Day two out in the Adirondack mountains and we had just finished summiting Mount Marcy, The tallest peak in New York. We are making our way back to camp and are faced with the choice of which trail to take home.
Heading east yet again back to our campsite, the trail up Mount Colden also took us a bit North. This particular trail led us to our campsite from the opposite direction from which we came the day prior.
Following the trail up Mount Colden, the second wind of exhilaration from scrambling down Mount Marcy quickly wore off. Before we knew it we were back into the wet, snowy trails of the elevated mountains. It was late in the day, around 4 p.m., and we had only about 4 hours of sunlight left when we just hit the base of Colden; not exactly where you want to be when you’re out tackling mountains.
We passed a couple of military guys camped along the trail at the base of the mountain and traded some salutations. I could tell by the look on their faces that they were a bit surprised we were attempting a climb so late in the evening, and they were probably right. And when military personnel are thinking you’re crazy, that’s not a good sign.
Eventually the wet and snowy trail gave way to the steep, slippery trails that lay on the mountain face. We threw our crampons back on for old times sake and began our ascent. With wet boots and sweat drenched clothes, tired legs and aching feet, I became numb to the sensation of our hike. I shut off the mental commentary and was solely focused on a single step at a time--thinking about getting to the peak or to a campsite only clouded my mind with doubt.
I know I was truly tired and overworked when I began to kid myself into believing that we were nearly at the top with every plateau that we breached. We kept climbing and climbing and everytime we hit a flat section, I thought this is it: We are surely at the top this time! Every time that thought was proved to be wrong when we walked a bit further and saw that the peak was just out of reach.
The trail we were on even took us to a small clearing that resembles the peak. My friends and I each were convinced we had made it, yet the trail continued upwards. Luckily it wasn’t too long after the false peak when we were actually at the top. I was in disbelief at first when we finally got there--it felt surreal. We took a minute to relax but we tried not to get too comfortable, we knew we had to quickly prepare for our descent down the other side back to camp.
There wasn't too much room to explore the peak anyways, aside from looking for the trail’s clearing, but the view was absolutely beautiful. We sat for a minute to take it all in, watching the sun sink beneath the mountains. Seeing the sun fall behind these great mountains was well worth the hike itself.
Making our way back down the other face, we had less than two miles to camp. Allowing myself to think again, this notion brought some energy as we made our way down. Thankfully there wasn't too much snow or mud on the trail down, the trail was mostly rock face with the exception of a stream running down.
All the snowfall from the peak seemed to be draining down the trail. It was easier to navigate than the slippery snow laden trails, but the stream made our boots heavy with water weight. Walking down a steep rock face and a couple flights of dangerous stairs similar to the ones we faced on our hike in, we made it back down to the base of the mountain.
After our descent we had about half mile hiking along the river's edge remaining before our long anticipated arrival at camp. At this point we were almost completely out of daylight and it was getting difficult to safely make our way along the water’s edge. I alway bring a flashlight in my day pack on hikes like this just in case, but of course this would be one of the few times that I didn't.
I was beginning to get nervous: it would be nearly impossible to follow trail markers at night without lights, the temperature was dropping quickly and I was really starting to feel the soreness of my body, all of which added to my anxiety. Thankfully we were not in the dark for long before my night vision kicked in and helped us safely navigate back to camp. It was a reminder of how truly amazing the human body is in adapting and overcoming challenges.
Finally we arrived back to camp and each of us collapsed. Hungry and dehydrated, we collected water from the nearby river and wolfed down thick peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Trying to find a place to get comfortable was easy. Sitting just about anywhere and taking off my soaked boots and socks was a huge relief. To no one’s surprise I was hungry again in no time, and so we boiled up some water and rehydrated my dinner for the evening. A warm meal brought me back to life, relieving my slight headache, bringing life to my tired feet and giving me just enough energy to make my way to my tent and rest for the night.
It was so nice to lay down. As we laid there, the guys and I began calculating and estimating the miles we hiked and the total elevation we climbed between the two mountains: just under 20 miles of hiking and about 8,000 ft. combined elevation, I was staggered with the trip we did. My fatigue made total sense.
Despite how tired I was, it was a bit tough falling asleep as my tight and achy muscles began to cramp. Thankfully it subsided after some stretching and readjusting and I was finally able to get some much needed rest. For reasons I don’t understand, I woke up the next day without soreness. We had our usual oatmeal and fruit for breakfast, and after that breaking down camp was smooth.
Our hike back to the cars was fun. I was thankful we didn't have to worry about any elevation as we navigated our way back along the river's edge, across multiple flights of those sketchy stairs. We found the perfect spot for a dip about a mile away from our cars. The water, consisting of melted snow from the peak, was absolutely freezing, but the cold therapy made me feel rejuvenated. We left the mountain range with a smile on our faces.