Thursday, December 23, 2021

Climbing the Adirondack 46ers

In the past two years, I have written quite a few posts about the Adirondack 46er (ADK 46) peaks. Now that I have visited all of the summits at least once, I'd like to write an overview about my experiences on the 46ers.

Alpine terrain on Haystack

The Adirondack 46ers are the 46 summits in the Adirondacks rising over 4,000 feet. The list actually contains several peaks less than 4,000 feet. When the list was first conceived, less accurate elevation measurements placed these sub-4,000 foot mountains above the magical 4,000 foot mark. After more accurate measurements placed these peaks below 4,000 foot, they remained on the list to keep in consistent with the original. Generally the 46ers are located within the High Peaks and adjacent Wilderness areas. This region of the Adirondacks is often referred to as the High Peaks.

View from the Dix Range

Many regions have peak bagging lists that usually include peaks above a certain elevation. The lists range from the extremely elite 8,000M summits (summits rising above 8,000 meters) and  the Seven Summits (Continental high points), to small local lists like the Tupper Lake Triad in my current home town consisting of three modest peaks. In the US some of the these lists include the High Pointers (Highest summit in each of the 50 states), Colorado 14ers (50+ summits over 14,000feet), Southern Sixers (summits over 6,000 feet), New Hampshire 48 (48 summits over 4,000 feet), NE 111 ( 4,000 foot summits in New England and New York), the ADK 46ers (46 Adirondack summits that were believed to be over 4,000 foot), and many others throughout the country.

View from Cascade

Throughout the US I have climbed many mountains on many of these lists. I never became too focused on peak bagging lists however. I didn't live close enough to any one group of mountains on a list to warrant the travel to check off a list for the sake of checking off a list. I was unaware of hiking lists when I started hiking, so they were never a priority. I mostly hiked these places because I wanted experience the hike, the lists didn't really mean anything to me.

Seward Range from Seymour

In 2019, I moved to Tupper Lake, NY in the heart of the Adirondacks. Despite hiking, backpacking, cycling, mountain biking, skiing, and running in nearly 30 states and a handful of Canadian provinces prior to moving to the Adirondacks, I never hiked hiked a single mile in the Adirondacks before I moved there. Nearly every peak on the Adirondack 46er list can be reached within an hour drive from my house. For the first time, I decided to actually see through a peak bagging list. While finishing the ADK 46 wasn't a top priority, I did make an effort to incorporate routes in the High Peaks regularly. Since I live so close to the mountains, I tried to hold out for the best weather days to get the most out of my summit days. I didn't focus entirely on the 46 when I started hiking the Adirondacks. I  hiked and backpacked plenty of other destinations in between trips to the High Peaks. I spent plenty of time kayaking, cycling, running, fishing, and skiing as well between trips to the High Peaks. When I passed the half-way point on the list, I started to focus on finishing the list.


There is no right or wrong way to tackle the 46ers as long as you travel by foot, ski, or snowshoe. Everybody's 46er journey will look different. Some have hiked all 46 in one long continuous hike, while others have taken decades to finish the list. This is a synopsis of my hikes over the 46 peaks and not meant to be a guide. My listed mileage may not match other reported distances since I often take side trips to visit destinations other than the peaks on the list or alter my route to take less used paths or visit other peaks.

Descending Marcy

Click on the blue links below to read about the specific hikes in more detail.

View from Big Slide

Monday, November 15, 2021

Noonmark and Round Mountains

While sometimes overshadowed by its higher neighbors, Noonmark Mountain stands out among the sub-4,000' peaks of the Adirondacks. When driving through Keene Valley toward the south, Noonmark's profile looms ahead. It's known for its excellent, grandstand views of the surrounding High Peaks. A view from Noonmark even donned the cover of the last edition of the High Peaks Trail Guide. With its excellent views and relatively short approach, it sees a decent amount of traffic. 

Immediately to the east of Noonmark stands its lower neighbor, Round Mountain. While not quite as popular as a destination as Noonmark, Round holds its own when it comes to scenery. Round can also be reached in by relatively short approaches as well. Round and Noonmark can be hiked together as a loop from the AMR (Adirondack Mountain Reserve) trailhead in St. Huberts, just south of Keene Valley. Combining the two peaks as a loop packs in a lot of great scenery over a  fairly challenging 7 miles.

