A guest post by Ace
I did it. I completed my 46ers while 46. To understand the significance of that, just ask my dear friend KathiJo.
Mountain Man and I have spent the past four days with the aim of achieving this goal, 13 years after the journey began. The final four I had to climb were: Whiteface Mt., Mt. Marshall, Iroquois Peak, and Mt. Colden.
So what are the 46ers? For a large yet regionally limited group this means something more than just a number. The 46ers are the 46 peaks in the Adirondack Mountains of New York above 4,000 feet in elevation, the tallest of which is just over 5,300 feet. For those west coast snobs who might shrug at that lowly elevation, I’m guessing it’s because they’ve never climbed one. And I was one of them…right up until I climbed my first.
Day 1: Whiteface Mountain
Whiteface, famously known as the ski mountain of Lake Placid despite really being located in nearby Wilmington, was an “easy” 14-mile round-trip day hike. The view from the summit would have been beautiful except for the smoke and haze courtesy of the west coast fires. #climatechangeisreal
Whiteface is like Mt. Washington in New Hampshire. You hike your ass up the mountain only to be greeted by a crowd of people who have driven to the top. Some of them had completed the Lake Placid Ironman the day before so I can hardly blame them. By the time we reached the top, I was just glad I am still able to hike and was back out here though I was quickly reminded of the difficulty of the Adirondacks. I definitely wasn’t in Kansas anymore. And for those wondering where we have been, that’s a figure of speech. We haven’t been in Kansas.
43 was done.
Days 2 and 3: Mt. Marshall, Iroquois Peak, and Mt. Colden
The day after Whiteface we set out to complete my final three peaks. This would be a two night backpacking trip, a shakedown hike before we start the Long Trail in a few days.
We hiked from the Adirondack Loj into the interior of the High Peaks Wilderness. It was my first time seeing and hiking Avalanche Pass, Avalanche Lake and Lake Colden. These areas are unique for their features but also distinct from the hiking and scenery usually found on an Adirondack trail—the trail was still rocky and slow going as all get-out, but it was beautiful. Nothing but a glistening lake and granite mountains. Very limited mud or trees to be found.
The first day we made it up to Mt. Marshall just in time for the rain to begin in earnest. Not the first time one summits a 46er in the rain only to be greeted by a circle of trees.
44 was done.
After a terrible night of sleep, we headed out early the next morning to summit Iroquois Peak and Mt. Colden.
I was in my head in a bad way climbing up Iroquois. The way we approached the summit is commonly known as one of the toughest trails in all of the Adirondacks. From the get-go it was a relentless uphill, climbing more than 2,000 feet in a mile-and-a-half. It was your typical Adirondack terrain.
At some point, I was wishing for the “easy” miles of the Continental Divide Trail last year where one could simply walk. Note the quotation marks. While the CDT is challenging in its own right, summiting a 46er peak is brutal. Trails are not built out of switchbacks. Instead you follow the natural fall line of the mountain—clambering over rocks, hopping boulders in streams, navigating the muddy, root filled and rocky trail, and scrambling/crab-crawling across granite slabs of rock (which are usually wet and mossy). Hiking 11 miles feels like 30. Your pace can slow to scarcely more than a mile per hour. These trails humble you and I have never hiked anything harder.
Once we reached the summit of Iroquois I snapped out of it, mainly thanks to a nice gentleman who learned I had just completed my 45th 46er. As we looked across the lake staring at Mt. Colden I told him we were going to be summiting that peak—my 46th—later in the afternoon.
He asked me, “are you superstitious?” I was not sure why he was asking so my response was more delayed than it should have been. But then, he pulled out a 46er patch: something one receives when they finish all of the 46 peaks.
I never intentionally set out to complete all of the 46ers. I did my first one back in 2008 with Mountain Man and his mom as they were attempting to finish their own 46ers, never thinking it’d be a goal I’d take on for myself. Mountain Man and I even got engaged on the summit of a 46er and have the silhouette of the mountain—Big Slide—engraved on our wedding bands. Over the years, we would do a combination of hikes to help further their goal of completing the 46ers, which they did in 2017. Mountain Man’s mom is a badass, by the way. It’s worth restating: these peaks are challenging. I thought about her a lot on this trip, still in awe of her accomplishment.
Later that afternoon we made it. Summiting Mt. Colden was still hard but felt much easier than Iroquois had been earlier in the morning. And, luckily, the day held nothing but beautiful weather, a rarity in the 46 times I’ve now summited one of these little buggers.
I am proud to be a 46er. The endeavor has taught me a lot about myself and, hopefully, better prepared me for the Long Trail which Mountain Man and I will begin in a few days.
Until next time…..