Colden for 46

Colden's false summit

Colden’s false summit

I expected to feel differently when my alarm went off at 4:45 on Saturday morning at the Keene Valley Hostel, an early rise to hike my 46th and final high peak – Colden. I had a couple of moments on Friday afternoon where I felt like a kid on Christmas Eve about the beautiful weekend weather forecast (sunny and 0% chance of rain), the fall colors just starting to pop, and the realization of my goal, all to be converging the following day. On Saturday I felt like I was getting up for just another hike, though I was looking forward to hiking with a great group of gals and starting from the Loj trailhead for the first time this year. I love the view as you turn onto the Adirondack Loj Road from Route 73, and dawn was just beginning to lighten the dark sky as we made the turn, illuminating puffs of fog against the monochrome backdrop of peaks and forest.

We arrived at the trailhead sometime before 6:30 and the main lots were already nearly full; looked like word had gotten out about the glorious weekend of sunny fall weather for which we were in store. It took me awhile to tape up my feet, as my boot issues continue on, and we signed the register on the old Marcy Dam trail near the Loj campground at about 7:15 a.m. We strolled to Marcy Dam along the old trail from the Loj campground, which was mostly level through a bed of colorful autumn leaves – an easy warm up for a day in the woods.

The walk in to Lake Arnold from the dam was easy to moderate with a thousand or so feet of elevation gain over mostly rock. There was mud on this hike, mostly in the second half beginning near Lake Arnold, but it wasn’t nearly as sloggy as I’d expected. Turning onto the trail toward Colden’s summit at Lake Arnold I fondly remembered my hike last year to Marcy, Skylight and Gray, and wished we could have continued on the Feldspar trail for awhile longer. That stretch between Lake Arnold and the Feldspar Brook is one of my favorite places.

The L. Morgan Porter trail to Colden, the Lake Arnold approach to the summit, is lovely. It begins in a birch stand near the lake and continues up, alternating flat sections with steep sections. There was minimal scrambling as you approached the false summit. I’ve heard many tales of folks having to re-hike Colden to count it toward their 46 thinking they’d summited when reaching the false summit, and I could easily see how that could happen. It’s near the top of the list in terms of beautiful Adirondack summits, with fabulous views of Marcy and the Macs, parts of the Great Range… even Heart Lake gleaming at us from the Loj, miles in the distance. We lingered for awhile there before finally moving along.

At approximately 11:40 a.m. I stepped onto the true summit of Colden to friendly cheers from my companions. We celebrated on a ledge near the summit rock with a Jameson toast and enjoyed delicious fudgey brownies, cranberry bread and other treats offered by my hiking mates. We offered celebratory shots to a handful of others who stumbled upon our “party”, and instead of meeting folks from upstate NY or Canada, per the norm, I met two parties from Boston and two from VT – a coincidence I found serendipitous. We lingered for a good hour and a half, relaxing and soaking in the views.

Eventually we decided to get a move-on. Despite the summit celebration, I knew I hadn’t officially completed my 46th climb until reaching the bottom, and wouldn’t consider it done until I was signing out of the register. Initially I had wanted to approach this climb from the steep Lake Colden side, which would have taken us through Avalanche Pass and up a very eroded, steep ledgy trail to the summit, with a descent down the more gradual Lake Arnold side. In the end, though, I decided that what I wanted most of all for my finish was an easy, shorter day in contrast to the majority of my climbs this year. The realization of my 46er goal does not mean an end to hiking for me; only an end to planning my hikes around a list. I’ll be back to see this route, and will see Avalanche Pass even sooner when I visit the lean-to I adopted near Flowed Lands.

We kept a good pace on the return and reached the Loj before 5:30.  My hiking buddies very kindly bought me mementos at the HPIC while I had stepped into the restroom, presenting me with a Mt. Colden patch and a shot glass featuring a view of Heart Lake.

When I set out to climb the high peaks, I didn’t even know for sure that it was within my means to achieve. It seemed more like an overly ambitious pipe dream, but gave me something challenging and enjoyable to focus on and work toward while I dealt with job-hunting in a lousy market and relocating from Boston. When I completed my first long hike of the Marcy-Skylight-Gray loop, at around 18 miles, I started to finally believe that I could actually do it. And now that I’ve hiked all 46, I can reflect fondly back on the past 1 1/2 years and recognize all of the ways that aspiring to hike the 46 has enriched my life: the reconnection with nature and sense of peacefulness the woods bestow on all who spend time in them; the sense of community I’ve discovered and friends I’ve made via High Peaks Meetups, the Adirondack Mountain Club, and the ADKHighPeaks online forum; the opportunity to face and overcome challenges that would make me a stronger hiker and outdoorswoman; the rediscovery of these particular mountains that I admired so much from a distance as a child, and have grown to love so deeply and personally as an adult. Succeeding in climbing them has gifted me with confidence and a certain sense of freedom and self-reliance that I’m pretty sure I didn’t possess a couple of years ago.

One of the most surprising things I’ve learned through this experience is that climbing the Adirondack High Peaks is as much of a mental challenge as it is a physical one. When you’ve been walking on painful blisters over many miles for hours, or if facing a 6-mile hike out at the end of a long day when you’re certain you cannot take another step, it becomes a test of perseverance and determination over athletic ability. To climb mountains regularly you need to possess both a certain level of fitness and the ability to persevere in the face of adversity or challenge, or be willing to develop and refine these skills as you gain experience. I have learned these things and much more, along the way.

Favorite mountains:

Haystack, Rocky Peak, Marcy

Most challenging:

Cliff, Allen, Couch

Favorite views:

Looking back at Saddleback, from the Gothics cable route;

climbing up the steep side of Marcy, seeing the summit above you;

the sight of Rocky through the trees as you are descending Giant;

Rainbow Falls.

Thanks for reading. ❤

old Marcy Dam trail

old Marcy Dam trail

Colden from Marcy dam area

Colden from Marcy dam area

Marcy Dam

Marcy Dam

Bottom of trail to Colden, near Lake Arnold

Bottom of trail to Colden, near Lake Arnold

Scramble below false summit

Scramble below false summit

Brightly colored moss and alpine vegetation

Brightly colored moss and alpine vegetation

Approaching false summit

Approaching false summit

View from false summit

View from false summit

On false summit

On false summit

Arrival on real summit: 11:40 a.m.

Arrival on real summit: 11:40 a.m.

Where a summit marker once was

Where a summit marker once was

Jameson toasts on summit

Jameson toasts on summit, admiring the gorgeous view of Algonquin and the Macs.

Impressive view of slide

Impressive view of slide

Lake Arnold, on the way back

Lake Arnold, on the way back

Nearing Avalanche Pass trail, just beyond Lake  Arnold

Nearing Avalanche Pass trail, just beyond Lake
Arnold

Almost back to Marcy dam - beautiful fall colors

Almost back to Marcy dam – beautiful fall colors

#46... check!

#46… check! 🙂

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26 thoughts on “Colden for 46

  1. Congratulations, Pru- well done latest 46’er!! You should be proud of yourself and you did it in 2 years! That’s dedication! Save some of that Jameson & I’ll save some of my felicitations so we can party on them at a later date. 😉 I know you slept well last night but what to do now? -No more peaks 😦

    • Thanks Karen! I think I’ll manage to find things to keep me busy… like hiking Noonmark, and Pyramid, and re-visiting Rainbow Falls. And exploring some of the passes (Avalanche, Cold Brook, Iroquois). And… perhaps hiking some of the Presidentials in the Whites next summer. But all this will happen after my feet enjoy a nice long break, and I find a pair of boots that fit me. 🙂

  2. Congratulations on completing the 46! It’s a great accomplishment, and in such a short time. Beautiful pics – you couldn’t have had a nicer day for this hike.

  3. Congratulations (again!) on completing your 46! I just finished reading this TR, esp the last two paragraphs. I’m glad that despite the challenges faced, you persevered. The ADK High Peaks are some of the most rugged in the country. If you can tackle them, you can tackle others such as the Catskills, Whites of NH, and Maine High Peaks – even the CO14ers.

    I wish you all the best in your future endeavors!

  4. Congratulations on this awesome accomplishment!!! You are now an official 46er… Love all the pics especially you signing out and your boots. Your head must still be in the clouds. You did it Pru, much admiration!

    • Thanks, Suzanne! And thank you for following along; I’ve appreciated your comments and good wishes. Hope to see you perhaps next summer at the Loj, or do get in touch if you have any plans to head up to VT this winter. 🙂

  5. Not sure if you are still reading comments now and then — Congratulations on your big accomplishment!! I’m enjoying reading all your posts and great photos, I especially like the last one of the muddy shoes:) – Ginette

  6. I am just starting my ADK 46. Your blog is such an inspiration. Better than any guidebookds I have seen. I’ll be checking back often. Happy Climbing.

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