Adirondack 46 High Peaks, A Journal
Adirondack 46rs are a group of people who have climbed all 46 of the ADKs main or High Peaks. A peak qualifies for the Adirondack 46 if it is 4,000 or more feet tall; there are a few peaks that fall just under 4,000 due to mismeasurement, however, they have remained in the ADK 46 out of tradition. I am currently working towards my 46 and try to spend as many free weekends in the mountains as I can.
Here talk about each trip I’ve taken towards completing my Adirondack 46. I’ll talk about each mountain in minor detail, providing suggestions and motivation to summit! They are grouped by each ‘trip’ I have taken. This might assist in your planning as well! Please follow my journey, mountain by mountain, to complete the ADK 46. As a disclaimer, please don’t attempt to climb these mountains without proper gear or experience!
LOWER WOLFJAW, UPPER WOLFJAW, AND ARMSTRONG
I began my journey in the Fall of 2013 hiking Lower Wolfjaw(4175′), Upper Wolfjaw(4185′), and Armstrong(4400′). We started our journey at St. Huberts Parking Area off of Route 73 just before entering Keene Valley (coming from Route 87). The first portion of the hike takes place on a paved road, through a golf course before we entered the Adirondack Mountain Reserve gate. Please keep in mind that dogs are strictly prohibited on AMR property. We hiked along the West River trail until we reached a legal camping marker just outside of AMR land and set up camp. The next morning we hiked Wedge Brook Trail to Lower and Upper Wolf Jaw and traveled across the ridge to Armstrong Mountain. Please be aware that there are portions of this hike that are quite steep, in fact almost completely vertical. With my full pack weighing close to 40 pounds, there was one occasion where I threw my pack up and over a ledge before climbing up on my own.
We climbed and summitted all three mountains in an ominous fog, but being among the clouds with no view of anything else was incredible.
After realizing our water supply was low and that rain was on the way, we headed down the Beaver Meadow Falls Trail to Beaver Meadow Falls to fill our water and rest. After passing over Lower Ausable Lake we headed down Lake Road back through the AMR gate and to St. Hubert’s parking lot. This trip, our very first High Peak adventure, taught us to carry MORE than 2 liters of water at a time if we want to carry out our planned adventure. We now carry around 3 liters when embarking on extended trips such as this one; Sometimes the water sources you think you’ll cross are just out of reach, or slightly dried up, or just not quite the water source you’d like to refill at. This hike can be done as a day or overnight hike! Take your pick and enjoy!
I was also able to rehike these beautiful mountains, plus Saddleback(4515′) and Gothics(4736′) on a very hot summer day. We began our hike at a lean-to about a mile northeast of Johns Brook Lodge; please remember that there are a multitude of lean-to’s available for rent close to the JBL itself, and also warms beds and food available inside the lodge. After a brief stop at the lodge for breakfast leftovers – woohoo free bacon and french toast! – we began on the Ore Bed Brook Trail towards Gothics and Saddleback. I found this trail to be a pretty steady ascent until we reached the slide. Hurricane Irene had its way with the higher elevations of this trail which can make it difficult to follow at times; steps/ladders have been put into place along the side of the slide for a safer traverse. We continued on up the ladders and on to the junction between Saddleback and Gothics. From this platform to Saddlebacks summit was a quick 15-20 minute climb; you do come across a bit of a ‘false’ summit and a few hundred feet of flat ground before reaching the true summit. After spending some time enjoying the view we returned to the junction and began the steep ascent up to Gothics. If you take a left at the top of Ore Bed Trail you will begin an incredibly steep climb to the summit of Gothics. This very steep and exposed route is known for its ‘infamous’ cables. In poor weather or maybe for a little extra help, I’d say the cables are a great aiding device but on this particular sunny, beautiful day in August, I walked right up the side without laying a hand on the cables. You will find yourself at first on the West Summit of the Gothics before you continue along a short hike to the true summit. A demanding trail with beautiful views, this climb, traversing several mountains in a day, and stunning summits provide an amazing sense of adventure.
From here you can continue along the ridgeline to Armstrong and Upper Wolf Jaw. To finally see the view these two mountains had to offer was amazing since my previous trip had such poor weather! At the summit of Armstrong, my party started to get pretty delirious due to the hot, hot 96-degree day in the sunshine and lack of water. We didn’t spend very much time here before moving on to Upper Wolfjaw before ascending down, to your left, at Wolf Jaw Notch to bring you back to the five corners and in the direction of the JBL. We made it back to camp with more than enough daylight to take a quick dip in Johns Brook and cook up some grub.
