Killington -- A Quick Peak

Submitted by Nancy

Mountain: Mt. Killington (4,235)
Date: July 30, 2006
Time: 5 hours and 12 minutes
Miles: 6.4
Elevation Gain: 2,406
Steps: 21,513
Trails: Bucklin Trail out and back
Holy Shit Factor: moderate

Picture Gallery

Short Video Clip
After the Hike

We set our sights on Killington -- the 2nd highest peak in Vermont (Mount Mansfield being the highest). We invited two special guests -- a mutual friend, Rob, and Don, my husband for 29 years. [Don is the one on the right and Rob is the one on the left in the photo below.] I persuade Don to go on about 2 hikes a year, if I'm lucky and he is feeling adventurous and likes me that particular day. He says he's a ball-sport guy and needs a ball to have fun. OK -- I considered bringing a ball on the hike, but decided that might not go over big and I'm hoping he'll climb Camel's Hump with us in October -- so I behaved.

We stopped at a convenience store to pee about 10 miles from the trailhead. I'd been worried during the whole 1.5 hour drive that I'd somehow forgotten my hiking boots (wow, really stupid if that was the case). I was wearing flip-flops for comfort on the way up. When we stopped, Pat took off for the port-a-potty and I checked the trunk. There they were with hiking socks neatly tucked under the tongue. When Pat came back, she asked me about my boots, clearly having picked up on my concern.

"I forgot 'em." I told her, straight-faced, then looked down at my flip flops. "I can hike in these." Pat gasped, her eyes got big.
"Nancy ... you can't..."
"Sure, I'll be fine," I said. I couldn't help it. I started to laugh.

We arrived at the Bucklin trailhead and started the usual futsin' around with the gear, putting this here and that there, fixing bandanas on our heads or hitched to our packs...

"Holy shit," I said. "Where are my boots?" They were no longer in the trunk. I was sure I had seen them there. Pat, Don and Rob were getting ready and paid no attention to me. "Where are my boots?" I yelled with a tinge of panic. I started searching through the trunk. Pat turned around, laughing. OK, got me!

Booted, packed and watered, we were off at 10:02. The temps were in the 70s and it was a beautiful sunny day.

It was a calm, level, wooded trail, much of it along a brook. We talked and laughed, enjoying our special guests and the new opportunities for conversation and connection.

We met a woman coming down who told us she hoped the summit cleared before we got there; it had been totally socked in the clouds for her. Well -- that's what you get when you start hiking at 5 am!

About halfway to the peak, the carefree trail took a turn for the worse -- UP -- and stayed that way for the remainder of the hike -- wooded, and steep as hell.

OK, now, when you bring invitees along to join you in your quest to summit the 4,000 footers in New England, you make assumptions. As least we did. Neither Don nor Rob hiked regularly and we prepared ourselves for what we thought that might mean. Pat and I brought extra water, gatorade and food in our packs in case the boys ran out. And we figured we might have to slow our pace. NBD (no big deal).

HOLY SHIT!!! -- Slow our pace? We had to run to keep up with Rob. Now c'mon! He doesn't hike regularly, and he had a COLD! A cold! He was sniffing and sneezing and hiking faster than I've hiked the past 14 peaks. My ego suffered a major blow. But I didn't spend much time worried about it, because I was too busy just trying to breathe, praying for a bit of level ground so I might catch my breath. No such luck!

Pat kept right up with Rob, making tracks up the mountain, putting me entirely to shame. She later confided in me that she was really working to stick with him. They left Don and I in the dust, huffing and puffing, sweat dripping down our faces like water off a window pane in a thunderstorm. We stopped for a few short rest breaks, but I think that was just because they could hear Don and I panting behind them and were concerned for our well being.

We passed the Cooper Lodge, a backpacker's shelter, and climbed the last .2 very steep miles to the top. We reached the summit at 12:24 p.m. It was 63.2 degrees and windy, but free of clouds, with a beautiful 3-state view, according to the guide book. (How can you tell -- it's not like the maps where the states are divided by clearly visible lines!) The wind had a cold bite to it and we all put on extra clothing over our soaking wet techwicks and began to catch our breath.

The summit was packed with kids and families and adults all dressed in cute shorts, tank tops and flip flops, laughing and giggling and pretending that the wind wasn't freezing cold. And more kept coming! From where? Why weren't they sweaty? Ohhhh -- the gondola ride from the base of the ski area to the top -- that's where everyone was coming from. They hadn't hiked up! (Losers -- big L on their foreheads). We settled on a warm rock in the sun, segregating ourselves from the gondola crowd, and chatted with a fellow hiker. Pat joined the Peak Poopers Club, a new elite association of those who have had to take a crap on a summit. We enjoyed our lunch, posed for a few pictures with the captivating view behind us, and Don patiently took pictures of a gondola-riding Russian family with a multitude of cameras given to him by each family member. When Don came back and nicknamed the head of the Russian family, Vladimir, I spewed half-chewed carrots all over the summit, laughing. We started down the trail at 1:02 p.m.

Now going down for me is easier than up, for Pat it is more difficult. So she and I switched places. I was the one struggling to keep up with Rob and Pat and Don brought up the rear. I would say that he was just about jogging down the mountain. It took everything I had to keep up with him. I finally gave up and asked him how the hell he was able to go so fast.

"Oh, I just kind of let gravity do the work and I don't hold back." Rob said, smiling. OK -- If I did that, I would wet my pants. If Pat did that, she'd land face down on the trail. And Don wouldn't do it without a ball!

We passed a sign nailed to a tree that pointed out that the Bucklin trail went downhill; duh.....except when you're going up!

Both Pat and I got stinging nettles in our knees -- not nice! Never noticed that nonsense before! And we still don't know what the plant looks like so we can avoid them next time!

I think we did stop on the way down, maybe once, and everyone leaned over to stretch their backs. Mine was killing me because I was carrying a killer-pack filled with stuff we did not need!!!! We got down the steep section and I breathed a sign of relief. This would be easier. Easier like hell! Not if we were going to sprint to the car! We made it down to the parking lot at 3:12 p.m.. We enjoyed a cold Snapple or soda while we high-fived all around and took a few pictures in the parking lot -- then homeward bound.

We played "High...Low" in the car on the way home, asking each other what were the high and low points of the hike. Don said the high was being at the summit and the low was getting there. For Pat and me, we were thrilled to share our hiking time with 2 great guys who each made our 16th peak very special.

We stopped at a convenience store on the way home to pee. Don got out very gingerly, kind of sideways. Might be a long night...

Pat and I are hiking tomorrow, without our special guests, who we will miss!

15 out of 67 NE 4,000-Footers
15 out of 100 Highest