The last time I hiked this mountain was in 2007 with my wife. At that time, there was no parking lot at the trailhead; you would have to park along the side of the road. Now with the parking lot, it is safer for hikers to park and enter/exit their vehicles. Today the parking lot was full when I got done with my hike, and several cars were parked on the shoulder of Forestdale rd.
I signed in at the register just after 7 am. I would be the first hiker on the trail this morning. It was a brisk morning at 35 degrees, so It didn’t take me long to get moving. The path leading in from the register is now wide (wide enough to drive a 4-wheeler down), at least up to the point of a gate that leads to private property. Twelve years ago, it was a nice narrow winding path that was soft underfoot.
It appeared to me as I continued up there have also been several re-routes of the trail, and a fair amount of trail work as well, including a few switchbacks. The trail is easy enough to follow, and a gradual climb up to just past the second brook crossing. From the second brook crossing, the trail gains more elevation, ultimately becoming a steadier uphill climb. The path now skirts out onto a ledge providing some excellent views of the valley, along with the backside of Whiteface Mountain. I don’t recall this section from my previous climb. After scrambling up some short, steeper sections, you come to the infamous "chimney." The trail goes right up through it. There are several places to use for handholds and help pull you up through. Once on top of the chimney, you are awarded some beautiful views. From this point, there is a fair amount of scrambling up steep rock until you get to the bump below the summit. From this point, it is about .4 miles to the summit.
I took a little break at the bump and had a snack, and just enjoyed the views before I continued. It was the perfect day for climbing. The temperature when I left the car was 35 degrees, and by now, it was probably in the low 40s, with no wind and blue skies.
After about a 20-minute break, I continued up, but not before dropping down into a small grove of softwoods, going up and over several rocks before coming back out onto the ledges of Catamount. The trail is easy enough to follow, even when out on the rock ledges; you need to pay attention to posted trail signs (sparse in some areas) and just look for worn rock. You can see scrape marks from winter hikers that leave them from wearing traction devices. On that note, this hike would be even more of a challenge in the winter.
A short while later, I was on the summit, alone. I would enjoy the summit to myself for over an hour. I would not see another hiker until I was back down in the small grove of softwoods.
On the hike out, I ran into several groups of people making their way up and enjoying this beautiful day. The walk down took me almost as long as it did going up. There are a lot of loose rocks and stones that give way underfoot. Once I got down to the first brook crossing, I was able to pick up speed and was back at the car for noon.