The last time I hiked this mountain was in 2007 with my wife. At that time there was no parking lot at trail head, you would have to park along the side of the road. Now with the parking lot it is safer for hikers to park and enter/exit their vehicles. Today the parking lot was full when I got done with my hike, and there were several cars parked on the shoulder of the Forestdale rd.
I had signed in at the register just after 7am. I would be the first hiker on the trail this morning. It was a brisk morning at 35 degrees so It didn’t take me long to get moving. The trail leading in from the register is now a wide trail (wide enough to drive a 4 wheeler down), at least up to the point of a gate that leads to private property. Twelve years ago it was a nice narrow winding path that was soft underfoot.
It appeared to me as I continued up there has also been several re-routes of the trail, and a fair amount of trail work as well, including a few switchbacks. The trail is easy enough to follow and a gradual climb up to just past the second brook crossing. From the second brook crossing the trail begins to gain more in elevation, ultimately becoming steadier uphill climb. The trail now skirts out onto a ledge providing some nice views of the valley, along with the backside of Whiteface Mountain. I don’t recall this section from my previous climb. After a few scrambles up some short steeper sections you come to the infamous "chimney". The trail goes right up through it. There are several places to use for handholds and help pull you up through. Once on top of the chimney you are awarded with some beautiful views. From this point there is a fair amount of scrambling up steep rock until you get to the bump below the summit. From this point it is about .4 miles to the summit.
I took a little break at the bump and had a snack, and just enjoyed the views before I continued on. It was absolutely perfect day for climbing. The temperature when I left the car was 35 degrees and by now it was probably in the low 40’s, no wind, and blue skies.
After about a 20 minute break I continued up, but not before dropping down into a small grove of softwoods, going up and over several rocks before coming back out onto the ledges of Catamount. The trail is easy enough to follow, even when out on the rock ledges, just need to pay attention to posted trail signs (sparse in some areas), and just looking for worn rock. You can see scrape marks from winter hikers that leave them from wearing traction devices. On that note, this hike would be even more of a challenge in the winter.
A short while later I was on the summit, alone. I would enjoy the summit to myself for over an hour. In fact I would not see another hiker until I was back down in the small grove of softwoods.
On the hike out I ran into several groups of people making their way up and enjoying this beautiful day. The hike down took me almost as long as it did going up. There is a lot of loose rock, stones that give way under foot. Once I got down to the first brook crossing I was able to pick up speed and was back at the car for noon.