PHELPS, TABLETOP, MOUNT MARCY, SKYLIGHT, AND COLDEN
My second high peak adventure occurred in July 2015 and was a three-day trek covering 5 different high peaks for my 23rd birthday. We started at the Adirondack LoJ trailhead and set out for our first scheduled peak, Phelps (4161′). Phelps is only 1.0 mile up from trailhead to the summit, but don’t take the mile lightly – it’s certainly strenuous! We ended up with a beautiful, clear, sun shining view which was a great start to our trip. Due to unforeseen circumstances earlier in the day we had a late start and couldn’t make it to our scheduled campsite; with no other options, we picked a safe spot off the trail and set up camp. For this trip, I switched from tenting to hammocking and it was the BEST decision I ever made in regards to ‘updating’ my backpacking equipment. Click here for my post on hammocking with more details but to make a long story short: I don’t care who you are or how much you love camping, life is good when you don’t have to sleep on the ground.
The following day we had a lot of trail to cover. Due to the fact that we were behind schedule, we were supposed to hike 4 peaks that day; needless to say we only accomplished 3. First up, Tabletop Mountain which is not a ‘marked trail’, it is considered a herd path, but don’t worry because it’s not too tough of an ascent; the path is a little narrow and eroded in places but relatively easy to follow. Unlike many of the other summits I had hiked so far, it is completely wooded and honestly a little tough to tell if you’ve made it or not. The sign when I summited said “ableto” as opposed to “tabletop” and once you’ve reached that, you’ve made it! We enjoyed our view of the great range, grabbed a quick snack and headed back down. For this trip, we dropped our full packs at the trailhead and brought daypacks up to make our climb a little lighter and therefore, significantly faster. I find the Adirondack hiking family to be quite trustworthy and always there for each other which is why I take the risk in leaving my pack at the trailhead. Obviously, this is a choice you have to make on your own but I find that there are many times where you can safely conquer your desired trail with just your essentials which will save both time and energy!
Our next big adventure was conquering Mount Marcy, the highest point in NYS with an elevation of 5,343 feet, with full packs. Less than a quarter-mile from the trailhead of Tabletop you will come across Indian Falls. Indian Falls is beautiful and a great place for a quick water fill up (don’t forget to purify) and rest. The portion of the trail from Indian Falls to the tree line is a fairly moderate ascent; once you have arrived at the tree line be prepared for a potential change in temperature/weather. From this point on the terrain varies but is mostly rock face. The hike isn’t especially difficult, however, it does require stamina. I know it’s exciting as you get close to the summit, but please stay on the designated path seeing as Mount Marcy is home to some endangered Alpine vegetation as we had learned from the Mountain Steward. Follow the Cairns and yellow marks! In total, we spent well over an hour on the Summit. It was a BEAUTIFUL day so we ate lunch, took a nap, tended to some blisters, learned a lot from the Steward and then began our descent.
We made it down Marcy rather quickly, dropped our full packs and headed directly up Skylight. It’s only .5 miles to the summit from the trailhead and is just under 5,000 feet. It truly is a quick climb! It took us about 20 minutes to reach the summit, at one point we were actually running and racing one another. This peak is truly beautiful in so many ways. It has a completely bald, vast summit with views in every direction. This peak, by far, is my favorite view; I’ll let the picture do the talking.
We missed the herd path for Gray and realized it too far down the trail to turn back so we missed our 4th peak for the day and instead, snagged a campsite at the Feldspar lean-to site. It was a full house, however, a school-based group was taking up more space than they needed and they graciously provided us with our site for the night. Once we woke we made way for Mount Colden. The trail was easy and very appealing to the eye and ears following Opalescent River leading to Lake Colden. There are three ways to approach Mount Colden, the primary trailhead from Lake Arnold, the Trap Dike or the Lake Colden approach. We headed up from Lake Colden; the beginning of the hike is moderate and relatively easy to maneuver – then we reached a section that sends you straight up some fairly steep rock slabs from that point forward. Personally, I don’t mind climbing but these slabs were at the awkward angle between walking and climbing and it was pretty tough on the Achilles tendon and calf muscles; my boots had not posed a problem for the last two and a half days but boy were they hurting here! My heel actually wore holes in the back of both of them.
