New York - Black Dome

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As you may remember from my 2015 goals post, Matt and I are planning to do one hike every month this year. We live in such a beautiful part of the country, and we really want to take advantage of our proximity to mountains and nature. Plus, it's a great way to escape the busyness of the city. For our first hike, we headed up to the Catskills to Black Dome Mountain

The road to the trailhead is closed from November - May, so we parked about a half mile away and walked to the trailhead from there. We registered our names and started our trek. 

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Some friends of ours had hiked this trail before and said that it was extremely difficult from an elevation perspective. They were completely exhausted from the hike, and we were excited for the challenge. 

The trail was very well marked. There wasn't a moment where we weren't sure whether or not we were on the right path. And at the beginning, it was quite flat. We were thinking to ourselves that our friends were a bunch of wimps. Ha. 

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As we continued on, I was taking photos and sipping some hot tea. It was a casual walk in the woods with a few icy patches that we had to avoid. We started seeing people headed back towards the trailhead wearing really intense gear. After they passed us, we joked about how over prepared they were with their spikes on their boots, their extra jackets, and their trekking poles. 

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After the first mile or so, things started to change. The elevation got a lot steeper. It basically felt like walking up a continuous flight of stairs. We actually started sweating and breathing heavy. 

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We stopped for a quick snack/water break and then continued on. 

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After that, things started to get seriously crazy. It was snowing and the switchbacks were really steep. I put my camera in my backpack because I needed my hands to bear crawl and/or grab onto trees to make it up the snowy slopes. 

Cue iPhone photos:

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We passed a sign that said we had .6 miles left to the summit. We stopped there for probably 10 minutes debating whether or not we should continue. We were tired, it was snowing. My socks and gloves were wet with melted snow. But we decided to continue on. 

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After the .6 miles left marker, things got really crazy. There were a number of rock scrambles covered in ice, covered in snow. There was one in particular that we tried a bunch of times, slipping and sliding down several feet (because of the ice) before we finally were able to pull ourselves up using rocks and tree branches. 

We met a man coming down from the summit who was wearing snow shoes and holding trekking poles. He talked to us for a little bit, somewhat condescendingly. He said that the people with microspikes that were just ahead of us were having a hard time with traction. He didn't think that we, with our basic hiking boots, would safely make it. 

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Spitefully, we continued on and climbed a couple more rock scrambles. Then we noticed that because of the snow, there was absolutely no visibility. What should be a beautiful mountain range view was just a white screen of snow clouds. 

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We turned back. Climbing down the scrambles was quite scary with the ice. I really didn't want to fall off the mountain. But going back down the steep slopes was actually quite fun. We squatted down and slid down as if our boots were a little mini sled. The hike down was much much faster than the hike up because of this.

We ended up catching up to the snow shoe guy. 

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And then there was ice. At this point, we had probably been hiking for 3 hours (not terribly long, but when your socks and gloves are soaking wet, it feels longer). The sun started to come out and melt the snow -- revealing a layer of ice beneath. Matt and I probably slipped and fell 40 times, combined. It was very frustrating. And painful. 

As we neared the end, we were wishing for it to be over.

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All in all, I would do this hike again, but not in the winter-- at least not without the proper equipment. I think this hike would be much more fun in the warmer months when everything isn't covered in ice.