The final approach to Mt. Marcy
The MacIntyre Range from Indian Falls--a great place for a break on the way to Marcy.
When a group approached me a month ago about a fall ascent of New York's highest peak, it brought back a ton of memories.  Mount Marcy happens to be the most commonly climbed first peak among aspiring Adirondack 46ers.  While I'm not surprised at this--most people aim big, often too big--such a daunting task is not always the wisest way to begin a conquest of our beloved high peaks.  

Marcy was my seventh High Peak.  I had already bagged Big Slide, Sawteeth, and Gothics that summer, which was certainly nothing to scoff at.  I felt more than ready to ascend New York's highest peak.  However, I was not at all prepared for the distance: at fifteen miles round trip, I had my work cut out for me.  The humidity on that July afternoon certainly didn't help matters either.  I slogged my way to Indian Falls, struggling to keep pace with my three hiking companions.  While I made the summit, I am sorry to say I was not in the best spirits.  Adding to my annoyance was a mall-like atmosphere of people.  The crowds were far worse than I had seen on other peaks.  One lady carried a small gray kitten with her--yes, literally, a cat--and didn't hesitate to show it off to anyone and everyone who passed.  Near the summit, a man with shoulder length sandy hair barked at a group of plate-eyed kids--no older than twelve or so.  I think the jerk confused mountain climbing with boot camp; the poor boys and girls in the party looked as miserable as I felt.  Eventually, I made it back to the car in one piece, proud of my accomplishment in day-hiking Mount Marcy, but I was still hurting.

As I continued my journey through the 46, I got in much better shape.  I learned through experience how crucial it is to do warmup hikes to start the season, and how wonderful peaks like Hurricane, Noonmark, Jo, Pharaoh, and Treadway can be, regardless if they don't "count."  Many more peaks were climbed and my confidence as a climber began to soar.  I started thinking about Marcy again.  I had climbed the highest peak in the state, but I still felt like she had gotten the best of me.  When it came time to do Skylight and Gray, my companion and I decided to approach via Lake Arnold, climb Gray and Skylight, and walk out via the same route.  But their bigger sister and neighbor, not to mention the appeal of an avenue-like descent courtesy of the Van Hoevenburg trail, began to call to me.  Although it is frowned upon, after a great climb of Skylight where I swear we encountered a shapeshifter (I'll save that story for another day), we climbed Gray and bushwhacked over to the summit of Marcy.  I do not recommend this bushwhack to inexperienced hikers.  The cripple brush is so thick you literally cannot see three feet in front of you.  We had to crouch down to detect the old herd path and we called to each other throughout the traverse, even though we were separated by no more than ten feet the whole way.  When we came out of the summit conifers, we were standing very near the summit of Mount Marcy.  Coming out of that thicket is when I finally fully appreciated that beauty of a mountain.  That experience is what has compelled me to plan a fall ascent of Marcy.  I already have some people interested in a guided trip, and we would love to have a few more who feel up to this intimidating, but wonderful challenge. 

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