Since the summit forecast called for partly cloudy skies and 10-20mph winds, I set out early intending to hike Marcy, Skylight and Gray. Like the previous day it was still warm, just about at the freezing point, in the Loj parking lot.
Within fifteen minutes I knew something was wrong. I wore my heavier boots from last winter, the first time this year, and I felt a distinct rubbing on the back of my heel. I changed into snowshoes at the Algonquin junction just 0.9 miles in, and adjusted them again at Marcy Dam. Finally at the Phelps junction (1 mile from the Dam) I re-laced everything, and it helped but the damage had already been done.
I continued on because the snow was great for snowshoeing, but realized that Skylight and Gray weren’t on my itinerary today.
Just before hitting the fully-exposed part of Marcy, the wind picked up and the dim sunshine and blowing snow made the landscape ethereal. I felt a bit like I was on another planet, which made me think about the Apollo astronauts who actually were. I marvel at their bravery, and how spectacularly isolated they were if anything were to have happened to them.
I saw very few people all day. One I met just a half mile from the summit, and since it was early I asked if he had come up from Lake Colden. No, he had arrived later than expected the night before and was heading over Marcy to Panther Gorge. In attempting to traverse Marcy (Panther Gorge is on the far side, between Marcy and Haystack) he had taken a wrong turn and, according to him, bivouacked at 4,500 feet (Marcy is at 5,344 feet) when he realized that he was lost. Kudos to him for braving what would have led most people to call for a ranger pickup. (And given the lack of visibility and ~35mph winds, a rescue may not have been successful.)
I suspect from his track that he missed the left-hand turn that starts down to Four Corners, and instead walked straight over the summit to the southwest side. That’s a surefire way to get stuck in spruce traps and heavy drifts; in places, the snow had fully engulfed 8-foot trees. My day was a much simpler out-and-back than his.