Ascent of Mount Marcy on 2003-11-15

Climber: Luc Tremblay

Date:Saturday, November 15, 2003
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Mount Marcy
    Location:USA-New York
    Elevation:5344 ft / 1628 m

Ascent Trip Report

In the fall of 2003, I found the website of Greg Slayden who was well on its way to hike, climb or even drive to the United States 50 high points (highest spot of each state). So I decided to hike the one closest to my home: Mt Marcy in New York State, mind you with no intention of doing more than 2 or 3 close by. I ask my brother-in-law, Richard Bourassa to come with me because my wife felt it was not safe for me to go by myself; she trusted Richard to keep me safe since he is an experienced hiker including a two and half week trek in Nepal’s Himalaya. I borrowed a set of crampons from a colleague at work. On the Friday night, Richard drove from Ottawa, Ontario and I drove from Montréal; we met in a bar at the heart of Lake Placid. After a beer or two, we drove to Adirondack Lodge parking and slept in the back of his Nissan Xterra. My old sleeping bag didn’t do a good job at keeping me warm. So around 5 AM, we woke up, warmed up the SUV, got dressed. I got my small stove going to brew some porridge and tea. Even though, there was no snow up in Montréal yet, it was all white in the Lake Placid area with the temperature well below freezing point.

We left the parking a little after 6 AM with headlamps. We were able to put them away when we reached Marcy Dam. We then started going up with the rising sun. The sky was blue but we never saw temperatures higher than the mid-20 on this fall day that felt like January. Before Indian Falls we had to beat the track for a while in about 4 or 5 inches of powdered snow on top of a hard path. It seemed that those in front of us had used the ski trail because we eventually caught back with the same tracks we had been following at the beginning of the ascent. We took a break at Indian Falls where Richard had camped a few years before. The brook was frozen solid. Off the track, there was a fair amount of snow for November. The snow started thinning with the trees. We had to put on our crampons, something I had not done for over 15 years. So with my borrowed crampons and gators we went up the rocky part to the summit.

We took a lot of pictures, read the bronze plaque, ate our lunches and chatted with other summiters. There was moderate wind and an outstanding view at the summit. I wanted to go back the same way we came, my brother-in-law wanted to do a loop. I made a mistake: I gave in to my hiking partner and agreed to the loop. So we left the summit going down the southwest side, opposite from the way we came up. We quickly reached ‘Four Corners’. We met a group there who were camping close by. We went down Feldspar brook trail with Lake Tear of the Cloud already frozen solid.

We left the beaten path to walk up in fresh snow from Feldspar brook to the col between Colden and Marcy. That little climb was a killer for me with the sun disappearing behind Colden. I was going fairly slowly by the time we finally reached Lake Arnold. From there Richard carried my pack till Marcy Dam, a little tough on self esteem. The rest of my water supply had frozen inside the Nalgene bottles. Going down the steep part it was getting darker, we took the headlamps out to realize that only mine was working. It was night when we reached the Avalanche camp lean-tos. My spirit finally picked up at Marcy Dam and we had a decent pace back to the cars.

It took us 14 ½ hours! I was extenuated! I drove back to Montréal and got home at midnight. I promised myself I would never attempt again such a long day hike again: it was 25½ km (16 miles) and 1100 metres (3600’). I would break that promise a quite a few times afterward, but knowing what I could do. I figured hiking length had to be increased gradually. Also, water has to be kept from freezing, headlamp (and all gear actually) has to be checked before leaving home and, I already knew it but was reminded, sleeping in a car protects from the wind, rain or snow but not the cold.

Still, I was glad to have completed this hike and decided to try again. I especially appreciated climbing the last rocky and icy stretch with the crampons, it felt like it was a much higher mountain.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:3608 ft / 1099 m
    Total Elevation Loss:3608 ft / 1098 m
    Round-Trip Distance:15.8 mi / 25.5 km
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Snow on Ground, Snow Climb
    Gear Used:
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:3608 ft / 1099 m
        Gain Breakdown:Net: 3162 ft / 963 m; Extra: 446 ft / 135m
    Loss on way in:446 ft / 135 m
    Distance:7.1 mi / 11.5 km
    Route:Van Hoevenberg Trail
    Start Trailhead:Adirondak Loj Hikers Parking  2182 ft / 665 m
Descent Statistics
    Loss on way out:3162 ft / 963 m
    Distance:8.7 mi / 14 km
    Route:Four Corners & Lake Arnold
    End Trailhead:Adirondak Loj Hikers Parking  2182 ft / 665 m

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