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  • And then there were none...

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    Well...16 years after I first set foot in the Adirondacks, my 46er journey is over.

    For the first 10 years after that first trip, it was dink and dunk peaks here and there...most of them involved schlepping full packs up the upper great range (not fun!). Duplicate peaks were ok, and my hiking buddies and I would hit random others if we felt like doing so. It was only in the fall of 2015 when a random, fellow hiker on Gray Peak asked me if was “doing them all” that I actually started to think about finishing. At that point, I was roughly 15-20 peaks into it all.

    Within the last few years, my hiking buddies had litters of kids and moved away, so it primarily became a solo quest. With that, it meant carrying all of the communal gear to every tentsite, typically meaning my pack was fairly heavy on what would normally be a relatively mundane walk into whatever backcountry site that was to be camp for the night(s).

    Every peak I've climbed of the 46 has been part of a backpacking/camping trip. This has always relegated me to multiple, consecutive days of climbing...usually after many hours of driving on the first day, and, after that, climbing when I didn't sleep well, didn't eat well, was dehydrated, was fatigued (I'm not young anymore!), or had extreme knee pain (the Santanonis, last fall). There were many days when I hobbled out of a tent in the morning, stiff as a board, barely able to walk, but somehow, someway, managed to climb that day. I am proud of my own determination in that, as terrible as I felt at times, I never quit on a climb of a peak once I started. There were many times when I wanted to do so, but I'm a stubborn SOB.

    I won't lie when I say I'm slightly (ok, very) jealous of seeing all of the youngsters half my age on a summit with a tiny daypack and nothing more than a windbreaker, a bottle of water, some snacks, and a cell phone. Me? Well, I'm the guy with the 20-25 pound daypack who is prepared to spend an unprepared night, or more, in the woods...carrying an extra headlamp, extra batteries, multiple layers, water filter/tabs, extra food, and a first-aid kit containing such obscure things as an Israel pressure bandage and QuikClot (should I happen to fall and impale myself on “something”). Basically, if at all possible, I would evac myself by crawling out unless I was practically dead. I know most people don't think this way, and think nothing would ever happen, but hiking by myself increased my sense of caution, especially since I typically hike during the week when there were few people out on the trails, and except for the summits, very little cell coverage.

    Ok, after the extremely long preface to all of this, here is the summary of my trip that concluded my 46!

    On Wednesday I drove up from southcentral PA. Very heavy rains for the first two hours, then I was able to outrun/out-angle the storms. I got to the Garden and there were only two other cars in the lot! It was key for my plans to be able to get a spot from the outset, and it worked. I hiked in with my stupid heavy pack, and standing on the side trail the to the tentsite (the one near the Howard lean to), there was a deer that I was able to walk within 10 feet of, and, just off to the side, a piebald deer that took off like a shot! I've never seen a piebald in the woods before, so that was a treat!

    The next day (June 4) I hiked the Bennies Brook slide and the rest of the lower great range. Bennies was FANTASTIC!!!!! Such a great, great climb! I had a little doubt at the very bottom, wondering if I was in the right place, but after that it was a “choose your own adventure” kind of climb. I weaved left and right to avoid the wet spots on the slabs, and it was obvious when to bail before the headwall. I think there were two herd paths on the left, but they joined-up quickly. The rest of the range was a dipsy-do kind of fun. I was dreading the climb to UWJ out of the col, but it wasn't bad (switchbacks...yay!). It was a different story to Armstrong. I didn't enjoy it much, and for fun, one of the last rungs on the ladder was gone, and the one above that was loose. After that, it was fine up Gothics, with a tiny patch of snow along the way (no traction needed). The climb down the cable route was in my mind...especially with a knee that has been giving me problems. I was wearing braces on both knees though, so I figured I'd be ok if I went slowly.

    (Backstory – the first time I was on that route was in May 2004, and there were no cables, but I was going up. The next time was in 2006, and there were new cables.)

    Back to the present...this time, there was a mish-mash of cables, and, in spots, the hose that used to cover the cables was serving as the cables. I made it down by side-stepping in parts. After that, I hit what I swear to be the LONGEST 3 miles on the planet, the Ore Bed Brook trail. It was my second time on that trail, and it took forever both times.

