On January 1st 2015 I created an event for traversing the Adirondack Great Range.
This is something I’ve wanted to do since 2011. I had a failed attempt – and luckily only got to Lower Wolfjaw with 1 other friend. I don’t think either of us would have been capable back then.
The plan was to hike around the summer solstice – so we’d have plenty of daylight. So I chose June 25th – 29th. Plenty of days to choose the best weather. Cause good weather is cool. Also the Whiteface Skymarathon was that weekend – so lots of other runner friends were already planning on being there.
Here goes: This is about to contain 4 days and about 30 hours of hiking. I might be able to condense it into an hour of reading. If you read as slow as I do. If your lucky it might take 15 minutes.
Day 1 – Thursday – June 25th, 2015
Phelps. With Kyle and Jeff. We ran about 4 miles of this (round trip) from Heart Lake. Kyle hiked in his Luna Sandles. I totally underestimated the distance. Thinking it wouldn’t take much more than 2 hours. Took almost 4. A good pre-view of how the weekend would go.
We got back to camp and were eventually joined by Mark, Matt, Jason, and Ron. Had some bagels and peanut butter for dinner. Came up with a plan for Fridays hike, since we decided we would be doing the traverse on Saturday. Jeff had mentioned an Avalanche Pass loop that went up Algonquin and Iroquois. I like loops. I liked the idea of a long scenic hike by the lake. It wouldn’t be too much the day before the Range. Right?
Day 2 – Friday – June 25th, 2015
We met up with everyone around 7am. Trails were easy up by Avalanche Lake. Cool walkways and ladders and things.
Eventually it gets more technical, with climbing and waterfalls and stuff. I hadn’t seen much of Kyle. He was either way ahead of everyone, or way behind. I was having fun. I wanted everyone to have fun. I hadn’t seen him smile, or laugh. How could someone look so miserable in a place like this? I was concerned. Something was up.
Long story short. Kyle was in a mental state that I recognized. I’ve been there. It was dark. It was the worst day we’ve ever had together. He was breaking down. It took every part of me not to join him.
There’s really no way of pulling someone out of their own head. I felt helpless. Things that you hold in on a daily basis get amplified. The truest thoughts come out. Honest things are spoken. It’s one of the worst places to be, but I think a necessary thing to experience.
Kyle and I hiked at the back of the pack up towards Algonquin. We eventually reached the others before they went over to Iroquois. Kyle started heading up Algonquin and was planning on continuing to the campsite. I was torn. Do I get one more high peak? And let Kyle hike alone? I went with Kyle.
We looked back at one point and saw the others already up on “Iroquois”. I thought… “that was fast”. So I dropped my bag and ran down Algonquin, and up what I thought was Iroquois. Got to the top, to find I would have to go down and up again… so I ran back over to Algonquin. I tried.
Kyle said he wouldn’t be joining us on the traverse Saturday. I still wanted to do it.
We ended up with about 13 miles of hiking. We got back to camp. Set up our hammock. Jason and Ron eventually came over, we talked to them for a bit. The rest of the crew got back. We started to figure out who was still up for the traverse, and how it was going to work.
At one point Kyle asked… so what time are we getting up? – 3am.
I was relieved. and slightly terrified. Kyle was gonna come. But I don’t think I could mentally handle another day like today. Once you reach the bottom though, you never hit quite as hard again.
Day 3 – June 27th, 2015
The Great Range Traverse.
I woke up before my alarms, at about 2:48am. Started getting ready, and boiled some water for some french press coffee and hot cocoa. Kyle actually got up. So did Matt – who said he would be playing it by ear this morning.
Jason, Danielle and Ron drove up to our site. Jeff, Kyle and I piled into Matt’s car. We were on our way to Roostercomb trailhead. The sky was already bright at 4:30am. So much for needing headlamps.
We said fair well to Ron. Began our hike at about 5:15am.
I had hiked from here to Lower Wolfjaw before, and knew it would be the most annoying part of the day. It’s a lot of nothing. Nothing exciting. For 3.5 hours. We accidentally hiked up Roostercomb mountain.
