Outside of Whiteface Mountain, the MacIntyre Range is probably the most admired and gazed at mountains, albeit unknowingly, in the entire High Peaks region. The primary reason is location. Location, location, location, while also true in real estate, it certainly is the case for this range. The range serves as the primary backdrop for Lake Placid, the sleepy olympic village that is the most popular tourist destination in the region. From almost any vantage in town, it can be seen rising sharply to the south, and the mountains are admired by thousands each year.
The principle peak in the range, Algonquin (the second highest in the state) inspires many, hikers and non-hikers alike, to gaze upon her splendor and wonder to themselves what the view from atop her summit might look like. The range consists of 5 peaks, one of which (Boundary), is not even considered a high peak at all, and they rise 3000' feet above the valley floor about 10 miles south of the village, beckoning throngs of visitors to explore them each year.
The mountains, two of them anyway, are extremely accessible from the ADK LOJ at Heart lake, which makes these peaks some of the most climbed mountains in the entire High Peak Region. The other two are considered trailless and are much more difficult to summit. The range rises sharply from the Heart Lake area about 10 miles south of Lake Placid, contains the following high peaks;
The first peak in the range (on the left as viewed from Lake Placid) is this wonderful peak that, despite the fact that it is overshadowed by it's close neighbor Algonquin, has a very interesting history itself. One of the most interesting features is that Wright Peak has the lowest true Arctic Alpine summit in the area. The Alpine Zone begins at about 4200' which is significantly lower than is found in the rest of the region.
The bare rock summit provides a wonderful view in all directions. Also, there is no better platform from which to view Algonquin's massive summit dome. Due to the fact that this range is fairly isolated from others in the region, it tends to be exposed to wind and weather more so than other High Peaks, which may account for the low timberline. In addition, in January 1962 a military aircraft crashed on the northeastern slope of the peak, just below the summit. A plague commemorating the 4-man crew is found just below the summit.
Wright Peak can be accessed from a spur trail about 3/4 of the way up the primary trail to Algonquin from Heart Lake. Generally, Wright Peak is only a side destination for the masses climbing Algonquin. This is a shame, as this peak is a destination in and of itself and deserves more respect than it actually gets.
Algonquin, at least for me anyway, always gave me a deep sense of awe and wonder, even long before I became interested in hiking. For years, I would gaze upon her glory and admire her ever present appearance in the Lake Placid skyline. It wasn't till I started hiking that I considered finding out what kind of view she held. I wasn't disappointed when I finally was able to see it,
The summit of Algonquin is just 4 miles from the trailhead at the ADK's Adirondack LOJ at Heart Lake, As such, this mountain is climbed en masse every year, On typical summer days, many hikers can be seen all along the route like ants. The summit is often overrun with the masses. I remember, being alone with my son on Colden and watching at least 100 people atop Algonquin barely 1.5 miles away. A summit steward is usually present during the summer months in an attempt to educate people to be mindful of the fragile arctic alpine environment found there.
There are two primary routes to the summit, both of which leave from the Heart Lake area, The most direct leaves from the parking lot and pretty much directly ascends the northern side of the summit. The other, much more difficult approach, comes from the Lake Colden/Avalanche Lake area.
Iroquois, for the non aspiring 46ers, is not considered a primary destination in the area, probably due to the fact that it is trailess and not generally well published in the many trail descriptions found. That changes for many, when they get to the summit of Algonquin. From there, the summit of Iroquois beckons from, seemingly, only a few hundred yards away. This is very deceptive. The actual distance is over a mile and all of it over an unmarked herd path and is difficult. Although, both summits are above the timberline, the traverse is not exclusively so. One must descend back into the trees and cross over Boundary Peak (not considered a High Peak due to it's proximity to Algonquin) before reaching the summit of Iroquois.
While it is difficult, many people do make the trek over and this is the primary route for aspiring 46ers to bag Iroquois. The hike from Heart Lake to all three of these destinations is long, difficult and involves a significant amount of climbing. However, the culmination is worth the effort. It is a three-peak day over some of the most spectacular territory in the region. Iroquois' summit, like Wright and Algonquin, is above the timberline and does contain the fragile Arctic Alpine vegetation zone.
Without question, Marshall is the least popular High Peak in the range. Several reasons contribute to this. The peak is trailess, very difficult and starts several miles from any maintained roads. It also cannot be seen from the Lake Placid area, and the casual hiker may not even know it exists. This is certainly one of the 46 peaks that is primarily hiked only by aspiring 46ers or other experienced hikers looking for a challenge.
A challenge it is. By most accounts, Marshall is a difficult mountain. The overall ascent and distance are pretty typical, however, the herd path is vague and can be strewn with blowdown. The principle route leave from the Lake Colden/Flowed Lands region that can be reach from either the Upper Works trailhead or Heart Lake. the herd path then begins at Herbert Brook and proceeds fairly directly up the peak.
Only the foolish, or the most hardy adventurers, would attempt to continue the traverse from Iroquois to this peak. Herb Clark and the Marshall (original 46ers) stated that "progress (on this route) is measured in inches", not a stunning endorsement by any stretch. Because the peak is considered so difficult, it is generally done solo and not part of any loop or multi-peak adventure.