View Full Version : Pharoah Mountain from Spectacle Pond

04-25-2004, 08:24 PM
Having climbed Pharoah from Crane Pond in 1997, I decided to do something different - a bushwhack via Spectacle Pond to the west. My friend and I biked from Word of Life Bible Institute (our school) to the trailhead in about an hour (10 miles), starting the hike at 7AM. The route was easy hiking all the way up to the pond, past the end of the trail, and along the long valley leading to the large beaver pond ("Desolate Pond") SE of Desolate Hill. It's nearly as open as a trail all this way. The pond was classic beaver-made, with a lodge in the middle and a 5-foot high dam at the outlet. The view of the stupendous cliffs of Pharoah's west side from there were definitely impressive (reminded me of the Shawangunk Trapps near where I live). We identified a 100-yard wide break in the cliffs near the northern end and aimed for that.
However, while ascending that slope (mainly small streambeds with 2 10-foot vertical pitches), I ran into some difficulties and we got separated. After I solved the "problem," he was nowhere to be found. Thinking that he might have gone on to the Pharoah summit, I continued upwards, to the top and then along the cliff rim to the highest spot, about a half mile to the south from the point where we got separated.
From there, the ascent of the summit ridge was somewhat bizarre. Above the main 500-foot cliff, there is a just as sheer 50 to 100-foot cliff band, which can only be climbed by natural weaknesses in shattered rock. Above that band, there were about 5 15-20 foot high cliff bands the rest of the way to the summit. Still, I made it to the top at 10:50AM, about 2 hrs from where we got separated.
There was no sign of my friend. I waited on the summit for about an hour before I descended. It was cool and windy, and snow on the High Peaks could be plainly seen (Marcy, Skylight, and Haystack having particularly noticeable amounts). About noon, I left and began retracing my steps, heading somewhat on a more direct line down the west face of the mountain. It took a little over an hour to reach “Desolate Pond,” with no sign of my friend. Concerned now, I hiked back out to the trailhead at about 2:45PM - his bike was still there, indicating that he had not returned.
I returned to Word of Life an hour later and we notified the rangers. A few more hours passed while I recounted the events of the hike, drove around to check the different trailheads of the Pharoah Lakes Wilderness, and prayed for my friend’s safety. I was very concerned that he had fallen down the big cliff or something. Thankfully, just as it was getting pitch-dark (about 9PM), he walked out to the Spectacle Pond Trailhead to greet the rangers, tired but safe.
As it had turned out, he had gotten to the summit before I did, but lay down and slept for a while on a ledge under the summit rocks (where the tower used to be), and I was totally unaware of his location (being maybe as close as 20-30 feet.....?). After I had left, he woke up and then headed down....too far to the north of the cliffs. After experiencing some confusion in the area around Desolate Marsh (like a jungle, he said, full of deadfalls and wet moss ), he climbed Desolate Hill to get his bearings and then returned to “Desolate Pond” and picked up the route again, but he lost his way and ended up north of Spectacle Pond. Finally, just as it got pitch-dark, he found the trail and walked down. Thank God for that!!!
It was a nice hike.....although I do wish my friend could have stayed closer (I actually told him to stay close by, but he tends to be a bit of an enthusiastic guy, with lots of energy). We definitely learned a lot of lessons on this bushwhack. For those who want to attempt it, I would classify it as “moderate,” since the climb up the mountain is the only hard part and you do need to have a general idea of where you are. STAY TOGETHER with your partner!

Tyler W. Wagla
04-25-2004, 08:47 PM
WOW! You guys really lucked out. Those CLIFFS! You should try something easier like....the GRAND TETON or....DEVILS TOWER!
Thank God you made it out safely!:cool: