ADK 46 Challenge
8/27/2021 | 166.11 Trail | 4 days 22 hours 36 minutes
Ryan Clifford took on the relentless conditions of the Adirondack High Peaks to become a 46-R and complete his first-ever multi day ultra marathon.
RYAN'S WRITE UP & MORE
After just under 5 days in the Adirondacks, I can officially call myself a 46-R. Going into this challenge I knew that being able to complete this would be contingent on my support crew, and they truly went above and beyond. The whole point of doing this was to enjoy the beauty of the Adirondack High Peaks, see the area, and put some of those Boy Scouts' skills to the test. While I did not have as many pacers as I would have hoped for on a variety of legs, the special meal deliveries every day, driving to locations, readjusting of route starts, safety check-ins, and logistics coordination (to name a few) between my crew of Cody, John, and Matt was supreme. They truly kept me going especially when I was either physically and/or mentally not in it. They went through so many different challenges themselves from 3AM wake up calls, to sleeping in their cars at the Upperworks trailhead, to popping copious amounts of blisters, to 4,000’ climbs to deliver meals, to torrential rainstorms, to trail fatigue, and so much more over the course of these 5 grueling days. A simple thank you will never be enough.
Early on, we knew Day 1 was very important because of the number of peaks that were going to be covered as well as the sheer distance. The anticipated distance for the first day was supposed to be 41 miles, but as the day dragged on, it became clear that the finishing total was going to be closer to 45 miles. The views on the first day were immaculate, getting to see most of the peaks in the great range. Cloud coverage after 8AM was very minimal, so seeing across to the other peaks was breathtaking (and so were many of the climbs). The first 2 peaks that were hit were the jaws (Upper (5:54AM) & Lower Wolfjaw (7:01AM)). Both views didn't compare to the rest of the day but needed to be hit.
Armstrong was next up with a slight descent down, and steep ascent back up. Armstrong was summited at 7:37AM. A short skip away was Gothics which also wasn't too tough to get to. We summited Gothics at 8:06AM. From there, my pacer Matt waited atop Gothics, as I went down, and then back up for an out and back to Sawteeth. I made some pretty decent time, and the view from Sawteeth showed some pretty gnarly views of Gothics with some cloud coverage through it. Sawteeth was summited at 8:49AM. Back up to Gothics where Matt took an epic video of me with Pyramid Peak and Sawteeth in the background. After rejoining Matt, we literally scaled down the side of Gothics using rope, hoses, and cables that were attached to metal anchors on the side of the rock face. Some real sketchy operations to say the least.
It was then another ascent up to Saddleback where we met a gentleman who was enjoying a nice beer and bagel (we would later run into him as we descended Haystack). Saddleback was summited at 10:26AM. Down that and over to Basin at 11:20AM which overlooked Little Haystack, and Haystack. In the valley between Basin and Haystack, we resupplied our water for the first time using the Sawyer filtration system. Alyssa Godesky gave me the heads up early on that these ranges are beautiful but had little water supply until you made it towards Haystack. Matt and I knew this, so we conserved our water accordingly. After a well-needed water break, we were refocused and headed up the Haystacks. After summiting Little Haystack, we saw the steep rocky decline, slight navigation through the forest, and steep rocky climb to the top. Matt and I both looked at each other, and thought to ourselves, this is not going to be fun.
Inspiration was garnered once again as we passed a family with a little boy who was 9 years old that said they are on a quest to become a 46-R. We then descended Little Haystack on the wrong side and had to do a slight 3 minute bushwhack through the forest to get to the trail in the forest for Haystack. We got up it, made the ascent to the summit of Haystack at 1:11PM, looked across the open space, and I pointed to Marcy and told Matt, "that's where we are going next." After a few choice words, he and I were ready to go. We passed the family again, and Matt said, "if this kid can do these peaks, what is my excuse." Up to Marcy, we ran into many friendly hikers, and the trail was groomed quite nicely. There was a point where we were close to the top and a group told us that we were at least 30 minutes to the top. After spending so many days in the ADK's I have come to the conclusion that if I don't ask how long until the top, I don't want you to tell me. That is the way I choose to operate now. Period. Parts of the summit were pretty runnable, so Matt and I did a mix of running and power hiking to get to the summit.