    The following day (6/5) my plan was to hike Big Slide via Slide Brook and then hike back out to the Garden. I slept like utter crap (rain that night....sounds like firecrackers when you're in a tent!), and I wasn't too spry moving around in the morning. The climb up Slide Brook wasn't bad, but it was hot, and my legs just didn't have any gusto. My guts were kind of shaky on top of it all. Yay. However, the summit was spectacular!!! It will definitely be one I visit again in the future. It was so cool to have a birds-eye view of everything I had hiked the day before! After hiking down, I packed up the remainder of my camp and walked back out to the Garden. I was able to relocate to the spot I had planned near malfunction junction. Amazingly, everything, so far, was going according to my plans!

    The big day....#46....RPR from New Russia. Of course, I slept like crap again. I wanted to get a really early start, but it rained around 4-5 in the morning. Heat absolutely destroys me, so I wanted to try to avoid it as much as I could. It didn't happen. I started up the trail from the New Russia trailhead just after 7, and something felt different. 150 yards into it all, I forgot to put my knee braces on, lol! I was back on the trail at 7:20, and started the hike. It was calm, warm (60s), and humid from the very recent rain. About 800 feet of elevation gain from the parking lot sweat was already pouring off of me like you wouldn't believe. I knew it was a dry route, and I was carrying 4 quarts of water, and I had force-fed water down my throat the night before, but I knew I'd never make it at that pace.

    Honestly, if it wasn't my finisher, I might have quit. I was tired, and my legs didn't have a ton of spunk. One thought popped into my head when I checked the elevation on my watch and only saw 800 feet of gain. I saw it was “6-6”. D-Day. I'm a veteran, so the importance of that day was not lost upon me, and I realized that on that day back in 1944 a lot of men were having a much more terrible kind of day than I could ever conceivably imagine. Within myself, that day, I knew I was going to finish my climb no matter how badly I felt.

    It was then that I engaged what I had discovered the previous fall on the back-climb from Couchsachraga.....I call it tractor gear. Very slow and steady. Plodding, if you will. I just couldn't continue to sweat like I was if I was going to complete the hike. (note – I sweat when I run at home in the 40s (F). I can't help it). I felt much better when I got to Mason Mtn. and there was a bit of a breeze. Descending Mason, I saw the hugest porcupine I've ever seen trotting down the trail. It eventually wandered down into that large cleft in the ledges to the left. After that, I kept my slow and steady pace and saw my eventual objective (RPR) when I got to Bald Peak. Yes, it looked very far away and steep, but I wasn't going to quit. The climb out of Dickerson Notch was christened a new name (not safe for the forum), and I knew it would be a treat on the way back. Coming up to Rocky Peak I saw a garter snake, of all things, and a snowshoe hare.

    The climb down from Rocky Peak toward Lake (pond) Marie Louise was incredible. On the way down, for about 30 seconds, a wave of emotion hit me....It finally hit me that I was actually going to finish. Hard to describe, and I didn't expect it to happen, but I actually had a tear or two for a brief moment. The lake was beautiful, and the climb to RPR was a breeze. A young couple was at the top, and the nice guy offered to take a pic for me. I told him I was prepped with a small tripod, but that I did have sanitizer (such is life in the Covid days). He took a few pics for me (one included with this), then they left to re-climb Giant, and I had the summit to myself for about 15 minutes.

    The rest of the way back I leap-frogged with a nice guy with an English accent and his two young daughters, and their beagle too. There was no pain, even though after a few days of hiking the straps from the stupid braces had rubbed the back of my knees raw. The objective - get down the mountain (and all of the other peaks along the way), and I was a 46er. I was motoring the final stretch from Blueberry Cobbles, the bugs were getting to be really freaking annoying, and literally 5 minutes away from the parking lot the skies opened up and it started to pour. Thanks for raining on my parade, ADK Gods!!! I celebrated briefly by myself in the lot with a warm Miller Lite. It reminded me of my high school days


    Now that it's over, and as many times as I've told myself during steep, relentless climbs, or terrible, knee-wrecking descents, “Why are you doing this, dummy” I know I'll be back!

