After our abysmal attempt over the 2016 4th of July weekend we decided to head back up to the Adirondacks over labor day, so we could check more peaks off and get closer to our goal of completing all 46 before our wedding in the fall of 2017.
Original Plan: This plan is EXACTLY the same as our original Phelps plan. The assumption was made that the only reason we didn’t hit our goal the first time was because I was sick. Plus, we had already completed Phelps, shaving off 2.4 miles!
Day 1: Table Top, Mt. Marcy, Skylight, Gray… Camp at Feldspar
Day 2: Mt. Colden, Iroquois, Algonquin, Wright … Camp at Beaver Point
Day 3: Hike out to car and head home.
*SPOILER ALERT – We AGAIN accomplished no where near this!!! Again, very disappointment for me*
Back in July, we had learned that it is not permitted to sleep in the ADK Loj Parking area, so this trip we elected to get a good night sleep at home and hit the road early to get to the Adirondacks as the sun was coming up.
As we pulled into the parking area, around 7AM, we were asked by the staff what our plan was, we indicated we planned on backpacking and paid the parking fee.
The person at the booth asked us what kind of bear canister we had with us, and what color, we responded we had the blue one with the black tops (Bear Vault BV5000). They informed us that while it was good we had a bear canister, we would not be allowed to use that style of container. Apparently there is a bear in the Adirondack High Peaks area that has figured out how to open these containers! Since we had a bear canister with us, we were able to borrow a ADK approved bear canister for free! (I will right a post in the near future discussing the pros and cons to both canisters -we now own both styles- and general Bear Safety Etiquette).
We parked by the Van Hoevenberg Trailhead, pulled out our pre-packed bear canister and re-packed everything into this borrowed canister. After getting everything re-situated we finally got on the trail around 7:45AM. Almost an hour after we had thought we would be. We set off towards Mt. Marcy, which happens to be the same trail we were on for Phelps earlier that summer.
We both felt great and were excited for a good day. The hike in was sunny, quite, and beautiful. We hiked in slowly, enjoying the beautiful views. As we passed the turn off for Phelps we were happy to be in a much better place mentally and physically than we had been on that hike! We turned to hike up Tabletop, and decided for whatever reason to do this with our full packs. I would not recommenced lugging a full pack up a mountain if you can help to avoid it! Here we clearly could have… Tabletop is an out and back trail, meaning we just hiked up and down the same exact path and continued on our original trail.
The hike up to Tabletop was muddy and there were a lot of roots on the trail. You reach a tree covered “table top” and have a little ways to hike before you hit the sign that indicates you are at the summit of Tabletop. We arrived at the summit sign around 11:15AM, happy that it was sunny and that we could finally see out in the Adirondacks!
The lookout area of Tabletop is relatively small and was particularly crowded as we were there on a holiday weekend and it was around lunchtime. We decided to sit and have a quick snack and get back on our way towards our next peak, Mt. Marcy! We hiked back down to the main trail, and turned towards Marcy.
As you hike this route up towards Mt. Marcy you are greeted by beautiful views and even spectacular waterfalls like Indian Falls.
I had assumed ascending Mt. Marcy from the North would be a piece of cake. TONS of people hit this peak. Everyone wants to be able to say they did the highest peak in New York state! For whatever reason I just assumed it would be a quick one (I was wrong!). We were both excited and in good spirits as we passed the sign indicating 2 miles to Mt. Marcy! Disappointingly, we soon realized that Mt. Marcy is one of those summits with numerous false peaks on the hike up.
— For those of you that haven’t had the pleasure of this phenomenon on one of your hikes… A false peak is when you are hiking, and look out ahead of you and could swear that the highest point you see is the peak! And that you are almost there! As the name “false peaks” indicated, the peak you see ahead is NOT the summit, and as you hike on you realize just how much more elevation gain and distance there is between you and your goal. —
As we hiked, and passed more false summits, I started to get discouraged. It was getting later and our plans to hit three more summits, Marcy, Gray, and Skylight seemed to be impossible.
I am the type of person who likes to accomplish my goals, and get very frustrated and overwhelmed when I realize I won’t. This causes me to get more upset that I am letting it ruin my hike, which continues to spiral! (This is something I am CONSTANTLY working on, to not let my “failure” at achieving the arbitrary goal I have set, hold me back from enjoying what I am accomplishing!) As we hike up, I asked someone hiking down how far we were from the summit. The person indicated that we were almost there, I think they said something along the lines of 20 minutes. This lifted my spirits, and we kept on moving! OH MY GOODNESS, did I discover a new pet peeve of mine after this experience. It took us almost 3x’s as long as they had said to summit, which was VERY frustrating. My advice is if you are ever asked to give a guess on how far or how long it will take someone going up to get there, be kind and tell them just a little longer than what you actually think. It is a MUCH better feeling to get up there in 20 minutes if the person says 30 minutes, than it is to summit in 30 minutes if they tell you 20 minutes!
