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Mt. Marcy "best" Winter Route

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Mt. Marcy "best" Winter Route

Postby PackLightPaul » Tue Jan 12, 2010 1:45 pm

Hello all, I'm planning an overnight trip up Mt. Marcy (NY's highpoint) in Mid Feb. with a small group. I've summited Marcy a few time, but never in the winter season on snowshoes. I've only summited Via the trail from Marcy dam. I've also hiked along Elk lake and wanted to summit from there someday.

So my question is......Summit from Elk Lake or From ADK. lodge in winter? Which is better and can I cut across Elk lake to save time? Let me know what you would do if it was your hike. Thanks
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Postby EastcoastMike » Tue Jan 12, 2010 2:26 pm

Trails from the Loj or the Garden are more likely to be broken. Have never been up from Elk Lake but I am assuming it sees less traffic.
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Postby jrbrenvt » Tue Jan 12, 2010 3:23 pm

Are you and your group experienced winter travelers on other peaks ?

I hiked Marcy last February or March on snowshoes from ADK Loj via the most direct route (Van Hoevenberg trail). Conditions were ideal that day, trail was broken and skies were blue bird, although there was a crust of ice on top of very hard packed snow above treeline making crampons very helpful).
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It was in many ways easier then summer, it took about 8 hours & change RT from the Loj. My guess is this is always the easiest route.

Also from the Loj you have option of going by Avalanche camps & pass, Lake Arnold and approach via Feldspar brook to Lake Tear. I would guess this is the next easiest? Given this is the easiest access to Gray and Skylight, I would guess there is a good chance that this trail would be broken if a weekend has passed since the last dumping of snow. I hiked Colden about 1 week before my Marcy hike last year and the trail was broken all the way to Lake Arnold. I did not check or recall if it was broken beyond that as I turned on the main trail up Colden.

Then there is the approach from the garden. This is longer but I know the trail is well broken out at least to John's Brook Lodge, very popular camping around that area with numerous other popular peaks to attempt with a base camp there.

Elk Lake approach seems to me like it would be a real back country adventure, as it is really long even in summer. I have never been back there in the winter, my guess would be you would be breaking trail most of the way. I would be impressed by a group that could do this in 2 days. I would not recommend this unless your group has allot of winter back country experience and are in really good physical shape, I find trail breaking several times harder & slower then walking on a broken trail. Hopefully some with experience in this area in winter can give better info on it.

So if it were me, being pretty lazy, and not really a solitude seeker, I would take the the most direct route from the Loj. But it would depend on my and my group's objectives.

Sorry for rambling, hope this helps.
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Postby triyoda » Wed Jan 13, 2010 3:40 am

I was just up over Lake Arnold to Tear in the clouds on Saturday. The trail was broken to Tear in the Clouds, but this is a pretty long way to do Marcy. I generally walk pretty fast (6 hours or less roundtrip for Marcy from the Loj) and it was 6.5 hours round trip just to Tear in the Clouds via Arnold and then back via Lake Colden/Avalanche Lake and I did not do any peaks (I started late and it was cold so I did not do Gray, Marcy or Skylight).

I would just stick to the regular route you are already planning for Marcy. If your group is strong it would be cool to go the long way and bag Gray on the backside of Marcy, but conditions on the back side of Marcy can be highly variable (icy/steep) in winter so be prepared.
Last edited by triyoda on Fri Feb 05, 2010 4:39 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Catskillhiker » Thu Jan 14, 2010 3:53 am

Cut Across Elk Lake? thats private land, so i wouldn't try that, and i would say the vanholvenberger trail from the lodge would be the best, panther george probly would be a little hairy this time of the year
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Postby PackLightPaul » Thu Jan 14, 2010 6:00 pm

Thanks for the info everyone. I think we'll stick to the ADK, to Marcy dam, to summit route. Dont want to end up in the newpaper doing something stupid...if you know what I mean.
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Postby EastcoastMike » Thu Jan 14, 2010 8:47 pm

PackLightPaul wrote:Thanks for the info everyone. I think we'll stick to the ADK, to Marcy dam, to summit route. Dont want to end up in the newpaper doing something stupid...if you know what I mean.


I don't think you'd end up in a newspaper, just tired, frustrated, and soaking wet from all that trail breaking!
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Postby hillman » Fri Jan 15, 2010 10:17 pm

Hiking from elk lake to panther gorge is a legal approach except when it closes for hunting season. You don't actually cross the lake, but head on the trail. I believe that trail starts right near the winter parking spot, but I could be wrong, I've never used that trail, just the one that heads in to slide brook leanto. Anyway, that trail probably doesn't see too much traffic in the winter and would be a true adventure, I bet it's cool out there in Winter.
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Van Hoevenberg

Postby CowHampshire » Mon Feb 08, 2010 2:49 pm

An oldie - but a goodie. Can never do that route too many times!

Loj, Marcy Dam, Indian Falls, Plateau, summit, and return. Direct, wind mostly at your back on the way up, and you can ski almost the entire way. On a good day you can grab Table Top on your way back - almost a straight line from Plateau.
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