10 responses

  1. Michael Blair
    May 6, 2013

    Thanks for this great write up. Would have to agree with one of your basic premises, the Adirondacks are a lot more of a challenge than the Whites. That’s not to say you can’t make the Whites just as challenging, it’s just that there is usually an “easy” option in the Whites because of the multiple roads cross-crossing the area and a seemingly endless number of trailheads.

    My girlfriend and I have only spent summer or fall in the high peaks so far but plan to begin spending some time there in the winter next season. While not having done any in winter I think there are more people perusing the W46 now and despite the “unmaintained” trails it seems “easier” now based in the stories that I’ve heard and the people that I’ve seen finish. The increasing use of GPS to find the “trail” and more feet packing it down to both lead the way and find those killer spruce traps are some of the benefits of increased interest in the W46.

    I printing this story out and packing it away with my winter gear. Will use it as a reminder for next season as we get ready to tackle the W46. Two things that will make it I’m the pack – a rope to pull people out of the holes and a shovel to help dig them out before having to invoke the 70 pound rule.

    • Carol Stone White
      May 6, 2013

      Hi Michael,

      One aspect I didn’t mention is the importance of weather. Always check a local weather report, especially when going above treeline, including the wind speed. Whiteouts seem to be quite common on 5,114-foot Algonquin Peak in winter, for example. Dave and I did Iroquois and Algonquin from Lake Colden in what was a full whiteout on the ridge; when we consulted our compass, we realized that we were headed toward the precipitous NE face of Algonquin, instead of down to the trail below treeline. (We hadn’t climbed over Algonquin, but went to Iroquois first from the Boundary trail; but even if we’d gone over Algonquin, our snowshoe prints would have blown in nearly immediately; ski pole holes last longer, but not long enough on such a hike). We found our way down to the trail. But Dot Myer, the first woman to summit the 111 in winter (in 1985), didn’t find the trail and her small group spent the night in a rudimentary shelter with evergreen branches they happened upon (someone else must’ve had the same experience coming off Algonquin!) The next morning they bushwhacked most of the way down until finding the trail, then reclimbed most of the way back up to get their tent, and one companion needed insulin, which was up in the tent. This could have been disastrous. The descent of “Little” Haystack toward 4,960-foot Haystack is dangerous; a Rochester Winter Mountaineering Society expedition was nearing someone’s Winter 46 peak, Haystack, but the leader decided that the descent of Little Haystack was too dangerous in high winds, so they turned back. So close to becoming a Winter 46er, she was not sure she would have made the same prudent decision! Bottom line, waiting for good weather in the Adirondacks AND in the Whites is essential. Thanks for your comments.

  2. Peakdogger
    May 6, 2013

    Excellent beta about the Winter 46. I’m a White Mountain hiker and have been thinking about expanding my horizons and hiking the Dacks. How trailless are the peaks really? Are there herd paths or is it fulll on bushwhacking?

    • Carol Stone White
      May 6, 2013

      The canisters in the Adirondack High Peaks were removed in 2001 and the myriad herd paths were closed off. Now, one minimally-maintained path to the trailless peaks makes the Adirondack High Peaks much less a genuine route-finding experience than the Catskill high peaks offer. There are 35 of those peaks over 3500 feet with 13 canisters on the trailless peaks, and virtually no herd paths. There, you can really test your route-finding skills, and getting lost is not uncommon. Also, the Adirondacks are actual mountains and ranges with defined summits, as opposed to the long flat summits in the Catskill Forest Preserve; that region is actually an eroded plateau, but we always say, “If they look like mountains and hike like mountains, they’re mountains!” And very challenging, I’d add. Also, the 46ers organization began in 1948 and “beaten paths” began to be formed from then on. (The Catskill 3500 Club started in 1962). Of course, the trailless peaks in winter are a different story! We broke trail to remote and trailless 4,606-foot Mt. Redfield near Mt. Marcy on a zero-degree day in incredibly deep snow, thus moving at a glacial pace and getting cold extremities; we found ourselves a good ten minutes from the canister on the peak’s indistinct summit. The can was just barely above the snow behind snow-covered branches and we might not have found it! If you didn’t sign in, your climb was not officially accomplished. Without canisters to find and sign in, people might think they are on a true summit, when they’re pretty far from it. Pursuing the Winter 46 became very popular starting in the 1990’s, so the chances are reasonable of finding a broken trail to a summit or range. The Catskill trailless high peaks, where you have to find a canister, with no herd paths, remain a good challenge. About one-third of its membership of 2200 are Winter 35ers. It’s great experience for learning about winter mountain hiking!

  3. Gail Storey
    May 6, 2013

    This has got to be one of the most gripping and informative posts I’ve ever read. It makes my kicking steps up icy mountains in the High Sierra look like child’s play, but I loved the vicarious thrill of Carol and Dave’s adventures. Gorgeous writing and photos, too! I’m putting Carol’s books on my to-read list.

    • Carol Stone White
      May 6, 2013

      Hi Gail,

      Many thanks for your appreciative response to my guest post about Winter 46ing, but kicking steps up icy mountains in the High Sierra sounds like super adventuring. Our western mountain hiking was among the Colorado 14,000ers, and we did an amazingly easy climb (after being acclimated) up Mt Elbert, Colorado’s highest at 14,450 feet (starting at about 10,500 feet). But no sooner had we descended than it started snowing, and a major blizzard began. People and even the snowplow were stranded on Independence Pass the next day. I can’t wait to read your post on May 13th!

  4. Sara M.
    May 6, 2013

    As a female hiker and peakbagger all I can say is WOW! It’s great to read about another woman who kicks ass like Carol. I’m going to have to check out her books too!

    • Carol Stone White
      May 6, 2013

      Hi Sara,

      Thank you for your great comments! My book “Women with Altitude” is often read as Women with Attitude; you’d appreciate these incredible women whose superb attitudes shine through their descriptions of their lives and best adventures.

  5. Peter
    June 13, 2014

    “Virtually no herd paths to the trail less Catskill Peaks”?
    We must be from different dimensions Carol…I’ve never seen a trail less Catskill peak. Many of the herd paths there are marked with cairns ( southwest hunter is a good example).
    And I remember commenting to a friend that one herd path we encountered could be followed blindfolded.
    The Catskill 3500 club is indeed a great way to get involved in hiking, but it is more of a social outing group than a route finding club.

    • Mike
      October 21, 2014

      Peter, many of the Catskill 35 have no visible herd paths whereas the Adirondack herd paths are very well worn and are like maintained trails. Many of the 35 (the trail less ones) are true bushwhacks albeit in most places the woods are open and visibility is good. We just finished all 35 twice over the past two years, once in Winter, so I’m a recent finisher… unless someone blazed the trails in the past year! ;)

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