Five years ago, Kathy, Ben and I came up to Lake Placid to cheer on Matt and Beth as they completed the Iron Man. After the race, we decided that hiking up to Balanced Rock at Pitchoff Mountain sounded like fun, so we set off in our jeans and sneakers up the trail off Route 73. Lugging 15 pounds of camera gear and no food or water, the steep slope up the short route from Route 73 was brutal but the payoff at the top was breathtaking. I was hooked.
We added Algonquin and Porter to our High Peak tally after a two year absence. Despite making slow progress, and with half of our peaks in need of re-summiting, our plan was set: we would become 46ers.
Since that trip up Pitchoff, we have become better hikers both in skill and knowledge. Our trusty Adirondack Mountain Club map has been up 43 High Peaks with us, we’ve worn through several pairs of hiking shoes, and we have pants permanently stained with mud. We’ve been up mountains covered in snow and ice, slopped with mud, in baking heat and in cold rain. We’ve been in thunderstorm downpours more than once, and had views of the inside of clouds from atop some of the most scenic summits. We’ve done 18-mile epics and back-to-back-to-back days of hiking these awesome mountains, in the process learning things about ourselves that we didn’t even realize that we needed to learn.
Our effort to become 46ers, which we completed on a perfect day hike to Mount Colden, has profoundly changed who we are. We are stronger, more confident, and more fearless. At the same time, we are more respectful, patient, and awed by our natural world.
All this from hiking 46 mountain tops.
Our day started with the 4 AM wake-up, but this one was to be wet. Contrary to the forecast the rain overnight hadn’t stopped, ironic that all of our 45 previous High Peaks started dry and unfortunate since we brought Devin for his first Adirondack High Peak. We re-packed for a wet day and were signed in just before 6 AM at the Loj.
The rain was lighter than we expected, and past Marcy Dam stopped all together. We made good time up the wet Lake Arnold trail, reminiscing of our trips to Skylight & Gray and Cliff & Redfield. Unlike those epics, we only had 1.4 miles from Lake Arnold to our summit, which after 45 High Peaks was almost a rest day.
The L. Morgan Porter trail around Lake Arnold was wet and muddy, but true to the guidebook alternated its pitch all the way up to the summit. Devin, Kathy, and I have the distinction of being the last people to hike through the mud pits on the summit to Colden, as we encountered the trail crew just starting their project at 9 AM.
I caught a glimpse of Algonquin just before the summit, but the weather was still overcast. Walking up to the top of Mount Colden, Kathy and I were joined in Devin’s first High Peak with our 46th.
We sat to eat and enjoy some champagne, and the clouds whisked away, flirtingly exposing and then hiding all the summits around us. It seemed as if the clouds parted around Mount Colden just for us, letting us see the socked-in Mount Marcy and the in-and-out MacIntyres.
Enjoying the dramatic vista reminiscent of the approaching thunderstorm on Basin, we sunned ourselves for a relaxing hour all alone in the middle of the top of the world.
The walk out was uneventful but seemed faster than ever, passing at least one 46er and one young lady hiking Colden for her 45th. After so many trips past Marcy Dam, the sunshine-filled trail was an old friend congratulating us.
We approached the trailhead, and walked hand-in-hand to sign out as 46ers. We had accomplished a goal set 5 years prior, through adversity and joy, in a simply perfect day for hiking in these beautiful Adirondack mountains. We will never forget the feeling, and will forever be better for it. We are 46ers!
2014: 11 high peaks As of 8/4/14: We are 46ers!
2012 high peaks – 24 (23 new): Big Slide; Lower Wolfjaw, Upper Wolfjaw & Armstrong; Marcy; Gothics & Sawteeth; Street & Nye; Phelps; Rocky Peak Ridge & Giant; Skylight & Gray; Wright, Algonquin & Iroquois; Dial & Nippletop; Dix, Hough, S. Dix, E. Dix & Macomb
Edit: I compiled all our hikes in a new page: Our Path to 46