Ascent of Mount Marcy on 2010-03-13

Climber: Jerry Meitz

Date:Saturday, March 13, 2010
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Mount Marcy
    Location:USA-New York
    Elevation:5344 ft / 1628 m

Ascent Trip Report

This adventure began as all of our peak-bags do: with an ambitious, through the night, drive to the base of the mountain and a typically insufficient amount of sleep. We stayed at a family owned Swiss motel in Lake Placid. I don’t remember the name, but if you find yourself in Lake Placid and next to a random Swiss motel…take a chance, it may be great. I think it’s most commonly used for romantic weekends-a description I try to avoid attributing to our all-dude Mt Marcy bag-so be sure you’ve mentally prepared for that sort of theme. The motel staff spent several moments warning our small group about the ever dangerous, ubiquitous, reality of bears in the Adirondacks*; we aren’t afraid of bears, but the staff managed to make bears sound more like high seas pirates than anything else. Naturally, it made our usual armaments seem ill suited. Nonetheless, and in tough-guy fashion, we ventured out at our routine, courageous, 11 am start time. We arrived, rented the mandatory snow shoes, and began the 15 mile hike at (high) noon. We’d never used snowshoes before-preferring to battle our way through waist deep snow (its part of the fun)-so they were a pleasant surprise. We’ve attained some dozen or so winter peaks, its not as if we lack experience; we (I) just prefer the more challenging fight so I try to use as little technological advantage as possible; I understand that many early peoples constructed their own primitive versions of the snowshoe, it may be a good compromise to build our own snowshoes. The trail is a long, winding, often very steep, adventure through varying ground conditions and environmental features. It’s very pretty and serene. On our way up, we constantly met the discouraged and descending. There were warnings a-plenty: “You don’t want to go up there, boss”, “No way to the summit”, “Too windy, we couldn’t stand”, “we tried to crawl our way there once above the tree line, but the wind was pushing us off the mountain”, “there’s a monster up there, we lost half our party”, “Don’t bother going further, its too dangerous and you wont summit”. Typical sissy stuff. Most of the quotes should be read with a French-Canadian accent (French-Canada day on Marcy?), which means even if we had wanted to listen we wouldn’t have understood. Even with the benefit of 40+ independent warnings, we didn’t anticipate what lay ahead and beyond. There was a cross country skier near the edge of the tree line, also French-Canadian, he had made it to the top, though the rest of his party had stayed behind. He was a cool dude, and a tough old man. The summit push was as frightening an experience as we’ve yet encountered. As we approached the summit, standing became practically impossible. Gusts of extreme wind easily knocked us over or picked us up and threw us across the summit. If it weren’t for some of the fortuitously resting boulders, and the climbing rope which kept our three man party tied to one another, we would each have been as easily swept from the exposed peak as a crumb flicked off a table. Sustained wind speed had to have been in the 70’s, with gusts as high as 110 mph. I’m from Florida, hurricane force winds aren’t alien to me, but I’ve never felt this type of power while hiking (especially not in those circumstances). It was an awesome and fresh reminder of nature’s power. What made it worse, or more fun, was that it came as part of a blizzard: complete with deafening howls, blistering cold (easily around 0 F), blinding stings of sweeping snow, and small pellets of bruising hale. We will not fail to have adequate eye protection in the future**. We tried to crawl to the USGS marker but it was like trying to crawl or stay in place, on a steep ice hill. We held onto a boulder, and each other (thanks, rope), until the gusts subsided enough for us to stand and dive for the large rock face that stands above the marker. No traditional shirtless pics, but we managed to grab a few shots for the album. The descent, once safely back amongst the trees, was relatively uneventful, save for its duration and the late hour. It was around 10pm when we returned to the parking lot, returned our snowshoes, and took advantage of the showers offered at the station. 10 hours, roundtrip. 3 of probably 4 out of 40+ to have attained the summit that day. We each look forward to the next challenge; further emboldened by the experience, and proud that no danger has yet caused pause.

*We didn’t see any bears
**We have hiked since then... we have forgotten adequate eye protection (everytime).
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