Marcy, Skylight, Gray (Winter)

posted in: 46er, Adirondacks, Landscape | 1

Sometimes when we insulate ourselves with like-minded people it can be hard to gauge ‘normal’. In my case, my bubble consists of many people who hike all 46 Adirondack High Peaks in a single winter. While a long shot, that was an outside goal for my trip up this week.

What I didn’t count on was (a) the weather; and (b) how not ‘normal’ it is to winter hike the ADK 46. Those two made this trip more fun, more challenging, and more frustrating than I expected.

On climbing Gray Peak, I have now officially climbed all 46 Adirondack High Peaks twice. We finished our first round in August of 2014, just a year and a half ago. But before I get there, today’s hike was both fabulous and frustrating, and brought me to points (a) and (b) above.

I got a little later start than expected, signing in at 7:10 AM. The snow was firm and I made good time to Marcy Dam and all the way up to the junction for Indian Falls, which I had broken out the day before. I passed two couples climbing Marcy on that stretch, so I was surprised that beyond Indian Falls, the footsteps stopped. When I headed over to Colden the day before I was the first one and last one up.

Admiring the MacIntyres
Admiring the MacIntyres from Indian Falls

So I got to breaking trail, plowing with my snowshoes through fresh powdery snow. But the sun was out, and by 9:30 AM, the trees were dripping and the snow turned into sticky mashed potatoes. Or maybe peanut butter. It stuck to my snowshoes — top and bottom — and even clung to my hiking poles like I was stamping out basket-shaped Christmas cookies. The weight and nuisance slowed me down.

Ultimately I turned up the east face of Mount Marcy where there was thankfully soft snow and ice. It was so warm that once I put on my wind blocker I stayed warm, even on the beautiful, exposed summit.

The views were spectacular! Sun and clouds and snow-capped mountains, about as perfect a scene as I’ve had in the 7 years we’ve been hiking these mountains.

Haystack and Little Haystack from Marcy
Haystack and Little Haystack from Marcy

I turned down the south side of Marcy to go to ‘Four Corners’ and even at 5,000 feet the snow and ice was melting. Damn El Niño! The melt — dripping trees soaking me, peanut butter snow sticking to everything — would last all the way down and even up the north slope to Skylight. Again with wonderful views and this time not even a wind blocker.

Finally I descended back to Four Corners and headed to Lake Tear of the Clouds, renowned as the highest source of the Hudson, and turned up towards Gray Peak. A short while later I was at the summit, the first one there in a while, and took in the scenery.

The temperature rose all day, and the sun was out for most of it, so I finally gave up on snowshoes with about 6 miles to go, and “bare-booted” back to the trailhead. It was a bit over 19 miles in under 9 hours. I was the first to break trail for about half of the day, just like my trip through the Sewards or the previous day doing Phelps-TableTop-Colden. I ran back into one of the couples at a quickly-melting Marcy Dam, but otherwise was alone all day.

I loved the hike, but was definitely sad to see the melting. With heavy rain coming Thursday, my attempt at all 46 in a single winter are dashed. Out in the real world, though, that’s a little more ‘normal’, and my experiences this week were more than worth the trip. I still have one more hike to go this week, and I’m sure I’ll pull something new out of that, too.

One Response

  1. Dick mumaugh

    Great photos and discourse of your hikes. I particularly like the photos of the Hoevenberg Trail and the wind swept snow sculpture on the cairn.

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