Mt Marcy via the Van Hoevenberg - 1 day

Mt Marcy via the Van Hoevenberg - 1 day

Page Type Page Type: Trip Report
Date Date Climbed/Hiked: Jun 21, 2008
Activities Activities: Hiking
Seasons Season: Spring

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.


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Viewing: 1-5 of 5

maddie77777 - Jun 23, 2008 3:45 pm - Voted 10/10


Thanks for the report. I'm headed out there end of July to hit highpoints of VT, NH, and hopefully NY as well. How good of shape would you say you are in? My wife and I are relative newbies to climbing, and while we did 3000 ft of elevation gain in 5 miles, it was rough. I'm just wondering if we could manage a 15 mile round trip.


Chinigo - Jun 24, 2008 9:24 am - Hasn't voted

Re: Great!

And - thank you for the comment! I think by the end of July you will have passed blackfly season - though there will be other bugs, of course.

Regarding fitness: I am in OK shape, not as fit as I would like to be but getting there. I lived in Michigan for almost 9 yrs before moving to NJ in April. Michigan is a nice place, but there are no mountains - so I did not care to hike as much. Since I returned to the East, I have hit a trail almost every weekend and pushed myself. So far I have lost 5 lbs, and I'm feeling better. I can tell my lung function has improved as well.

It sounds like you can do the elevation, but was that 5 miles up and then 5 miles back going down the same way? Down can be punishing! Here are my thoughts:
- Can you do 15 miles on relatively flat trails? If you can't, then you can't combine 15 miles with a climb and descent.
- What order and how are you going to do the peaks? For NH, you can drive, ride the Cog Railway, or climb. For VT, it's not such a long climb - I'm not sure if the toll road is open. What I'm getting at is that you need to make sure you have enough energy to do Marcy.
- Be sure to bring gear in case the weather turns cold. It can snow up there anytime.
- Start early in the morning so that you have daylight throughout.
- Trekking poles will allow you to use your upper body to climb, will help your knees, and stabilize your balance. My suggestion is to buy a pair of lightweight, variable extension poles for each of you.
- Finally, be willing to turn back. It's VERY hard to stop once you start, but you can always come back to the mountain - it will still be there.


EastKing - Jun 24, 2008 2:48 am - Voted 10/10

Good trip report

This is a very good trip report. Did you get any photos? When I go back to visit the East I will probably tag this peak. It eats me alive that I never have climbed Marcy, but it will have to wait because Baker and Rainier are far more important to me. I have Rainier staring me in the face everyday and it eats me alive that I am not on top of it!


Chinigo - Jun 24, 2008 9:30 am - Hasn't voted

Re: Good trip report

Thanks for the reply. Sorry, no photos. The main reason is that I haven't bought a new home computer yet to attach a camera to.

Rainier is a beautiful mountain - I saw it in person for the first time last year when I was out that way. I'd like to climb it, but that's not going to be possible for me this year.


maddie77777 - Jun 24, 2008 10:32 am - Voted 10/10


Our trip up Cold Mountain in NC was 5.1 each way, and yes, my knees were barking near the end of the way down, but we did it. We made some mistakes on that hike that we won't make again, so I think we could handle the length of the trip. But who knows, we haven't tried it. We'll be climbing up Mansfield and Washington, for sure.

Viewing: 1-5 of 5