I did something Sunday. I became an Adirondack 46er.
The shadow of the Adirondacks had always been cast toward the “flatlands”, and I grew up imagining what it would be like to roam the wilderness like Roger’s Rangers, the Iroquois or Algonquin, or trappers and hunters. After graduating high school I joined the Army, lived overseas and then on the west coast, and then finally moved back to New York in 1998. It didn’t take long and I set about plans to hike Mt. Marcy, just because it was the tallest of course. My plans weren’t plans at all really. I had a backpack if you can call it that, and some boots. That’s all I needed, right? I did climb Mt. Marcy in the summer of 2000, from Elk Lake and back. I ran out of water, it was colder on the summit than I thought it would be, and my clothes were laughable looking back on it. Soon after I took a crack at hiking Dial and Nippletop, but ended up stopping very short of Bear Den and doing Round Mountain instead. That was the extent of my hiking for a very, very long time.
Fast forward to 2015 and the mountains called again. I had made a decision to fly to Alaska and do some hiking, but first I had to get new gear and start “training”. I decided Giant would be my first test and in May solo hiked to the top in a mix of hail and rain, much better prepared than I was 15 years ago. On the way down I met a gentleman that asked “Did you hit RPR? It’s right there!” Unfortunately I did not, but he gave me some information about the 46-ers, some Facebook sites to check out, and the idea that once I “got bit by the bug”, I’ll be up in the peaks more weekends than not. He was quite correct!
I didn’t have a plan, but hiked when I felt like it and what I thought I could do in a day. Blake and Colvin were next, and then did Marcy again for my son’s 18th birthday. I surprised him with cupcakes and a battery powered candle! He enjoyed the hike but informed me it was probably his last hike.
The Lower Great Range was next at the end of summer, and then I met Dexter (already a 46er). An amazing woman (that will soon be my wife!), Dexter and I worked our way through peaks and hikes, and a circle of friends became “cairns” for me along the way. I even fell in love with winter hiking!
In January our group hiked Algonquin and Wright. It started out like any other hike, but the closer we got to the trail intersection, the louder the wind became. We were all well equipped, but as we broke out of the trees on Algonquin visibility plummeted to less than 10 feet. Ethan, at age 14, led us from cairn to cairn like a skilled mountaineer. Winds howled around us and froze hair into straw-looking bundles. Goggles fogged up and clothes turned white. We summitted and decided the safest bet was to leave Iroquois for another day. Descending back into the trees, made our way back to the intersection with Wright, enjoying the long butt-slides the snow was affording us. At the trail junction a few of us decided to give Wright a try, but on the way up we encountered some coming down that said it was impossible to summit. We let them pass by, then as a group decided to push forward. The three of us made our way up and, breaking out of the trees, we encountered deafening wind that forced us low, sometimes on all fours. About 20 feet from the summit we were on our stomachs crawling, and the feeling was absolutely exhilarating! We’d done it! We snapped a quick photo and then made a hasty descent back to the relative calm of the trail below. Absolutely the most incredible day on a mountain I’d yet to experience!
Whether solo, in a group, or with just Dexter and me, we hiked through the peaks, be it day hikes or overnight trips. The Seward range wasn’t my favorite due to the amount of toilet paper and other things left on the trail, and although some peaks have no views, they still resonate emotionally. The entire Dix Range was amazing to discover, with views that took my breath away and became the design inspiration for our wedding bands. Haystack, Basin, and Saddleback were challenging and humbling as I solo hiked what I had feared for so long: the Saddleback Cliffs. Standing on the peak of Saddleback and looking down, I had so much adrenaline and confidence I practically skipped down the steps on the opposite side. I actually jogged some of the way out from JBL!
I’ve been on the finishes of quite a few 46ers and each time it’s an amazing experience. The look in the eyes of the finishers and the friends that surround them, the celebrations, and the exhaustion of course! For my finish I had planned to head back to the original mountain I orphaned many years ago: Nippletop.
On October 30th I completed my 46 surrounded by an amazing group of hikers, all of them already 46ers. I’ve found my future wife in these mountains, as well as close friends, and I couldn’t be happier with this entire journey. So while the journey toward becoming a 46er is over, the adventures that await us in these mountains continue to draw us in, and the shadows of the Adirondacks still cast out upon us.
|Blake Peak||6/7/2015||Grace Peak||6/25/2016|
|Lower Wolf Jaw||9/19/2015||Gray||7/23/2016|
|Upper Wolf Jaw||9/19/2015||Donaldson||8/6/2016|