Marcy, Skylight and Gray Redux

Not even two weeks ago, I had planned this hike. It’s a long loop, over 19 miles, but only has 5,100 vertical feet of climbing. (For contrast, yesterday’s hike of the breathtaking Giant & Rocky Peak Ridge had 4,500 feet of vertical in just 8.5 miles.)

Luckily, Joe (who is two hikes away from hiking all 46 this winter, i.e. since December 21) needed this trio and I was more than happy to go. The weather wasn’t looking great, but the morning looked clear. It was -15°F at the trailhead.

It was indeed big, blue skies for the first 3 hours, about when we stopped to put on our summit gear. Then at the 3 hour 30 second mark: Whiteout. In a snap of the fingers, we were in the clouds. Sigh. I took some pictures of the intricately sculpted drifted snow.

Sculpted snow

The winds were less than last time, but we didn’t linger and headed down the south side of Marcy towards Four Corners. We were the first in a while, as the totally unrecognizable trail was covered in several feet of soft, powdery snow. Luckily we were only going down!

At Four Corners (so named for the 4-way intersection of the trail to Panther Gorge with the trails up Skylight and Marcy) we dropped our packs. Normally, I’d take my camera out, but given the thick clouds just left everything. That’s why the stunning and surreal scene from Skylight’s summit aren’t included here. Sigh.

We did end up breaking trail for the top 0.2 miles to Skylight, but unlike some of my recent exploits the snow was very supportive and it was quite nice. We obviously had lost the trail (so followed the “rule of up”) but made a decent one on our own, coming out just at the first cairn above treeline. It had also warmed up to a balmy 0°F. Nice!

On Lake Tear of the Clouds

Back down, we crossed a very frozen Lake Tear of the Clouds (typically cited as the highest source of the Hudson River) and summited Gray Peak. It was about as exciting as any summit of Gray Peak. (Read: Not.)

On our way back, the blue skies returned.