The Adirondacks have 46 high peaks. There are some hardcore hikers out there that have completed all of them. When doing so, they became a 46er. To become official, you register online, pay a $15 application fee, and then you will receive your climbing number. After the paperwork is registered, which usually takes about 12 weeks, you get a patch saying you climbed all 46, and an official letter of congratulations. You are now a 46er! It’s kind of a big deal here in the Adirondacks, especially in the outdoor world. There are over 13,000 registered 46ers today. If you are a hiker and want to know a little bit about how to become a 46er, you have come to the right place.
Some Adirondack History
In 1918, Robert Marshall, George Marshall and Herbert Clark climbed Whiteface Mountain. This was their first high peak. From there, the three of them began their journey to climb all 46. In 1937, Grace Hudowalski was the first woman to climb all 46 high peaks. In 2014, the 42nd highest peak was named East Dix after Grace, and now it is one of the most popular trails among the 46. Check out the book Heaven Up-h’isted-ness! for more ADK history.
Before jumping right into these challenging hikes, make sure you have a couple of more accessible hikes under your belt. It is never a good idea to jump right in. Be aware that 20 of the peaks do not have official trails. With the thousands of visitors coming there to hike, the ground is pretty well walked on, letting you know where you should walk. If you are hiking in the warmer seasons, it’s best to leave as early as possible to avoid the traffic. The peak suggests starting out with first climbing Phelps Mountain. It takes about 9 hours, 8 miles, and at 2100ft, this would be the “easiest” of the 46 to climb.
Always do your research on the weather before heading up to the mountains. The best time to get started is early June. You want to be sure that the ice up there is melted, and you won’t have to worry about bringing crampons. Also, you will be hitting the trails a little before the bugs start coming in full force.
Don’t forget to sign in and out of the trail registry when beginning and ending a hike. Just in case you get lost, someone can look at the book and know where to find you.
It’s also a good idea to have a checklist before heading out. Here is one to get you started. This list is just for a day hike.
- Map and compass
- Extra clothing, including socks (Wool is always the best option)
- First aid kit
- Bear spray
This is by far the most challenging peak. Starting in Lake Placid, it is 5,344 feet, takes 10 hours with breaks, and is a full day hike. Most of the 15-mile trail is inside a forest. However, there are four main trails, and starting at the Vanhovenberg trail is the best way to go and the most used route. For the most accessible approach, start your hike at the Adirondack Loj near Heart Lake. From the base, it is about 7.3 miles to the summit.
If you are looking for more of a challenge, a longer and more complicated approach would be taking the John Brook Trail. From the parking area, it is a 9-mile hike to the summit. Some hikers will camp out to take a break and turn the hike into a multi-day adventure. There is a wilderness campground at Heart Lake with 32 sites, 16 lean-tos, and six cabins.
Tips and tricks
Here are a couple of things to know before heading out to the big mountains:
- There are no entry fees, but some places charge for parking.
- During the spring, summer, and fall seasons, you must bring a bear canister
- Do not attempt any of the trail-less peaks until you are a little more seasoned
- In the summer, the trails will get pretty packed. Leave early.
When hiking up these beautiful peaks, always remember the leave no trace rule. Dispose of waste properly, repackage food to minimize waste, respect the wildlife and do not feed, do not create campsites, and reduce fires.
Becoming a 46er isn’t easy. However, if you plan now and prepare yourself mentally, anything is possible. The path to becoming a 46er will be a breeze if you consider the insights above. As always, remember to keep a good head on your shoulders and to get outside often, like 46 times often.