There will be some scrambling – my hike on Breakneck Ridge

With my time in NYC dwindling down to only 2 weeks left (yikes!) I decided I really need to do all the things I have been wanting to do before I leave.  On top of my list is Breakneck Ridge and Jamacia Bay Wildlife Refuge.

With my friends preferring some mountain air and realizing I have WAY too much money still left on my commuter benefits card, we headed north on the Metro North Hudson Valley line to the Breakneck Ridge stop.

The train station is right next to the trail heads.  The only issue is that the train only stops here a few times on weekends.  Therefore, you must make sure you are on the trail in enough time to finish it, or you will be stuck calling a Uber to come pick you up.

Before hiking this trail, I was asking around the office where I should go hiking with public transit access.  Breakneck Ridge was always in the answer so I thought I would give it a shot.  Everyone said it’s not an easy hike, but not too difficult.  There would be some scrambling, but the majority of the hike wasn’t difficult.

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Breakneck Ridge Trail Head Dec 2015

I don’t know what they were thinking.  It’s not called break – neck because it’s an easy trail or just a moderately difficult trail.  You are literally rock climbing for around 1000 ft in elevation.

We. Were. Not. Prepared.

We arrived at the trail head to a sign strictly stating to not hike this trail unless you are in complete physical fitness, to the point that it seems if you were not a Navy Seal then you would probably not be able to complete this trail.  Oh, and by the way, once you start there is no turning back.  If you can’t finish it then you are stuck on the trail forever, or until a helicopter can rescue you.  So there we were with an option.  Should we stay or should we go?

We went.

Hey, it said we might die on the trail, but what else are we going to do on a Sunday in the middle of the Hudson Valley?  Besides, it said only the first 3/4 of a mile is the difficult part, the rest should be fine – right?

So we started up.  It was difficult but we kept looking up and thinking it can’t be much further.  Again, we were wrong.  The first part of the hike really is straight up the mountain and basically climbing up rocks the whole time.  You don’t start to ‘hike’ until you are going back down the mountain.  This is why there is no turning back.

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The hike up – Breakneck Ridge Dec 2015

Strangely enough, I was loving ever minute of the climb up.  I loved to see what little-jagged piece of rock I could grab onto in order to pull myself up and looking for the little crevices I could use to step on.  My thighs were feeling the burn, but I didn’t mind.  It was pseudo rock climbing and I LOVED IT!

Climbing up Breakneck Ridge - Cold Spring, NY
Climbing up Breakneck Ridge – Cold Spring, NY

We met two group around the top of the first lookout point.  This is when we started to build some hiking camaraderie.  First was Bill.  He was a lifesaver.  Literally.  You will probably also meet Bill on the trail as he seems to be on the trail quite often.  While he was waiting for his trail mate to catch up, we had the chance to discuss what to expect for the rest of the trail.  He told us about an area on peak 4 (right before the 3rd lookout point) which he called ‘hairy.’

I can see what he meant.  That area was a little ‘hairy.’  There didn’t seem to be any good way to go up it as most of it was just a big flat rock slab on a 45-degree angle.   And, of course, in the middle of the slab was a lady freaking out because she was too scared to move.

Top of the 1st Lookout Point
Top of the 1st Lookout Point

It’s understandable.  It was probably the hardest part of the climb up.  We decided to look at the other options as we saw a few people go up the left side of the rock slab reaching the top within seconds. So we thought it best to go that way.  Nope.  Not easier.  Or, at least, we didn’t think so.  My friends were getting a little nervous because of the lady that was freaking out – thinking they also couldn’t do it.  At that point I had two things going through my head:

  1. We made it this far, so there is no reason why we can’t complete this section of the hike.
  2. We can’t turn back now, so we either figure out how to get over this massive rock slab or we are stuck for life.

Luck being on our side, this is where Bill showed up and showed us the way.  You basically have to latch yourself to the right side of the slab of rock and have the confidence that you can do it.  If you psych yourself out, then you will start freaking out and not want to move forward.  Let me also throw in the mix that I saw 2 dogs walk up it without any hassle and a bunch of people that literally just stepped up the rock slab.  It really is just you in your head that will stop you.

Victory Photo! After making it over the 'hairy' spot of the trail
Victory Photo! After making it over the ‘hairy’ spot of the trail

The other group of twenty-somethings we met were also super nice and helped us climb over some of the difficult spots. Our group, their group and Bill with his friend Russell ended up hiking together most of the way up the rest of the mountain.  When we reached the top, we all sat together to enjoy lunch.  It was very lovely.

Breakneck Ridge Group Photo - after enjoying some lunch
Breakneck Ridge Group Photo – after enjoying some lunch

I can’t stress enough how much I enjoyed the climb up.  Remember, it is not for the faint of heart.  It’s not something everyone can do. Luckily our group was reasonably healthy so were we able to complete it without being rescued.

The only issue I really had on the hike was the way down.  Although it is a hiking trail down, it is a lot of jagged rocks covered by fallen leaves (since we went during Autumn).  It was hard to see where a hole might be and I was fearful that I might break my ankle.  Also, my thighs were killing me by that point and it uses a lot more thigh muscle going down then it did going up since all your weight is dependent on your thigh muscles.  We also somehow ended up off the trail, which did not help the situation.

The top of Breakneck Ridge - Cold Springs, NY
The top of Breakneck Ridge – Cold Springs, NY

All in all, it was a wonderful hike and I am glad we went.  Now we can say we did it.  We also know, if we did this, we can probably do any kind of hike (okay, maybe not any).  Still, I almost would not be opposed to a chair left at the top of the mountain to take you back down.  That would almost be wonderful.

Thanks for reading –
Meandering Mason

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