Adirondack Hiking Safety Tips

This has been such a weird winter, especially for hiking. In the Adirondack Hiking Facebook groups there are numerous posts every day asking about trail conditions. You never really know what the conditions will be until you get there, and it is best to be prepared. Unfortunately, there have been some deaths recently in the Adirondacks. One was due to a hiker’s unpreparedness, while the other was an unfortunate accident. It saddens me when such tragedy happens my in my beloved Adirondacks, and my thoughts are with the families of these victims. But this just goes to show that anything happen in the Adirondack Wilderness; these mountains can be unforgiving.

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As the weather gets nicer, more and more people want to get outside and enjoy the mountains. This is a great thing! But this time of year is not the best time to start hiking the harder peaks as beginner. Many people don’t have the appropriate gear needed for the trail conditions, which can range from mud, ice, and even feet of snow near the summits, when the trailheads were dry. If you aren’t willing to invest in the proper gear, please wait until summer when trails are dry and conditions are much better! But if you don’t want to wait, here are my tips for hiking in these conditions.

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Get the proper gear and when in doubt, bring microspikes.  I can’t stress this enough! A few weeks ago there was no snow on the ground near Bolton Landing, but as soon as we hit the trail, we were walking on a thick sheet of ice the entire hike to Cat Mountain. I saw so many people without traction devices (microspikes, crampons, or yaxtrax) on their feet. This can lead to slips and falls which can cause serious injury. I slipped and fell (with microspikes on!) when descending Cat and banged my ankle, and it’s been bothering me ever since. DEC regulations also state that snowshoes are required in the winter on trails about 3,000 feet in elevation.

Always carry the 10 essentials. This is even more important in the winter, I think. In the summer, you may be able to get away with a night in the woods, but in the winter, at night the temperature can drop well below zero in the mountains. Without the proper emergency gear, you run the risk of getting frostbite or hypothermia. This is what happened to the poor woman on Mcnaughton Mountain a few weeks ago. The 10 Essentials, according to the Adirondack Mountain Club are:

  1. Navigation (map and compass) **and know how to use it!**
  2. Sun protection (sunglasses and sunscreen)
  3. Insulation (extra clothing)
  4. Illumination (headlamp/flashlight) **and extra batteries**
  5. First-aid supplies
  6. Fire (waterproof matches/lighter/candle)
  7. Repair kit and tools (knife, cordage, duct tape, etc.)
  8. Nutrition (extra food)
  9. Hydration (extra water)
  10. Emergency shelter (tent/emergency blanket)

Check weather and trail conditions. DEC posts the trail conditions for all areas of the Adirondacks. I find the high peaks page especially useful.  I also make sure to check NOAA’s higher summit forecast for the weather report before I go hiking. The report will even tell you if the higher summits will be obscured in clouds.

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Tell someone where you’re going. Before I hike, I always tell someone what peak I’m headed to, the trail I’ll be taking and where the trailhead is located. This past weekend, I sent Jordan a screen shot of my planned route to Marshall on the map. I also never hike alone in the winter! It is just not something I ever plan to do.

Are there any other tips you’d recommend? Overall, the point of this post is to hike smart! Don’t underestimate the mountains, and always be prepared. Happy (and safe) hiking!

Hiking Mount Marshall

I can officially check off my first high peak of 2016 off the list, Mount Marshall! And this is the year. I’m planning on finishing hiking the 46 high peaks this summer.

I met Jenna and one of her friends at Exit 9 Park and Ride at 5:30am on Saturday. The weather was going to be mild. It was supposed to be in the 50s up in Lake Placid. We arrived at the Upper Works trailhead in Newcomb at about 7:30 and were on the trail at about 7:45.

We took the trail to Calamity lean-to. It’s about a 5.5 mile hike in. There are signs on the way in, we had to follow the signs for Lake Colden. We weren’t actually going that far, but that was our general direction.

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The trail follows Calamity Brook and crosses it at a certain point. There is a new-ish looking high water bridge that felt a bit wobbly. I wasn’t a huge fan of that bridge!

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The lean-to is located near the Flowed Lands, a spot I had never been to before. The hike in wasn’t too bad and served as a nice 2.5 hour warm up. We stopped at the lean-to and had a snack before picking up another trail on the left that takes you to the herd path to Marshall. Thankfully a helpful guy on his way to Iroquois helped us find the herd path. There is small cairn on the left that is kind of falling over that would have been easy to miss. The herd path follows along Herbert Brook, so it’s easy to stay on. In the winter it meanders back and forth over the brook a few times. It didn’t get too steep at all until we got closer to the summit. The summit is only 1.5 miles from the main trail.

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Finally, after a really steep section, and five hours after we left the car, we arrived at the summit of Marshall! Since it is an unmarked trail, there is a sign indicating the highest point of the peak. It’s pretty wooded, but just beyond the summit sign there are a few great lookout spots.

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15 high peaks left!

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The views from the lookout were incredible!

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Jenna and I wore our microspikes for the entire trip up, but switched into crampons for the descent, since there were some really icy spots. The herd path down didn’t take too long, but the trek out to the car was deemed the death march.

