Mendon Peak (Bushwhack) | 9/5/22
Updated: Nov 6, 2022
Rounding the corner on sixty-something of my Hundred Highest, I still wasn’t any less scared of bushwhacks than I was when I decided to take on the challenge. But, with so many of the remaining peaks being trail-less it was time to start getting serious on not only doing more of them, but also not relying on others for navigation.
With Ryan planning to climb a route in Franconia Notch, I let go of his safety blanket of information and invited my friend Diane to come with me- not to provide any sort of navigational input, but to chat up endlessly while I figured things out along our journey.
When morning came around, Ryan’s alarm hadn’t gone off and his climbing partner texted that the rain was too much for their objective- looks like he was going to get a blast from the past from when he did Mendon back in 2018 for his hundred.
After breakfast, we remediated the fact that Diane planned on hiking with a water bottle in one hand and her Gogosqueeze in the other with my trail vest and got going towards Killington. The drive was a nice change from 93 north and it was nice to know this would be my last time venturing to central(ish) Vermont for my 100- as I did Killington, Pico, and Mendon all separately before knowing I was going to do this list.
Once we got to the parking lot, we messed around with the sweetest golden retriever for good luck and got going up the logging road. Though I haven’t done many schwacks, I knew that the start of this one was a treat; it was beyond obvious and started very gradually up the Catamount XC trail. The trail kept up smooth for about half a mile and got a little bit rougher underfoot by the cabin. In terms of keeping up the trail, we only needed to double back twice and both instances were because we knew we weren’t supposed to climb so hard so soon.
Once the logging road thinned a bit, there was some overgrowth but it was still abundantly clear where the trail was- this may have been a bushwhack but I did at least 5 worse looking (real) trails in the Whites this past summer. Along this section, there were 3 river crossings and by the last and most overgrown one, I got smothered with stinging nettle and had to plunge into the water immediately. Not pleasant, avoid it if you can by crossing a tad earlier.
Also be warned, by the second water crossing you’ll see a cairn in front of a path to the right, which also has tape markers on it. We did not go this way because it didn’t seem like the best route, but it was abundantly clear that this alternative would ascend the northwestern ridge in at least 2 fewer miles than the way we went up from the north. The GPS track we had saved was massively successful, so I have no regrets.
Soon, Ryan went ahead to take care of business and got distracted by a bunch of artifacts- and no wonder! I had never seen this many artifacts in one place, we saw a fridge, an oven, some miscellaneous parts, and oven racks! The fridge was the coolest artifact I’d ever seen, and I don’t see it being beaten out any time soon.
Using this presumed camp as a point of reference, we started climbing immediately after this, about three miles in. At first, it’s easily graded as you continue on the logging road but BE WARNED of massive spiders because they DO NOT taste good. I screamed a lot over that one it was so nasty.
After spider alley, you hit the switchbacks and know when you’re there because they are very pronounced. This was my favorite section of the whole day because it was such a comfortable type of challenge for me. The cross country runner in me will always love that range of cardio where you can talk but you'd rather not. After the three switchbacks, you get up to a junction with a magic bucket and a cache for Killington ski patrol. We kept to the left and hit our “hardest” section of the day which was a little blowdowny but still had orange markers.
We hit our false summit around 1 pm and then kept going to the right over to the canister! Though I’d done a handful of canister peaks before, this was the first one that I had ever signed, woohoo! We turned back to the false summit and went the way we turned away from the first time so that we could go out to the Killington outlook- it was absolutely lovely and quite the surprise.
By the outlook, we’d tracked 4.77 miles and I was hoping for a 2-hour descent. Expectedly, the way down was even easier to find than the way up but I was happy to have poles going down the switchbacks to ease my ankles. Once we hit the fridge, we knew it was cruising season, which was true, until I got in touch with an even more stinging nettle. Somehow I was the only one to do this.
Other than my fear of poison, the remainder of the hike was smooth and uneventful. We made our return long before my 2-hour goal and for the first time in a while, it didn’t even feel like we’d been away from civilization. To my surprise, we saw four people and a dog along the way. What is it with Ryan and I only seeing people on bushwhacks these days?
Final Stats: 9.01 miles | 2,038 Feet | 11 Frogs/Toads