After a cool and dreary start to the week, I decided to hike these two mountains on Thursday, November 4th. Although Friday's forecast looked sunnier, I was hoping to capture some cloudy skies in my mountain photos I would take that day. It was a gamble since I run the risk of socked in summits with no views, but I took my chances. I also expected shoulder season conditions. Snow showers fell in the valleys over the previous days. I anticipated some snow and ice on the ground once I gained elevation. I started later than I usually hike and didn't hit the trail until after 11AM.

Although other approaches exist to these two mountains, hiking them together as a loop is more convenient from the AMR trailhead. On a gray Thursday in November, only a dozen or so vehicles were in the usually busy parking lot. Like all hikes from the AMR lot, I began hiking up the road. I headed up the Stimson Trail, which is reached before most of the AMR facilities. At first this trail followed a road past several driveways before becoming an actual trail.

Lower reaches of the Stimson Trail

Almost immediately I encountered spots with a fine dusting of snow in the shadows. The trail is surprisingly pleasant as it travels through the forest, with the occasional tumbling mountain creek adding to the scenery. A little over a half-mile from the road I reached the first junction. By this point the ground was consistently covered in a fine dusting of snow.

Junction to Noonmark

From the junction, the trail began climbing steadily. The terrain becomes more rocky, with several slabs. Some of the slabs had a fine coating of ice. Although I had microspikes, the ice generally broke up if you stepped on it. I think putting them on would have dulled their teeth, but not really help me too much with traction. The ice was a minor nuisance and usually avoidable at this point. 

More snow as I climbed

Slabby section of trail

The first ledges with views open up a little over a mile from the road. From the first ledge, there seems to be viewpoints pretty frequently to the summit. The snow also covered the ground most of the way to the summit, but was never more than two inches at the most. Patches of ice covered a few slabby sections of trail that are typically wet. One or two of these slabs made for tricky footing, but they were short-lived and I didn't use my microspikes.

Early view of Giant and Rocky Peak Ridge

A spider undeterred by the snow

After reaching the first ledges, the trail travels between a mix of forest and open ledges. At times it levels off between steeper sections. A couple of short ladders helped navigate brief rocky sections. There were occasional coyote tracks in the snow as I climbed as well.

First ladder

Lower Great Range

Second ladder

The final pitch climbed over a series of ledges, all with great views before reaching the actual summit of Noonmark. The 3,556' summit stands only 2.5 miles from the trailhead. I forgot my watch, but it seemed like a slow 2.5 miles given the shoulder season conditions.

View of Dix from a ledge below the summit

The summit of Noonmark doesn't disappoint. It provides some of the best views in the Adirondacks in my opinion. The open terrain provides a grandstand view of the Great Range. With snow on its slides, Dix to the south looks quite impressive. Across from Dix, Dial and Nippletop dominate the view with Colvin to their west. To the north you get a nice view over Keene Valley. The Ausable Club's buildings and golf course look like toys below. Giant and Rocky Peak Ridge tower to the east. 

Dix, Dial, and Colvin

Great Range

View toward Keene Valley


In the snow, the direct route of the trail wasn't 100% obvious. The trail may have been marked by paint on the rocks, which would have been hidden under the snow. I was the first one to the summit in the snow cover. I just traveled on the rocky areas when the trail wasn't visible. The only other tracks near the summit were from snowshoe hares. I continued beyond the summit, descending the Felix Alder Trail. I found the trail with no issues. 

Dial with Nippletop just barely visible in the distance

Ausable Club property

Snowy upper reaches of Noonmark

Closeup of Dix

The Alder Trail descends the south side of Noonmark. Other than one slippery ledge, the Alder Trail offered easier passage than the north facing Stimson Trail. There was less snow on the south-facing trail and not really any ice. The biggest challenge was wet leaves. I followed the Alder Trail about a mile before reaching another junction and the Old Dix Trail. The trail drops about 1,200 feet in the mile from the summit of Noonmark.

Cloud cover to the southeast

The Old Dix Trail was almost stream-like at times and quite rocky. I rock-hopped and avoided most of the water. Fortunately, I traveled less than a mile on it before I reached the junction of Round Mountain.

Stream-like conditions on the Old Dix Trail

Junction to Round

From the Old Dix Trail, the route climbs roughly 700' in .7 miles. As it gains elevation, it crosses several open ledges with good views toward Dix and Elk Pass as well as the Great Range and Noonmark. As I climbed, I encountered a few snow showers that limited visibility. Although there was some snow, I didn't encounter any ice.

Visibility lowered by snow

Looking back as I climbed Round

I would describe Round's 3,100' summit as semi-open. There are good views, particular toward Dix and the Great Range. If you take time to visit the various ledges around the summit, you can get views in most directions. The summit of Round sits on a very short (100' or so) spur off the marked trail. 

Noonmark with the Great Range in the background

Dix and Dial from Round

Climbing from the Old Dix Trail, the trail is slightly confusing near the summit. A trail marker leads to the summit, making it hard to find the route north. The trail almost doubles back on itself at a sign a short distance from the summit. Small cairns mark the trail, but weren't obvious with snow on them.

One of the last views toward Giant

Beyond the summit, the trail travels over several sections of open rock marked with cairns. Although not difficult to follow, it may take a moment to find the trail near these open areas. Some of the open areas provide more views. As the trail loses elevation it drops back into hardwood forest fairly quickly.

Although the trail travels only 2.3 miles to the trailhead, the descend went by slowly. There wasn't nearly as much snow as the north side of Noonmark, but heavy leaf cover on the trail made for rough footing. The leaves also held a lot of water making slippery conditions. 

Just before reaching the road, I heard a loud rumble of water. A nice waterfall sits just upstream of the trail, immediately before the road. It's not noticeable from the road, but hard to miss just a short distance down the trail. I followed the stream a few hundred feet to get a photo. The waterfall sits within sight of a few homes. It appears that this stream is the division between state land and AMR land.

Waterfall near the end of the trail

The trail reaches the road just a couple hundred yards from the AMR parking lot. Going by the guide book, this hike clocks in at 7.1 miles. I didn't keep close track of time, but this hike took between 4.5-5 hours. I definitely wasn't disappointed by this loop and highly recommend visiting these two mountains. The shoulder season always makes conditions a little interesting with less straightforward hiking. Fortunately I didn't encounter anything too rough. Minor snow and ice posed little difficulty. Heavy, wet leaf cover was more of a nuisance. I was rewarded with snowy vistas and the ominous clouds enhanced the views.

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Thursday, September 30, 2021

Pitchoff Mountain

Pitchoff Mountain sits directly across from Cascade Mountain above Route 73 between Lake Placid and Keene, NY. within the Sentinel Range Wilderness. Despite its easy access from one of the High Peaks busier trailheads, Pitchoff sees relatively little traffic compared to the much busier High Peaks. An overwhelming majority of hikers at the Cascade/Pitchoff trailhead are headed toward Cascade Mountain. Since Pitchoff doesn't reach the magical 4,000' elevation mark, it doesn't see nearly as much traffic. In recent years Pitchoff was added to the Lake Placid 9er hiking challenge, perhaps adding a little more interest in the mountain.

I read that Pitchoff offers numerous open ledges along its traverse with frequent views. That's what attracted me to the mountain initially. I headed to Pitchoff on Monday, September 20th. I arrived at the trailhead around 10AM and parking was extremely limited at this point, but I was fortunate to find an empty spot at the lot closest to the start of the trail. My dog Choya joined me for this outing.

Although one trail traverses Pitchoff, there are several destinations. The entire trail travels about 5.2 miles, where it reaches Route 73, about 3 miles down the road from the trailhead. The most popular destination is probably Balanced Rocks, only 1.5 miles from the trailhead, and offers sweeping views. The highest point of Pitchoff is reached after 2 miles from the trailhead but offers little in the way of views from the wooded summit. A few hikers traverse the full trail with a car at each trailhead or close the loop by walking the road. If starting at the east trailhead, a short but steep 1.4 mile climb brings you to the north summit with possibly the best views on Pitchoff. With no desire to walk on the busy road, especially with Choya, I started at the west trailhead, hiked to the north summit, and retraced my steps. So even though there is only one trail, you have options for hiking on Pitchoff.

Starting at the west trailhead the climbing begins out of the gate. The first viewpoints come within the first mile with views over the Cascade Lakes and across the valley toward Cascade Mountain. A few brief drops in elevation break up the climbing. Generally the climbing continues with some minor scrambling. A few short herd paths lead to partial views of Cascade Mountain and the lakes.

