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Three and Out: Redfield, Gray, Skylight

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  • Three and Out: Redfield, Gray, Skylight

    My last three mountains were exceptional, so I have to make this TR exceptional too. Forgive the formatting change from what we’re all used to.

    (1) The Bear. Right to the end Mother Nature had surprises in store. Just because you’ve done 43 mountains doesn’t mean you’re going to walk through the park with the last. After we'’d pitched our tents at Uphill Brook, confident we had our home-away-from-home secured, we heard shouting at the end of the camping area. “"Get out of here!”" "“Bad animal!”" "“Put that back!”" Screaming, cracking noises. A big black bear was going through a bear bag hung about seven feet off the ground (really?) unconcerned about the carryings-on. Occasionally it would back off but as soon as it’'d circled round the area and found a new entrée, people would scream in fright instead of aggression. In other words, this animal was not scared of humans in the least. It’'d clearly been through the drill before. There was a trail bar on top of Heneriatta’'s backpack and the bear swiped everything up in one huge mitt, and took right off. Hmm that was disturbing. Changed the whole dynamic of our expedition all at once. Some of our party wanted to go home right away because how could we leave base camp while we climbed mountains? Yes of course we had a canister, and fortunately later we got Henri’s pack back with its cellphone intact but very torn, but several of the men around us insisted that now that the bear knew there were easy pickings at Uphill, it would not leave. Solution: don’'t make food out near here, don’'t create any dinner that has a smell. Well, the bear did not come back, but this last idea led to:

    (2) The Menu. Frankly, we didn’t eat much on this expedition. We had water, we had nuts and berries (like the bear!), but we chickened out at the thought of the odor of freeze-dried pasta primavera luring the bear close by, so we essentially shut up the kitchen. You may yell at us as you please from the safety of your armchairs but the advice sounded darn good “out there.” So I was more tired on this trip than on any previous trips.

    (3) The People You Meet. I love this aspect of climbing. Lord but we all stare each other over when we meet, don’t we? What kind of people could conceivably like the same things we do? How do we get packaged in such a variety of sizes? Fascinating people, climbers. A couple at the leanto were intelligent and knowledgeable and fun to talk to; they’'d be friends in an instant back in Utica. The scoutmasters were hardy souls; you loved their systematic way of dealing with situations and their charges. Mitchell, whose hammock was safely dry on the top and drenched at the bottom during the first night’s everlasting rainstorm, and who spent the second night with us in the leanto (see below) was almost fifteen, a cool dude who confessed to us before the lights went out that he was prone to “night terrors.” (And yes he muttered weird science fiction through half of the night.) Four college men at Lake Tear were affable, cheery, ready to talk to people three times their age. Couples cheerily announcing what seemed like impossible multi-mountain plans ahead of them when I was doubting my next twenty steps. I could go on. Love meeting people out in the woods. Paul always thought I gave a little too much time to gabbing instead of hiking but to me that was part of the adventure.

    (4) The Impossible Dream. Constant visions of Sprite soda in a tall plastic gas station container with plenty of ice. This vision kept on for several days.

    (5) The Gaiters. Paul got the wrong size gaiters on (mine), and he got them on upside-down. They did the trick though: no mud on Paul’'s lower legs and an incredible fashion statement but what a constant LOL to me hiking behind him as we climbed. Those gaiters never failed to cheer me up in tough terrain.