As you approach the summit the hike does become more rewarding (obviously a personal opinion) and worth the calf pain. The hike becomes more steady with short bouts of incline, such as the one requiring the ladder. Be aware of the false summit! You will think you have reached the top but in fact, you must continue on for a slight descent before reaching Mount Colden’s true summit. It started to get stormy as we summited so we ate our lunches quickly and headed back to our packs which we dropped at the trailhead (thank goodness)! I would not recommend hiking up Colden using the Lake Colden trail with a full pack; I honestly don’t know which has more potential danger: hiking up this trail with an extra 40 plus pounds of down? Best recommendation: you do not want to approach Mount Colden from this side with a full pack, especially if you are going to go down the same way you came up. The following summer I hiked Colden from the Lake Arnold side and can honestly say, it feels like a completely different mountain!
Algonquin & Wright
My next high peak adventure, and last, of 2015 took place the very last weekend in September. We arrived at the ADK LoJ around 10:00 AM, which is a pretty late to start for a multi-mountain day hike, like the one we had planned, and arrived to cars lining the side of the road. The LoJ’s parking lot was full and so was the first half mile of the road leading up to it. We parked about a mile out from the trailhead on the road and began our trek (side note: if you ever have to do this, park on the north side of the bridge that goes over West Branch Ausable River. We spoke to a DEC officer ticketing people south of the bridge who told us north of the bridge was free game!). We had hoped to conquer Algonquin, Iroquois, and Wright, however, due to our late start and my upper respiratory infection slowing us down, we had to pick two and chose Algonquin and Wright. First up, Algonquin Mountain which is the tallest mountain in the MacIntyre Range at 5,115 feet. The climb isn’t overly technical but becomes relatively steep once you hit the intersection for Wright Peak. Although steep, the climb is enjoyable and before you know it you will be above the tree line and just yards away from the Summit. The Summit of Algonquin is bald and provides 360-degree breathtaking view; we sat facing Avalanche Lake and Lake Colden and ate our lunch, enjoying each others company and the view for about an hour.
On our descent, we shot right up the Wright Peak trail and summited in less than 20 minutes (it’s .4 miles). Wright Peak is the windiest place I have ever been, but it was one of the coolest Summits to explore. We went on a mission to find the B-47 Bomber crash wreckage from 1962 which led us up and down and over rock faces before we found it and its informational plaque. The ascent is steady but steep and let me mention again, windy after you leave the tree line. We debated staying up on Wright for Sunset since it was getting close to that time of day, however, we had a 3-hour drive home and were already going to be hiking the last few miles out in darkness so we saved it for a future trip where we will be camping. Super cool summit but for the third time, incredibly windy and about 20 degrees cooler then the rest of our hike had been.
First High Peak of 2016, Giant during mud season (May). It is frowned upon to explore the high peak region during mud season due to a lot of individuals’ unfamiliarity with the expectations and duty of hikers to maintain the trails. With this being said, Spence and I were well prepared with micro-spikes, gaiters, and multiple layers; we were not going to destroy the trails of our beloved mountains and we were prepared for wind, snow, rain, and heat. This mountain is often hiked alongside RPR (Rocky Peak Ridge) however, we hadn’t realized this at the time so we only tackled Giant. There are also multiple trails that provide access to the summit.
I’m not sure if it was because this was our first high peak of the season and we were out of shape or if it was just a tough ascent but this hike was exceedingly difficult. Lots of individuals on the trail, including dogs and perpetual do-gooders; I moved to the side of the trail to let a gentleman on his way down pass and as I crouched between the trees he proceeded to shout the following at me, “You know, if a ranger saw you doing that you would be issued a ticket!”. I should’ve just stood right in front of him and had him figure out his best way around me without stepping foot off the trail. Most individuals you find on the trail are great and helpful, but this gentleman really rubbed me the wrong way if you couldn’t tell. Don’t let one discourage you I guess.
In the photograph above you see the ‘nubble’ and the solitary pond, Giant’s Washbowl. Both can be accessed from the main trail up Giant and should be considered! The summit of Giant is BEAUTIFUL and boasts some of the best views in all the land. Giants steep 6-mile out and back trail is completely worth it because it provides you with an outstanding view of the Great Range. However, there are two different trails: the primary trail/the one explained above can be found just past Chapel Pond on your left if you are coming from Keene/ Lake Placid area. This trail is a 6 mile out and back that begins to climb the moment you get out of your car. The secondary trailhead for Giant and Roaring Brook Falls is located across Rte 73 from the AMR parking, approximately 3 miles outside of Keene Valley. Another beautiful trail, 7.2 miles round trip will bring you to the top of Roaring Brook Falls before continuing on to the Giant Summit.
