sheets of ice covering the rocks, making continuing on the trail dangerous. It was time for a bit of bushwhacking.  Turning left off the path, we continued up via an improvised route.  HYOH right? This turned out to be a blessing in disguise.  Not even 100 Yards off the path we ran into an old run down building.  There was graffiti all over the walls and rocks surrounding the building.

 

 

To our surprise, there seemed to be a path that continued on from the left side of the building and headed up the mountain.  We decided to see where this path would take us. 

This path continued up via more rock scrambling while the main trail remained visible to our right as we ascended.

 

 

Our little detour had set us off track and had dropped us off on the trail just after the flag area. We decided to head back down to get some pictures with the flag and Storm King Mountain in the background.

 

 

Being the person I am, I decided that the path was too conventional and that I would find a different way up. This ended up being another good choice.  Just like with the building we ended up finding a good spot top take pictures from. A little nook between rocks protected us from the wind as well as provided a good spot to take some great shots.  Yes, I know, more pictures.  

 

Below is the Chalet on the Hudson and an ice formation that had formed on the mountain right behind it.

 

 

 

From this spot you can also get a good view of Bannerman Castle on Pollepel Island

 

 

After taking several pictures we headed back up on the trail. 

 

 

At one point the trail splits into an easy section on the left or a continuation of the rock scramble towards the right. We continued right.  By now the sun had been out for a couple of hours and had melted most of the ice on the east facing side of the mountain. The easy ascent looked a bit too easy so we decided to go to the right towards the harder path.

 

 

After a couple of minutes you will come to a section where there are several good spots to do

some free climbing.  A steep incline and good hand holds makes this area a good place to

have some fun!  There are two climbing routes to the left and the trail leading to the right.

 

Note: if you want to climb both of the steep paths you will have to go a bit out of your way to come back down. (unless you plan on descending the 25 or so feet the same way you went up)

 

We decided to have lunch here and we took some video of climbing both climbing paths before we continued on.  

 

 

If you decide not to climb up, the trail continues to the left of this boulder.

 

 

The scrambling continues!

 

 

Reaching the top of the last scramble we were welcomed with a view of the next ascent.  We

would have to descend onto the side of the mountain that was away from the sun.  This means we would need to be careful of hidden ice and of ice coating the rocks in the trail. 

 

 

Below you can see the ice that is still coating some of the rocks.

 

 

Moving away from the side of the mountain that was in the shade the snow had disappeared

and there was no ice visible. The Breakneck trail was easy to follow so far and white blazes appeared frequently to assure you that you were going the right direction. 

 

 

Some areas still had ice covered rocks.  A reminder to us to stay vigilant. It would not be good to twist an ankle this far up the mountain. 

 

 

Continuing straight you come to some less difficult bouldering opportunities

 

 

Due to icy conditions on the trail we were forced to do a little more bushwacking.  We ended

up connecting back with the trail on the far side of the Notch trail intersection (which is why below blaze shows a left turn instead of a right).  We continued following the white blazes towards the Fire Tower.

 

 

Eventually we came to a mini-summit area that provided a great view of the surrounding

Mountainside.  At this spot we made the decision to turn back.  The sun was starting to come down and we didn’t want to be stuck hiking in the dark trying to navigate the frozen sections of the path.  A cairn marks the path if you decide to continue on to the fire tower.  

 

 

We hiked back on the Breakneck Ridge trail to the Red trail which would lead us out to Route 9D and back to our car. 

 

 

The sun was just setting as we arrived back at our car.  

 

 

It had been another great trip up to Cold Spring.  I would have liked to have made it out to the fire tower, but there is always next time! 

 

If you plan on hiking Breakneck Ridge, be sure to come prepared for amazing views and

some climbing fun! 

 

Until my next Unboring adventure, Live. Love. Love Living.  

 

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