    (6) The Sights. Forever in my mind is that overwhelming Henderson Monument. Its sudden appearance from the tangle of the woods surrounded by a chartreuse colored pond. A reminder of human mortality in a place teeming with life. People are now putting rocks around its base, which I do not like. This was my third time there and I stand in awe of this sight. Another sudden intake of breath was reserved for the sight of Lake Tear of the Clouds. I’d seen lots of photos but the reality blows you away. Again, you step out of darker woods to a sudden postcard vista of a pond sparkling in the sun, its outlet with rapids racing to become the Hudson. The path is bookended to the left by the start of the path up Gray; to the right is the sizable boulder with a wild etched-in spiral. Lake Tear is everything I knew it would be. And of course the sights from the summits: Redfield, Gray, and Skylight. Gray especially with its whammo sight of Marcy. All alone Marcy sits so close by, so amazingly huge, booming “I am here.” And the vista from Skylight: well it is simply the best. Even at the end of my 46er journey I am still ashamed not to recognize all the peaks I stood upon. Others can tell how glorious that sacred acreage is. Was it Mountain Phelps who described it as a schoolyard in the sky? I know that in spite of being tired I wanted to run around. (Always a regret that when I finally summit and feel most tired is when in my head I want to do a happy dance.) We chose to finish here and could not have done better. Huge granite stretches, gardens of Alpine plants, so striking in the constant wind. Colvin’'s teeny benchmark gives testament to man’'s attempt to stamp the universe. “This is MINE” the little brass plate says, laughable when you think of it, that any human can claim rights in the vast expanse of the vista around.

    (7) The Leanto. I passed by the mention of Adirondack housing too quickly. Of my 46 mountains, it was only in the very last night that I spent it in a leanto. Always wanted to, always entertained bizarre fears of mice running over my hands with Hanta virus waiting to be shared. But the first-night thunderstorm left us in no position to refuse its hospitality. Oh I was cosy enough in my tent but we were in a declivity that first night, and the all-night sound of gurgling brooks was in fact the rush of water between our tent and our ground cloth. The leanto air was wonderful; would’'ve only been better if I’d lived a hundred years ago and the guides would’'ve put pine boughs under my sleeping pack.

    (8) Making Water. Not what you’'re thinking. Making water palatable, I mean. I drank more water on this trip than on any other. My stomach would be nauseatingly distended yet my mouth was constantly dry. When my own three liters were used up, I “made water” (as Chris called it) with my UV bottle and still could not drink enough. I did vaguely realize at one point that I was literally becoming one with the environment as I drank the waters of the Opalescent. One of my more mystical moments.

    (9) My Guides. I am signing off with my 46, so I have to mention to anyone who might care, that here I pay tribute to the four guides that have sustained my interest in and fascination for the woods and hills. I don’t know what yours were—or maybe you didn’t have any at all—but for me it was reading and rereading constantly, both as a way to know where I was heading, and afterwards to set my own judgment up against them. (a) Moms on the Mountains ( was my no-nonsense guide to what it was really like out there. Early middle-aged woman whose humor and writing style I loved. (b) 46 Ups and Downs (, a blog by a young woman—quite young at the beginning—who is trail-smart and human-smart. She did the peaks with her dad and later her boyfriend, and she is too a great writer. She took naps on the trail at every conceivable opportunity and I envied her that, being three times her age. (c) High Places by Lynn Benevento, an artist from Lake Luzerne. She did the 46 with two sons and a husband who needed dialysis while on the mountains and her writing is superb and homey and insightful. (d) I saved the best for last: James Burnside’s book Exploring the 46 Adirondack High Peaks, written a while ago, is still as fresh as when he wrote, still as relevant and worthwhile with the reprints that you can still find at any Barnes & Noble. He took me with him through the mountains many times, the pleasure of being with an intelligent man through all aspects of the 46.

    (10) The People With You. I could list all the names like an Academy Award winner, people who’'ve climbed with me; but nope I won’'t. They know who they are. But thanks Paul. I will say that a peculiarity of mine is, while hiking, to think often of the 11,000 people (and more) who’'ve been on the spots where I am hiking. Yes I really do. I stood with Grace Hudowalski and Bob Marshall and Hiking Moo and Jim Kennard and so many good people on these mountains, and without stretching my feelings too far, I loved being part of your lives and experience this way. This past hike though I often thought of the four-year old girl who just became a 46er! Hurrah for you baby.

    (11) The Span. I climbed Colden in 1978 and didn’'t come back till 2012 for Porter. Now it’'s 2019 and I creepy-crawled off of Skylight and I am 73. “Tell us something of your climbs,” Grace would say. I am trying to, but in the end there’'s no explaining. Or am I wrong?
    Last edited by Jim Gifford; 08-12-2019, 05:29 PM.