Things started getting more exciting from Upper Wolfjaw and on. It became a series of scrambling, climbing and sliding down rocks. I had decided as soon as Kyle said he was coming – that I would always stay in the back. Trying to prevent any mental events by making sure no one felt like they were being left behind.
We really did have a random group of people. I didn’t know Danielle or Jason too well. Kyle was there. He doesn’t do much running stuff or know many of the running people. Matt, Jeff, and I…. not so random I guess. It was perfect though.
We left Armstrong Mountain, and before we knew it we were summiting Gothics. I thought Gothics had sweet cables and stuff? Part of me was disappointed, it wasn’t the Gothics I had hoped for. Until we started to descend. 🙂
After Basin it’s a long stretch of hiking before you reach another high peak. We were on our way to Mt. Haystack. The talk of water being low started to come up. I was excited that we might actually need to try out one of the 3 water filtering things I brought.
We got to a trail intersection, and Jeff said we could drop our packs and hike up to Haystack quick. I liked the idea of not carrying anything for a bit – so heck yes.
We got to the top – to find out we were on Little Haystack, we’d have to go down and up again to Haystack. Thanks Jeff.
The view from Haystack was so good. Amazing. So far my favorite in the ADK.
I was scared to ask Jeff what time it was on our decent from Haystack. I liked not knowing. Also had no idea how long we’ve been hiking. He eventually told me. 12 hours.
It was a long hike to Marcy. At this point we were playing it by ear, whether we would actually hike it or not. I was starting to see glimpses of the day before in Kyles face. We got to a trail intersection, and decided we would hike up to little Marcy and check things out. Everyone wanted to do Marcy. We’ve gotten this far – what’s one more.
It was getting late once we were on Marcy. 6pm ish? Headlamps and night hiking would most definitely be happening on our walk home.
I was secretly excited for it to get dark. The trails would be easy by then, and it would make things slightly more interesting. I was not prepared for everything to look completely different. It felt like it took forever to reach sections of a trail we recognized. We kept second guessing whether we were on the right ones or not – but we had to be. Pretty much everyone was out of water. I had given Kyle the last of my water at Marcy. At some point on the night walk, I started to feel really dizzy.
I stayed with Kyle and Danielle for most of the hike back. Jason eventually joined us. Matt and Jeff were up front – and eventually took off running(!?). I figured Matt had decided he would run his Mile (He runs everyday and has a streak of over 500 days – Has to run at least a mile). Jeff was keeping him company. My nose started running like crazy. What the heck! I eventually looked at my hand to see it was all bloody. Random nose bleed. Dizzy. Dieing – probably.
We eventually saw 2 headlamps in the distance. Matt and Jeff!!! They came back for us. Turns out Matt had a mental freak out and wanted to be done – so he ran to the finish. Then felt bad. He’s awesome.
We reached the trail head at Heart Lake. A strange feeling to be done after almost an 18 hour day. This was by far the longest and best day I’ve ever spent in the woods. Days and weekends like this make me wish I could live off blueberries and sweet potatoes, and live outside. In a hammock. Run and hike everyday. Running is the job. Or as Matt, Jeff and I decided – we would become professional hikers.
We walked back to the campsites. We still had to go back and get Matt’s car from Roostercomb trailhead – a 30 minute drive. So an hour round trip. It was already around 11pm. We took our time though – and ate left over pizza from the day before and the infamous garlic knobs (They were actually called knots – but over the course of the traverse became known as knobs).
Jason shuttled Matt and I back to Roostercomb. I made sure Matt didn’t fall asleep or drive us into a mountain. We watched Jason pull into a gas station, and 5 minutes later became worried that we should have waited for him. It had to be open…. right? (apparently all gas stations close super early there)
I was hoping Kyle and Jeff would still be up when we got back – I didn’t want to go to bed. We got back and Kyle and Jeff had made a fire. It was starting to rain though, so eventually we all retreated into Matt’s tent.
