Climbing Mt Marcy: New York’s Highest Peak

Climbing Mt Marcy: New York’s Highest Peak

Hiking has been a more recent love affair of mine, but there seems to be no end in sight. Even though I started off with small hikes, only a few hours each, I’ve started to take on more strenuous trails, lasting much longer than I knew I could do. Still, nothing prepared me for climbing Mt Marcy, New York’s highest peak, in the Adirondack Mountains.

Climbing Mt Marcy, New York's Highest Peak

While I knew Mt Marcy was the highest peak in New York and that the hike was 14.5 miles, I didn’t realize how taxing it would be on my body. Most people don’t do the entire hike in one day, instead camping overnight before hiking up to the top, but with limited time, we had no choice but to take it on in one day. We hired a guide and hoped for the best.

After a five hour drive upstate and four hours of sleep, we were up at 5:30am and at the Guide House to meet Spencer, our Adirondack Adventure guide. It was still dark out and there was a layer of snow on the ground, still, I barely had a clue of what the day had in store for us.

Climbing Mt Marcy, New York's Highest Peak

Spencer got us outfitted and ready for our hike. I traded in my adorable pink Camelbak bag, for a larger red backpack that had room to hold our snowshoes – another activity I had hoped to try this winter. We put on our mountaineering boots, bundled up, and were on our way before 7:00am.

Climbing Mt Marcy, New York's Highest Peak

We drove a few miles to the parking lot, and the sun started to come up. We put on our microspikes, which would keep us from slipping on the snow, and began our hike. Even as we walked into the woods, I had no real concept of what we were about to do. At this point, I knew it would be hard, but I didn’t fully grasp just how difficult it would be. But, it was exhilarating; this journey that we were embarking on.

At first, it was beautiful, unlike anywhere else I had previously hiked. There was much more snow and the trees were the tallest I’ve hiked in between. We talked and hiked and hiked and hiked, and most of it was quite like the hiking we were used to. I felt completely in touch with nature in the quiet woods; it was nice to be away from civilization for a few hours.

Climbing Mt Marcy, New York's Highest Peak

After a few miles, we traded our microspikes for our snowshoes. I was so excited for this new experience, until I realized how difficult snowshoeing actually was. Sure, it made walking on the snowy terrain easier, but with each step the pain in my thighs got worse, and I began to realize how out of shape I actually was.

Climbing Mt Marcy, New York's Highest Peak

Photo Credit: Spencer

We stopped occasionally along the way, eating snacks and making sure we were hydrated. But, with the cold weather, we made sure not to stop for long, not wanting to get too cold. For most of the hike, we wore just our sweaters, no heavy jackets, because it was so warm, but as we reached the summit, the snow began to fall, and we bundled up again.

Climbing Mt Marcy, New York's Highest Peak

Finally, the top of the mountain was in view, and it looked further away than ever, but Spencer assured us, it was closer than we thought. At that point, all I could think about was taking off the snowshoes I so deeply detested.

Climbing Mt Marcy, New York's Highest Peak

Photo Credit: Spencer

Eventually, we made our way up enough where we decided to switch to our crampons. As easy as the hike had been until there, aside from the pain in my thighs, nothing had prepared me for what was to come.

Climbing Mt Marcy, New York's Highest Peak

As soon as we started toward the summit everything changed. The snow and wind picked up, and I made a remark about the cute baby trees, only for Spencer to tell me that those were actually the tops of tall trees buried in snow. He also informed us that we’d have to be careful to stick to the trail, just so we wouldn’t risk falling down any areas that had open pockets that weren’t full of packed snow.

This is where my anxiety kicked in. What if someone fell into the snow, never to be seen again? It was also the moment I was grateful we had Spencer. Not only was he great company, but he’d make sure we were safe.

Climbing Mt Marcy, New York's Highest Peak

Photo Credit: Spencer

The further we climbed, the scarier it got. There were white-out conditions and we were walking on pure ice and rock. I was grateful for my hiking poles, and prayed that they’d be able to get me up.

Climbing Mt Marcy, New York's Highest Peak

I no longer felt that I was in New York, it looked nothing like New York. Instead it looked like Antarctica, or what Everest must be like. Each step hurt my body, the wind stung my face, and there was a point where I stopped and couldn’t possibly fathom how I’d make it down the mountain, let alone up it. But, Jeff helped me through it, and told me not to worry, but just to follow Spencer.

Climbing Mt Marcy, New York's Highest Peak

Photo Credit: Spencer

I embraced my discomfort and knew that the top wasn’t much further off. I put one foot in front of the other, sometimes counting my steps to distract my brain from wandering into some dark place. I could do this, I could make it to the top, nothing bad was going to happen to us, and nothing bad did.

It was as Spencer had said, earlier in the hike, it feels like the summit is never going to be there, and then all of a sudden, there it is. And, there it was, the plaque that told us we had reached the summit. I almost couldn’t believe it; never in a million years did I believe I was capable of something like this.

