Adirondack 46ers by the Numbers

The Adirondack High Peaks comprise all the major summits within the Adirondack Park above 4000 feet in elevation. Sort of. Modern surveying revisions have revealed four of the peaks to be below 4000′. And if you stare at a topographic map long enough, you begin to realize some inconsistencies involving arcane terms like “prominence” and “isolation”. But never let the truth get in the way of a good story. And the history of peak bagging in the Adirondacks is indeed a very good story.

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Esther and Whiteface via Marble Mountain

The herd path between Esther and Whiteface on a sunny day in mid March 2020.

March 15, 2020, Atmospheric Sciences Research Center

Arrival

I pulled into the Marble Mountain trailhead to Esther and Whiteface around dawn. This Sunday, the Ides of March, would mark the completion of my 3.5-year journey to become an Adirondack 46er. I didn’t know much about the forty-six high peaks when I began this adventure. But I always knew Whiteface would be last.

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Cliff and Redfield via Lake Arnold

Ice and snow atop Cliff and Redfield in mid March

March 14, 2020, Adirondak Loj

I got an early start from Heart Lake en route to Cliff and Redfield. These peaks lie roughly equidistant from both the Loj and Upper Works trailheads—annoyingly remote either way. The plan involved a traverse to the Uphill Lean-to via Lake Arnold, making fast work of the hike in and gradual ascent. From there I’d tackle my last two summits in the High Peaks Wilderness in height order.

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Mount Marshall (nearly twice)

Mount Marshall from a false summit just north of the peak.

March 7, 2020, Adirondak Loj

Arrival

The journey to Mount Marshall began on a largely ordinary weekend in early March of 2020. It was likely the last ordinary weekend of 2020. The novel coronavirus had already begun to increasingly dominate the news cycle. But that was hardly evident on this sunny, beautiful Saturday. Alpine and nordic skiers, snowshoers, and post-holers had already filled the parking lots of Heart Lake. Between the rows of cars, excited conversations took place in both French and English in equal measure. There’s usually one (maybe two) weekends in March where the bright sunshine of nearly-spring and the thick snowpack of a full winter collide. This was that weekend.

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Allen Mountain

The summit sign on Allen Mountain.

February 1, 2020, Fire Tower Trailhead

Allen Mountain and 46er Procrastination

Putting off Allen for the bitter end is one of the time-honored traditions of High Peaking.  According to the Adirondack Mountain Club’s official roster of 46ers, Allen spent decades as, far and away, the most popular last ascent.  Only after the 1980 Winter Olympics did Whiteface replace Allen as a more pleasant (and ceremonial) finish.  To understand why folks are keen to procrastinate in bagging Allen, one need only look at the stats. Allen requires an 18-mile round trip through brush and bog to bag just one lonely, tree-covered summit.  No other peak requires such an enormous minimum amount of mileage.

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Sawteeth Mountain

January 5, 2020, St Hubert’s

Fresh tracks up Lake Road

I embarked from St Hubert’s at 6 am sharp on this snowy Sunday in early January. I headed up the road past the Ausable Club in what was still, essentially pitch darkness. The goal was a swift summit of Sawteeth Mountain, with ample time left in the day to get back to Brooklyn by a decent hour.

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Dial and Nippletop

December 17, 2019, St Huberts

A pre-dawn breakfast

The journey to Dial and Nippletop began with a 5:30 am drive through a snowy and blustery Cascade Pass, descending down towards Keene and Keene Valley.  The plan was to arrive at the Noonmark Diner for their 6 am opening (per Google) and then scarf down some eggs before hitting the trail. To my dismay, the diner was completely darkened when I arrived. I stood there a few minutes, slightly panicked that my breakfast would be reduced to a few sad, frozen Clif bars. I decided to drive back up the road, north towards Keene.

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