It was a moment of Zen, knowing that we were at the highest point in the state of New York. Marcy was summited at 2:45PM. Here Matt and I had a picture of us snapped by a group of two young ladies that we would end up running into for the next 4 hours. Matt took a little more time atop Marcy, and I made my way down very fast down the trail to link up to the Elk Lake Marcy Trail. I was still at ~4,300' so the ascent to the top of Skylight wasn't too tough. I really gained momentum here, summiting Skylight at 3:23PM in 20 minutes, and back down a bit quicker. There I met up with the two young ladies again, where Matt was explaining to them about my goal to hit all 46 peaks in just a few days. They asked for my Strava, and said they were going to follow when they get back to service. I had a "are you Travis Keefe from Strava" moment, which felt good. Down the trail some more with Matt, and another quick water fuel with the stream that we needed to cross to get to Gray. Thank goodness a hiker passed us and headed up the trail to Gray, because if he did not, we would have missed it due to poor markings (it became evident early on that the least popular hikes in the ADK's were not marked at all). The climb up to the top was very quick and we summited Gray at 4:13PM, but for some reason getting down felt like an eternity. We didn't think much of it, because of the physical and mental fatigue of the day. We were also were quite confused because we never crossed paths with that hiker that went up Gray (and it was only an out and back).
At this point, we were back on the Elk Lake Marcy Trail heading to the Redfield/Cliff intersection. We both agreed that I would go up both peaks solo, and Matt would wait at the intersection. On a previous scouting trip, we went down Redfield, and knew what to expect, so I was quite confident heading up. I handed off the water filtration system to Matt, so when I got back to the bottom, I could have a full hydration pack. Nothing too eventful on the way up or down Redfield, but the view of Allen was serene and scary, knowing that I was going to one summiting that peak in the early morning hours of Saturday. Redfield was summited at 6:10PM. Refueled my water with Matt at the intersection, where he proceeded to tell me that he did some core to pass the time. Getting up to Cliff was annoying because when there was climbing, it was scaling the side of rocks (even though it was in the forest and not exposed). Marshes were also very prominent, making it even more frustrating to scale these "cliffs" with slippery shoes. I passed a group that saw me as I was ascending Redfield about an hour earlier on the way up to Cliff. What was annoying about this peak as well as how long it took to get from the false summit to the actual top, which provided no view. Cliff was summited at 7:23PM. Same fun on the way back down, where I had switched to my headlamp bandana set up.
At this point it was dark, and I had met up with Matt to head to the base of Colden lake where Cody had hot MRE's ready to go for us. We got there around 8:30PM where I had chicken fettuccini alfredo, a well-needed meal. It was also nice to see Cody, who had made friends with some hikers who were camping at the base of Colden lake. While Cody was waiting for us to arrive, he had told them about my aspiration to do all 46 peaks and the other antics I put myself through. The hiker related to me quite well because his wife does marathons and ultra-marathons, where he does century rides. It was great to be able to have this set of exchanges. Cody also refueled my water, alongside the hydration bladder in the back of my pack for the long night ahead. At this point, I was 26 miles in and thought I only had 15 miles left. Man was that a grave miscalculation.
Matt split off with Cody and headed back to the trailhead, where I went to the East River Trail to get to the cut-off to Allen. The issue with the Allen peak is there is only one trail in and out, and it is 19 miles altogether. If I went back to the car instead of heading out to all, I would be inevitably adding at least 6 extra miles to my journey to become a 46-R. It was a mentally tough journey heading out to Allen. I did run into Jason, who was trying to hike at least 39 of the peaks in 10 days, which was nice. It was a good quick exchange. He was looking for a campground to get a few hours of sleep when I passed him. This would be the last person that I would see for 7 hours plus. Time moved slowed, and so did I, hitting 30ish minute miles up towards Allen. When Matt and I scouted this trail out, we came to the conclusion that it was very tight in spots and could be easily lost if not paying attention. Eventually, I made it to the waterfall which is where I took my first break since leaving Matt and Cody. Here I was so exhausted that I closed my eyes for a few minutes just to mentally get a break.
I eventually got up and started the steep ascent up Allen which was tough to do at night. It was especially challenging with the red slime on the face of the rocks. I slipped down a few feet multiple times and took a few mental breaks on the way up. The summit of Allen was reached around 1AM and was very underwhelming. I knew what to expect on the way down, so with caution, I descended. After getting back to the waterfall, crossing the streams twice, and making my way back to the East River Trail intersection, I put some music in and jammed out to the country playlist I had downloaded previously. This section was somewhat runnable and modernly flat/downhill, so I was able to move at ~15-minute miles for the most part.
Not much thinking was going on at this point as my brain activity was very much so shot. I got to the point where I smashed my phone when I was with Matt on our scouting trip earlier in the month and paid extra careful attention to my foot placement as it was dark. The path after that was an old ATV trail of sorts and was able to be run on. I kept my poles out to keep balance, and eventually made my way back to the car at 5:15AM. There I saw other hikers who were about to go out and spend the day conquering Allen. They asked me how the trail was, and I replied that "it was the worst trail in the ADK's." I met up with Matt, Cody, and my Dad all in the parking lot who spent a number of hours sleeping in their cars. I hopped in my Dad's car and we made our way to Tupper Lake where our hotel was. After a nice hot shower, I changed my clothes and went to bed. With the hour of sleep in the car and the 3ish hours of sleep in the hotel, I probably had 4 hours of sleep total between day 1 and day 2.
We got up at 9AM, and I began shoving food into my system. With not being at this hotel again, we had to spend some extra time packing up and leaving. This was a bit frustrating but needed to be done because the road access to the Seward range was limited, and was a far drive no matter what, which was why we wanted to knock it out on the second day. I hopped in my Dad's car, and we made our way to the Ampersand Road Trailhead.
My Dad and I started at 10:44AM and headed up on the Blueberry Trail to the base of the Seward mountain range. These were some pretty fast miles, because of how flat the trail was. It was also nice being able to explain how day 1 went to my Dad and catch up despite only being away for a few days. The Blueberry trail was almost like a service road, and we were able to knock out 5 miles in just over an hour. Once we began our ascent up Seymour, our pace slowed to a power hike for the next mile, and then we were hands on knees, scaling up rock faces as well as grabbing roots and trees to pull ourselves up. We passed loads of groups on the way up, and my Dad kept asking how much longer until the top. At this point, I had come up with a strategy to know how much elevation was needed to be climbing and looked at my watch to calculate it in real-time, so I wouldn't have to go back and ask people. It was cool to exchange stories, however. We also met a dog named chewy on the way up, and I asked the group jokingly if they named it after the breakfast bar or the Star Wars character. They said the Star Wars characters, but we all had a good laugh which was nice.
Not the best view from the top, but around 1:20PM we summited Seymour. On the way back down, we passed a few groups that said we were flying, and my Dad had the opportunity to have many proud Dad moments telling everyone he could about what his son was attempting to do. We passed a group of two ladies that would later provide great insight on to what the best way down the rest of the Seward range was. Lunch was provided by Cody who hiked 5 miles in to provide chicken teriyaki for myself, as well as chicken fried rice for my Dad.
I left them at this point and headed up the Seward Mountain Trail to hit the rest of the Seward range. The first mile was actually really nice getting up, but the second mile of the trail before I hit Seward was a steep ascent. It was manageable as I kept my heart rate in check. I summited Seward at 4:28PM, Donaldson at 5:01PM, and then made my way towards Emmons. It was a few hundred feet drop, then a short flat section, and then a few hundred-foot climb to summit Emmons at 5:33PM. Nothing too special about this peak, and certainly only should be done if you are trying to become a 46-R. I did meet a couple atop Donaldson that asked what I was doing, and after giving them the whole spiel, thought it was pretty cool for what I was doing. They told me that they were trail runners and that most of the ADK's were not runnable. I agreed and said that I will see them on the way down.
The Calkins Brook Trail was a little steep at first, but after about a mile, I had a very decent pace which allowed me to make up some time. About 2 miles into the trail, I caught the couple once again, and they wished me luck on the rest of my adventure. I felt like I was on the highway with how fast I was going. I eventually made a right onto the Calkins Brook Truck Trail and kept the blazing pace. This trail intersected with the Blueberry trail once again, and I went back on it to make my way to the Ampersand Road Trailhead.
There I met up with Cody who fueled me up with snacks. He determined 3 separate options for being able to complete the challenge of the ADK's in under 5 days. All involved me running in the night, and at this point, I didn't care if I was eaten by a werewolf and was like let’s do it. We chatted for a bit, and then I fell asleep catching a few zzz's. It was a very light sleep as I had images of everything and anything running through my head so you may even be able to say that I was not asleep. Regardless, we stopped in Saranac Lake, and Cody grabbed some dinner for me and the crew. I had 1.5 slices of pizza, which was decent considering I had stomach issues for the afternoon. I later figured out that I have to keep eating during the day to keep my stomach open and to have the ability to process food. I corrected this for the rest of the days and ended up being fine.
