Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Phelps Mountain

I didn't make any attempt at finding new years plans this year. I had no interest in getting dressed  up and spending money or being hungover.  Instead, I snuck up to the Adirondacks to complete my first winter high peak hike.

I was slow to get out of the apartment Monday morning, but was still able to get on the road by 6, even though I had hoped to be on the road by 5.  I drove straight to the Adirondack Loj and got myself organized. I had decided to hike Phelps Mountain because I had heard it was a relatively easy trail.  Since this would be my first hike with snowshoes, I wanted to be realistic about my abilities.  I also wanted to be on a trail where it was likely that others would be on it as well.

excited to be on the trail, I apologize in advance, I hiked alone.  There are a few pictures just like this one...

I started on the trail at 9am.  I was a bit confused if I was actually on the correct trail, because the sign made no mention of Phelps.  I decided to go for it anyways because I had re-read it several times online and in my hiking guide book.  After second guessing myself a few times, I caught up with a man who knew the trails better than I.  He was heading towards Wright's and offered to walk with me to the junction to ensure that I was sent along the right path.  I was thankful that he did so, because the next sign still did not indicate that Phelps was anywhere in the neighborhood.
sign lacking any indication about phelps

I carried on, cruising through the trail to Marcy Dam. Because of the snow, it made the path to be very flat and easy to navigate.  I didn't have to pay attention to any rocks or stumps.  I reached Marcy Dam and finally found proof that I was on the right track to Phelps. (phew)  I also caught up with the group of women ahead of me that I had seen in the registration book.  I paused for a few minutes to sign into this second book, and to snap a few pictures.

the stream from Marcy Dam


wohoo, I am on the correct trail!
The hike up until that point had been fairly easy.  Not very steep in either and nice walk in the woods.  I began thinking that maybe I would aspire to become a winter 46-er after all.  And then I reached the fork to actually start climbing Phelps.

turning point to hell.

The sign said 1 mile.
1 mile? Easy peasy.  But not really for me.  It was a 1,262 gain in that one mile.  This was my first time hiking in snowshoes and I had gone without poles, mostly out of stubbornness because what had happened on Pitchoff Mountain. What I didn't know was that, rocks covered by ice & snow, there isn't a ton of leverage to use to climb.  There were several spots where I quite literally crawled my way up the mountain.  I wish I had a hiking buddy if for no other reason to document my ungracefulness.  That mile was tough.
at one point this was my view.  I somehow got up there, but it wasn't pretty.

longest mile ever.

I aimlessly walked around the top for a few minutes trying to find what would be the highest point.  I ran into the other group who were also wandering around looking for the summit.  After a few laps, we decided together that we were there. Sadly, despite the weather saying it was going to be nice, it wasn't.  Yet again there was no view of the amazing Adirondacks for me.
The Summit

The view. 

I let the other group get a head start down the mountain.  Not having poles, I knew that I would spend a significant part of my descent on my ass.  Which I did.  I could tell that the other group was resorting to the same choice despite having poles so I didn't feel quite as bad.  It was actually quite fun to "sled" down parts of the mountain.  Certainly faster than I was walking. It took nearly 45 minutes to get down that stupid mile, but after that I picked up speed. 

I stopped at the Marcy Dam lean-to to have part of my lunch, I quickly downed my soup and bundled up and kept walking.  My gloves were wet and I was starting to feel cold. 

Thankfully I did have an alternate pair of gloves so I switched those and continued out for the remaining 2-ish miles.  It took me roughly 5.5 Hours including being unsure if I was on the correct trail and back tracking a few times, photo ops, lunch, and trying to find the summit. It certainly wasn't my fastest hike, but I am now a 13-er only 33 to go!

Happy New Year !


  1. Good for you! That elevation increase would knock me out!

  2. amazing!!
    i miss the snow and it's impressive how much of a socal girl i've turned back into

    (50 degrees and busting out my heater)

    xoxo mschangalaaaang

  3. What an amazing hike and perfect way to start the new year! Ahh! So much fun! Especially the sliding down part at the end? Hee hee hee. I live in the midwest so we don't have many places to hike like that, or much snow, but I do have snowshoes and hope to get out this year!

  4. Wow Christine, great job...looks like a beautiful hike...even if you had to backtrack...love the pictures by the way!