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Old 06-25-2011, 12:02 PM   #1
W46?! OK 17/46
Altbark's Avatar
Join Date: Jun 2010
Location: Trenton ON
Posts: 1,352
I am a 46er
High Peaks Hiking

I’ve been on this forum for a year now. I’ve had the privilege to hike 29 High Peaks and more importantly meet some fine individuals along the way. This forum is a tremendous resource for those hiking in the Adirondack Park and in particular those interested in becoming 46ers. The fact that people choose to publish their honest thoughts in their trip reports is of particular value if somewhat concerning at times. I’ve just had the opportunity to read trip reports from two individuals, one of whom had medical issues coming off a successful ascent of Wright and who failed to reach a falls off the end of the Lake road. The other was from an individual who took almost 15 hours to climb Porter.

I very much admire their doggedness, their tenacity to fight through the pain and suffering associated with challenging hiking but must question their judgment and level of preparedness for the goals they have set for themselves. Hiking should be an activity that takes a person through a lifetime. It should not cause undue pain or suffering. It should not put the person at undue risk. Competent hiking does demand an apprenticeship. It does demand physical fitness commensurate with the goals in mind. And there are skills associated with the game that must be learned if one is to be successful and safe.

Hiking the High Peaks has been an eye opener for me. I’ve been a flatland hiker for my entire life. But nothing prepared me for the constant up and down associated with climbing a mountain. While I understood the mechanics associated with hiking, I was forced to up my game when it came to mountain hiking. Aside from investing in some new gear more suited to the environment, I had to change the way I did my daily walks. I do a five mile hike with a 24 pound pack everyday. If I don’t do another packless five miles later in the day, I do a treadmill run with my pack. And I’m still just a very average hiker.

Hiking the High Peaks is exactly that – hiking. While there are elements of mountaineering associated with summer hiking, for the most part those elements are of short duration and easily managed by the fit and motivated individual. Those elements must be accepted by the individual or mountain hiking must be given up. A dislike of ledges is easily cured with a certain amount of familiarity, skill building and healthy respect. Mountain hiking does involve the negotiation of heights and there is no way around that. Of course, as the seasons rotate from summer to late fall the skill set associated with hiking must be supplanted with those from the mountaineering world. As winter approaches, the margin for error is decreased and the individual must take greater care to stay safe.

This is not to suggest overt criticism of the individuals involved but rather to suggest that it is important to learn how to walk before trying to run. It is very easy to get caught up in the moment when reading a trip report covering five mountains in a day or a three hour Cascade and Porter. Those folks hike at another level. I drive a car but it doesn’t mean that I will get invited to race at Daytona next spring.

The individual who took 15 hours to hike Porter is not fit enough to safely hike a High Peak. Weight, physical fitness and technique all come into play. If the report had indicated an eight or even nine hour hike I would have seen someone working in the ballpark. But does that mean that this person should give up hiking the mountains?

The answer is no. But I would suggest that it is time for the individual to build up a hiking resume and get into shape. I am focused on climbing all the 46 High Peaks. But that doesn’t mean that I’m not looking at the map. Take out the mountains and you are left with a wonderful array of interesting trails to explore. Where will you find a better place to build fitness and a hiking resume? A mere year of hiking the “flats” around the High Peaks would pay dividends for anyone wanting to tackle the peaks.

The individual who had trouble coming off Wright should get in to see his doctor and eliminate any medical issues before trying another mountain. It’s also probably time for that individual to up the pre-climb training somewhat. And it is probably time for that individual to look for successes in more manageable hikes rather than try to build a hiking resume based upon the High Peaks. That individual should go back to the Lake Road and find Rainbow Falls. In fact, the Lake Road and the falls would be a great hike for anyone new to the hiking game.

I read a mountaineering book published in the 60’s when I was a somewhat younger fellow in the early 70’s. I have the book somewhere and just can’t find it. It contained a quote from some famous mountaineer talking about what one had to become in order to be a successful mountaineer. It has stuck with me ever since. It was his opinion that in order to successfully climb mountains one must become “a tireless walker”. In my opinion, that says it all. Al

Last edited by Altbark; 06-25-2011 at 07:02 PM.
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Old 06-26-2011, 01:45 AM   #2
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Join Date: Oct 2009
Location: Montreal, Kwo-beck
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As much as I enjoyed reading these 2 members TRs, I have to agree with you, I think they need to get in shape first. I wish them all the best and hope they'll eventually achieve their goals (they want it so much) but I'm a bit scared of what could be the consequences if they stubbornly keep pushing forward despite the warning signs. Their biggest strength is that they're definitely not lazy but that could also somehow turns out to be their biggest flaw...

Last edited by Spike; 06-26-2011 at 01:48 AM.
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