(Mount Colden, Mount Marcy, Skylight, Saddleback, Gothics, armstrong, and upper wolfjaw again)
In August of 2016, I was lucky enough to teach outdoor education for my Alma Mater. In the process, I hiked a few repeats and a few brand new mountains! In 5 days we hiked Mount Colden, Gray Peak, Mount Marcy, Skylight, Saddleback, Gothics, Armstrong and Upper Wolfjaw with 6 boys who had never climbed a mountain, let alone a high peak before. We stayed at a number of campsites and lean-tos to complete our journey and hiked it all from start, at the Meadows, to finish, at the Garden Parking lot.
Gray Peak was a quick and painless little herd path just on the opposite side of Feldspar Brook near Lake Tear of the Clouds. It is a moderate climb with occasional steep portions; in a few places you, are doing a bit of rock climbing/ bouldering to continue on the herd path. The summit is wooded with stunted growth; it provides a great view of both Mount Marcy and Skylight.
A few days later we hiked up to Saddleback and Gothics from Johns Brook Lodge and followed the trail from Ore Bed Brook. Which I provided information in earlier!
Blake and Colvin
My final trip of 2016 took place the second weekend of October. Fall hiking/backpacking is my absolute favorite for a number of reasons. Number one, the foliage is to die for and number two, the temperature is perfect. We decided to tackle Blake Peak and Mount Colvin from St. Hubert’s lot and spent the night about 2 miles in from the AMR gate and about an additional 1.5 miles up off the road. The start of the foot trail is moderate and passes a number of camping areas. Just beyond these sites, the trail becomes steeper until the junction for Dial/Nippletop; stay right here and continue on your way up Colvin’s final, quite steep, approach. The view from the summit is great but my favorite view is about 100 feet further down the trail towards Blake. A small little overlook provides a stunning view of the Great Range and the Ausable Lakes.
Follow this trail past the summit of Colvin and along the ridge until you begin your steep descent into the col. The climb back up and out of the col is also quite steep and not as well-kempt; be aware of some poor footing **Descending Blake I took a nice slip that jammed my shin into a large, pointy branch sticking out from the side of the trail. Luckily, I walked away with only a bruise, however, my hiking partner watched it happen and genuinely thought that was the end for me; he was shocked when I stood up and kept on hiking so WATCH YOUR FOOTING** The summit of Blake is heavily wooded however there are openings along the way that allow for some worthy views. There’s a nice clearing at the summit that almost resembles a campfire set up if you’d like to plan on eating lunch here. The nice part about this summit and the potential of eating in the place described above is that on chilly days, the trees will block the wind and on sunny days the trees keep you shady which makes for a perfect picnic area!
Cascade and Porter
Cascade (4098ft) and Porter (4056) are often suggested as beginner hikes. Cascade provides a beautiful view without too much work; the trail is not technical nor is it steep (until the final .2 miles of open rock scrambling). Hiking this mountain on a holiday weekend or during the busy summer season will provide you with a beautiful view accompanied by a crowded summit and extra mileage depending on where you are able to park your car. Adding Porter, an additional 1.4 miles, to your climb will provide you with yet another beautiful and certainly less crowded view.
We hiked Cascade and Porter during mud season on Earth Day. They were on the DEC suggested hikes for Mud Season and we finally had a weekend to break away to the High Peaks so we went for it. Parking for the trailhead is right off of Route 73 before you reach Cascade Lakes if coming from Lake Placid. Make sure you are prepared no matter what time of year it is. Even in the summer months the summit is open and tends to be windy. After reading trail reports we opted to leave our snowshoes in the car but kept our microspikes in our packs and layered on our warm clothing. We did not need our microspikes until about 1.5 miles in; there were plenty of people hiking without them, however, their safety and the preservation of the mountain were put at risk due to this lack of equipment.
We decided to take the trail to Porter at 2.1 miles and would not have been able to do so without our Kahtoola microspikes. The first portion of the trail is a steep descent followed by an ascent to a large boulder. We found ourselves a bit turned around at this point and want to share that it might be easy to miss the trail at this point of the hike if you’re new to hiking and/or the weather makes it difficult to spot the trail markers. We walked out onto a ledge that probably would have provided some stunning views if we had better weather and then followed the path around the boulder and finally up to the summit. The summit is lightly wooded with low vegetation but still provides stunning views of the surrounding terrain. Again, you’d never know by our foggy photos but it is true!
