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Ascent of Mount Marcy on 2017-08-10

Climber: Josh Schmid

Other People:Solo Ascent
Date:Thursday, August 10, 2017
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Mount Marcy
    Location:USA-New York
    Elevation:5344 ft / 1628 m

Ascent Trip Report

This is a difficult hike in itself that was made more challenging by the wet weather this summer. While the Adirondacks are typically relatively dry by August, not the case this year, as there was a large amount of deep mud and water, both standing and flowing. Poles are recommended for stability when crossing narrow boardwalks and trying to find places to step in the mud, as some of the mud pits were at least 6 inches deep in spots. Trail markers are scarce in some locations, but the trail is generally pretty easy to follow, as it is very well-worn and well-maintained.

Began my hike around 6 AM after spending the night at the Adirondak Loj, located a short walk from the trailhead. The first 2.1 miles to Marcy Dam (measured by GPS) from the trail register is relatively level, with slight ups and downs. The section immediately before Marcy Dam is in the process of being rerouted and the old trail was closed. Approximately 1/3 of this rerouted section was finished, with a smooth gravel surface, but the remainder is incomplete with a large amount of mud. The area around Marcy Dam has 3 privies and several campsites/lean-tos. Took roughly 1 hour to reach Marcy Dam. A second trail register is located after Marcy Dam (sign this one as well) Trail becomes rougher after this point, with a major stream ford across Phelps Brook around 2.75 miles into the hike (stepping stones exist, but a high water bridge is provided if the ford isn't passable). Steep uphill sections and a bridge for the next 3/4 mile or so, followed by a sharp right turn that is signed around the 3.5 mile mark. If you continue straight past this turn and go to the left, running water is easily accessible and is likely the easiest and cleanest water to obtain on the hike; I took advantage of this to refill and purify the 2 bottles of water I had already emptied. In terms of horizontal distance, this is roughly the halfway point, took me 2-2.5 hours to get here.

Trail becomes much steeper and rockier after the turn, with a switchback and climbs that come close to rock scrambles. Unmarked Tabletop Mountain trail is on the left near the 4 mile mark, followed by another stream crossing that has stepping stones around 4.25 miles. Signed but unmarked trail to the right here leads a very short distance to Indian Falls. T-junction is reached shortly thereafter, trail to Marcy goes left and a privy is located straight ahead. A sign warns of possible extreme weather conditions immediately after the junction. Next 1.5 miles or so is a relatively constant steep grade that is slightly less than a scramble. A tree fell across the trail, requiring climbing over or ducking under, and water was often ponded on the trail or running down the middle of it. The last privy along the route at the trail junction at the end of this section, turn right at junction to continue to Marcy. This junction is at approximately the 6 mile mark per GPS.

A large open area is to the left a couple hundred yards after the junction (former lean-to location) and this is where I took my lunch break from roughly 10:45 to 11 AM. A short steep section leads to another open area with a great view of Marcy's summit. A very muddy section follows, followed by the first significant rock scramble sections of the hike. Trail to Johns Brook Lodge merges in at 6.4 miles, tree line is almost immediately thereafter (stay on the trail to avoid damaging the native plants). Excluding a boardwalk across a marsh, the remainder of the trail contains significant rock scrambles that require a hand or two. There are two false summits between the Phelps Trail junction and the summit. True summit has a plaque commemorating the first ascent and large areas of flat, bare rock provide places to sit and enjoy the view. Per a summit steward, the true summit is marked by a drill hole, while the geodetic marker (a couple feet lower) is only a reference point. Few clouds in the sky and most summits in the Adirondacks were clearly visible, but it was too hazy to see further. Including breaks to catch my breath, figure out how to get up scrambles and let other people through narrow sections that only allow one person, took about 1:15 to travel the last ~1.2 miles.

In many ways, the hike down is harder than the hike up, especially the portion above tree line. Found that it was easier to descend many of the scrambles backwards. Below the Phelps trail junction, running water along the bare rock trail made conditions very slippery, necessitating a slow descent. I stopped at Indian Falls on the way down to enjoy the view and have a snack and continued on my way. Past Marcy Dam, several of the sections that appeared flat on the way up Marcy were actually downhill, meaning that much of the last 2 miles to the trailhead was a small uphill climb. While exhausted, I reached the Loj roughly 12 hours and 15 minutes after I left
Summary Total Data
    Round-Trip Distance:14.5 mi / 23.3 km
    Quality:10 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Road Hike, Maintained Trail, Stream Ford, Scramble, Exposed Scramble
    Gear Used:
Ski Poles
    Weather:Pleasant, Breezy, Partly Cloudy
Ascent Statistics
    Distance:7.2 mi / 11.6 km
    Route:Van Hoevenberg Trail
    Start Trailhead:Adirondak Loj  
    Time:0 Days 6 Hours 15 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Distance:7.3 mi / 11.7 km
    Route:Van Hoevenberg Trail
    End Trailhead:Adirondak Loj  
    Time:0 Days 5 Hours 30 Minutes



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