    Trail conditions - no traction needed on any of the trails I was on, very minimal mud, bugs were harassing, but not to the level of "maddening".

  • #2
    Congrats on the finish. Thanks for the report. Sounds like you really earned it!

    Comment


    • Groundpounder
      Groundpounder commented
      Editing a comment
      Thanks! There were many times when I wondered if I'd ever finish. I'm both sad, and glad, that it's over.

  • #3
    Congrats! I'm glad you were able to get this done! I know how worried you were about your knees!

    Comment


    • Groundpounder
      Groundpounder commented
      Editing a comment
      Thanks, Gebby! I was definitely worried about my knees. I used my poles much more "up high" than I usually do, and I think it helped, along with the braces. On this trip I renamed my poles "mountain canes", lol.

  • #4
    Sounds awful.
    I might be kidding...

    Comment


    • #5
      Congratulations on your finish!

      Comment


      • Groundpounder
        Groundpounder commented
        Editing a comment
        Thanks, Makwa! I think I'll have fun climbing some of the lower peaks for a little while. I was really impressed with Hopkins last spring, and Van Ho was a great little hike. I'm sure there are many others out there for me to discover.

    • #6
      Completing personal goals, making moments that will become stories later, and just experiencing the natural world. I love it! Congratulations!

      Comment


      • Groundpounder
        Groundpounder commented
        Editing a comment
        Thank you! It definitely feels good to complete this goal! It was a bit too hot for me on this trip, but I was treated to views on every summit so I can't complain about that part.

    • #7
      Congrats on your 46. Your preface sounds lexactly what I'm going through now. Hopefully one day I will be telling the same story. Good job you should be very proud!

      Comment


      • Groundpounder
        Groundpounder commented
        Editing a comment
        Thanks! I'm sure you will get there, you just need to keep putting one foot in front of the other, no matter how slow or painful it might be at times. Be sure to tell us all about it when you do finish!

    • #8
      Bravo!

      My journey is also similar to yours (1st high peak 22 years ago but started taking this seriously only 2 years ago) but I don't think I'd have it in me to hike 3 days in a row like you did.

      Comment


      • Groundpounder
        Groundpounder commented
        Editing a comment
        Thank you, Eddie! For me, knees, age, and wear and tear was starting to catch up to me, so I needed to really chip away the last few years. Consecutive days sometimes helps, and sometimes hurts. For me, the worst are usually when I have a big day, then don't rehydrate properly and suffer the consequences the next day. I always know I should guzzle water like crazy, but then I don't want to be running out of the tent all night. It's a pick your poison kind of thing.

    • #9
      Ps. Thank you for your service

      Comment


      • Groundpounder
        Groundpounder commented
        Editing a comment
        You're welcome, and thank you!

    • #10
      Congrats to you on your 46. I'm sure it was a happy, meaningful journey.
      Catskills: 39/39, 35W/35W
      ADK: 46/46

      Comment


      • Groundpounder
        Groundpounder commented
        Editing a comment
        Thanks, Nivek (aka, Kevin)!!! It meant a lot to me. Living far away I wasn't sure it was going to happen. I will definitely not stop hiking in the region, but the pressure is off now, so I'm thankful for that. Being close was weighing on my mind, so I just had to finish. I'm not too sure how long my knees can hold up to those kinds of climbs either, so that is another reason I'm glad. It will be nice to camp out in the future and just hike a peak or two, or to not even hike one of the 46 if I don't want to do so.

    • #11
      Way to go! Very happy to hear you and a good finishing story. I've never gone that way to RPR, it's on my list. Also, next time to Big Slide go via the Brothers, it's even better!
      ADK 46/46W + MacNaughton, Grid 277/552
      Photos & Stuff

      Comment


      • Groundpounder
        Groundpounder commented
        Editing a comment
        Thanks, autochromatica ! The hike to RPR from New Russia was a really nice hike. So much of it was open that it really invigorated me. Upon reaching RPR I thought that the climb to Giant looked like a real bear, so I was glad to come back the way I came.

