When the AMC Four Thousand Footer Club created the New England Hundred Highest list of peaks in 1967, the Peak Above the Nubble (3813 ft., a northern spur of North Twin) was a fairly difficult bushwhack. The June 1968 issue of Appalachia gave this spare description of the route: "Cross river at the beginning of the N. Twin Trail. In about a quarter of a mile enter woods to the R., heading directly for Haystack, a prominent peak on the ridge that leads up to the summit. Climb Haystack, an interesting little peak, then continue up the ridge to the main objective."
I first climbed Peak Above the Nubble (PATN) in late October 1982 with my friend Bill Vecchio. It was our first New England Hundred Highest bushwhacking adventure after finishing the NH 4000-footers the previous year. We first whacked to the rocky crown of Haystack Mountain, aka The Nubble, which offers a closeup view of PATN, as seen in this photo. Our route followed the curving slide track on the NW side of the mountain, visible on the right in the photo. The slide had several icy sections that we skirted through dense conifers and blowdowns. At the top we found a white sign labeled “3813” (the summit elevation), and a Mason jar with a register inside. It was the first time we felt the exhilaration of reaching a summit using map and compass and our nascent navigational skills.
I returned to PATN in April 1989 with Mike Dickerman when he was getting close to completing his NEHH list. (I had finished in October 1988.) From The Nubble we whacked straight up the slope to the summit. On the way down, thanks to a navigational miscue on my part, we ended up at the top of the "Checkmark Slide" on the northern flank of the mountain, at the head of Haystack Brook. This turned out to be an unexpected bonus, as firm spring snow conditions allowed us to kick step our way down the open slide and avoid a long stretch of potentially dense woods. Mike took this photo of me as we made our way down the slide, carrying our Sherpa snowshoes.
Hikers pursuing the NEHH no longer have to bushwhack to PATN (unless they want to). In recent years a well-worn, easy to follow herd path (let's be honest, for most of its length, an unmarked trail) has developed on the NE side of the mountain, off Haystack Rd. (FR 304). This is not the infamous "Double Trouble Nubble Trail," a ridiculously steep route cut by locals some years ago. The popular herd path follows a much more reasonable route. It's no secret, as it is shown on CalTopo, Gaia GPS and AllTrails. With a distance of ~3.6 miles round trip, it is feasible as a half-day hike, though it's a steady climb with an elevation gain of 2000 ft.
On a warm, humid morning, I set out to climb PATN via this route, and take in the unique view at the top of North Twin Mountain and its great north slides. After following a logging road and tunneling through the sapling growth of an old clearcut, the path climbs steadily, and rather steeply at times, through attractive hardwood and birch. The footing is surprisingly good, as the NEHH list is far less popular than the 4000-footers. If this path were to get the amount of traffic borne by the "Brutus Bushwhack" on Owl's Head, it would likely end up in a similarly sorry state of mud and erosion.