At 3:08PM we crested to peak of Mt. Marcy to be greeted with 360° views!
While we rested on the summit, we decided it was not in the books to summit Gray or Skylight and certainly not both like we had originally planned. We decided to hike down towards the Feldspar camp, and that we would hike back up the small section to Gray and Skylight the next day.
On a map it is clear that the southern side of Mt. Marcy is STEEP! We hadn’t really considered how much this would abuse our legs doing this decent with full packs after hiking all day. The south side of Mt. Marcy is not only steep, but quite rocky, and since it had rained recently, it was somewhat slick. I was happy to have my hiking poles with me for this section. We were able to make it down to camp safely and find a camp site at the Feldspar area. We set up for the night and got some much needed food and rest.
Around 8AM we got on the trail and headed up towards Gray, Skylight and Lake Tear of The Clouds! (Our packs were significantly lighter for this because we left our tent and sleeping gear so we could come back to our “home base” later that day)
Fun Fact: Lake Tear of The Clouds is the highest pond in NY State at 4,293′ (According to Wikipedia)
Turning up the trail to Gray we immediately got caught up on a very muddy trail. As you neared the summit there were some pretty shear rock faces, that the trail has you climb/scramble up.
— We noticed on the way down there is a little pseudo trail to go around this, but every time you use one of these unmarked pseudo trails, you are slowly deteriorating the natural environment. Try to avoid taking these unmarked paths as much as possible and hike on trail, even if it is a little more challenging. Don’t take the easy way out and possibly ruin it for the next person! —
At 10:18AM we summited Mt. Gray. The view from Gray was beautiful but you only have North and South view as there were a lot of trees at this summit. Gray is another out and back trail, so we headed down to the main trail and started our way up to the trail for Skylight.
The trail for Skylight was well marked, and seemed to be a great resting spot for those coming from Panther Gorge lean-to. The trail for Skylight was not muddy at all, which we really appreciated after all the mud for Gray. This trail was quite rocky, and stair-like in some sections. We flew up to the top of Skylight and summited at 11:50AM, and were THRILLED to have gorgeous 360° views and not a cloud in the sky!
We decided to relax, something we rarely do. Our shoes came off and we very happily napped in the sun. Eventually, we headed down to our campsite, and sat by a beautiful stream to eat a hot lunch!
The decision was made to hike out this afternoon, instead of attempting to lug our huge packs up the steep side of Algonquin. This decision meant that we had to make it out to the ADK Loj before it closed to avoid having to clean our borrowed bear canister. (For some reason this seemed important to us at the time, so we essentially sprinted out of the camp site and towards our car!) At least we took some pretty pictures on the hike out!
Running through the valley that has Avalanche Lake was VERY beautiful, and made me want to just sit down and read a book, instead of running 6 miles with a full pack! This section of the Adirondacks could be explored and enjoyed for days! You get to walk along cliff edges, and around massive boulders. I would highly recommend spending some time in this area!
We DID make it out there almost exactly at 8PM, sweaty and exausted. The staff was kind enough to let us empty the bear canister, so we did, and loaded into the car to head home!
TRIP RATING: 9/10 – 2 days – 4 Summits, ~ 12mi Day 1, 12.3mi Day 2
Based on this experience, I would recommend going with the flow. If you have to go slowly to go safely do it! Plans change and things happen, getting upset about it ruins what you are accomplishing and taking the time to actually sit and enjoy your accomplishment feels so much better than stressing yourself out!
TECHNICAL: Attempted 9/3 – 9/4/2016
- 7:45 AM – Van Hoevenberg Trailhead
- Head towards Mt. Marcy & Phelps
- 11:15AM – Summit Tabletop – 4,427′
- 3:08PM – Summit Mt. Marcy – 5,344′
- Hike down to Feldspar and set up Camp.
- 8AM – Depart from camp, with tent still setup.
- 9:30AM – Arrive at Lake Tear of the Clouds
- 10:18AM – Summit Gray – 4,840′
- 11:52AM – Summit Skylight – 4,924′
- 5:30PM – Start booking it… Cover 6.4 miles to arrive at the car by 8PM!
- 8PM – Get in the car and drive home!
FINAL RECOMMENDATIONS & SUGGESTIONS:
- If you can drop your pack, and just carry your water and other essentials to grab a peak DO IT! Cut your legs a break, you will need them later!
- If someone asks you how far it is, tell them it is LONGER than you actually think! Make them feel good about themselves when they do it faster than you guess, not worse!
- Changing and adapting your plans is OK, just don’t forget to enjoy whatever your doing!
- Hiking the high peaks with a full pack is challenging! (We STILL didn’t learn this after this experience!)