We made our way to the Adirondack Loj, and I started for Street and Nye around 9:30PM. I listened to some music from my 24HR playlist. The navigation was pretty easy, and the first 2 miles were decently runnable. Wasted a few minutes navigating through a stream because of no markings, but then I was back up towards the next two peaks. Cody had insight from another group he befriended in the parking lot of Ampersand Road Trailhead that Street and Nye were a pebble throw away. It certainly did not feel like that at night but to each his own.
I hit Nye first at 11:07PM, but the last .5 to the summit was tough because of cloud coverage. The same was the case for Street, and the bright headlamp reflected very strongly against the clouds in the forest. Street was reached at 11:32PM, and then I made my way back down. At the Adirondack Loj where I started, I was met with Cody, Matt, and my Dad. There was also some guy in a full DC United soccer kit hanging out in the parking lot which was strange considering it was 1:30AM. After this, we caravanned to Lake Placid to the Roadway Inn, which is where we would stay the rest of the trip. I got to bed around 3AM.
We started the day at 8AM, and it was the John Clifford day, as he was on pacing duties once again. Matt still wasn't feeling 100% so this was probably the best call for me to be able to complete the remaining peaks the fastest. It was a long drive from Lake Placid to Newcomb but was imperative that we knock these peaks out since they were on the other side of the park. We left from the Trailhead at 10:48AM which was about a mile south of the East River Trailhead (where I finished day 1). The first 3 miles were very flat and runnable. Then it was onto power hiking and scaling up big boulders. My Dad was not as much of a fan of this as I. I also told him we would be passing the infamous bog, so anytime we got past a bog, he would say "here we are, at the infamous bog." Needless to say, that was said about 10 times before we summited Santanoni. I still am not sure why they called the trail to get to it Santa express, because there was nothing quick about it, and the only present we received was mud!
We summited Santanoni at 1:05PM and met a group of two guys from Peru. Both my Dad and I looked at each other oddly when they said that they were from Peru, but then explained that it was a little over an hour away. These two guys were neighbors and one of them was their first-ever peak. Not the best choice of first peaks if you ask me, but what do I know. They snapped a nice picture of my Dad and me, and then we headed out to Times Square. Ironic because we are from Long Island, and this is not the Times Square that you are thinking of. On the way out, we determined that my Dad would head to Panther, and I would split off and head to Couchachraga. Mud was the continued name of the game, as there were almost no dry spots. This was particularly interesting considering it hadn't rained in the ADK's in about a week, meaning that the whole Santanoni range is usually like this. I wouldn't want to check out the trails after a fresh rainfall.
It was a little way down, towards the infamous Couchachraga bog and then back up a few hundred feet to get to the peak. I saw a group of ladies coming up from the peak, and they joked saying that I would catch them on the way down. They weren't wrong. I passed another group and asked them how the bog was, and they said it wasn't too bad if I stayed to the left. This was similar to what all of the other reviews were saying in All Trails as well. It also rained on the way out. When I got to the bog, to my surprise it wasn't too bad, and I just stayed to the left as they had suggested. I summited Couchachraga at 2:41PM. It was a long 1.5-mile journey back to Times Square, and during that journey, I nicknamed the area between Couchachraga and Times Square as Couchachbograga. Clever, right?
When I hit Times Square again, I was met by a couple who said they were heading out to Couchy. A nickname I never heard of before but loved. I told them what I was doing, and they said more power to you. It was a short trip from Times Square to Panther, but the mud in between was worse than the infamous bog. Funny how that works, right? I had one of my legs actually completely submerged to the knee. I summited Panther at 3:40PM, and there was no view from the peak, but a couple of hundred feet before the peak was an opening where you could kind of see where Times Square was between the clouds.
The first mile down past Times Square down the Panther Brook Herd Path was a little slow, but after descending down the giant rocks, I really picked up the pace. I passed the group of women that said I would pass them along this path, and I was surprised I caught them so early because I had done almost 5 miles when they only did 1.5. A few minutes after passing them, I refueled my water in the stream. It was good to be fully loaded again. Once I made my way back onto the Bradley Pond Trail, I was quickly hitting 20-minute miles. Eventually, this intersected with Santa express, and I stayed on the Bradley Pond Trail.
