Marcy, Skylight and Gray
Trailhead: Adirondack Loj
Date of climb: July 6, 2012
#7: Gray, 4840 ft.
#4: Skylight, 4926 ft.
#1: Marcy, 5344 ft.
I completed my longest hike to date on Friday, the 18+ mile loop from the Loj of Gray, Skylight and Marcy. I hiked with a new friend and hiking buddy from the High Peaks Meetup. It was nice to share this journey with someone not only for the company and safety factor but also for the motivation – 18 miles and 3 summits is no easy feat. All 3 mountains are in the top 10 in height, including Marcy at #1, though the length of this hike was definitely where the biggest challenge lay.
I didn’t take as many photos this time around because I wanted to be able to keep a good pace. I took a handful during the hike itself and a few at each summit but I wish I had photos from every leg of the trip – I always notice that the most beautiful places are the most remote and hardest to reach, and that is something that always provides motivation to push onward. In this loop I fell in love with the stretch between Lake Arnold and the Feldspar Brook Trail in particular – the balsam forest and bright green vegetation gave it a mystical quality. I hope to walk through it again someday.
I did not particularly like Gray, which we climbed first. It is the tallest of the trailless peaks, though there’s a pretty distinct herd path to the summit. I’ve heard that it’s the easiest of the three, but I personally found it to be the most difficult. That might be because there were a few vertical rockface challenges that were daunting to someone who is only 5’2. I had a fall coming down from the summit that had the potential to be nasty and caught myself by looping my arm around a branch, which I luckily managed to do without hurting myself.
Skylight had a gorgeous bald summit; I’ve been hearing for ages about the views from this mountaintop. The alpine meadow just below the rocky peak definitely added to its charm. The hike up Skylight was straightforward and easy, just a half mile from the base, but rocky. Local legend dictates that one must bring a rock to the summit to add to the enormous cairn to ensure good weather for the rest of one’s hike, so we brought our rocks; after we placed them the sun peaked out from the clouds, which I took as a good sign from the mountain gods.
The Marcy summit was just .8 mile from the base of Skylight. We hiked up the steep side and WOW – the views! It was quite steep but not scary going up the open rocks – just awe-inspiring. It went on for quite a ways after we ascended the treeline and it took us a bit of time to reach the summit, though we could see it above us the whole time. It was exciting to finally be standing on the tallest point in New York State. And I’m glad we descended on the other side, which was much more gradual.
Much of this loop trail, especially the second half, was very rocky and hard on the feet. We picked up my least favorite trail for the last few miles – the Van Ho, which follows an old dried up river bed and is almost all rocks. I have several spots of numbness on my toes and feet that have not subsided even a day later. I’m hoping the feeling returns before next weekend, when I’m scheduled to hike Algonquin and Iroquois.