Esther…and the mountains I climbed last summer

Dear Grace,*

It’s been a while. Last summer, I made time for hiking but not documenting those hikes, so this is a bit of a catch-up post. Think of it as the best of the 2016 High Peaks. Also, the worst of the 2016 High Peaks (hello, Allen).

August 8, 2016 – Lower Wolfjaw and Upper Wolfjaw

Lower Wolfjaw’s summit doesn’t have too much of a view – just a glimpse of loveliness through the trees, so we didn’t stay long here before pushing on to Upper Wolfjaw.

There was a bit of a tight squeeze on this hike…

By the time we summited Upper Wolfjaw, it was time for lunch.

This was our first High Peaks climb of the summer, and we chose a hot day for it. I thought two liters of water would be plenty. It wasn’t, and I ended up with a headache on the descent until we got back to a water source to filter. Lesson learned. And still a pretty great day in the mountains.

August 15, 2016 – Nippletop and Dial Mountains

Packing a lot more water this time, we set out again a week later to climb Dial and Nippletop – though not in that order. We opted to take the steep route on the way up to Nippletop and then traverse over to Dial and come down over the shoulder of Noonmark. It was a good route, though the walk out felt long, with lots of littler ups and downs. So many, in fact, that a man who was hiking near us pretty much wailed to his companion, “I want to stop climbing mountains now!” Sadly, he still had a couple miles to go. Here are some of my favorite views along the way, including a pretty marshy area on the way up, the cloud-shadowy view from Nippletop’s summit, my muddy boots on Dial, and a tree that had an ear.

We were careful not to tell secrets in this part of the woods…

September 16, 2016 – Mount Colden

We’d heard magical things about Avalanche Pass, so we opted to climb Mount Colden via that route in September, and it did not disappoint.

First view of Avalance Lake

The best part of this hike – ladders, bridges, and hitch-up Matildas along the lakeshore – like a giant jungle gym for grown-ups.

We met this newt on our way to the summit.

Perfect day on Colden! We took the easier way down & returned to the Adirondack Lodge via the Lake Arnold trail.

September 21, 2016 – Allen Mountain

We’d heard things about Allen Mountain. It’s a slog. It has a six-mile approach. It’s muddy. It’s steep. Oh…and there’s red slime, too. But every 46er has to climb it, so we started out super early on a late-September morning for the 20-mile hike. Parts of it were lovely – and there was a new bridge so we didn’t have to take our boots off to cross the Opalescent.

Lake Jimmy in the early-morning mist…

Shiny new bridge!

Opalescent River with fall colors.

And those are all of the nice things I have to say about Allen Mountain. Because everything we’d heard was true. Especially the part about the red slime, which frayed our nerves and bruised our extremities and rear ends. There was a bit of a view at the summit, but was a long hike down this one…

We were very happy to cross Allen off our list.

September 28, 2016 – Macomb, South Dix, and Hough Mountains

This hike started out on the sort of magical, foggy morning that makes you feel like there must be an enchanted kingdom down in the valley. Macomb was a steep climb, but it was broken up with photo breaks.

It was great that we enjoyed this view on the way up because by the time we reached Macomb’s summit, it was gone & we were staring into a cloud. The sign was the only evidence that we were, in fact, on top of a mountain.

The climb up South Dix was fun, but the view was, again, less than inspiring.

It was the same story at the summit of Hough.

But look! Here’s some cool fungus growing on a tree. You take whatever photo ops you get on cloudy hiking days.

October 6, 2016 – Rocky Peak Ridge and Giant Mountain

We’d already climbed Giant Mountain but ran out of time to do Rocky Peak Ridge, so this was our second time up this trail on a glorious fall day. On our ascent, there were clouds in all the valleys. It made the peaks look like islands.

I’m always slightly disappointed when there’s not an actual giant washing his face at Giant’s Washbowl. Pretty leaves, though…

View from Giant’s summit

The trail from here to Rocky Peak Ridge was steeper than we’d expected, so it took a while, but the views were worth the work.

Looking back at Giant from RPR

That wrapped up our 2016 hiking season because soon after, snow arrived in the mountains, and we are not winter hikers.

And that brings us to today…  Esther Mountain was a repeat for me, so I’m still at 25/46 when it comes to High Peaks climbed. This was #22 for my hiking buddy, Marsha, and at just under ten miles, we figured it would be a good climb to get our hiking legs back. Here…

You come, too.

I’m wishing I’d been better at writing about each peak after climbing last summer because I know there were tiny moments that I’ve already forgotten. The summit steward who pointed out a peregrine falcon soaring over Mount Colden. The sound of the waterfall on the way to Allen. The way everyone we met on our way down from Dial had crossed paths with a mother and two bear cubs we’d managed to miss.

But next week, there will be another hike – a summit I’ve never seen before (maybe two) with mushrooms and friendly toads and even friendlier fellow travelers along the way. I’ll write about it when I get back because I don’t want to forget any of these moments in the mountains.

Good climbing,



* The Grace of “Dear 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. There’s an online correspondent program now, too, 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.

1 Reply on “Esther…and the mountains I climbed last summer

  1. I loved every part of this post. My son and I are doing the Lake George 12ster – I am going to use your letter writing idea to journal back and forth with him. Thank you for doing Teachers Write!