A Failed Attempt to Mount Marcy In Winter
It has been an impressive winter season in North Eastern United States. A good old friend of mine, Alex, was flying from Dallas, TX to join me hiking for few days in Adirondacks and ascent Mt.Washington in NH. Per forecast, right before he arrived, some parts of North East has already received more then 3 feet of fresh snow, including High Peaks Wilderness that we were about to visit, with more snow on the forecast…
- Cotton: Never wear cotton while hiking in winter
- Water Filtration: I swear by Sawyer Squeeze as one of the best filters. But in cold winter temperatures, it could simply freeze or get clogged. SteriPEN would be the system of choice. You can also melt snow and boil water when there are no streams that are accessible.
- Snowshoes: When hiking in ADK in winter, snowshoes or skis are required.
- Maps & Navigation: If you’re used to using your iPhone for navigating in the back-country, there is a big chance that your phone might not work in very cold temperatures. Make sure to bring paper maps with a compass, and most importantly, know how to use it!
- Distance: 16.5mi (26km) roundtrip
- Estimated Duration: 2 Days
- Interactive Map: ADK General Trail Map
- Directions: Trailhead Parking Location
- Camping Location: 44°07’07.7″N 73°58’59.3″W
Right from the start, we knew that the amount of snow the Adirondacks received over the past few days was a little to much. But, we planned this trip one month in advance. Tickets were already pre-purchased and the time-off was arranged, so there was no going back!
Upon arriving to ADK Loj, I’ve never see the parking lot so empty. There were only two or three cars there and parts of the trail were already snowshoed from the day before, which made things a lot easier! Nonetheless, a good trail only went up as far as Marcy Dam. From there we had to plow our way all the way to the back end of Lake Colden. During my previous winter trips, I would mostly get lucky and have at least some sort of tracks, but not today.
After reaching an Avalanche Lake, we still had almost two miles of snow plowing just to reach the end of Lake Colden and then up to second Lean-too over at Marcy Trail. Initially, we brought shovels with us, thinking that we could build a snow shelter when we reach our base camp. My friend Alex didn’t have warm enough sleeping bag therefore camping in -20C in the open lean-too would not be very fun. With these thoughts in mind we carried on and played it by the ear.
Prior to heading out, some of the weather reports mentioned that higher elevation might have received over 4 feet of fresh snow. As we crossed the bridge over Opalescent River and started hiking up, we found our moving progress to be less then a mile an hour. Not only that, the difficulty of hiking in snowshoes started to drain our energy reserves. As we were very slowly moving forward, the weather conditions started rapidly deteriorating and another snow storm was in full swing promising another feet of snow overnight.
After reviewing our current situation, we realized that we were not going to make it to our Lean-too in time before it gets dark, nor have time or energy to build a snow cave. Even thought we really wanted to catch sunrise over snowy Mt.Marcy, we had turn around and head back down to ADK Loj before our recent snow path got swept away by heavy winds and snow.