Last season, while sifting through climbs on Mountain Project, I stumbled upon Bone Mountain. With a rugged approach of (at least) an hour and a half through dense terrain, it was labeled the most remote climbing in Vermont by many reviewers. That being said, the write up about the site made it sound well worth the time spent getting there. We put it on our list of climbs to do this rock season, but after the long approaches during our time in Colorado and Switzerland, we were over the approach game. When it came time for us to squeeze in day trips, we were opting for more easily accessible climbing areas like Bolton, VT or Rumney, NH due to their 5-10 minute approaches. When we realized the weather was changing, we knew we had two choices: suck it up and make the unknown trek to Bone Mountain, or spend another year wondering what the hype was about. We chose the adventure.
We opted for the “shorter” but more strenuous approach from the UVM sugar house. This route starts off on one of the Catamount cross country skiing trails and basically gains the elevation the quickest way possible, straight up. Winding our way up Notch Access Road with our gas station coffees in hand, we noticed snow had dusted the homes that lined the mountain road. We knew it would be chilly, but we did not expect to see the first snow of the season. We stepped out of the car and were welcomed with 30 degree winds. We realized that we might have waited too long on this Bone Mountain trip, but we were going to take it as far as we could.
We walked up the road about one hundred feet and crossed to a gated path. This led to a 20 foot wide trail that crossed a big bridge and then consistently narrowed until it crossed another stream and became one person wide. It turned left and started snaking uphill. It was after a couple minutes of this that we lost the trail. With the leaves falling and the small amount of snow, the trail would seem to disappear and reappear every now and than. We then decided to b-line uphill until we reached a cliff band and our planned right hand turn to follow a contour line. Again the trail reappeared and seemed to fork to give us two options: the right stayed below a rocky ridge and kept us on the same contour, the left went up a steep rocky slope and would have us travel high. Knowing that we would have to drop elevation in a few hundred yards, we opted for the right hand path and stayed low. Fifty feet into the channelized terrain, fallen trees from above made that route essentially impassable. We gave it a try, going over and under fallen trees of all sizes until we realized that there was no end in sight. We backtracked to the fork and scrambled to the top. The wet, rocky ground made this harder than we had expected.Once there, we followed this ridge line south to another draw with a water crossing. Another 1500 feet on that contour lead to one more stream that we turned left at and followed up the final uphill climb, gaining 600 feet of elevation rather rapidly. Following this stream lead us to a small canyon with 20 foot walls on each side. We stayed to the left of the stream to get a view of the “Satellite Wall” climbing area. This was even more of a steep scramble that lead us halfway up a broken rock face, on a couple foot wide slab with a 20 foot drop to our right, and a 20 foot climb to our left. We acknowledged that it would be a really inconvenient place to get hurt and we haven’t even made it to our climb yet, so we decided to move on.
Finally, the terrain plateaued. We couldn’t find an identifiable path, but we carried on. Eventually, the silhouette of a massive cliff began to loom in the distance. That was one landmark that was unmistakable. We passed the left side climbs of the cliff and continued in search of the Main Cliff. At this point the directions said to continue to a clearing and look for a 10 foot high “stump thing” (very descriptive) and follow the path at its base straight to the main cliff. We walked though a small “clearing” and saw this to our left.
It seemed shorter than 10 feet high and had man-made cuts on it. The path we were on split, continuing straight or turning left and passing by the stump. In a forest full of stumps, we weren’t sure if that was the one we were looking for (it was), but from looking up at the tree tops we could tell that there was also a clearing ahead of us so we continued forward. The terrain flattened and opened up into a very large clearing and we looked for a stump with no success.
We decided to walk the 100 yards straight to the obvious cliff. We scrambled thought the thick trees and slid between large rocks. When we reached the rock we dropped our packs and probed the cliff for any identifying climbs.
After 20 minutes of searching to our right and left we ended up finding the climb we really wanted to do, Family Picnic, about 200 feet to the climber’s left of where we dropped our packs. It was already afternoon in late October, so the small amount of sun we had was falling quickly towards the horizon. It had taken us three and a half hours to get to this point, more than double what was listed on Mountain Project (though we did make a detour to the satellite wall). We had to climb quickly if we wanted to get off the rock with any light left in the sky.
Read about the climb in Part 2.