Peekamoose & Table Mountain Winter FKT with the Salomon Speedspikes
LOCATION: Catskill Mountains, New York
ADVENTURE: 14 MILES, 5,246FT OF GAIN.
FKT: 2:54:59 - BEN NEPHEW
It has been a while since I strapped on the Garmin and spikes in anger for a FKT run, and even longer since I posted a run/FKT report. Although I still have a few earlier reports to get to, since I am now studying mindfulness, I’ll stay in the present and get this one out before delving into a few more painful efforts from the past year. There are still not all that many FKT routes in the Catskills, and the 7 mile trail over Peekamoose and Table looked interesting on the map due to the topography and how accessible the trail is. It has extended running above 3500’ (4 miles of the 14 mile route), and a lot of vert for the 14 mile out and back to the intersection with the Phoenicia East Branch trail. I decided to turn here as the last 1.2 miles to the Denning trail head is not all that inspiring. Considering the 5300’ of climbing, the route is surprisingly runnable due to the consistent grades. There are some stretches that require hiking, but the majority of the trail on either side of Peekamoose and Table can be run. I’ve been thinking of doing this route for about 3 years, and almost completed it back in 2016, but I ran out of time and had to turn back early.
It almost didn’t happen on this recent trip to visit Steph’s family for the holidays. I ended up with a free morning, but was not interested, and didn’t have the time, to run the route if it was incredibly slow and messy due to all the rain and warm weather. Mike Siudy suggested that it was likely to be quite soggy, but the temps dropped the Saturday night before my run on Sunday, and I banked on the trail freezing up overnight. One of my objectives for the run was to test my new Salomon Speedspikes, my first non-Inov-8 spikes shoe, so I decided to take the chance and drive up to the Peekamoose trailhead.
Things looked good on the drive up, with white only visible at higher elevations. Hopefully it was not deep, soft white, preceding by trails that double as rivers. The drive out Peekamoose road is riot; a full on tarmac rally stage with no guardrails, just ponds, streams, and enormous boulders lining the road. An off would certainly put an early end to the day. I was the first car at the trailhead, and quickly got organized and cranked my laces on the Speedspikes. I definitely lucked out with the conditions. The trail was not exactly dry, but it could have been far worse based on the all the pics from recent hikes/swims. I was able to get around the deeper water over the first two miles of climb to Peekamoose, where it then changed to snow and ice to the summit ridge. The Speedspikes are completely comfortable on the leaves, dirt, rocks and roots leading up to the winter conditions. My legs felt decent on the climb, partially due to being a bit more conservative compared to the last time on this ascent where I was overly ambitious and paid the price.
At two miles, much of the trail was covered in frozen Styrofoam snow, with random patches of ice, some of it thin and over water, to keep things interesting. I punched through ice a few times but was able to avoid deep water and keep my feet dry, thanks in part to the waterproof Speedspikes. The snow was mostly solid, unless it wasn’t. I certainly had to plan my footfalls, but the conditions were more fun than annoying. Some of the few ledges were iced up, but nothing that I couldn’t climb up or around.
The 1.5 miles up and over the summits of Peekamoose and Table are outstanding, and alone worth the trip. During my run, the trees at this elevation were perfectly frosted, right out of a snow globe. I was angry at myself for not bringing my camera, and angrier for not having the time to bring Gavin. He was off having a great time with his cousins and aunts, there is just not enough time for everything. Even in the quasi-winter conditions, it was good running up there, other than the steeper ledges, and I was still very happy to be able to fit this run into our two day trip to New Paltz. It had been too long since I had been in the mountains, but it did make the experience more intense.