Climbing Mt Marcy, New York's Highest Peak

But, still after reaching the plaque, we had to walk just a little further to reach the actual summit, and when we got there an enormous sense of accomplishment swept over me. All my previous worries washed away, and I couldn’t believe that there I was, standing over all the Adirondack Mountains, high above it all at 5,344 feet, on the highest peak in New York state.

Climbing Mt Marcy, New York's Highest Peak

Sure, we still had a long hike down, one that would require much strength and endurance, but what mattered at the moment was that we made it up to the top. Of course, the view was covered in clouds, but as we slowly made our way down the mountain, the skies began to clear just long enough for us to see the beauty that surrounded us. It was one of the most impressive views of my lifetime, and while a photo doesn’t quite capture its beauty, you can at least get a hint.

Climbing Mt Marcy, New York's Highest Peak

Photo Credit: Spencer.

Eventually, we made it off the mountain before dark, as difficult a journey as it was, and in total our hike took 12 hours and we walked a total of 14.5 miles. It was a strenuous hike that took all of my mental and physical capabilities, and even though afterwards, I vowed never to do another difficult hike again, I’m already ready for my next big adventure. There’s just something about being high above it all that gives you a whole new perspective on life, and it’s completely exhilarating and addicting.

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Comments (29)

  1. Spencer Morrissey

    Thank you both for a great day. I had a blast and hope to see you both again real soon.

    1. The World Wanderer

      Thank you, Spencer! You really made the experience for us. ๐Ÿ™‚ We will be seeing you again for sure!

  2. Anita Mac

    Sounds like an incredible day! I have only hiked Mt Marcy in the summer…your experience sounds far more challenging! I think I may have to put this into my memory bank for next winter….afterall, I just started snow shoeing this year and would relish the challenges of Marcy! Think I will take your advice and use a guide though….great tip!

    1. The World Wanderer

      Thanks, Anita! It really was amazing, and I’d highly suggest it. The guide we had was amazing and very affordable, it’s very smart to hire one. I can’t wait to read all about your experience.

      Now, I must do Marcy in the summer! I’m sure it’ll be entirely different.

  3. Tawny of Captain and Clark

    Congratulations!!! That sounds like quite the feat and you should be SO proud of yourself. The longest day hike I’ve done was 12 miles and that was in beautiful weather conditions, not snow. I can’t imagine being cold and in crampons.

    1. The World Wanderer

      Thank you! It was so difficult, but now that it’s over, I am so glad I did it. ๐Ÿ™‚ 12 miles on a beautiful day sounds so nice right about now!

  4. Raul (@ilivetotravel in Twitter)

    What an adventure! I think I would have worried too about pockets under the snow! I can’t believe you didn’t practice with snowshoes ahead of the hike – very daring! I can totally relate to your feeling at the summit – when one has conquered the physical and mental challenges – congrats!!

    1. The World Wanderer

      It really was! See why I love reading about your Kili experience! ๐Ÿ™‚ I can’t wait to eventually take it on! For now, maybe I’ll stick to mountains that don’t have snow. ๐Ÿ™‚

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  6. Kieu ~ GQ trippin

    That’s New York??! Lol.. you already know how I feel about hiking but so proud of you for doing.. and in that snow.. curazyyyyyyy! Congrats!

    1. The World Wanderer

      Yes, I know!!! I still don’t know how I did it, lol. Thanks!!!

  7. @mrsoaroundworld

    I am really enjoying your “travel at home” adventures, Erin! I think you should be really proud – it is a serious hike for Mrs O!

    1. The World Wanderer

      Thanks, Ana! I didn’t even know there was so much to do here, but I keep finding things!

  8. lola

    you are far more brave than i! i think i will set challenges for myself like staying in warm 3 star hotels instead of 5 stars. hahaha. i’m proud of you Erin.

    xo – lola

    1. The World Wanderer

      Haha, I like your challenge, Lola! xx

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  11. Jolene

    Congrats! What an accomplishment. I am planning to hike Marcy this summer for the first time. I can’t say that I am ready yet, I’ve been trying to work in long walks this spring, and not that the weather is getting better here I’ll be turning those walks into hikes. I am a little nervous. Actually, more than a little nervous. I’ve never done anything like this before! I can’t even imagine going up in the snow. EEK.
    Anyways, glad to have found your blog! Very interesting!
    Jolene

    1. The World Wanderer

      Thanks so much, Jolene! It was definitely an accomplishment. I was relatively ready, but had no idea what was in store for me. Either way, I’m so proud I was able to do it. I’d like to go back in the summer one year and try it without the snow. ๐Ÿ™‚

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  17. pragati

    This sounds like quite a test of endurance..esp in all that snow and cold.
    Awesome!!!!

    1. The World Wanderer

      It was, but so worth it. Thanks! ๐Ÿ™‚

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