November 9-10, 2008
Eric and Matthew Gilbertson, Dana Sulas
Matthew and I were itching to sink our teeth into a fresh snowball after months of summer heat, and it looked like the opportunity would finally come in early November. Veteran’s Day weekend was forecast to be rainy all over New England, but could turn to snow in the higher elevations over 4000ft. That meant some mountains in New Hampshire were fair game, and some in the Adirondacks of New York.
The Adirondacks were a full five-hour drive from Boston, but it was a long holiday weekend, we’d never been there, they were basically guaranteed to have snow, and we could even bag a new state highpoint (Mt Marcy) on the way. That sounded like the perfect combination!
Dana was up for the trip as well, and we all left Boston early Sunday morning for the long drive up to New York. It rained hard most of the way, but we knew every drop of rain we drove through equated to several flakes of snow on Mt Marcy. By midday we reached the Adirondack Loj trailhead, and suited up for a plunge into winter. The rain had luckily let up and we quickly started up the Marcy Dam trail laden with overnight gear. The shortest way to hit Marcy was a 14-mile round trip, but we didn’t plan on doing the whole thing that day. We were planning to hike until we found some snow, camp there, and then tag Marcy the next morning before heading home.
We found a good view at Marcy Dam looking up to Avalanche Pass, and noticed all the mountains were shrouded in clouds above about 3,000 ft. We continued hiking a few hours farther and eventually started seeing little sprinkles of white on the ground. By around 3500ft the ground was fully covered in four inches of snow, and we deemed the situation appropriate to set up camp.
Darkness comes early that in the Adirondacks in November, and we were all in our tents and sleeping by 6pm.
It snowed hard most of the night and we woke up to a few fresh inches on our tents. Somehow we had managed to camp in a location with a view of Marcy, which we just noticed as we poked our heads out of the tents. It looked so close!
We quickly suited up for the cold, scarfed down some breakfast and took off, leaving our tents set up to
retrieve later. The brief clearing didn’t last long as more clouds rolled in and snow started falling again. Nothing could keep us from the summit now, though. We soon broke through the trees to the exposed summit ridge, and were blasted be wind and snow. It looked and felt like the middle of winter here, not early November.
I pushed through several waist-deep snowdrifts before reaching the windswept summit rocks, and finally the roof of New York. A huge plaque was fixed to the rock, commemorating something that I didn’t have the patience to read about. I figured it must have said we were on the summit.
We quickly snapped victory shots, struggling to keep our eyes open in the blowing snow. But we had come in search of winter and were not disappointed. Matthew and I walked around the summit for a little while, sampling how the snow tasted and hoping a view might open up.
The views never materialized, so we turned around before the weather had a chance to get any worse. Back in the trees we removed our above-treeline armor and changed back into normal hiking mode again. We found the tents right where we had left them, and noticed no trace of any other people. In fact, we hadn’t seen another person since we started hiking the previous morning. I suppose everyone was scared away by the terrible weather, despite it being a holiday weekend.
As we descended from camp we noticed the snowline kept dropping and dropping, even down to Marcy Dam and the Adirondack Loj. We reached the car by mid-afternoon and celebrated our feat with a couple big pizzas back in Lake Placid, before tackling the long drive back to Boston.