The Devil’s Path Traverse (in winter)

“Be willing to get out of your comfort zone, if you want to grow.”

Many elite mountaineers, alpinist, climbers, and mountain runners, live in other states like Utah, Colorado, or Washington where the elevation is higher and the terrain is more technical.

However, New York has the beautiful Catskill Mountains, Adirondacks, and Hudson Valley where, on any given day, those mountains can give you the challenge of your life.

As a Professional Boxer, Endurance Runner & Alpinist, the Mountains have been a valuable resource for my training needs for my “7 World Summits” goal and upcoming Leadville-100 event in August, but most importantly, they have been a teacher of humility and a plethora of life lessons.

As a professional Spanish Translator/Interpreter and Paramedic, my days during the week are pretty full, but I still manage to fit in my training as early as 3 a.m. before my work day begins.

The pre-planned weekend training when I am not called into work becomes crucial. So, on my agenda for Saturday, April 1st, was a scheduled Devil’s Path Traverse, which is a technical 25-mile Traverse tackling six peaks, over 10,000 feet elevation gain from point to point in the Catskills.

I have completed the Devil’s Path Traverse a half a dozen times even going solo a few times but in the summer and fall seasons with a best time of 10 hours & 18 minutes.

This year, winter has lasted longer, and New York State had a few significant snow storms in March where the Catskill Mountains got over 2 feet of snow.

In the week leading up to the scheduled Traverse, it rained, and the temperatures were a rollercoaster of 30 to 60 degrees and the forecast for Saturday, April 1st in Catskill, NY was calling for a high of 70 degrees with 90% chance of rain and thunderstorms in the afternoon which would mean lower and more drastic weather in the actual mountains.

Forecast for Devil's Path

I know that anything can and will change in the mountains, so I called my friend Paul, who is training for a few climbs, and asked if he wanted to join me on this Traverse. Paul is married and has 2 kids, and his wife is always a bit tentative when the name “Patty” is involved, but she gave Paul the “go ahead”.

The night before, I packed much more than I ever have for a Devil’s Path Traverse where my backpack weighed over 25 lbs. I had 2 full thermos of hot water, bivy, snowshoes, microspikes, 2 pairs of socks, full set of dry clothes, a puffy jacket, 2 hardshell jackets, 2 pair of gloves, 2 headlamps, extra wool beanie, small med kit, food, 30m rope, garmin Inreach and ice axe.

Person with outdoor gear on floor
Patty preparing her gear for her winter traverse of the Devil’s Path.

I set my alarm for 12 a.m. and met Paul at his home in Manhattan by 2 a.m. We were pleasantly surprised at how balmy it felt and relieved that it was not raining.

We arrived at an empty parking lot on Prediger Road at 3:50 a.m., and all of a sudden, it started raining and hard! “Murphy’s Law! Let the fun begin!” I said as we put on our backpacks and ran out of the car by 4 a.m.

Within the first 15 minutes, we were soaking wet and I had to throw on my microspikes as the rocks had black ice , but the temperature at 40 degrees was still manageable.

We reached the Indian Head Summit still in the dark by 5:45 a.m. when I realized my feet were soaking wet as well. Even though I had goretex boots, the rain and sometimes knee-deep soft snow came in through the sides.

I had tried to put on snowshoes momentarily, but the instability it created on the mushy snow and rock scrambles wasn’t safe.

I took advantage of the rain that had temporarily turned into a drizzle and changed my socks and jacket, and put large zip lock plastic bags over my dry socks to create a barrier from my wet boots and the frozen trails. I felt an immediate relief as I also sipped my warm water.

“We gotta keep moving as much as possible if we are going to finish this Beast!” I said to Paul.

We arrived at Twin Mountain at day break with zero views, rain, and fog. I would take one of the very few pics here because it is usually a beautiful view, but even on a challenging day like today, I could appreciate the beauty of Mother Nature.

person hiking in snow
Patty out on the trail in her new Merrell Women’s Moab Speed Mid GORE-TEX®

Descending Twin & Sugarloaf Mountains were one of the most treacherous experiences in the Catskills ever! The rocks had a combination of black and thick ice. I was thankful to have rope, ice axe, and experience or this may have had a much different outcome.

Arriving at the intersection of Mink Hollow Road, which is almost mid way before going up to Plateau Mountain where a solid decision had to be made whether to bail or continue, I made a full body assessment. Physically, mentally & and spiritually, I felt good to continue. Paul had taken a few spills but was still in good spirits and also wanted to continue.

The downpours continued going up to Plateau, and then West Kill and the terrain became even more challenging. The focus on surviving this epic Traverse was laser beamed mostly on safety.

The descending on icy scrambles while soaking wet was one of the most challenging and stressful experiences ever.

As we reached the final peak at St. Ann, our cell phones died, but my garmin Inreach still had 75% battery in case we ran into any trouble.

The long stretch to Spruceton Road finished smoking my legs with all the slipping and sliding, but the relief of finally reaching the road at 4:45 p.m. before dark was God sent.

We walked to Spruceton Inn area where a cab took us back to Prediger Road and I was able to change from head to toe. Dry clothes never felt so good!

I usually can judge by how red my eyes get on the level of stress experienced after a climb. My eyes were still pretty red as I ate at “Pho” Vietnamese eatery on the drive back home.

Headshot of Patty

I am thankful for each experience in the mountains. New York has so much to offer, and even on a challenging, rainy day on treacherous terrain, Mother Nature taught me to never underestimate anything and to always be prepared.

Special thanks to Merrell and Mappy Hour for the Support. #Merrell #MappyHour

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