Snowshoeing up to Mt. Marcy, High Peaks Region, Adirondack Mountains
Joined up with Tom Bissegger of Brampton, Ontario for a weekend winter camping and snowshoeing trip to Mt. Marcy in the Adirondack Mountains of New York State. The goal was to camp out at Marcy Dam on Friday evening and then the next morning don snowshoes again and hike to the summit of Mt. Marcy.
Despite the -15C temperatures and forecast breezes, I made the mistake of overdressing by a layer or two and overheated early on. I had to reduce my speed substantially to keep my body temperature down. That meant that I had more time for photography but ended up making much slower progress along the trail. As seen in the photos, most of the trail was well wooded and I had anticipated a bit more of the trail to be open to the breezes. Oh well, will know better for next time. Had a good time anyway and the scenery was fantastic with all of that fresh snow.
There were a few side trails that would have been open in the summer but during the winter the snow quickly blocked all but the well traveled trails. Lots of tree markers too so unlikely to get ‘lost’ but some do every year in the High Peaks Region and require rescuing.
As the heavy snow causes the spruce boughs to bend in over the trail, it is important to keep your head and neck covered or else a gust of wind will drop a load of snow on the unprepared hiker.
The initial few miles of the trail is through fairly thick bush so tough to see the sun but once we reached this spot on the trail, at the Indian Falls cut-off, it was nice to get out in the open for a bit to see the blue sky and the surrounding terrain. A biting wind made for a very short break and getting back onto the sheltered trail was soon the goal.
With about 1.5 miles to go to the summit we began to encounter shorter and shorter trees as we got closer to the tree line. There would be a few ups and downs before we actually got above the tree line but by this point we were beginning to notice that there was a decent breeze blowing to further cool us off.
Tom had gone on ahead when I had decided to slow down due ot overheating. WHen I reached this spot and could finally see the summit, I knew that with my energy fading and time beginning to become a factor, I wouldn’t likely make it to the top on this trip. When, a short distance later I came upon another sign indicating that I still had 1.2 miles to go and a good climb as well, I knew that I knew for sure that I wouldn’t make it to the top this time around.
From this point on I just followed the trail upward so expecting to meet Tom on his way back down. The snow caked on the trees and the bright blue skies made for a beautiful time and I was on a section of the trail that, although open, was relatively sheltered from the biting wind.
It wasn’t too much further along on the trail, when I met Tom on his way back. Although he had made pretty good progress, he found that the wind right into the face, once he got above the tree line, was making things just a bit too dangerous to continue.
As we headed back down toward Marcy Dam, a look out over the scenic landscape confirmed that we had come quite a way and climbed quite a bit but the peak would have to wait for another day.
Trail info (from ADK High Peaks Region guidebook):
Van Hoevenberg Trail to Mt. Marcy
Distance from Trailhead (one-way):
To Marcy Dam – 2.3 miles
To Indian Falls – 4.4 miles
To Summit of Mt. Marcy – 7.4 miles
Ascent: 3166 ft (965 m)
Elevation: 5344 ft. (1629 m)
How far did I travel on snowshoes?
On the Friday – 3 trips between parking lot and Marcy dam = 6.9 miles
On the Saturday – just short of the tree-line from Marcy Dam and then back to the parking lot = approximately 10 miles.
A couple of Tom’s photos to show what it looked like a bit higher up.
Edit: I went back a few weeks later. Weather wasn’t quite as nice but I got closer to the peak before turning back.