The Mount Marcy Hike

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Group photo at the peak of Mt. Marcy.

We did it. We went for the big one and did it.

Enter Mount Marcy stage right.

Housed in the beautiful park that is called Adirondacks, lies forty-six concentrated high peaks. The Adirondacks is a park that spans over 600 million acres and is home to many people and wildlife. I must say that after reading about the Adirondack lifestyle, it is nothing compared to actually visiting this place for yourself. It’s beautiful. The air is as you would expect, clean crisp with a hint of some mountain humidity. If you’re an active person, the elevation at some points could prove to be a bit challenging, but for normal day to day activities, it’s not even noticeable.

The fall is most certainly the best time to visit. Driving into the park through the  changing foliage is enough to make you think you’ve reached Narnia. Our mission on this trip was to tackle the largest peak of the 46 peaks. I’ve been avid hiker for almost two years now. I wanted to step out of my comfort zone and tackle something truly memorable. Marcy was able to provide that and more. We went out here with solid crew. All close friends with zero friction in personalities. It was truly a Godsend to be out there with great spirits. Everyone was experienced in the hiking field and knew, to some extent, what to expect. Let’s go over what I had in my pack. This was a learning experience in itself. I’d like to have thought I knew what I was doing here. When they say pack light, listen to those trolls…

I had packed:

  • 1         3 Liter bladder
  • 2         4 cliff bars
  • 3         2 turkey and cheese sandwiches
  • 4         Bear repellent (Machete)
  • 5         1 Headlamp
  • 6         Wallet
  • 7         1 waterproof shell
  • 8         1 insulated down jacket
  • 9         1 digital camera with extra batteries
  • 10     1 film camera with 2 extra rolls of film
  • 11     1 tripod
  • 12     2 apples
  • 13     1 extra pair of socks
  • 14     Wipes

And I certainly over packed. I could have done without items 4, 10, 11, and 1/3 of #1. 3 liters is great but 3 liters of water is also heavy as hell. Be sure to consider external conditions when determining the amount of water you’ll need to carry. If its hot out, opt for more. If it’s cold, consider less (but not too less). After 11 hours, I still had about half a liter left.  The temperature was dynamic. At the base it was roughly 68-70 degrees. At the peak, we were chillin (literally) at about 30 degrees with 75 mph winds. The change in forecast is critical when adjusting in elevation. The differences were pretty dramatic. This is why it’s very important to pack extra (lightweight) layers!

Now let’s get to the action. The hike started out very scenic. Driving into the historical Adirondack Loj area felt very back country. Each car pays 10$ to park at that the trail head surrounding area. At the Loj, hikers can sign in, register camp sites, acquire critical camping/hiking gear and prepare for the ascents that are just a few feet away. We signed in. This was necessary in case we managed to stray off trail, park rangers would be aware who didn’t make it back that night with proper contact information in case of an emergency. Once we left our John Hancock’s we were on the move. The initial climb was nominal, very scenic, and certainly unlike any hike I’d explored in New Jersey. There were some great points of interest scattered throughout the initial ascent. Initially we reached an old dam. And damn it was old. Like there was almost nothing left. In this area, there were lean to’s for hikers planning to camp out for a few nights. Although that wasn’t in our plan, there were quite a few people camping out and it certainly looked inviting. This is something I’ll definitely be considered for my next trip out there.

As we proceeded, we reached the Indian falls. More of an intense creek than a full blown falls, this area was pleasant and was our first scenic stop. Nothing like finding some flowing water to make you feel more at home in nature. From this point forward, the hike began to escalate with intensity. It was almost as if we’d entered a video game with levels of increasing difficulty. I could recall myself yelling to the crew “Level 5! Increased incline with double the rocks and double wetness!”. It’s fair to say that I kept yelling out updates like that throughout the climb. We made it to level 17. At this level, breaks became more frequent as the incline was becoming steeper by the second and the mud and moist rock were doubling in fuckyouness (A boot of mine went straight into into the mudd and got completely submersed by a small footing error). Around the approximated level 15, we were finally started to see the peak and even after about 4-5 hours at this point, the peak still looked far as hell. Fatigue started to kick in a bit, but reaching the top was still highly motivational. It’s also very important to remember that timing of this hike is also very critical. The average hiker is clocked to complete this hike at around 10-12 hours. It is not advised to be out on the trails in the Adirondacks at sun down. Most wildlife in these areas (including bears and coyotes) are nocturnal and enjoy theirs night strolls. When hiking a long hike like this, it’s important to know when the sun goes down and where you will/should be at that time. Although we loved to take breaks when the fatigue kicked in, we also had to account for the loss of time these breaks caused. This was a good consistent reminder to keep things moving. We had all agreed that it was not a good idea to be out on this trail after dark. Despite Mary’s popular reputation as the highest peak, the trail only had a few people on it.

Once we made it to the bedrock portion of the hike, it became more a scramble to the top. The rock was very steep. Combine this with our fatigue and we really had to push to make it up there. We had finally made it and it was fucking freezing. The winds were gusting from one primary direction. There was no way I was going to be able to use my tripod. Planting that tripod anywhere on the peak would have been the same as throwing it off the mountain to meet me at the bottom. The wind was insane. The whole crew had to grow layers, because we had agreed to have lunch up here. We found the tallest rock on the summit and sat behind it to enjoy our lunch with the greatest resistance to the wind. Let me tell you that since I’ve been alive, that was the most beautiful view I’d ever had lunch enjoying. You could probably see all 46 peaks from this summit. I’m not one to be fond of heights so just being on the mountain and looking in any direction was enough to get my adrenaline to levels of excitement. Certainly one of the most memorable hikes of my life, and I was in pain like a mug.

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Mount Marcy Summit Portrait by Art Poca.

The bag that I had over packed was creating fatigue in shoulders.

I always tell people new to hiking about the golden rule number 1: HIKING BOOTS. I now have a golden rule number 2: PACK LIGHT.

Once we finished our lunches and clowned around for a little, we knew the imminent descent was nearby. 5 ½ hours back down the trail we just busted our asses for. We had hiked to a peak altitude of 5,344 feet above sea level and 8.75 miles (this is contrary to the mile markers are the trail, they are wrong by almost a mile, we confirmed with the Loj folks. Do not rely on them!). It was around 1:30-2PM when we decided to head back down and knew we had to move by this time, because it would be almost 7PM by the time we made it back to the base. Sun fall was at 6:30, so became inspired despite the fatigue and obstacles. Luckily, humans descend much quicker then they ascend. We ended up making back exactly at 6:30. The total trip statistics ended up being 11 hours, 17.5 miles, and 5344’ elevation.

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Back at the trailhead after the hike.

Side note: To reduce the impact on your knees during the descent of high climb, invest in trekking poles. I know I will be.

While out there, collecting my patch of accomplishment 🙂

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I noticed that there was a patch out of reach. This patch was called the Adirondack 46 club patch. The only way to purchase this patch, is to hike all 46 peaks.

Challenge accepted.

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