Three hundred and eighty-four days ago, I set about climbing the Adirondack 46 in the winter. My hike of the Santanonis to start my W46 was more like autumn than winter, with only a light covering of snow. The rest of the ’15-’16 winter would fluctuate between January snow, February thaw, March snow and then thaw again. The snow never got very deep, and the hardest part of hiking 40 of 46 in my first winter season was getting my car to and from the trailheads.
Then came the long wait for the calendar pages to flip and for December 21 to arrive again. I encountered some mild trail-breaking and route-finding on Gothics, but overall kept a summer pace even with the snow. The next attempts weren’t so kind and I was humbled by waist-deep snow and failing to summit — twice.
The weather turned favorable and after successfully climbing Haystack, Basin and Saddleback, I was left with the twice-denied Mount Marshall as my final W46 summit.
I was always fascinated by the pictures of people walking straight across Avalanche Lake and Lake Colden. The trail around those lakes is rough and undulating (punctuated by its unique “Hitch-up Matildas”) and the straight shot across the lakes saves both time and energy. But this mid-Atlantic guy still thought it fascinating that people could walk across a 41-acre body of water.
The lakes didn’t disappoint, and were the highlight of the trip. Joe and I made excellent time on the hard-packed snow through Avalanche Pass, where we walked straight across both lakes and over the Opalescent to the scenic lean-to at the head of Flowed Lands. Unlike the labor of our previous hikes, we made the five-and-a-half miles in two hours.
Then, thanks (literally — thanks!) to the trail-breaking efforts of a party of 6 the day before, Joe and I made the easy and scenic climb up Herbert Brook. At quarter to noon on January 8, 2017, I summited my 46th High Peak in the winter.
We punched through to the lookout, but the clouds would have none of that. No matter, Mount Marshall is still one of my favorite hikes, view or not. So, we made our way back down and enjoyed a leisurely return to the Loj the same way we came.
I realized how lucky I was for last winter, but I definitely appreciate the last four the most. It’s been a great challenge, and I’ve got a lot more winter hiking in my future. For now, I’m going to take some time and enjoy being 46er #8475W.