I passed a man in maroon on this trail that looked really confused but didn't think much of it until I reached the runnable road about 2 miles out from the trailhead. That is where I met the two gentlemen from Peru and my Dad catching up with them and heading back. My Dad joined me, and we started at a decent running pace to get back to the trailhead. He told me that the man in the maroon was completely lost, and only saw my Dad because he also happened to make a wrong turn too. Thank goodness they ran into each other. We finished the Santanoni range at 5:41PM together. After cleaning ourselves off of mud, and getting things situated, we made our way to the base of Giant and Rocky.
It was about an hour's drive, and I took some more time to sleep. When we got to the base of the next two peaks, I began refueling my water and getting the rest of the pack prepared. Cody and Matt came whipping in with food about 10 minutes later. With my shirt still being damp from the rain near Couchy, I switched shirts back to the Strava shirt (Cody did laundry on day 3). I had a chicken bacon ranch sub for dinner, and oh my goodness did that hit the spot. It was like I tasted heaven. I ate that so quickly and felt like the energizer bunny after being plugged in to one of those e chargers for too long. The bottled Shirley temple was a nice touch as well.
I set off on the peaks at 7:11PM and enjoyed the climb quite a bit. It was very steep, which made it easy to get up. It also was very constant. As I reached one of the many lookouts, the sun was setting, and I saw Keene Valley in the background. It was one of the cooler parts of the adventure. Once the sun was completely set, it was back to headlamp mode. I hit Giant at 8:31PM, and it was completely in the clouds. If I come back to the ADK's, this is one of the hikes I would want to do. After a short turn-off, it was off to Rocky. It was steep several hundred-foot descents, some flatness, and then several hundred-foot ascents back to the top. I hit Rocky at 9:13PM, and then made my way back down to the junction and then back to the trailhead.
Matt met me about .4 from the car, but I already had so much momentum, so I didn't stay with him for much time at all. When I got back to the car at 11:05PM, I ate some chips, waited a few minutes for Matt, and we made our way back to the Roadway Inn. Following the same routine, I showered up, popped some blisters, and went to bed before 2:00AM.
The wake-up call for the fourth day was 6:00AM, as we knew that I would have my second longest day as I had 3 bushwhacks. It was very much a slow start, as I was hobbling a bit to avoid blister discomfort, and Cody had about a 15-minute moleskin job for me. After getting all of that situated, it was a short 25-minute drive past Keene Valley for the start beginning with Cascade and Porter. Unfortunately, we didn't get me out of the car until 7:29AM, because of the torrential downpour. After the rain slowed a bit, I was on my way.
Cascade was very easy to get to with a ~2,000' climb to the top in just over two miles. Lots of power hiking to get to the top but I reached the summit right at 8:33AM. No views with the cloud coverage, and at this point I was hoping that things would clear up because this was going to be the second-best day for views. I completely went past the summit of Porter because it was so underwhelming at 8:59AM. After this, I turned on my Garmin to load the routes on my GPS watch which included all of the bushwhacks. This was the longest bushwhack by far, coming in at 2 miles, but would save lots of distance so it was worth it.
There was also not too much elevation gain, so that was a plus. At first, I was blazing my own trail, but eventually, I picked up a path that was lightly traveled on and followed that all the way through to the brother’s trail. When I got back down the trail, I passed a mom and daughter from Plattsburgh and asked them where they were coming from. They said the Garden, which was a parking location many people were using for day 1 to get Saddleback, Basin, etc. The ascent up Bigslide was steep and had a few sections of ladders. I summited Bigslide at 11:27AM which was still very good timing. The climb down had spurts of rain and was on a trail that's definitely less traveled on because of how tight everything was. The one thing that bothered me here was the fact that I was already soaking wet and couldn't wear a poncho because I would overheat. Another thing that was annoying was the wet pine trees were hitting me and all the needles sticking to me.
Time moved slowly through this, but I eventually made it to the Klondike Notch Trail which was decently runnable. This took me to the Klondike Lean-to which is where Alyssa spent night 3 on her FKT journey. From here I bushwhacked to the top of Phelps, but this was the most common bushwhack probably in the entire Adirondack parks because it was such a defined path. Truthfully it was better than some of the of trails I had been on in the previous days. The sun was fully shining at this point, and I was drying off slowly but surely. Cody met me atop Phelps at 1:49PM and fed me Mac and Cheese. Man was that delicious! We chatted for a bit, and about 30 minutes later I was descending the opposite side of the mountain.
