Weather: 70 degrees and sunny!
Let me start off by saying this mountain is on my list of redo’s. Everyone knows I’m usually so excited and happy to be hiking that no amount of misfortune can dampen my spirits. Until now. I didn’t take a single picture of the trail on the way up or down. Just at the summit. So let me explain our day. Juno and I set off around 10:30 from the trailhead, and I kept her on her leash for the beginning because it was her first even mountain hike and I didn’t want her running out of energy before we even started the final climb to the summit. It started out as a nice, easy hike, passing over two brooks along the way. After about a mile, conditions were exceedingly muddy (this was one of the first nice, warm days of spring, so snow and ice were melting, making footing dangerously slippery. Juno decided at this time that her favorite activity, now that she was off her leash, was to romp through the nastiest muddy patches, then go run right by me and shake. I was just as covered in mud, head to toe, as she was.
Now, the mud I could have handled, but the trail soon began a steep ascent and I realized how foolhardy I was not to bring microspikes with me. WORST decision, ever. The trail was already precariously rocky, add to that a layer of flowing water, on top of which sits a thick layer of melting ice, with flowing water on top. And me, falling flat on my butt every 15 steps. Now you know why my camera was safe in it’s pack. The trail continued this was for seemingly ever. At one point, Juno and I were walking along on one side of a bank, and in between the two banks was a solid river of ice. No way could be walk on it, and Juno decided, Hey, I can make that jump to the other bank where the trail continues! …She could not. She slammed right into the other side, her front arms reached on top of the bank but her face and chest made contact with the hard vertical surface. So even she wasn’t having a great time.
We’d been climbing for more than 2 hours, when the trail suddenly turned and went back downhill, steeply. Keep in mind that we were walking on/slipping and falling on a river of solid ice with water not only on top, but below the ice as well. It literally could not have been worse. So we make our way down, only to get to the bottom and realize that the trail goes right back up even more steeply just to the left of where we’d been. There was just this narrow opening at the top that we had to get up to, which was evidently where all of the water was being funneled from the snow melt at the summit, because there was about 6 inches of smooth, watery ice encasing the whole thing. We basically had to climb up a waterfall. Juno and I made it about halfway up before we both got stuck and had to slide back down very carefully. At this point I was openly swearing up a storm, saying things only adults should say, and Juno covered her ears. After my one-sided rant at the mountain, we went back up the way we had come down (which was no easy task) and found a WAY easier alternate path over to that narrow opening back to the trail. I couldn’t believe we were the first people to have done that, and that everyone else on the trail had gone up the waterfall. Unbelievable. Well, it was a good decision, because that brought us to the summit (by about 1pm). Which was INCREDIBLE, and well worth the nightmarish climb.
The summit was so cool. The whole dome is bare, with nearly 360 views. There were all of these little natural basins worn into the rock where snow-melt had gathered, making a ton of tiny crystal-clear pools that Juno had a blast playing in.
I was absolutely in awe of the scenery, and my foul mood was washed away. Yes, I was filthy and bruised and scraped up, but I was on the top of the world with my dawgter!
We happily stayed at the top for a long time. We had the mountain completely to ourselves, without another soul around for miles. We both had some food and water, and took a nap in the sun.
It really was breathtaking. But of course, I knew we’d have to leave eventually, and I couldn’t get Juno to sit still and rest; all she wanted to do was run and run and run. So I followed the blazes over to the summit plaque, snapped a picture, and we headed back down the cursed mountain. Mostly on our butts.
And that’s it for pictures. We painfully slid our way back down, trekked through the woods, and made it back to the car where June climbed into the back seat and passed out immediately. I couldn’t blame her, I thought about climbing back there too for a snooze. All in all, I cannot wait to redo this mountain, optimally in the fall, because I really don’t think it’s a hard climb (under the right conditions >.<) and the views are better even than those of St. Regis, since Ampersand is so much closer to the high peaks. Look forward to the next, much-more-well-documented climb up Ampersand!
Ampersand Mountain: 3365′ Elevation Gain: 1732′
Round Trip Distance: 5.4 miles
Total Duration: 4.5 hours
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