Gray Peak is the tallest of the trailless High Peaks and has an act of putting on two totally different faces depending on the season. In summer, it is slightly treed with stunted growth; in winter the trees are buried and it resembles that of a bald summit.
How to get there
Leave Lake Placid on Route 73, follow Route 73 toward Keene. Continue for about 3 miles to Adirondack Loj Road on the right. Follow Adirondack Loj Road for to its end at Heart Lake and park in the main parking lot. Small parking fees ($10 as of 2013) will be required.
There is an alternative start point from Upper Works.
By the numbers
- Elevation: 4,480 feet
- Elevation gain from Lake Tear of the Clouds: about 500 feet
- Gray Peak is High Peak #7
Gray sits right off the west shoulder of Mount Marcy, giving it outstanding views of its big sister. Gray Peak can be approached from several different directions, but the shortest approach is the one described below. There are great camping opportunities at Uphill and Feldspar lean-tos if you wanted to make a weekend of the hike.
For just Gray, this is an 8.5 mile hike, one way. From the Loj follow the hikers' approach trail to the High Peaks that leads to Marcy Dam. From Marcy Dam you will need to follow the trail to Avalanche Pass. You will pass by Avalanche Camps. Take a left and head toward Lake Arnold. You will climb steeply up the shoulder of Mount Colden and eventually be at Lake Arnold. At Lake Arnold you will stay left and continue to climb to the top of the pass and descend for a bit into the valley. After a sometimes wet hike through the valley over log bridges and around beaver activity you will pass by Feldspar Lean-to. 0.1 miles past the lean-to is a major T-intersection. Right leads down to Lake Colden and the secondary route up. Follow the trail to your left and continue an aggressive climb up to Lake-Tear-of-the-Clouds.
At the outlet of the lake, look for a faint herd-path to your left that rock hops the outlet and enters a spruce forest. This herd-path leads to the summit of Gray. The herd-path can also be confusing at times, so care is needed not to lose it. The climb will be very steep in areas, and in others very moderate. There are excellent views from the summit of Gray and a nice boulder.
Heavy winds, ice conditions along the steep section, white-outs, obscured trail due to snow drifts, and spruce traps: all of these conditions can be witnessed and should be prepared for.
If attempting this climb from Marcy, it is good to be prepared for arctic conditions as you will spend time above tree line. You will have no shelter or protection from the elements here. Follow the herd-path up Gray, which can be challenging to locate in good conditions. Snow drifts and a windblown trail cover most of the course of the herd path. When off the trail you will notice the softness of the snow and the potential for spruce traps are high.
A spruce trap is where snow covers the branches of the spruce and balsam trees but does not get under the branches. This void causes the snow to collapse under your weight causing you to fall to the depth of the snow which can be upwards of 6-feet. The traps are very hard to get out of and the aid of your fellow climbers is sometimes essential.