The Black Hole

The Black Hole is a nighttime, full moon, winter traverse of the Escarpment Trail in the Catskills.  It is 20 miles long with some 5500 ft. of climbing while ascending 2 Catskill High peaks and 3 other minor ones.  It was first done around 20 years ago by Dick Vincent and a small group of his hardy trail running friends.  Many of them have completed the Black Hole over a dozen times since!!!   It hasn’t been attempted in a few years so my friends Tim, Todd, and I decided to give it a shot on Friday, January 2.   We dropped a car at the N/S lake finish and had my wife drive us to the trail head at around 4:50 pm.  The sun had set at 4:35 yet we didn’t need lights until the main creepy hemlock grove partway up Windham High Peak. 4d6e0d2b-a55d-469e-b0df-4180f280185d
We bare booted to the summit on hard pack snow and dirt.  Put on microspikes for the descent and we made good time over Burnt Knob and Acra Point.  We took our time having fun and taking some pics. The (as always) brutal climb up Blackhead gave us deeper snow but it was still well packed.
As we went south from the summit, old postholed tracks led to the viewpoint and then suddenly stopped. We were then treated to over a foot of snow with an inconsistent crust that made it slow going.  Either no one had gone through in a while or the old footsteps were snow filled, but either way, the next 2 miles, mostly downhill, took nearly an hour. It was tough, tiring, annoying, etc. It finally let up as we hit the steep descent into Dutchers Notch and we ran hard to try and make up time. The climb up Stopple Point was long and tedious as we all seemed to hit the wall together.
The plane wreckage was particularly creepy in the dark, and I hadn’t told my partners it was there as they were a little extra spooked.  From the summit we made good time to North Mtn. We took off our spikes about 2 miles from the end as we were out of the ice and there was just a dusting off snow over the frozen dirt. We hit the finish area for escarpment in 6:40 which was just fine with me considering the conditions. The dirty little secret of the Black Hole is that you still have like 2 miles of uphill pavement to get to the car!!!  This was the only “bad” part of the evening but we got in just before midnight, changed, had a beer and drove home.
This is the my 5th time across the whole ridge and what a unique experience. Tim, Todd, and I were totally amazed with spending that much time in the dark In the snow on such a tough trail. Much respect to our predecessors that have done this so many times in all kinds of crazy conditions so many times.  And thank you for inspiring me to attempt this and bring this to another group of people.  It is not something you would think was possible (or a good idea) until you meet people that have done it.   I love the Catskills and cherish every experience I have out there, this was one for the memory bank.
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