        To this day, I still wonder how I missed you on the way to/from Whiteface two years ago. I only saw a few people along the way. The only ones I didn't speak with were two people sitting on the ski lift as I passed by on the way up.

    • #12
      Congratulations.
      Great write-up for a great accomplishment. I think looking back you will realize what an epic stretch of days you just had. You did the lower great range via Bennies freaking brook slide, looked at that all from Big Slide the next day, and then did RPR via New Russia right after that. That is crazy batch of back to back to back that you deserve a ton of kudos for what you did, a terrific way to accomplish your goal. Make sure to pick one of your favorites and go back and climb it again soon, it will almost certainly be so much more enjoyable especially as a camping trip. And getting to the summit will seem so much easier.
      Thank you for your service.
      35er #3133
      46er #11779

      "Good Thoughts, Good Words, Good Deeds"
      Zarathustra

      Comment


      • CatskillKev
        CatskillKev commented
        Editing a comment
        I guess I missed those first couple of hikes. That's a lot! Backing down a mountain is preferable when the knees hurt.

      • Groundpounder
        Groundpounder commented
        Editing a comment
        Thank you, bikerhiker ! Really, all of my trips to the high peaks have involved multiple days of climbing, so i will definitely be very relaxed that, in the future I can just hike whatever I feel like hiking. No more list will probabaly be a blessing. I will hike Bennies again, but next time I'll probably bail from the col instead of doing the rest of the lower great range.

    • #13
      With such a fun trip report, you owe it to your fans to go back for round two and write more trip reports.
      Leave No Trace! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jXO1uY0MvmQ
      ThereAndBack http://www.hikesafe.com/

      Comment


      • Groundpounder
        Groundpounder commented
        Editing a comment
        You're a card, Bunchberry ! For the first 42 years of my life I felt indestructible...then I started to gain weight (metabolism slowed down), and with all of that, my knees have been slow with adjusting to the extra weight. A few years ago I was always under 200 pounds, but, since then, I've been 220+. I've basically been carrying full packs up the peaks via just my body weight. I'm trying to get it back down, but it's hard as I age.

    • #14
      Congrats on the big finish. And, that is one heck of a way to wrap things up with three amazing and bad*** hikes! Great TR!

      Comment


      • Groundpounder
        Groundpounder commented
        Editing a comment
        Thanks, LTT! You were definitely right about Bennies, it was such a fun climb! The openness gave me an excuse to turn around and take pics pretty often on the way up too (nope...I'm not taking a breather, I'm just taking pictures, lol!).

        I hope you get your hiking gusto back soon after this past winter's issues, and that you and Pokey continue to have fantastic hikes. I really enjoy reading your trip reports, and it's awesome that you are able to share the journey with her!

    • #15
      Congratulations with your finish!
      AFAIR, finishing on Rocky Peak is rather rare.

      Originally posted by Groundpounder View Post
      I hiked in with my stupid heavy pack ...
      I am curious how heavy was your pack?
      It can't be really heavy because it had only summer gear and a day worse of food.

      Comment


      • Makwa
        Makwa commented
        Editing a comment
        The solution to your weight issue is to hire some porters. Or a buy a mule. A small one though... the kind that could ride shotgun inside your car rather than requiring a trailer.

        If you're not complaining about the weight then who are we to get you to shed pounds. The only suggestion I have is to ditch any non-critical survival type items that you've never used. Sounds like you've done enough trips to know what you use and what you don't but maybe a critical re-examination of all your items might shave a few pounds off your load.

      • Groundpounder
        Groundpounder commented
        Editing a comment
        That's the funny thing, Makwa...other than a flippant "stupid heavy" comment I made, I really wasn't complaining about my full pack weight at all, lol! I know it's pretty heavy, but my pack carries the weight well. I'm not lugging it over peaks anymore, so I just deal with it when walking into wherever the tentsite might be. At most, I'm usually doing less than a 1000 feet of elevation gain with it on my back, and over only a handful of miles.

      • Makwa
        Makwa commented
        Editing a comment
        Whatever works for you.

        And I see I made one helluva typo... I meant non-critical NON-survival type items. I didn't mean to suggest leaving behind survival items which by their very nature are critical.
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