Sorry in advance for my diary like post today. When I was doing the little research I did on this trail, I wish the bloggers and comments had been more honest – so that’s what my mission today is – to warn the naïve suckers who climb this she-devil of a mountain about what lies ahead.
Let me give you some back round about my husband and I. He grew up in small town, surrounded by the country side, so it’s safe to say most of his childhood was spent outside. I however, grew up in the suburbs. Although I played outside, it was nothing like his childhood – like I had never been hiking and the thought of camping sent shivers down my spin (and it still does). Last year my husband decided that he wanted to climb all of the 46 High Peaks in the Adirondacks of Upstate NY – and due to my competitive nature I decided part-take in this challenge. (Also I figured it would give me an excuse to go up to Lake Placid more and have some UBU at the brewery)
We started with a bunch of the popular ones … Cascade, Porter, Giant, Rocky Ridge, Big Slide, and even Marcy (the highest peak) – well my husband did Marcy, my attempt didn’t go so well, but that’s story for another day. It was so beautiful out this past holiday weekend, that we couldn’t miss the chance to go up and play around in the mountains. On Sunday we drove up to Lake Placid, had a nice dinner and stayed the night, so we could be at the mountain nice and early on Monday.
We decided on Colden Mountain – 11th highest peak in the Adirondacks at 4,715′ in elevation- to hike. Why? Good question, I’m still not sure. I think it was the fact that we knew it would be hot and humid, and a long the trail there are 3 lakes – that’s my best guess. Either way here is how the story goes…
We got to the Adirondack Loj where the trail head starts at 8am, the sun was beaming and the heat was starting to rise – perfect day for a hike. It’s about a 2.5 mile hike, relatively flat, to the Marcy Dam – the first milestone in your journey. Once you leave the dam, the trail takes another mile until you reach the pivotal point in your hike – left or right. For Colden, there is a loop that you can take … if you go right, you pass 2 lakes (Avalanche & Colden), and go up a steeper side of the mountain, and if you start left you pass 1 lake (Arnold – the highest elevated lake in the ADK) and it’s much more gradual. Naturally, we went right.
By 10am we arrived at Avalanche lake, the route there was gradual and flat. It was nice and easy. The lake was gorgeous, it’s insane that there are lakes like this in the world that are completely untouched. We stopped to talk to a few other hikers, take some pictures and enjoy the views. We then started our journey to Lake Colden. The route to Lake Colden is extremely rocky, and there are little ladders and bridges on every turn. It looks like a real life game of Shoots’n’Ladders.
By 11am we arrived at Lake Colden – and I’m miserable. The rocky trail between the two lakes is exhausting, so if you do this do it at a leisurely pace. It’s like doing 15 reps of front squats at your maximum weight – utterly brutal – plus you still have a long way to go.
So we keep walking, it’s now 11:30, we’re both hangry – and we can’t find the trail head. It’s now we realize we passed the marker. I don’t now how to explain to you the horror you feel when this happens. It literally sucks the momentum and air right out of you – we had to walk back a half an hour to get back on the right trail. Once we got there (finally at 12pm), we sat down to have a PB&J – maybe that would give us some extra mojo.
We started on the trail to the summit, and immediately it began to get steeper and steeper. For 1.5 hours, we battled our way up the mountain – honestly we probably gained 1950ft in elevation during that time. I like to think we are both in shape, we crush the easy mountains but this was a new beast – my heart was pumping in my ears. Getting close to the top, there is one section where you literally have to climb (hands and feet) a rock to reach the summit – that I’m totally not into. I’m deathly afraid of heights and I cried the entire way up there. But the view, omg the view is worth all the pain. We reached the top at 1:30pm.
We sat on the summit for about 40minutes to an hour, soaking up the view and resting our dead legs. Because of the incline from hell we just encountered, we decided to take the other way down. This way takes you to Lake Arnold and back to the lodge. The trip down is gradual but rocky, but at this point who cares. Our legs were shaking every time we stopped. We passed the lake (which isn’t as impressive as the other 2 we saw), grabbed some fresh water at a ‘babbling’ brook and made our way back to Marcy Dam – which felt like it took forever! Our legs had finally reached a new level of tired by this point, if we stopped moving them we could crumble – so, because we’re insane, we decided to finish up the last 2.5 miles with a light trail jog. We got back to the lodge at 5:13pm – which makes our hike 9 hours and 13 minutes.
Holy hell that was a long day, but it’s totally worth all the pain and whining. If you want to do the loop, do it this way. We saw a couple going down the trail that we were making our ascent on, and they were literally sliding down on their butts. This is one of the hardest hikes I’ve ever done! So today, I’m nursing a sun burn and sore legs at work, but hey it was totally worth it! Plus, the ascent up there probably did wonders on my glutes and hammys 😉