Matt’s tent. Had a hinged door. A bucket for dirty sneakers. Light switch controlled lights. AND a cot. And a sleeping bag, with another sleeping bg opened up so to act as a blanket. As we sat and talked and drank cider and beer, I would notice Matt inching closer to the pillow. Eventually we looked over and Matt was out. The 3 of us sat on the floor of his tent until Kyle was folded over, and Jeff was horizontal. I wasn’t tired. Or. well – it was more like I didn’t want the day to end.
Day 4 – Sunday July 28th
The original plan for Sunday was to watch people run the Whiteface Sky Marathon. 19ish miles on the slopes of Whiteface Mountain. This included watching Jeff race after the full 3 days of hiking. Plans changed when Jeff decided he wasn’t going to race. Also when the weather decided to be terrible that morning. Instead we met up with Jason, made sure he didn’t run out of gas (it was also his birthday) – and went out to breakfast.
We took down Marks tent. Witnessed tent homicide. Ron’s tent got stabbed (It was leaking and were given instructions to throw it out).
We said bye to Matt. He left his bachelor pad at the site incase our tents were too wet. We ended up using it as storage.
Mark stopped by to get his tent – He had just been running on Whiteface. Told us tales of 40 mile/hr winds, pouring rain, and hand numbing cold. He reported that many of the racers cut it short due to the conditions, and that it was a ridiculously hard course.
Eventually Jeff and I decided to hike/run one last high peak. So we picked Cascade – pretty quick and easy. Under 2 hours and 5 miles round trip.
The run down from Cascade was one of the coolest runs I’ve done. We were running down a creek bed. Lots of water, mud, rocks. I was wearing hiking pants that were falling down and a button up long sleeve shirt. Less than ideal running clothes. Just adds to the randomness of this trip and epicness of things.
We made a fire. It wasn’t raining (It was supposed to rain all day). Then boiled some water via Jetboil. We had 2 boxes of starwars mac and cheese, and pretzel bagels. Plenty for Kyle, Jeff and I. We toasted our bagels like marshmallows. Kyle and Jeff ate their mac and cheese with spoons. I used a fork.
Our fire was awesome. Another night a didn’t want to end.
- Carry more water than you think you’ll need. If you don’t need it someone else probably will. – I gave Kyle half of a nalgene of water, 1 full bottle of water, and half of my Gatorade bottle. Leaving me pretty curious about how much water I actually drank. I almost brought 1 more bottle – and should have.
- Bring food. Real food is even better. We stopped at each peak and would eat something. And at one point actually called it “lunch”, which was cool.
- As proved by Kyle – you don’t have to be a runner or hiker to be able to complete the range. He does have a running and endurance back round though, which is something you’ll never lose completely.
- The Traverse is definitely not something anyone can do though – well at least not in one day.
- The Traverse is more of an obstacle course.
- Jason is officially THE nicest guy I know.
- Jeff is an awesome trail guide. And loves maps. And is almost as easy to talk to as Matt.
- Danielle is a super strong hiker, and strangely daredevilish.
- Matt bought pants. Wore them for the traverse. Destroyed them. Returned them.
- Danielle found a stick, used it for a while. She got tired of it, and Jason decided he would carry it to the end. Until Jason discarded it – and Jeff couldn’t let it go. The stick made it half way through the range, but the rock climbing and scrambling became too much for it.
- Casualties from the Great Range – Matt’s pants. The stick.
- Kyle was awarded MVP of the Great Range. Mostly because he kept his winter hat on the entire day.
- No one died. No broken limbs.
I seem to be gathering multiple days that qualify as “best days of my life”. Cayuga was one. This ADK weekend was totally. I was glad Kyle could finally experience one of these epic adventures with me. It makes it hard to have normal weekends, when all I want to do is spend days in the woods. I also like being around people? what?
There are two other tales of this hike on the Great Range. Read Matt’s story – which is probably the freshest, as he spit it out within 2 hours of getting home. Or read Jeff’s video game style, with accurate drawings of how the day unfolded.
I think thats all.