A deliberately long-way climb of Skylight, from Elk Lake, in order to get a longer, tougher hike under our belt as part of training for some upcoming out-west backpacking and climbing. Also done because of the less-busy, more quiet experience from the south. Left early in order to account for the long distance, at just after 7 a.m. Hiking was fast on Elk Lake Lodge land, noted a few wet spots that normally are gone by this time of year.
Hike over the Boreas-Colvin range was marred by some extensive and unpleasant wetness on the northern descent, again very unusual for late June. Bridge over Stillwater inlet in good shape, as is the beautiful planking across Marcy Swamp. The hike up through Panther Gorge was sublime - trail condition very good, a nice breeze, and no bugs or people. Had it all to ourselves.
Steep climb up from the Panther Gorge leanto to Four Corners was a first for me - had never done this stretch of trail until today. At Four Corners suddenly started to see lots of hikers coming up from the 'busy' side. Final climb to a breezy but totally clear and beautiful summit completed shortly after that. About ten-ish people on the summit with us. Excellent and unique views from Skylight's summit - some of the Adirondacks' best.
It had been a long way in, and it was a long way out. Although we tried our best, we didn't make it back to the trailhead before sunset, arriving right around 9pm. Almost fourteen hours and 34km - definitely one of the Adirondacks' longest single peak hikes.
Trip Reports, Image Galleries or Other References: Image Gallery: June 2019 Mount Skylight
We were getting close - Four left to go! And this day's objective was ambitious - a long loop to try and summit three of the higher High Peaks summits - three that we had left to do - for our winter 46er quest: Gray, Skylight, and Marcy.
Saturday, February 16 - unlike Saturday, February 9 - was forecast to be crisp, cold, and mostly sunny - the perfect opportunity to try and summit these excellent peaks (well, maybe not so much Gray, but we have Gray on our list, and so it has to get done).
We knew it had the High Peaks had received several significant dumps of snow since last weekend's trail-breaking frenzy, and so we knew that we couldn't expect any of the broken-out trail from then to have survived. We were somewhat hopeful, though, that the main trails up to the Marcy area were broken out.
At Avalanche Junction, we debated our choices: go up the Avalanche Pass way, and hike through the beautiful scenery around Avalanche Lake and Lake Colden, or go up the Lake Arnold way, which was significantly shorter but less scenic (and perhaps less broken-out). We chose the long, scenic way.
From the Lake Colden camping area to the Uphill Lean-to, things got harder. There was only a narrow, deep ski track. As a result, I found that my snowshoes were always being torqued inwards - uncomfortable and awkward. Our pace slowed quite a bit on this section. Still, we were grateful we had a path to follow.
After the lean-to, our luck ran out. Maybe a couple of hundred feet beyond, the tracks stopped. It took us two further hours to break trail from the Uphill Lean-to to Lake Tear of the Clouds. The snow conditions were such that the trail-breaking was very laborious.
We were deliriously happy when we heard voices come up behind us at Lake Tear of the Clouds. The voices were not so deliriously happy to catch up with us. We introduced ourselves, and found out that we all had the same itinerary, and decided to join forces.
With our combined muscle power, the ascent of Gray was relatively easy, and it wasn't long before we were standing on the Gray's summit ridge. With the very deep snowpack, Gray was almost a completely open peak. Excellent views of Marcy!
The hike back down to the Lake was efficient and fast. We dismayed to see, however, that a Marten had gotten at our food (or rather was in the process of), since we saw him slinking around. Packing up what food we had left, we continued on to four corners. Imagine our surprise and amazement when we saw a track broken up from Panther Gorge, and leading up to Marcy! Hardly anyone comes up from Panther Gorge.
The trail to Skylight was still unbroken, and so we still faced a 700-ish foot climb with trailbreaking. Having the two Jasons with us, though, made things much easier. Rotating the lead amongst four is an order of magnitude better than two.
Standing on the summit of Skylight was number 44 for Jenn and I, number 41 for Jason and Jason. Another somewhat significant milestone was that this summit of Skylight marked the completion of my second regular 46er round.
Not wanting to stand around too long in the biting wind, we started back down the way we came. Besides, it was getting late and we still had a good thousand feet of elevation to gain to the top of Marcy.
Unfortunately, the broken track up to Marcy did not stay on the official trail, but rather bushwhacked up all the way to treeline. Still, better than breaking a new track. From treeline, it was a straightforward but chilly and gray ascent to Marcy's summit. Only one more to go now!
The way down through the alpine terrain on the eastern side of Marcy's summit was relatively pleasant. It was sheltered from the wind, and the path was far more defined and beaten (due to the fact that it is the far more popular way to ascend the peak). In all, it took us about three hours to descend on good trails all the way back to the Loj parking lot.
See the image gallery link below for a much more detailed writeup, and the set of pictures, graphs, maps, and GPS data.
Trip Reports, Image Galleries or Other References: Image Gallery: February 2008 - The Final Countdown: Gray, Skylight and Marcy
Brian, PG and I did this hike as part of our training regimen for climbing Mount Rainier (plus I'd never summitted Skylight before, so that worked, too). We did it entirely in a day, and with extra weight to simulate the full packs we'd have to carry up Rainier. In my case, I put an 18L water cooler jug in my pack along with the rest of my stuff. I estimate the weight to have been around 45-50 pounds (Gilbert was just along for the fun - he had his normal very light load). Anyway, this being a pretty long hike (30km in total), we made special efforts to move along quickly. We zoomed through to Avalanche Lake and unfortunately chose to take the left-hand (south-east) trail along Lake Colden. What a yucky, uneven, rooty mess. Remind me not to go that way again. The trail up the Opalescent was really nice - lots of interesting flumes and gorges and waterfalls - definitely one of the more interesting 'river sections' of trail in the high peaks region. Finally reaching four corners, we turned right and were soon on the very broad but also nicely bare summit of Skylight. At the very top is a huge cairn (the biggest in the ADK high peaks, as far as I know). Marcy looms very big from the summit of skylight. Also looming big were some huge wasp-type insects that were very attracted to our brightly colored outdoor gear. We found these creatures a bit unnerving, so we kept our goretex on with the hoods drawn tight. A ceremonial dumping of my jug of water (wanted to save knees on the way down) and we were off, trying to make best time back to the car before it got too late. In the end, we managed the full 30 kilometres in 10 hours flat. An excellent average speed of 3km/hr including all stops! Good training hike!
Trip Reports, Image Galleries or Other References: Image Gallery: June 2000 Skylight Climb