May 15, 2016
The snow has melted in the valleys, but I could still see patches up on the High Peaks driving up the highway from yesterday’s track invitational in Queensbury. It reminded me that soon, mud season will be over, the black fly clouds will thin, and it will be time to climb again. It also reminded me that I never told you about my last mountain of the fall ’15 season. It was your mountain – Grace Peak, on October 19th.
The forecast was for warm temperatures, but snow had fallen in the mountains the night before, so autumn’s reds and golds were laced with white.
My friend Marsha and I were taken off guard (even though we shouldn’t have been) to find the rocks on the water crossings covered with ice. We’d started the first crossing without micro-spikes and had to sit down halfway across to fish them out of our packs and put them on.
This wasn’t our first trailless peak, but it was the most difficult. Between the fallen leaves and new snow, the herd path from Rt. 73 was often challenging to follow. We had to take it slow on the way up, keeping a close eye out for the cairns that occasionally marked the way.
When we made it to the ice-covered slide, we ventured out for a few quick photos but veered quickly back to the herd path for more solid footing. The first slide climb is something we’ll save for another day, with less ice and a more experienced climber friend along for advice.
The summit was beautiful, as always. It took us 4.5 hours to climb up (this includes time wandering around to find our way) and 3 hours to descend. Busy schedules and more snow on the way meant this was my last High Peaks climb of 2015.
But writing this now, smelling spring in the air, has me longing to go back. Soon…
* Grace is Grace Hudowalski, the first woman to climb all 46 high peaks. She was a founding member of the Adirondack 46ers, the group’s 1st president, and later on, its secretary and historian, roles she filled until she died in 2004. It used to be that if you wanted to be a 46er, you had to log each climb by writing a letter to Grace. And Grace would write back. She answered thousands and thousands of letters, with encouraging words and sometimes, her own reflections on a climb, too. Today, the 46er application process is simplified; one only needs to keep simple climb records on a club form that can be downloaded. But I wish I’d had the chance to climb these mountains and write letters about them when Grace was around to read them. I love her story and her strength and the way she urged others to get outside and explore and tell their stories. So I’ve decided to write the letters anyway. I think Grace would have liked that.