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5344' on 53+44 -- Mount Marcy -- 9/3/18

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  • 5344' on 53+44 -- Mount Marcy -- 9/3/18

    I've cooked up my fair share of gimmicky hikes over the years to keep myself entertained. This is the story of another. A few months ago I read about some senior citizen golfer shooting his age. It's a big deal in that sport when some 75 year-old guy breaks 75 for eighteen holes or an 80-year-old breaks 80... you get the idea. It got me thinking that there really wasn't an equivalent in hiking. Other than finishing your 46 on your 46th birthday as I've seen a few people do there wasn't another way to shoot your age in hiking. Or was there? Well, Mount Marcy stands 5,344 feet above sea level. Yesterday, when I was 53 years and 44 days old, I climbed Marcy. I shot my age with the elevation figure.

    I wasn't enthralled with the idea of doing this hike right on Labor Day but what can you do? I can't stop time so yesterday was my only chance to pull off the gimmick. I've hiked on the last day of holiday weekends before and the crowds are usually thin. On the way in there were still about twenty cars left over from Saturday/Sunday parked on the road. No tickets on the windshields. True to form, the Loj parking area was well over half empty when I arrived. I chatted with the trailhead steward for a bit about the gigantic weekends crowds and he told me they ticketed lots of illegally parked cars over the past few days. I suppose the ones north of South Meadow Road are legally parked and the reason for no tickets?

    Given I started from the Loj it's obvious I decided on taking the trade route up the mountain and ascended/descended via the VanHoevenberg Trail. I'm not sure there's much left to say about Mount Marcy that hasn't already been said in the hundreds of other trip reports posted here about this mountain so I'll only note that the steepness and difficulty of this climb are not something to be worried about, which made my day all the more discouraging. I covered the distance between the HPIC and Marcy Dam much slower than normal and I could tell I'd be moving in slow motion on this day given my struggle to even walk quickly on flat ground. As it turns out, embarrassingly slow. I was a toxic mix of everything that slows one down all in one day: little sleep, not stomaching food very well, a few extra pounds in the pack with gear for a longer hike, some more extra pounds I'm carrying on my frame that I need to shed, and my damn recurring heel injury hurting yet again. But after getting that far a few extra hours on the trail for the day weren't going to turn me around.

    So, again, Labor Day wasn't a big deal... hardly anybody around but I did meet a bunch of aspiring 46ers along the way. Some going up Phelps, a pair heading to Haystack, and a bunch tagging Marcy. All were enthusiastic. On the ascent I got passed by about a dozen people and only saw a handful coming in the opposite direction - a couple of guys finishing up a GRT backpacking trip and a few others. And by time I neared the summit another fifteen or so folks were making their way up the hill. So overall a smallish crowd for Marcy.

    Everybody coming down early in the day said the summit was socked in but my slower pace ended up paying off in that regard. By time I got to open rock the clouds were coming and going so I got some nice views on the ascent. I stopped a bunch of times for several minutes to take pictures. These stops would essentially be my summit time. As I got within about 100 vertical feet of the top the summit steward was descending and cautioned me that thunderheads were approaching. I promised her I'd be very quick and charged up the hill. I found just two people on the summit but they left after about thirty seconds. I had Marcy to myself on Labor Day. What a coup. It was very windy... maybe 25-30 MPH gusts which were chilling me quickly but no matter as I wasn't staying long. I tagged the summit, snapped a bunch of pics as fast as I could and started racing down the hill to beat the approaching clouds.

