Mt. Marcy, NY


We visit Mt. Marcy, New York's highpoint, on skis.

Note: click images to see a larger version in a new window

Big Tom and I have been slowly ticking off the state highpoints of the northeast U.S. The last two, we summitted in near zero visibility. So when NOAA predicted a sunny day for our scheduled try on Mt. Marcy, we were stoked.

Ky met us at the turnoff, and we proceeded to Adirondack Loj. Yes, 'loj'. L.O.J.

Apparently, the eccentric guy who set this land aside was into some sort of simplified spelling scheme.


We rolled out a little after 7 in a light fog. But there was a promising look to it. However, the dry boardwalk wasn't exactly what one would normally encounter here in the middle of March.


Crossing the highway

After a couple miles we got to Marcy Dam. The dam was washed out when Irene swept through here, and the missing planks left Ky and I on the wrong side of the reservoir.

After seeing the conditions on the trail, we had sent Tom back to the car to fetch the crampons. He finally caught up to us here, but was on the other side of the dam. Ky and I had missed the turn.

Ky thought we could ski across the ice behind the dam. Fortunately, the water was only knee deep where he went in. Also fortunately, Ky went first.

Looking into the basin

Ky and I eventually figured another way across, so I stayed dry. Shortly after, we were all together and finally on our skis. I couldn't hear it, but I suspect Ky's boots were making squishy sounds.

In the basin

As we skied up the valley toward Avalanche Lake, we saw lots of ice hanging from the cliff sides. This is Tom after I triple-dog dared him to reenact the stuck tongue scene from A Christmas Story.

Traverse into the saddle
Avalanche Lake was frozen over. But after our previous try at skiing on the dam, and seeing how steep the cliffs were that formed the shore, we were a little leery of getting out on the ice. So the first section we booted the trail, which consisted of icy boulders, post-holing, and some ladders covered with water ice. Not sure if drowning was any worse than a broken leg, we skied the remainder of the lake shore. Booting
The next lake on our trip was Lake Colden. Here the edge of the lake looked shallow and forgiving, so we again abandoned the narrow trail through the trees and instead enjoyed skiing the flat lake ice. Looking across the lake, you can see the ranger's cabin with Algonquin Peak in the background.
Heading home
At the far end of Lake Colden, we hit another of many trail intersections. Out came the map, and then we were on our way up Feldspar Brook. Summit ridge

Here we skied across the suspension bridge. I didn't quite catch the start of the comment, which is Ky yelling, "the sign says the weight limit is 206 pounds". Tom is bigger than I am, and without my pack and skis I weigh about 206...

A little above the bridge, we ran into another set of stairs. This is sort of like what we were dealing with back at Avalanche Lake. There, some of the stairs were more like ladders. But when they are coated with ice, it doesn't make a lot of difference.


Oh, and by the way-- don't fall off to the left; it's about a 30 foot drop down to the creek.

Summit ridge
When we got to Lake Tear of the Clouds, we finally got a clear view of Mt. Marcy. This is more or less the south face. Our route would go up the right-hand skyline. Then we would descend the north side to complete our scenic loop. Heading home
As we got above the krumholtz and timberline, the summit trail as well marked with cairns and paint. The tundra to the side of the trail is very fragile, so you want to stay on the trail. I was in touring boots, so enjoyed taking off the skis and walking on the rock.
Heading home
Because Tom was loaning me gear, we were both making some compromises. Tom was in full tele boots, which do not hike on steep rock particularly well. So to compensate, he managed to stay on his skis almost to the very top. Heading home
The summit is a broad expanse of granite. The cairns mark the major and shortest route, the Van Hoevenberg Trail. That's the way we would descend. Heading home


Note that our blue skies are looking a little less blue. And it was after 4, with full dark at about 7:15.

Heading home

We skied off the north side. Now it was my turn to suffer with the ski-gear compromise. I had a tough time negotiating the steep, narrow trail through the woods. Eventually I got through that, then we were off our skis and walking through boulders surrounded by water ice. And then we got back to marcy Dam. The sun was going down, and the trail was getting muddier. With skis on our backs, our pack straps were cutting painfully into our shoulders. It seemed that while we were gone, someone had lengthened the two miles back to the car.

But we did make it back to the cars without donning our headlamps. Tired boys on a fun outing with new friends.

Heading home

Mr. Natural Home | 2012 | Back to top of page | Questions :: e-mail to splattski