Camel's Hump (4083 feet)

Monday, October 16, 1995

"Vermont's most distinctive mountain." That's how I've heard Camel's Hump described. The original name for this moutain was "Crouching Lion." However, it evidently appeared as "Camel's Rump" on one influential map. The name was later changed to something more socially acceptable. At least that's how I've heard the story. (Someday I'll look up the real story and publish it here with references).

Camel's Hump is very distinctive. The summit has a steep cliff on the south side and a level spot north and just a little way below the main summit. In addition it is much higher than anything right near it. As a result it sticks out like a sore thumb. The unique shape of the summit is easy to discern from many miles away.

Camel's Hump is easily seen from Burlington, VT. Together with Mt. Mansfield it defines the Green Mountain skyline from Vermont's largest city.

Camel's Hump has also been a site of extensive study into issues related to acid rain. The trees on the west side of mountain are not doing well and the cause—as far as I know—is the high acid content of the fog that blows over the mountain. The trees on the east side are not bathed in the fog as much (since the weather in this area flows mostly from west to east) and consequently they are healthier.

Today I ascended the west side of the mountain using the Burrows Trail. Locating the trail head for this trail would be difficult to impossible without a high quality map. From Richmond just off I-89, you follow a significant road south to Huntington. From there you continue on to Huntington Center where you turn onto a dirt road that takes towards the mountain. The road is marked as being the way to Camel's Hump trails, but the signs are small and you need to be watching for them.

Despite the fact that Camel's Hump is in a state park, there are zero amenities at the trail head. The road is narrow, dirt, and rutted. It crosses bridges rated at only three tons. When you arrive at the trail head there is a sign and a good sized parking area but that's it. You're on your own.

The trail climbs steadily but not steeply toward the col between Camel's Hump and Bald Hill. At this season most of the leaves where off the trees so I could see the surrounding terrain pretty well. At the higher elevations, I got some nice views of the imposing cliffs just below the summit. It sure seemed like a long way up!

Just as the trail started to get into the spruce forest (around 3000 feet), it turned east and started up the summit cone. It was cold and windy today. Despite the extra hat, gloves, and coat that I brought I started having second thoughts about the climb. The upper slopes of the mountain were covered with a dusting of snow and I was worried that the summit would be excessively cold and icy.

The trail continued up steadily and somewhat more steeply than before. Before long, the snow was deep enough to leave foot prints behind me as I walked. Yet there were still small streams gurgling beside the trail telling me that there was still a fair amount of mountain ahead.

Finally the trail reached it's junction with the Long Trail only 0.3 miles below the summit. This junction is also where the Forestry Trail from the east side of the mountain connects with the Long Trail. It's a wide open spot with plenty of sitting rocks (no view). This junction is right on that distinctive flat spot just north of the summit.

I could easily see the summit rocks from the trail junction. They were white. However, it wasn't really as cold as I thought it was going to be and the sun was coming out to play now and then. So, slipping on my last layer of clothing, I headed out on the Long Trail toward the top.

The weather was complex. Sometimes it spit rain. Sometimes there were flurries. Sometimes the sun came out. On the way up, I caught some nice views of Burlington basking in the bright sunshine, yet I could see ragged clouds blowing sternly across the mountain top. The air was very clear and so when there was a view to see, it was a superb view. When I first mounted the rocks just below the summit I was greeted with a truely awesome view to the north and east. The moutains of Groton State Park were clothed in sunlight yet I could see snow/rain squalls playing over the land between them and me. To the north I could see the snow encrusted ridge of Mt. Mansfield with crystal clarity and to the northwest I could see a sunny, blue Lake Champlain.

The trail hugged the west side of the moutain and I was buffeted by strong gusts as I scrambled along it. The trees, now only a couple of feet high, were covered with rime ice. I saw a nasty looking squall headed in my direction and I was glad the summit was only a few yards away.

When I reached the top my first thought was, "the wind's not that bad up here." But when I actually stepped up on the summit rocks, I was greeted by winds so intense I could barely breath! I had to stand with my feet carefully rooted to the rocks to keep from being literally blown over. The view, however, was excellent. I couldn't see too far because of the clouds here and there. The White Mountains were not visible and neither were the Adirondacks. Yet I could see lots of detail in the nearby valleys and on the nearby hills. Over 3000 feet below I could see the ribbon of I-89 as it made its way through the water gap carved by the Winooski River between Camel's Hump and Bolton Mountain. It seem so small and far away.

I clambered over rime covered rocks to the western rim of the summit. There the Long Trail descends steeply alongside the summit cliffs. I had been toying with the idea of following the Long Trail to Wind Gap and then returning to my car by way of the Forest City Trail (there's a cut off between the Forest City Trail and the Burrows Trail making such a loop very straightforward). However as I approached the west edge of the summit the wind became even more intense. It was soon difficult for me to walk. I realized with amazement that I didn't think I would physically have the strength to force myself forward against the rising gale! I do not know how fast the wind was, but I would honestly not have been surprised if it was upwards toward 100 miles per hour.

Needless to say, I abandoned the idea of doing the loop.

The descent was fairly uneventful. It was good to get out of the wind and back to warmer climates. All in all, it was an excellent hike. But I rather suspect it will be my last major hike of this season.

Saturday, September 14, 1996

Today I climbed the mountain with my friend Laura. Since she lives on the west side of the mountain, we ascended from that side taking the Burrows Trail. The weather was somewhat cloudy and gloomy, but not nearly as windy or cold as it was when I did the climb last October (see below). The summit was mostly fogged over, but there were occasional breaks in the clouds that afforded some very interesting views.

Laura and I talked most of the way up and most of the way down about all manner of things.

Sunday, September 28, 1997

I climbed the mountain today with my long time friend and associate, Peter Nikolaidis. The weather was beautiful. It was, in fact, a nearly perfect Fall day. The trees were spectacular and the sky was a dark blue. The temperature was cool, but not cold.

We climbed from the east side of the mountain taking the Forestry Trail. This trail leads from the Couching Lion Farm site to the Camel's Hump Hut Clearning. We then turned on to the Long Trail south for the last 0.3 miles to the summit. It was a popular route today and we encountered many people. I was surprised at the number of small children I saw. Camel's Hump is not a small mountain, and it seemed to me that it would be a hard climb for a small child.

About 3/4 of the distance to the summit we came to Hump Brook. There an unmarked side trail lead left to the stream itself and to a very nice overlook. The stream then plunged over a spectacular waterfall into the forest below. From the overlook there was a wonderful view of a broad, colorful basin of trees. The mountain loomed at our backs and the landscape rolled out before us. It was a beautiful spot.

The view from the summit was spectacular, but it was windy and cold there today. Peter and I didn't stay very long; just enough to have a bit of food and drink. I'm always impressed, however, by the diversity of the view from the summit of Camel's hump. You can see Lake Champlain, Burlington, and the Champlain Valley. Yet you can also see the Green Mountains nearby and, far to the east, the White Mountains in the distance. The view of the Adirondack Mountains on the other side of the Champlain Valley is also quite dramatic.

An excellent climb, despite the crowds!

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© Copyright 1997 by Peter C. Chapin.
Last Revised: November 16, 1997