The downhill off of Table was quite a bit whiter than the southern ridge up Peekamoose, with some spicy off camber sections where I appreciated the mostly solid state of the snow. I had a couple of moments where I was supremely grateful for a particular dob or two that was the difference between forward progress and a slide off the trail or into a tree. The two small climbs along the way are rough on the legs in the middle of a pounding descent, but they pass quickly. I had not made it to the two stream crossings right before the trail intersection where I was turning, and I was concerned about the water level considering the recent massive amount of rain and warm temps. It was a relief to see two solid wooden bridges. There were some tricky wet stretches between the streams and the turn around, with just enough rocks and roots to avoid very cold and wet feet. Even if I had completely submerged my feet, the combination of waterproof shoes and wool socks would have kept my feet warm for the remainder of the run.
My legs still felt good on the return climb up Table Mountain. Although there is not as much climbing on the return trip, the conditions were more challenging, and I guessed that I would be 5-10 minutes slower than my 90 minute trip over first 7 miles. I settled into a steady effort on the climb, and was soon heading back into the winter wonderland above 3k feet. Even down low, much of the terrain is surprisingly open for the Catskills, especially compared to something like the Devil’s Path, where it seems like the trail was created by a tunnel boring machine at times.
Once on the summit ridge, I got myself in a bit of trouble carrying too much speed into icy ledges (which also seem to appear after a blind turn), but was able to avoid any major spills by just waiting until flatter terrain to try to turn or break. Fortunately, all these ledges were short, with good landing zones. I progressively built speed once I passed the summit of Peekamoose, and my confidence in the Speedspikes grew accordingly. The tungsten spikes provided acoustical entertainment for the hikers making their way up, and I was able to avoid having to jump over anyone’s head. As the day warmed up, the trail was starting to soften at lower elevations, but it was not too bad at all, and I covered the 3.5 miles and 2600’ of descent in 33 minutes, almost a minute faster than when I had completed the descent without snow. I was about 5 minutes quicker on the return trip, with an overall time of 2:54:59 and 14.1 miles on my Garmin.
I was treated to barrage of waterfalls on my trip out on Peekamoose Road, with at least 8-10 major falls in full-on deluge form. Although running late to get back to New Paltz, I had to stop for some quick photos of one to commemorate the trip. In the winter, sometimes you just have to roll the dice and hope for the best with the conditions, and that certainly worked out for me on this run. This is a great route for those that prefer running vs. hiking (although with substantial climbing), trails that are relatively less technical, and high elevation terrain.
More about the Speedspikes
The dobs on the spikes are mostly on the periphery of the shoes, which had pros and cons. These are very comfortable on trails in non-winter conditions. The dobs offer great traction on leaves and mud, but the lugs are not actually as deep as some Salomon models. With lugs in the center of the forefoot, you don't have to worry about pressure in this area causing issues over longer runs, or even on pavement. Despite being pretty flexible, there is good protection from the dobs. I love the dobs in the arch area, perfect for roots and logs.
The traction is great on frozen snow, but I was not as confident on hard ice; there is potential for slipping due to the fact that your weight is not centered on the dobs. Compared with some Oroc models, I was more cautious on hard ice, especially around ledges. The shoes deal with uneven crust well, they are flexible, but not too much to the point where your feet get exhausted and it takes constant focus to balance. The peripheral placement of the dobs makes the speedspikes great at contouring, off-camber trails, and working around flooded sections of trail.
The upper is both protective and soft, which helps on rough terrain, whether dry or snowy, but there is potential for it to hold water. I haven't noticed an issue with this unless you are in water most of the time. They are described as not being water proof in the heel area to aid in breathability. I'm not sure this is the case, but it doesn't make much sense. I did get in some cold water today, and my feet were warm in wool socks. I do recommend adding another lace hole at the ankle to improve the fit. I do this with many models. I also switched out to standard laces due to personal preference. I did find myself catching my toes a bit due to their length, but it wasn't all that bad.
I wore them for 3 hours today, and could easily imagine going many hours more. For Salomons, the heel drop feels quite low, which I like. I usually don't pay much attention to drop, but some of the models have too much heel for me. So far, they seem to be holding up very well, including both sole and upper. I'll be putting many more miles on them over the rest of the winter.