Balsam Mountain 3600'
USGS Quad: Shandaken
NY-NJ Trail Conference Map: #42
Order of Height: 28
Access: Via Pine Hill-West Branch Trail
Description: Balsam is the northernmost high peak in the range that rises
west of the Esopus Creek (not to be confused with a similarly-named 3,360'
peak between Deep Notch and Sherrill
Mountain. There is a view towards Route 28 and
the hamlet of Shandaken from an overlook a short distance north of the
summit, and one toward Belleayre and the north after a steep climb up the
north face. The trail crosses a corner of private property on the summit.
Balsam is often climbed in conjunction with either Belleayre (not a high peak) or Eagle Mountain and Haynes, another lesser peak between the two. It is one of the four required winter peaks.
From the south, access is from via either Rider Hollow or McKenley Hollow via the Oliverea -Mapledale and Pine Hill-West Branch trails. The climbs up both hollows are very steep in places, particularly McKenley, where the grade exceeds 35 percent for a quarter-mile stretch, the steepest stretch of trail in the Catskills, and can require full crampons when icy.
From the north, access is possible from a variety of routes. The Lost Clove, Belleayre Ridge and Cathedral Glen trails all connect with the Pine Hill-West Branch Trail near the east summit of Belleayre Mountain. The Mine Hollow Trail connects with the Pine Hill-West Branch Trail along the ridge between the two mountains, and makes for a fine loop route from the west in conjunction with the Rider Hollow side of the Oliverea - Mapledale Trail.
Links for Balsam Mountain
Photo credit: Catskill 3500 Club