August 12, 2017
Weather: humid & sunny with some clouds
Well, despite the weather forecast my dad, Greg, his dad, and I met up at the HPIC ready to hike the highest peak in the Adirondacks! At 8am, we signed in, stuffed a rock in each of our packs, and joined a line of other hikers on the trail. We made our way to Marcy Dam as quickly as we could, allowing others to pass us and having others do the same for us and losing a few trail companions at the junction to the MacIntyre Range. We were surprised when the familiar highway veered off in a new section, that was still working to get packed down. Not sure when or why that happened! Our guesses were that they were trying to move the trail away from the water or trail erosion?
Of course we spent a few minutes at Marcy Dam taking in the view. The surrounding peaks were all covered in clouds, I threw out the idea that maybe we should do Phelps and Tabletop instead but my dad said “if I’m going to get no view, I’d rather get no view from Marcy than no view from Phelps.” Seemed like good logic so we stuck to our plan and continued on our way!
The trail was rocky and climbed at a steady pace, it took us about half an hour to reach the turnoff for Phelps. We took a brief pause but quickly moved on, knowing we had plenty of mileage and climbing left ahead. I’ve only done Marcy up from the Loj once (the other two times I came from Skylight and Gray and Four Corners) but I do remember appreciating how it gradually works its way up. It is, of course, the Adirondacks though so the terrain is the other half of the challenge, and I focused on finding my footing among or over the boulders. In some places, trail workers had clearly put great effort into making steps and despite the fact that some were bigger steps than I might have liked, the efforts were much appreciated!
An hour and 15 minutes after the Dam, we passed the turnoff to Tabletop, and ten minutes later we sat down for a break at Indian Falls. The mountains were almost invisible in the clouds, but the sun was shining down so we took it as a good sing! Tempted as we (I) were to sit and hang out all day, we had a quick snack and were off within 15 minutes.
The walk was pretty quiet, each of us lost in our own thoughts on the long grind up. It was another hour before we reached the first junction to JBL. Only 1.3 miles of up left! The trail got a little wetter and muddier, but the corduroy was still going strong; the waterproofing on my new boots was really put to the test as we did our best to walk through the mud and avoid widening the trail. When we reached the clearing/meadow with the view of Marcy we could see that the clouds were were allowing intermittent views and we hoped it would last! The forecast had predicted rain in the afternoon and it was almost noon. The exciting thing about Mount Marcy is having the beautiful summit within view for the last half mile (and amazingly, despite all the clouds around – we could see it). It can also be discouraging to see it looming over you, quite far away.
We passed a bunch of hikers hanging out on the first little bump with a view, and squeezed past more on the puncheon before coming out to the bald summit.
As we followed the yellow blazes up, we were rewarded with views of the surrounding mountains under the ceiling of clouds. The breeze was a welcome relief after the long slog in thick humid air! It took us another 20 minutes before we happily dropped off our rocks on the pile, wove our way around several groups of hikers that had taken shelter below the summit rock, and made our way to the tippity top. Time since Adirondak Loj: 4:40
We stayed only for a few moments, my dad chatted with the summit steward, but the “breeze” had quickly become a chill and I was excited to get out of the wind, take off my pack, and eat a sandwich. The top was crowded so we walked a little ways back before setting up our picnic. Despite the poor forecast, it was almost 1pm and there were still no signs of rain; in fact the weather even seemed to be improving.
After about 45 minutes, we figured we ought to be heading down. We had a feeling we wouldn’t be much faster on the descent. As we made our way off the bald summit, we were treated to the view that gave the mountain its nickname: cloudsplitter.
Proving once again that we always manage to find ways to avoid rushing, my dad and I were further delayed: me, by a former coworker who happened to be climbing up, and him by a tired hiker we had passed on the way up. One of this hiker’s buddies was lower down, waiting for them to return, and the other had pushed on to the summit, leaving him sitting and resting without water or food. My dad tried to offer him water and make sure he was okay, the guy said he was exhausted and his feet were in pain but that it was all good and he would wait for his friend. We left him and I’m sure he was fine in the end, but we all felt pretty bad about not offering him more assistance.
It was almost an hour before we were back at the little clearing. We were pleased to note that the weather was still holding up, at it was already 2:30. Our group split up as we each pounded down at our own pace. It had been a while since I had done a long hike and the soles of my feet and my knees were feeling it.
Two hours after leaving the summit, we reached Indian Falls. This time we got a beautiful view of the surrounding mountains! We had heard two distant sounds of thunder but it seemed like we were going to avoid the rain entirely after all.
It was just after 5 by the time we reached Marcy Dam. I sat down to give my feet a well-deserved break, while my dad chatted to two people who were making supper. After 15 minutes, I reluctantly dragged myself up and assured myself I could handle those next 2ish miles. I will say the new section is sort of a nice change of scenery from the very familiar route. Just after 6pm, I happily dumped my bag at the car while my dad signed out, and peeled off my boots with the kind of relief all hikers know. Time since departure: 10:05
Mount Marcy: 5,344 feet, elevation gain: 3,166 feet
Round trip: 14.8 miles