    At 4900' I found a guy laying on the ground resting. Oh no! Not again!! I've shared the story of the guy I found sleeping on the Beaver Meadow trail a bunch of times here and now I've found another? The guy was bushed. Climbing to that point took everything out of him. He was reclined against a rock and was not about to get up. Other than being fatigued there didn't appear to be anything wrong with him and he was intent on continuing upward. He asked how much further, etc. I explained but also cautioned that storm clouds were heading this way and to go back down and get into the relative safety of the trees if he heard any thunder. As if on cue thunder boomed right then and I made a hasty exit. I was trying to get as far down the mountain as possible and I wasn't gonna have a protracted argument with this guy over which way he should go. I made it down far enough into the trees to feel a bit safer and then the downpour started. It only lasted for maybe ten minutes but it was more than enough to drench me and make the rest of the descent a total mess. And of course there wasn't any more thunder. Just the one clap mentioned above. Now I was feeling guilty about abandoning that guy. I considered heading back up to see if he was still glued to that rock but I ran into three other people who were ascending who I told about the guy and asked them to check on him. I found out late in the day from the speediest of the three who passed me on his way out that he was OK but moving slowly some distance south of Indian Falls. Thank god. At least he was safe, moving, and on his way out.

    One final thought... the number of people I saw ascending Marcy mid-afternoon was a bit unsettling. Some with very little to no gear. I hope they all made it out OK as sunset yesterday was 7:30 p.m. and most were nowhere on pace to get out by that time.

    I hadn't been up Marcy in nearly nine years. I'm barely half-heartedly working on my second round of the 46 as I'm pursuing other ADK hiking lists so I hadn't been in a huge rush to get back. It seems every High Peak I've done over the past few years has been in crummy weather or totally miserable. I think the hiking gods are punishing me for my first round being all on bluebird days. But I'm glad I make this hike yesterday enough though it was far from perfect.

    Some pics from the day...

    Clouds hanging low early morning at Marcy Dam...

    Thanks to whoever scratched Marcy on this sign. I wouldn't have made it without you...

    This stretch of trail with the beard lichen everywhere was a bit eerie...

    I wonder if this sign ever turns anybody around?

    First view of the day...

    Marcy in the clouds...

    Clearing a bit just minutes later crossing the bog...

    First view of Colden and the Macs...

  • #2
    The climb remaining...

    Looking down the Great Range with Giant off in the background...

    Plaque on rock just mere feet below the summit...

    The summit to myself...

    Looking across Panther Gorge at Haystack. Dixes in the background...

    The dome of Slylight with Allen poking up behind it. Redfield to the right...

    Heading back down...

    One last look...


    • #3
      Nice TR & great pics & an interesting story to boot!
      We were doing a considerably shorter hike and just as we arrived at the trailhead it downpoured with a lone clap of thunder as well... Ran back to the car & it blew off in 10 mins. We were soaked. A quick change & we were back at it.


      • #4
        Very creative! Nice photos too.


        • #5
          nice pics. Love the "Colden and the Macs" shot...


        • #6
          Weather always makes the day more interesting and I like the photos better. Any durn fool can hike in beautiful weather, but I have always found the quality of the light to be more interesting, the mood more intense, the soundtrack more compelling and the scenery more alive on the messy days. And even at age 55, I've never lost the wonder and wow factor of being inside a cloud....
          Fun gimmick, I like it... and great photos... thanks.


          • #7
            I thought about the numerology issue but I was well past 46 when I started. How about reversing the numbers? But when I passed 64 I had barely started. Maybe if I can get MacNaughton before 74, but didnít make that. Whatís peak number 48? Turning to elevation, 53+44 is 97 - maybe do Marcy on my 97th birthday! Nah. Time to do some calculations...

            ADK 46r #8003; 6W
            2nd round: 16
            SL6r #596
            Catskill 3500 21/39; 11W


            • #8
              cool play with the numbers


              • #9
                Nice report. When I turn 63 maybe I'll climb the 63rd highest peak on the ADK-HH list.


                • Makwa
                  Makwa commented
                  Editing a comment
                  Great idea. Though I figured you for a multi-year birthday campaign of the Sawtooths. Only problem is it'd take 35 years and you'd be 100 when you finish.

              • #10
                Hereís an age related challenge that Iím sure no one will take up. Carry one pound of summit rocks to the top of Marcy for every year of your age. So next year youíll be toting 54 pounds of rock up the mountain. Whoever can make it to the highest age/weight wins!


                • Makwa
                  Makwa commented
                  Editing a comment
                  My winter pack weighs less than half of that and it's too much. Doubt I'll be lugging 54 pounds up the hill unless I get to make 4 trips.

                  But I like the idea.