This section was much sketchier than the actual bushwhack to get to the top. On the way down I felt like I was overheating, so on the way to Tabletop I stopped at the stream and refilled my hydration bladder and two bottles. I also soaked my hat in water and that seemed to do the trick for cooling me off. The climb up to Tabletop was somewhat annoying because it was marshy and had a bunch of turns. I did see a family with two kids that said I should use my poles. This was the last group of people I saw until I finished the day. After getting past that it was a steep ascent in the forest on rock faces. From Phelps, you were actually able to see this path, and Cody said, "I hope you don't have to go up that." I told him that I sure I do, and sure enough, here I was. Tabletop was summited at 3:50PM, but not much was offered with the views.
The descent was nicer than the way up. It was a somewhat long way to get to Colden, and a lot of hiking because of how many rocks there were. I did take the opportunity to eat a lot of snacks which helped keep me going. Colden had a 1,100' ascent over 1.8 miles, so it wasn't too tough to get up. There were patches of stairs that made it a little more difficult, but the views at the top were some of the best for the entire adventure. Colden overlooked Marshall, Iroquois, Algonquin, and Wright, the final peaks that I would be hitting for the night. The descent dropped 2,000' to the base of Lake Colden and was very steep. Once I got down, I was along the Lake for .5, and it was tough to traverse between the quick ascents and descents. I hit the bottom tip of Lake Colden where Cody supplied Matt and me on Day 1 at 6:30PM.
From there I went along the Calamity Brook Trail until it intersected with the Herbert Brook Trail. Thank goodness I was looking at All Trails at this point because there were not any signs saying which way to go other than a pile of rocks. It gave me very similar vibes to Gray. The path was poorly marked to head up and was very tight like the descent off Bigslide. Once I made it to the top of Marshall at 7:39PM, I fueled up, readjusted everything in my pack, and switched to headlamp mode. I also had to make a decision if I wanted to do the Marshall to Iroquois bushwhack. Overall, it would save me 2.5 miles and close to an hour. However, if I did do this bushwhack, I would be out in the woods by myself and god forbid I got hurt, I would have to deal with the consequences.
I decided to just send it and do the bushwhack. It was a 900' climb over .5. From the research I had done, it looked that everyone did the bushwhack from Iroquois to Marshall, and not the other way around. That didn't stop me, and with my headlamp and GPS file loaded in my Garmin, I started scaling. For the first 20 minutes, I was slightly off the path because of the dense brush. But once I found the drainage path, I started scaling it. It was actually very serene doing this at night and worked out well because I could see where the path went next looking at the bits of dead pine tree branches. I mis navigated a few times of the drainage path but eventually made my way back. Once I made it to Shepard’s tooth, it was a quick ascent on the open rock face to the top.
I had done these peaks previously with Rachel, so I wasn't too disappointed to not see the views, but the cloud cover made it difficult to navigate. I summited Iroquois at 9:32PM, made my way past boundary peak, and hit Algonquin at 10:05PM. It was a lot shorter of a journey than I thought that I was going to have to make. But the cloud coverage may have skewed my perspective on that a bit. After a steep descent, it was onto Wright. I summited Wright at 11:02PM and gave Cody a head up as to when I thought that I would be finished.
I jammed out to the Mountaineer playlist as I made my way down the mountain, and at this point, I was emotionally and physically spent. Water was refueled one last time down the mountain, and I eventually got past the stone stepping and onto runnable terrain. I finished the day at the Adirondack Loj at 12:24AM. From there I was greeted by Cody who provided me with dinner which consisted of chicken tenders, corn, and mashed potatoes. I wasn't in the mood to eat because of how pissed I was from being alone and may have shared a few choice words with Cody. After eating on the move, we made it back to the hotel, and I showered and changed into the next day’s outfit. I went to bed by 2:00AM.
The last day started with an early wake up of 6:30AM, as we had an hour's drive to get to the base trailhead of Macomb. Also, at this point, Cody had about 20 minutes’ worth of patching for my blisters, and I wasn't moving very fast. This was also the first full day without Matt, and my Dad was on lunch delivery duty. I started at 8:41Am at the Elk Lake Trailhead and busted out the first 3 miles very quickly because of how runnable it was. The next mile was very steep with about a 2,000' ascent. I was also able to experience the famous Macomb rockslide. The view from the top which I hit at 10:14AM wasn't too special with the clouds moving all around, luckily it was a pretty quick descent and slight ascent up to South Dix.
