Snowshoeing in the High Peaks

High Peaks Climbing 

Mount Marcy

New York’s Highest Peak

This will be my first trip up this year, of the many prepared for. Marcy is a highly sought after peak during the winter climbing season and as a mountain guide, this need brings me to the top of New York three to four times each winter.

We started our day at 7am from the Loj to what looked to be a very gloomy day in the hills. The temperatures were very mild at the start, being in the low 20’s, it would hover around 25 to 30 degrees all day. We were stacked to the hilt with gear, not being sure what we would need. I kept getting the high ice warning all week, so we were ready. The previous week I had been on Gothics and Armstrong and found out that the conditions were very, Very, VERY icy, I had to plan for the worst; we carried microspikes, crampons and snowshoes to cover all possibilities.

We moved along quite well as we passed by the intersection for Algonquin and didn’t miss a step all the way past Marcy Dam, past the Phelps Trail and to the bridge over Phelps Brook.  From here the pace slowed a bit as the terrain began to get a bit steeper in front of us, but still no serious ice or snow for that matter; we left our microspikes on. On the way to Indian Falls we soon passed a group of four and they were quite amused by our large packs, in comparison to their tiny rucksacks that is. I carry quite a lot of gear for those “just in case” moments.  Never had to use most of it, but I am pretty confident that I would survive a night on Marcy if something were to happen.

Mount Marcy

Mild Snow Conditions

We passed by Indian Falls without stopping and swept around the corner and started our climb of Marcy. The snow was a bit deeper, but the trail was solid as a rock so the microspikes remained on our feet. Our pace along this moderate section of trail was pretty good, considering I was fighting a flare up of plantar fasciitis. As we gained elevation it was beginning to get colder and the wind was a bit chilly so we added a layer back on for the final push to the Phelps Trail that comes in from JBL. At this point we didn’t really need snowshoes but we decided to use them to fight the typical snowdrifts that awaited us.  The crampons would have to stay on our packs for another day.

Avoiding Frostbite with Proper Gear

We also got out our balaclavas, goggles, heavier gloves and fully layered up our core as well. We didn’t need most of it come to find out; I actually started to get a bit overheated on the steep slopes before the summit. This is the first time I have experienced hardly any winds above treeline on this peak. However, we did need the gear once we were on the top. The wind was very unforgiving coming from the south and without a proper stance it would push us around a bit. After a few pictures and a hand shake we started back down and passed three of the four in the group from earlier. Come to find out the random gear we saw stashed aside the trail was his, not planning to summit that day. He had apparently started back down to the car, hopefully in the right direction; we did see him at the parking lot at the end of the day.

Above treeline

On the summit

On the descent we had kept our snowshoes on until we were well past Indian Falls, when the snow was not adequate enough for safe travel. Back on went the microspikes, my feet were ever so thankful.  Once I hit Marcy Dam my plantar fasciitis was in full scream mode, I felt horrible slowing the pace down so much but we had made good time all day, to this point.  We were back at the Loj before dark as a stream of people flowed out before us and behind us, as if we were all on the same “beer-thirty” schedule.

Just so you know my feet are much happier today since I put a pair of Superfeet in all my shoes, never to doubt their ability to protect my feet again.

Interested in more hikes like Mount Marcy?, check out our hiking pages. Interested in a guided winter ascent of the High Peaks?, see what a local guide service has to offer. Not a great day for climbing?, Lake Placid has outstanding places to eat, stay warm and shop

Map of Marcy

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