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We stopped quickly to see the Flowed Lands, since we didn’t stop on the way in. So pretty! Apparently last week hikers could cross over to take a shortcut to the herd path. Not the case on Saturday. It was melting.

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Time to start the loooong hike back to the car…

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Somehow we missed the Henderson Memorial. It stands near Calamity Pond. It was erected by Henderson’s family in the 1800s after he accidentally shot himself, hence the names Calamity Pond and the nearby Calamity Brook and Calamity Mountain. It’s pretty creepy if you ask me!

We finally got back to the car a little before 6pm. The cars were a welcome sight! The hike to and from Mount Marshall took nearly 10 hours.

Mount Marshall
Elevation 4360′
Ascent 3185′
Total distance: ~16 mi
Hike time, including stops: ~10 hours

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Gear used: EMS backpack, EMS Waterproof gaiters, EMS hiking pants, Vasque snowblime hiking boots, Katoohla microspikes (ascent), CAMP crampons (descent), Leki hiking poles, Icebreaker merino wool baselayer top, EMS Freescape 3-in-1 jacket, 2.5L water in 3L platypus bladder. Snowshoes never left my pack.

An 80 Degree Day in March

Last week we had a rare, warm, summer-like day. It is the beginning of March so it is a bit weird for this area, but I won’t complain. Jordan and I took advantage since it was my spring break week and I had the afternoon off. We went to Luther Forest to go mountain biking.

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We covered about 8 miles in a few hours. It was a great. Every time I ride here I try something new. This time I rode over the bridges and a few big drops that usually freak me out.

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Winter Hike: Cat and Thomas Mountain Preserve

If you are looking for a nice hike not too far from the Albany area, check out Cat and Thomas Mountains in Bolton Landing, near Lake George. It’s about an hour from Albany and the hike itself is pretty easy!

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The trail follows an old road for a while, and eventually re-routes into the woods for a little bit. It is a gentle incline. There wasn’t much snow on the ground, but the trail was covered in ice! Thank goodness for microspikes!

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We took the yellow trail to the summit of Cat Mountain first.

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The summit is expansive and has great views of Lake George! We ate a snack and then headed back down and followed the blue trail to Thomas Mountain.

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There is a cabin situated near Thomas’ summit, with a loft and couch inside! Apparently it is first-come-first-serve if you want to stay here over night. It has an amazing view of Lake George.

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{thanks to Greg for these photos from his GoPro!}

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We decided not to go over to Thomas, but to instead head back down to the car and check out the Outdoor Sports and Fitness Expo in Saratoga, followed by dinner at Druthers.

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Cat Mountain Loop
Distance: 8.04 mi
Total elapsed time, including stops: 4 hours, 34 minutes

Find it:

Gear used: Katoohla microspikes, tasc performance district pants, tasc performance northstar fleece, osprey sirrus daypack, EMS freescape jacket, vasque snowblime winter hiking boots

Ski Weekend in Vermont

Happy first day of March! I didn’t mean to go for so long without posting, but hey, life gets in the way sometimes!

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This past weekend Jordan and I went up to Vermont with friends. It was supposed to be a mountain biking weekend, but trail conditions were not good for biking, most of them were even closed. They decided to make it a ski weekend.  All of Jordan’s friends ski, while I had never been on skis in my life. But that was about to change! Since I’m always up for a challenge and love spending as much time outdoors as possible, I figured it would be a great opportunity to learn how to ski.

Saturday morning we got to Smuggler’s Notch Ski Resort in Vermont. Jordan helped me rent gear (skis, poles and boots) and we got our lift tickets (buy one get one free!) and off we went to the bunny hill.

He taught me the basics and we rode the “magic carpet” up and down the hill until I got the hang of it. Shortly after, he taught me how to get on and off the lift! It was tricky at first. I fell the first few times getting off, but finally got the hang of it.

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I made my way down the easiest green trail a few times.

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The next day we drove to Jay Peak Resort. The conditions at Jay were much different than at Smuggler’s. There was fresh snow and  a lot more of it! It actually made skiing a lot easier. (More snow=easier to stop!)

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At Jay, I skied a few green trails with the girls while the guys skied. After a few hours, I took a group lesson (that turned out to be a private lesson!) for two hours. I learned more of the basics, like proper form, how to turn, stop, etc. The instructor said I had some of the best form he’s seen for someone who has only been skiing for 2 days! By the end of the lesson I felt much more confident. I loved it!

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We had to travel 5 hours north to find snow.

I was a bit hesitant to get a lesson, but since it was included in my beginner’s package at Jay, I decided to go and it ended up being a private lesson and extremely worthwhile. I got two hours with a professional instructor. He was great! He corrected my form and taught me the proper techniques. If anyone is out there thinking about taking a ski lesson, do it! It was a great experience and definitely worth the extra money. After my lesson, Jordan and I skied back to the lodge and met up with the group in one of the bars for a post-ski beverage. It was a fantastic day. I’m looking forward to skiing again soon! Maybe I’ll try some blue trails next.