I hit south Dix at 10:46AM. The clouds moved on, and I was able to see a nice view. From South Dix to Grace, I was able to pass a bunch of people and told them about my journey. Grace was summited at 11:19AM. The people hyped me up to keep going, and I carried that fire back to South Dix. On my way down from South Dix, the descent was very steep, and much can be said about the ascent with a 500' climb in .3. Hough was summited at 12:29PM, but after this summit, the day began to go downhill. It was awesome being able to summit and hit all of these peaks back-to-back, but with so many peaks in such a short amount f miles, the climbs were getting worse and worse.
Specifically, from Hough to Dix, was the worst part of my entire ADK experience. The Dix Range Trail was steep, poorly marked, and had many false trails. One of the false trails I went on had me scale a rock face with not much to grip, and I ended up falling and cutting both my hands alongside my right wrist. I eventually navigated back to the original trail and made my way up to Dix between the tight pine trees and didn't spend much time on top of Dix at all because of how pissed I was. I summited Dix at 1:33PM and made my way down the Dix Trail.
This section was much better than on the way down than the way up. I descended about 1,800' and loaded up my Garmin for the final bushwhack of the trip. Unknown to me at the time, this was going to be the worst bushwhack of them all. I turned off the Dix Trail, and sent one last message to my crew that I was starting the bushwhack. Unfortunately, my message was blocked by the trees, since I was in the valley. As I began navigating the bushwhack, the first bit of it was downhill which was very nice. It had a few sections where I had to manage around pine trees but wasn't too bad. As I crossed 3 separate streams and ate it down one of them (the moss!), I was starting to get frustrated. I stopped to refill my water in the last stream and knew that the ascent was going to be gnarly, as 1,000' of climbing would end up being what was next, and only over .5 or so.
After a quick mental break, I started ascending. The pine trees started getting denser and denser, and I was becoming more and more pissed. While I believe that I moved through the sections as fast as I could have (especially after 4 days of fatigue), I took a few breaks to get my bearings right. There were parts where I was following a definitive path and others where I was trying to just ascend and not get abused by pine trees. Eventually, I made it to a clearing where I had messages on my InReach and on my phone. My Dad who was making lunch asked how much longer I was going to be because I was a little behind schedule, and Cody was saying that my GPS had not pinged in 40 minutes. I texted my Dad back that it could be anywhere between 25-30 minutes and kept going. With Cody's message coming in, I assumed that the GPS would have pinged.
Sure enough, about 10 minutes later, the pine tree vegetation became much less dense, and the elevation gain was almost nothing. I checked All Trails to see if I would be able to hop on the trail, and after a minute or so, I linked up with the HG Leach Trail, about .1 from the summit. It was a short trip to the summit, and I reached Dial at 4:05PM. I had a lovely MRE, even though my Dad said it didn't look right. It was meat lasagna, and was very watery, but was so delicious. Well needed to keep me going. My Dad said he was just glad that I didn't curse him out because he would have thrown me off the summit. I switched around my snacks, and refilled water, and was off to Nippletop.
This part of the trail was very runnable, and I was making great time. I summited Nippletop at 5:03PM and descended along Gill Brook on the Gill Brook Trail very quickly. Once I made it to the Colvin Gill Brook Elk Pass intersection, I headed straight towards the last two summits for this leg. The sign said Colvin was 1.1 away and Blake was 2.4 away. At this point, I wanted to summit both of them and make it as close to the intersection as possible before it was dark. Every minute I wasted; I was losing daylight. I flew up the trail, despite the 900' elevation gain in the mile, and summited Colvin at 6:12PM. It was a steep 800' drop, and then a 800' climb in 1.1 miles to get to Blake, and I made a really good time to the top of Black.
I summited Blake at 6:49PM and made equally as fast time making it down and back up to Colvin. When I got back to Colvin, I rearranged my pack, went into headlamp mode, and was off towards the AMR parking area for pick up. I did send Cody a message on the InReach on my ETA, and over the next few miles dropped about 2,200'. Eventually, I made it to Lake Road and was able to start running at a 10-minute pace since it was so runnable. After about 20 minutes, I was back at the AMR trailhead, and Cody was there to pick me up. It was 9:05PM at this point. He handed me chicken parm all cut up for dinner, and we were off to Lake Placid. I only ate a little chicken parm because I just wanted to get this done, but it was enough to keep me going.
