Northeast Backcountry Pt. 4 | April 14th

I didn't know if I'd be back in the Adirondack High Peaks for some skiing. After a few days breaking 70 and 80 degrees and some serious rain, I figured time was running out to make some final backcountry turns. With the forecast showing us some clear skies and fairly warm whether, Devon, Kevin and I decided it was time for a Marcy trip. 

We picked up a few beers and ciders, made a quick stop at Stewart's, and were on our way to the Adirondack Loj. As we turned down the Loj Road, we could see the substantial loss of snow from Sunday to Thursday. The southern side of Algonquin looked nearly bare and the slides on Colden looked like they would soon look the same. This didn't come as much of a surprise, as I wasn't expecting phenomenal skiing from this trip, but rather a good time wandering around the woods with some friends.

Upon arriving at the Loj, we readied our packs and cracked open the first cold one of the evening. Our friends Tyler and Tim, who were hiking Phelps for sunrise, showed up soon after. We threw on our heavy packs and set off towards Marcy Dam. The sun soon went down and those of us who didn't feel like taking our packs off to grab a headlamp found themselves stumbling on down the trail, using our poles for guidance. Once we arrived at Marcy Dam we discovered that all of the lean-tos were occupied, which we didn't expect on a chilly Thursday night in April. After weighing our options, we parted ways with Tim and Tyler and started to head up to Avalanche Pass since there were more lean-tos along the way. 

We finally found one that was unoccupied and settled in for the night. The temperature was a bit colder than I had thought it would be and I found myself with all of my layers on huddled up in my sleeping bag. Unfortunately there are no fires allowed in the high peaks wilderness, so boiled water in a nalgene was the best I was getting for some extra warmth in my bag. After a few more beers, it was lights out with a predawn start time.

After hitting snooze a few times, we emerged from our sleeping bags, made some breakfast, and prepared for the day. Expecting very little snow, we did not pack skins, instead bootpacking up the whole way with micro spikes. Unlike last year I brought my hiking boots, which made a huge difference. The morning was chilly but we warmed up quick on the steep trail. We stopped at the base of Indian Falls which was raging from all of the snow melt. Despite all of the warm weather and rain, there was still a ton of snow to be found in the upper elevations. We didn't stop to measure it, but based on the post-holes of other hikers and snowy ledges leading to thawed streams, I would guess it was roughly chest deep around 4,000 feet. 

We emerged above the treeline sometime after 9AM. It was a beautiful, clear morning, with no clouds in sight, minimal wind, and a warm sun. It was obvious that the bowl was not hurting for snow, and was still very well filled in. Mount Haystack loomed behind us, with the extremely steep cliffs leading down to Panther Gorge on either side. As we made our final push to the summit we could feel the snow softening up under the morning sun, reassuring us we'd have some corn skiing instead of bullet-proof ice.

Once we reached the summit the calm breeze and blue skies convinced us to stay awhile, so we enjoyed a lunch with a view. It was regular ole picnic, complete with tunes, beer, and pizza. Marcy, being the tallest peak in the northeast next to the Presidential range, naturally offers some pretty stellar panoramic views of the rest of the high peaks. We ended up staying there for nearly an hour before finally deciding to start head down.

While the snow quality was not as good as it was on Algonquin earlier in the week, it was still a beautiful descent. The sun had warmed up the snow enough to allow for some good corn skiing. 

After the snowfields, we did the usual free fall down the hiking trail, avoiding trees, rocks, hikers, and holes leading to running water. This time we weren't able to ski all the way to the car but we did make it back to Marcy Dam before having to switch back to our hiking gear. The best part of the day? Pie. We made the essential stop at Noonmark Diner for some pie on our way back, just like any expedition to the high peaks should include.