Cascade Lake

Since I was hiking out and back, I saved Balanced Rocks for the return part of my hike. I continued to the summit. The summit proper of Pitchoff is rather lackluster. A couple of large boulders let you know you are there. A few feet beyond the summit, a short herd path leads to a partial view to the south. 

The real hiking treat begins as you continue beyond the 3,500' summit. (elevation number varies depending on which map you use- I've seen it listed anywhere from 3,488'-3,600') Just a few minutes of hiking brings you to the first open ledge. From here, the trail passes over numerous open viewpoints the rest of the way to the north summit. 

Giant Mountain

Basin, Haystack, and Marcy

Marcy in the middle distance, Colden, and
Algonquin on the right

Hurricane Mountain on left above Route 9N

Although the trail generally travels through forest, it often follows bare rock with views. With clear skies, I enjoyed short breaks at all of the vistas. Although most of the views looked south into the High Peaks, several looked to the north as well.

Walking over bare rock

Occasional paint blazes mark the trail on rock


A narrow ledge

Once on the crest at the high point of the ridge, the trail generally follows rolling terrain as it climbs and descends from the bumps along the ridge. A little over a mile from the high point, the trail leaves an open ledge and drops quite steeply into a gully. The terrain gets rather rough and steep with roots, slabby rock, and a few boulders that require some scrambling as you descend to the col below the north summit. Climbing out of the col to the north summit requires more scrambling. The trail can be a little difficult to follow in this section if you aren't comfortable with minor route finding.

Looking toward 9N with Giant on far right

Some fall color showing

Looking northwest

The north summit is reached about 1.8 miles from Pitchoff's high point. Although nearly 200' lower than the highest point, the 3,322' north summit offers some of  the best views on Pitchoff. The open summit offers views in most directions. The High Peaks dominates the view to the south and southeast. The Green Mountains in Vermont can be seen to the east. The top of Whiteface pokes out just beyond the Sentinel Range to the north. From the east trailhead, this would certainly be a worthy destination if you are looking for a shorter outing. 

Giant on the left

Marcy, Colden, and Algonquin

Looking over the col at the next bump on the ridge from 
the north summit 

After enjoying the north summit, I retraced my steps back toward the west trailhead. I enjoyed the many open vistas from the opposite direction. Headed toward the west, I caught glimpses into Lake Placid that I didn't notice when I was headed east.

Negotiating a rocky stretch in the col

Lake Placid in the distance

Olypmic ski jumps near Lake Placid

Closer view toward Lake Placid

A good look at the endless mountains in the area

A tree that reached peak color at higher elevation

After I passed the summit, I headed for Balanced Rocks. This is another popular destination on Pitchoff that sits about a half-mile below the summit. The trail to Balanced Rocks isn't signed and could be easily missed if you don't do your homework before your hike. An obvious herd path leads from the main trail. Two arrow signs on trees for the main route are your best landmark. Following this herd path to the end brings you to the large open outcropping at Balanced Rocks.

Olympic bobsled tracks near Lake Placid
 (Mt Van Hoevanberg)

Valley view from Balanced Rocks

High Peaks from Balanced Rocks

From the west trailhead, you can reach Balanced Rocks in about a mile and a half. If you are looking for a shorter hike with views, Balanced Rock is a good option. Although it's fairly short, a beginner might find the trip to Balanced Rocks challenging with steep climbing and short scrambles. Good views into the valley near Lake Placid and of the High Peaks make it a worthwhile destination. After leaving Balanced Rocks, the last 1.5 miles to the trailhead passed quickly.

Choya enjoying a rest at Balanced Rocks

Glimpses of color

Starting at the Cascade/Pitchoff trailhead (west trailhead), I hiked to the north summit and back. With the side trip to Balanced Rocks, this hike covered about 8 miles. After some of my longer trips into the High Peaks this summer (up to 26 mile days), this shorter outing was refreshing. The traverse of Pitchoff Mountain packs a lot of views into a relatively short distance. I lucked out with a bluebird day and great visibility. The leaves have started to get some color, adding a little extra to the scenery. And, I passed only four other groups. Based on the extremely crowded trailhead, I'm guessing Cascade Mountain on the other side of the road was quite busy. I had every vista to myself on Pitchoff. 

Choya on one of the many open views of Pitchoff

Cascade Mountain

Looking over Cascade Pass

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