The trail started at the SUNY Atmospheric Sciences Research Center. I emptied out my pack and removed any unnecessary weight. I also made my windbreaker more accessible, put a pair off gloves in my pack, and kept the arm sleeves in. I loaded up with about 700 calories worth of snacks, and only filled my two chest water bottles. I ascended the Wilmington trail pretty well at a hiking pace, but that was mostly because of how steppy it was. It was also steep and about 1,000' of climbing a mile. Eventually, mile 1 and 2 clicked off, and I made the right towards the Esther out and back.
This section of the trail was rolling, but some of the worst mud in the entire ADK's. I think that this was because of the bog next to the summit, so I was only able to move at a hiking pace. At 11:27PM I summited Esther and went back towards the intersection. When I made it here, I veered right, and was off to my final peak, Whiteface. About 15 minutes late, I reached a section where the road met the trail and made the decision to run on the road to speed things up. Sure, it would be more distance, but it would be faster. I took the road to the entrance path under the Castle Cafe and was .2 from the top.
At this point, it was so windy that I put on my arm sleeves, gloves, and windbreaker to stay warm. After using the railings to guide me to the summit, I reached the top of Whiteface at 12:56AM. After taking a few moments to myself, I began heading down the trail, or so I thought. I had the GPS navigating on my Garmin at this point and began heading down the trail l was supposed to come up. I didn't realize my mistake until I hit the road. Instead of going up the steep ascent that I had just done, I made the decision to go back on the road to the Castle Cafe and re summit Whiteface. At this point, I wasn't thinking very clearly but knew what to expect. After going through that .2 and getting brutally attacked by the wind, I found myself on the right trail to head down.
From the top, there was a small path that crept around and off the summit which included sections of descent with a rope. After a few minutes of navigating these steep declines, I found myself atop the highest point of the Whiteface ski slope. I knew I would be taking the ski slope down, but I didn't expect it to be so terrible. My advice to anyone looking to head down a ski slope when it isn't covered in snow, is don't. Huge rocks, potholes, grass fields and anything you could think of is covered with the snow. I kept a decent pace heading mostly down the blue areas and realized that I added about 1.5 miles onto my route due to my summit mis navigations.
The easier sections to get down were where the construction vehicles had navigated over the course to reinstall piping. Most of the rocks and pebbles that were making it hard to land with the blisters on my feet were hidden under the run-over path. I did have to climb over a few pipes which weren't great but compared to everything else I had been through on the ADK challenge, it wasn't too bad. As I got closer and closer towards the bottom of the trail, the grade began to level off. I did see some eyes in the woods at one point and thought to myself, if you want to eat me, this is going to all be for nothing. I didn't get eaten.
There were parts that involved me going through tall grass fields, but I just kept moving. Eventually, I could hear Cody's car blaring music, and knew I was almost done. Cody and my Dad didn't know where it ended, and neither did I so I kept running until my GPS's course was complete. I made it to the Whiteface Base Lodge at 2:51AM making my official total time for the ADK challenge 4 days, 22 hours, and 36 minutes. I was happy to be done, and the true pain I had from my blisters wouldn't become evident until I showered.
After we took a picture in front of the Whiteface base lodge sign, we went back to the Roadway Inn for one last night. I showered up, realized how bad my blisters were, and tried cleaning them as much as possible. I tried falling asleep, but the sleep deprivation from the previous days made it hard to catch any true shut-eye. My feet also felt like pins and needles with the swelling, blisters, and dry skin from the swamp feet. In the middle of the night, I ended up going into the bathtub, and soaking my legs in warm water for what seemed like an hour but was probably only 20 minutes. My feet felt better, and I was able to catch a few more hours of sleep. Cody did a nice wrap job in the morning on the blisters, and we packed up and headed to Lake George for some lunch before making our way back to Long Island.
Overall, I would say that the ADK challenge was a success and we learned a lot for future multi-day ultras. Going into it we knew that having a shot at an FKT would be very slim considering all the people that have gone for these records knew a lot about the area and I had only done 4 peaks. I went into the adventure with the hopes of getting to see the beauty of the ADK's, spend some time with friends and family, and being able to tell one hell of a story. The adventure turned out to be that, and so much more. Along the trail we met people who were going for their first ever peak, their last ever peak, aspiring 46-R's as young as 9 and as old as 72, good boys, thru-hikers, and everyone in between. Everyone had their own story, and their own goals, and even though many of these people I only saw for a few minutes, their stories carried with me for hours on the trail. Heck, some of the complete strangers I met on day 1, I was thinking about day 5. It was such a pleasure getting to become a 46-R, test my mental and physical endurance, and getting the crew together. Until next time.