    "A full appreciation of mountains is not to be experienced by merely looking; that is why men climb." -Francis S. Smythe, British mountaineer

  • #2
    Wonderful report, and congratulations! I rarely see Lynn Benevento's book referenced, but I love it and find it an excellent reference, my copy is starting to fall apart. It is not full of technical info or recent details, but her honest descriptions give a thorough "sense" of the route in a certain way that other resources don't always; and I never do a hike without reading how they did it first.
    And you're not wrong. It's true, there's no explaining a lot of it...


    • #3
      ADK 46/46W + MacNaughton, Grid 271/552
      Photos & Stuff


      • #4
        Congratulations on your big finish. The bear encounter would have been enough on its own to make your report entertaining but I loved the rest as well. Very well done.


        • #5
          Congratulations Jim (and Paul). My daughter and I met you and your group on our trip up Seymour and have been waiting for your finish posts. Welcome to the club!



          • #6
            Congrats! Also finished on Skylight and you are so right, what a view with Marcy right there. Great post. Also followed "46 Ups and Downs" for our 46 adventure. Referred to other material of course, but hers is the best. It really is the journey, not the destination, a bit of mixed emotions once all 46 complete. Kudos to your accomplishment and experiences.


            • #7
              Jim - Congratulations on completing your quest of the 46. You have had many adventures along the way including meeting Mr. (Uphill) Bear. We look forward to celebrating with you at the ADK 46'r annual dinner in 2020. Many Cheers, Jim
              ADK 46/46
              CHH 102/102 #33
              Catskill 3500 #1888 / #774W
              Saranac 6er #590
              ADK/Catskill Fire Tower Challenge 26/23

              ADK member: Genesee Valley Chapter
              The Explorers Club member: Fellow National 2013

              Book: Shipwrecks of Lake Ontario-A Journey of Discovery -- available November 2018 -

     Rare Sailing Craft Found in Lake Ontario - posted 11/25/2016
              ...Peak Experiences of a Catskill Senior Hiker

              ADK 46 - Finish - August 7, 2018
              Fire Tower Challenge - Finish - July 20, 2016
              Catskill 100 Highest - Finish - February 23, 2016
              Saranac 6 - Finish - May 29, 2014
              Catskill 3500W - Finish - December 29, 2011
              Catskill 3500 -=- Finish - December 23, 2010


              "It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves."
              - Sir Edmund Hillary


              • #8
                Congratulations! I have enjoyed many of your trip reports and this was no exception. May you have much more good hiking!
                And Skylight, yes, Skylight is wonderful.


                • #9
                  Congratulations Jim, great write up for what was surely a great journey.
                  35er #3133

                  "The Kingdom of Heaven is not a place, but a state of mind."
                  John Burroughs


                  • #10
                    Congratulations, Jim. A wonderfully written piece. It could have been three more pages and I would have been stuck to reading it like glue. I often wonder, if at the pace I’m going, I’ll be your age when I reach my last summit, Marcy. I have quite a ways to go, and I remember frequently, those who journeyed with me along the way.
                    Burnsides book is what got is started for me. I couldn’t put the book down. When I was finished, I felt as if I had hiked all 46 with him. When I stood on top of Cascade on June 10, 2010, I felt as if I was on top of the world. I was hooked. As time went by, it wasn’t so easy, but I enjoyed the scenery. Took lots of pictures along the way. Met lots of good people. I had the honored of hiking with many 46’rs. My first High Peak was with Summit Hat(Brian). I learned a lot and can’t wait to learn even more. I envisioned knocking out the 46 within 8 years. I leaned that time and fitness play a major role. I also learned not to rush things. Each time back in the Adirondacks is like returning to heaven. Why push things? All things good in time.....
                    You should write your own book, I’d like to add it mhm personal library and read it over and over. Congrats, again.
                    Nothing like being in the woods.



                    • Jim Gifford
                      Jim Gifford commented
                      Editing a comment
                      Gerard you will do it because it's in your head too deep. Thanks for the nice words about my writing--much appreciated. Do you have anything on the docket for the rest of the summer?

                    • Gerard01
                      Gerard01 commented
                      Editing a comment
                      A couple of Catskill fire towers, then hibernate for the Winter.