Intro - travel to Mt Marcy from NJ
I had checked the weather forecast for June 21 and it looked reasonably good for the Adirondack High Peaks, so my plan to hike to the summit of Mount Marcy was a go. After a few hours sleep Friday night, I got up and left at 1:30 am for the drive. From my starting location in NJ, it took slightly more than 5 hours to reach the Adirondack Loj at Heart Lake. This was my first time in this area, so it was totally unfamiliar territory. However, there were lots of people also starting or already on the trail, so although I was going solo, I wasn't alone. One couple asked me if I had bug spray - which I did - they said I would need it - I had already put it on and had the bottle in my pack.
This would be my longest distance climb (7+ miles up, almost 15 miles round trip) ever, though I had done a hike of greater than 3,500 ft change in elevation a few weeks before in NH.
Initial hike to Indian Falls
(See the "High Peaks Region" guide, 13th ed, from the ADK as a reference - this is where I get the trail mileages.
By 6:55 am I had signed the trail register. Temperature was cool, but as I started hiking I quickly warmed up and took off my jacket. The first 2+ miles to Marcy Dam went by quickly - in an hour or so. However, it also became obvious that water and mud were going to be the theme for this day. Fortunately, the ADK has put down a lot of wood planks and bridges, and filled in sections with small logs and branches.
The view from the dam was very nice. After passing the dam, the trail up to Indian Falls was generally a moderate climb - not too difficult as I didn't feel the need to stop and rest very much. There was one memorable section of exposed rock trail that seemed to last a long time. The 4-way junction (3.6 mi) where the VH turns right is where the trail gets noticeably more steep and rocky. It this section there are more rocks and tree roots - and it continued to be wet and muddy.
I took the very short detour to Indian Falls, which was well worth the effort. This is truly an excellent view! The strong breeze was chilly, and as I returned to the trail I discovered that the blackflies were out (and hungry). This required me to put on some more bug spray.
To the summit
From Indian Falls it seemed relatively easy to get to the 1.2 miles to go to the summit sign, except for the water and mud (of course). At this point I was pretty tired but determined to reach the summit. After the 0.6 miles to go sign is (I believe) where you cross the bog on planks - at this time the bog was full of water so the planks submerged with each step. Then, it gets steep on the rocks, which were slippery due to the water and lichen. Water continued to run down the trail until the last 0.2 miles or so. Finally, I was able to get the energy to make the final push to the top. Time of ascent: 4 hrs, 10 mins - for me that was good.
The view was nice (though limited by clouds) when I arrived, but quickly deteriorated further. All of us at the summit noted the rain approaching quickly. So, I looked around for a few minutes, and as the rain started I pulled out my rain poncho, put it on and left quickly. Time at top: 10 minutes at most.
I had decided during the trip up to return the same way.
The rocks were extremely slippery and even with trekking poles I had difficulty. However, I was able to get through the steepest part in the rain without injury. Water was running down the trail at all times.
The rain stopped several times and I was able to take off the poncho - in all I put it on 4 times during the descent.
The slope and terrain are not that difficult to descend on, but it is the length of the trail which is the challenge. The trail seemed to go on forever! Finally I made it back to the trail register and signed out, saw the Loj and my car! Total time 8 hrs, 20 mins.
Wrap up and lessons learned
This climb pushed my current limits. As I write this (on Monday, the 23rd), I still ache from the physical exertion. ~15 miles was as far as I could have gone. I'm glad I did it but I hurt today.
- Water drank: 2.5 liters - did not come close to running out
- Bug spray was necessary
- Clothing was adequate (zip off hiking pants, synthetic shirt, Capilene underwear, wool socks, synthetic jacket, baseball cap) - I had an extra overshirt, gloves, headband that I did not need.
- Boots were fine but not waterproof enough - I should have taken the advice and worn gaiters. My feet were wet - wool socks were absolutely necessary here and that saved my feet.
- Trekking poles were necessary (for me)
The trail is eroded, the ADK does a fine job but this trail requires a heroic amount of maintenance, I'm sure. Some of the planks and logs are falling apart. One of the other hikers I met said this trail is always wet, no matter the season.
I slept in my car for an hour before I was ready to drive.
It was a good day to be outdoors, even with the rain. This hike fulfilled my need for a challenge.