March 19, 2014

Mount Marcy – The Start of the 46er Quest

By Stephon Boatwright In ADKs

Peaks: Mount Marcy
Hike distance: ~12 miles
Trail Map

I will never be able to remember in detail why I suggested mountain climbing as a group activity, let alone why I suggested we start with the tallest peak in the state.  I had only been in the ADKs twice before then and never in the High Peaks region. Somehow I managed to talk my friends and coworkers into joining the expedition, despite having no idea what we were doing or were in for.  Ultimately seven fools wandered into the woods and the same number of outdoor enthusiasts came out.

We started our climb at Heart Lake, having no idea where the trailhead was, how long a “trail” mile was vs. a road mile, or that food was an essential component of hiking (Note the conspicuous absence of backpacks).  A few of us were former track athletes who kept running after high school ended.  We never had food during our 8 mile runs, why would we need it for an easy 12 mile walk in the woods?  Only because we survived can I laugh at our idiocy.  After roaming round a bit we found some British tourists who knew more about our state than we did.  They directed us to the trailhead, but only after one of us put on a fake accent and told them we were on a quest: “We have this ring to dispose of.”; Lord of the Rings was pretty big then.

The path to Marcy Dam was so well trodden and flat that we were sure the hike was going to be easy.  After snapping a few pictures and taking in our first sights of the peaks, we trudged on.  It wasn’t long until we began boulder hopping and sweating profusely.  The track stars amongst us (myself included) were blown away at how tiring a walk pace could be when the walking was on an incline.  Sweat equals dehydration, which means the body needs water.  Since we were all sweating more than anticipated we started ripping through our water supply quick, real quick.  Oh yeah, and that food thing started to come up.

Having no idea how to gauge a mile walking through strenuous wilderness, we kept thinking we should be to the summit in no time.  If we could run at 5 MPH for a jog, several miles at a time, walking at 2-3 MPH through the woods should mean we reach the summit in 2-3 hours.  Right?  NO!  We kept climbing, and climbing, and climbing, always assuming the summit would be at the top of the ridge, but all we would find was another ridge and the sounds of growling stomaches.  At this point, the bag of chips and few bottles of water we brought were tilting towards empty.  The hike was also taking it’s toll physically.  The group split into stronger hikers and ones that needed more time.  When we thought we had finally made it, we looked up and glimpsed the summit, about another mile away.  It was so frustrating, I couldn’t help but laugh and strike pose.

FYI, a cotton Bob Marley t-shirt and jeans are not the best for hiking.

 The last quarter mile of Marcy is an exposed rock scramble that was so exciting to see, the unthinkable happened, some of us ran to the summit.  The thought of being done was so overwhelming that adrenaline took over what calories should have been doing.  With one final push, we had made it.  The experience was so intense that it sparked what we have dubbed “The 46er Quest” for those of us who continued on.  On the summit we came across a benevolent hiker who took pity and passed us a giant bag of peanut M&M’s, the ones I’m allergic to.  I let the boys enjoy as I tried not to be knocked out from the celebratory mini bottles of Irish whiskey someone had unexpectedly pulled out.  Jameson is never a good idea on an empty stomach, I don’t care how small the bottle is.  A few pics later and we were on our way, not just back to camp, but on our way up 45 more peaks.
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