After returning to the main trail we continued on for about a quarter-mile before reaching Cascades summit. The open rock face is probably the steepest portion of the trail but still not difficult. Follow the yellow trail markers (paint on the rocks) and occasional cairns to the summit while staying off the alpine vegetation. There are plenty of places to sit and enjoy lunch and take amazing photos. I will repeat this from earlier: the summit is very windy. Overall our hike was easy in comparison to other High Peaks; we will have to try them both again in better weather to see what kind of view they might offer! Be warned that this is a highly trafficked trail and you will see all kinds of people attempting the climb. We experienced a family hiking in jeans and sneakers, a gentleman smoking cigarettes on his hike up (and down), other people’s trash that we carried out with us and a number of seasoned hikers, like we consider ourselves, adequately prepared and knowledgeable about their day’s adventure. Be prepared to share your knowledge on LNT or bite your tongue depending on the situation! I look forward to this climb again for the view.
Late in the afternoon of September 1st of 2017 my friend and I jumped in the car heading north to grab another peak, Big Slide (and Yard), before the start of school and the end of our personal lives. It was CHILLY when we arrived in the Garden parking lot out of Keene Valley and set foot on the trail but there were plenty of groups joining us. We hiked about 3 miles into our tent site near the interior outpost not far from the JBL and found a nice gentleman who shared half of his site with us. After setting up our sleeping arrangements, our beloved hammock set-ups, we made a quick dinner under the stars down by the bridge/outpost before jumping into our cozy sleeping bags for the night.
After a fiasco of a morning – I sliced my finger open pretty good trying to open the bear cannister for breakfast around 8:00 AM – we made way for Big Slide via the Slide Mountain Brook Trail. The 2.4-mile trail seemed relatively quick and painless with its steepest moments occurring in the final .3 miles. The summit was BEAUTIFUL; offering a stunning view of the Great Range uninterrupted by any foliage. The summit, however, is not very large and becomes crowded quickly on a nice day. By the time we decided to continue on our loop the summit had seen 20+ people and 2 dogs since our arrival on it only a half an hour earlier. After a relaxing lunch enjoying some snacks we continued on our way. Our planned loop was to continue on towards Yard and down towards JBL back to our campsite; however, I have heard nothing but great reviews of the brothers trail that leads over three smaller summits (The Brothers) and back to the Garden parking lot from the summit of Big Slide as well. Many people use this route as an out-and-back day hike.
The path to Yard is a maintained trail with markers, however, most of it resembles more of a herd path in my opinion. Despite Yard being 4009 feet in elevation, it does not have at least 300 feet of prominence above its nearest neighbor, therefore, keeping it from being its own, separate official peak and one of the 46. There are a few outlooks along the way that provide nice views of Gothics and a few other of its’ Great Range neighbors. Taking this loop down certainly adds some mileage to your day but the descent is gradual and enjoyable. Be sure to pay attention to your trail markers because we found ourselves turning in the wrong direction quite a few times on this, seemingly-less-traveled, path. In total, this loop, starting and ending at the Garden Parking lot is 13.1 miles. Keep in mind that there is a spigot at the JBL with potable water for your thirst needs!
Dial and Nippletop
Another Hike from Saint Hubert’s lot off of route 73 allowed me to grab peaks number 20 and 21 on September 24th! We decided that we wanted to ascend the steeper portion of the hike so we did the typical route counterclockwise and hiked the longer portion of Lake Road first. We detoured to Indian Head where we enjoyed astounding views all by ourselves – shocking – and then took the fishhawk cliffs trail to meet back up with the trail to the Colvin/ Nippletop intersection. Indian Head is a popular lookout on North-East end of Lower Ausable Lake.
From here we traveled up through elks pass, a beautiful but steep uphill portion of the climb to Nippletop through three beaver ponds, all the way to the summit. On the way, we passed an incredible older gentleman who caught up with us on the summit for lunch; he was a multi-46er and had climbed the beastly Nippletop over 70 times! Sometimes, the best part of a hike is the people you meet along the way. After devouring lunch and enjoying the almost-fall-views we continued on our way, down the trail to Dial where we enjoyed yet another astounding view. Without adding Indian Head, the route is a 13.8 mile loop, however, the addition of Indian Head is a necessity.