Mount Marcy, Adirondack Mountains, High Peaks Wilderness Area, Keene, NY, USA
Length: 30.41 kilometers round-trip
Difficulty: Strenuous hike
Elevation: 1629 meters
Elevation gain: 1271 meters (about 975 meters for Marcy)
Moving time: 9 hours 30 minutes (Total time: 12 hours 16 minutes)
Date: April 8, 2016
The day started beautifully. We got up early and spent the first hour hydrating and having a light breakfast. We then packed and headed to the Adirondack Loj. A very enthusiasming song was playing in my car (Storm, for violin by Vanessa Mae - I know, it is a Vivaldi cover, but she plays it magically...), the weather was good and the forecast was promising. Everything was perfect so far.
We made a quick stop at the Loj, we filled out the registry and hit the trail shortly before 7:30 am. There was a thin layer of snow on the path, and the weather was just cold enough to ensure the mud was in a solid state.
After less than an hour, it started snowing. The layer of snow covered an even thinner sheet of ice, beneath which was either mud or water. Due to the continuous snowfall, the trail became very challenging when trying to maintain our balance and keep our feet dry. We had to choose between walking in the snow-ice-water-mud unknown mix, or step from one snow-covered stone to the next. Before long, I heard my friend behind me saying:
We continued that slippery way for close to two hours. It was still snowing steadily. At that point, we realised that we had been having a nice ride… The river-path crossed road with an overflowing stream, blocking our way. Standing on one side, we could see the path continuing on the other side of the river ahead of us. There was no question of turning around, and the idea of getting wet that early in the day was quite unappealing. Luckily, a tree had fallen down just right of the trail, allowing us to cross to the other side and continue our journey. That is, if we manage to travel to the other side without falling…
My friend took out his camera, and warned me that if I was to fall, he would keep shooting… It was close, I could feel my heartbeat increase when I almost slipped and fell in the icy cold water. But somehow, I managed to make it through the other side, and was really happy that our planned route was not coming back this way.
My friend headed to the log and in a weird quiet tone asked:
And then of course, I took out my camera too!
The snow on the ground was now about ½ foot deep, but it was still manageable since the base was still frozen, letting us avoid post holing. Before leaving, we decided to leave our snowshoes behind to increase our speed. The amount of snow closer to the summit made it slightly more challenging, but not enough to regret our decision.
Another two hours to the treeline, and the warning of the weather being subject to severe changes had never in my experience been so true. The wind picked up, and with the continuous snow it was almost like a mini-blizzard. We could barely see the summit, and the path ahead became very steep. We put our microspikes on, and it wasn’t quite enough to make our way to the top. We navigated very slowly on the icy slope, and finally reached the summit. Real crampons would’ve made this much easier.
We snapped a few picture at the summit sign. As we walked past the giant slab that marks the summit, a brutal wind picked up and we hastily tried to find our way across and off the summit.
Following the many cairns, we walked quickly to the cover of the trees. After less than a minute, we were both frozen - the wind was so powerful it was preventing us from keeping our eyes open.
After having lunch at the 4 corners, we continued our way down. We noticed that sections of the trails fell in the river adjacent to the main trail. Around 3 pm, we reached an impasse. There was another river on our path, and there seemed to be no way out this time. We wasted at least half an hour trying to find a shallow path or another log, but without success. There were a few rocks in river, but not all the way through. And the water was too deep anyway, despite the rocks. A tree had fallen, but it was so slim there were almost no chances of making it to the other side, and big rocks on both side of the log made the option dangerous - we would’ve ended up injured with a fall. Finding no better alternatives, we headed back to the original “official” crossing, took a deep breath and walk right into the icy water to the other side of the path. Almost knee depth.
Less than half a mile from the river, we reached a lean-to. We stopped to remove extra water from our boots, grabbed a drink and some food and looked at the map. We probably missed a crossroad and started going in the wrong direction, because at this point, we were not where we expected to be (i.e. we were lost). We had a map, but since we had no clue where we were, it wasn’t that useful. I grabbed a compass and we headed on the trail going north until we reached the next crossroad, which would hopefully tell us exactly where we were.
There are no more pictures after this. We focused entirely on getting back as fast as possible, hopefully before dark. Taking a picture at this point almost seemed like a waste of time...and sunlight. The only thing we were sure of, is that we had just hiked 20 kilometers, and had at least 10 more to go.
We took the south bank of Lake Colden, and it was a very icy path just by a cliff, with mount Colden rising on the other side. We ended up at Lake Colden and headed for Avalanche pass… which is a very challenging trail. The website does specify to “be warned, it will take an hour to do the mile”. We walked by a river with cliff faces on both sides and debris from avalanches. The trail was composed of huge boulders stacking on top of each other and catwalks, ladders and bridges.
Once avalanche pass and avalanche slide area were cleared, we were back to a regular forest trail slightly cover in fresh snow. A few miles ahead was Marcy dam, and then a few more to reach the Adirondack loj.
This was a long day.
Back in town, the ADK website informed us that lots of bridges on the lost trail were just recently repaired… I guess we were lucky in our bad luck.