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Old 04-04-2013, 05:07 AM   #1
rootmode
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Lightbulb Mt. Marcy to Mt. Skylight to Grey Peak

Hello, my wife and I are taking a 3 day backpacking trip in the Adirondacks on May 10. We plan to begin at the Adk Loj trailhead, head towards mount marcy, hit mount skylight, and end with a stop at grey peak before heading back to the Adk Loj.

I understand people have done this 18 mile trek in a day but we are planning to spread this out over the course of 2 days/3 nights. As far as setting up camp, is any where off the trail ok to set up our tent? (100 ft off trail?) Im also under the impression that controlled fires are ok.

Another question I have is considering it will be May 10, what will the temperature be and how much snow should we expect?

Im also wondering if anyone knows where I might find a list of grid coordinates for the peaks, marcy dam, indian falls ect...ill be using a NatGeo trails map for navigation but ill carry a gps with way points as a backup.

One last question. If we wanted to hit algonquin peak after skylight instead of hitting grey, is there a good trail for this? Im just trying to keep my options open as far as prolonging or shortening the trip, which will all be dependent on how well my wife holds up.

Any and all advice would be appreciated!

Geoff

Last edited by rootmode; 04-04-2013 at 05:30 AM..
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Old 04-04-2013, 08:28 AM   #2
DSettahr
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First, let me start by saying welcome to the forums!

You've chosen some excellent peaks for a backpacking trip. There are, however, a few things you need to consider which will likely change your plans a little bit. I've bolded the important bits below for easy and quick reference.

First of all, that's the Eastern High Peaks, which is a very high use area. Due to overuse and the high levels of impacts, campfires are now banned in that area. Many of the campsites in the Eastern High Peaks had been completely stripped of all dead and down wood, and people were illegally cutting down trees, so the state banned fires in that area a little over 10 years ago. This is a hard and fast rule that is very strictly enforced by the rangers that patrol that area.

Second, concerning camping: Above 4,000 feet, camping is banned at all times. Between 3,500 feet and 4,000 feet, camping is permitted only at designated sites marked with a yellow plastic disc that says "Camp Here." Much of your route will be above 3,500 feet, and there are no designated campsites in that area. So essentially, once you get beyond Indian Falls, you won't be able to camp. The reason that camping is restricted high up is due to the sensitive nature of the alpine ecosystem, which does not withstand hiking and camping impacts very well, and can take years to recover when damaged.

The regulations for backcountry camping are that you need to either be in a designated site (again, marked with a yellow plastic disc), or at least 150 away from any trails, roads, and water. The reason for camping away from trails/roads is to spread people out, so you see fewer campers, which better maintains a wilderness feel. The reason for camping away from water is because shorelines are very sensitive to camping impacts.

Even below 3,500 feet, it is difficult to find a primitive spot to set up in the High Peaks, though. Much of that area is dense spruces and firs, which little room to pitch a tent. So your best bet is to camp either in an already established designated site, or in a lean-to.

For Marcy, Skylight, and Gray, especially as an overnight, I would probably hike in via Upper Works rather than from the Loj. Your best bet would be to camp either at Flowed Lands or Lake Colden- there are numerous tent sites and a few lean-tos at each spot. Both Flowed Lands and Lake Colden are a somewhat easy hike in from Upper Works. A good itinerary would be to hike in to Lake Colden on day 1, do G/S/M on day 2, and hike out on day 3. If you want to get a little bit closer, you can camp at Uphill Brook or Feldspar Brook, where there are lean-tos and campsites, but this involves a fair amount of elevation gain with full packs.

Adding Algonquin to your itinerary is doable for someone in great shape who is used to hiking regularly, but it's going to add a lot of miles and elevation gain. The fastest way from G/S/M to Algonquin is to descend via the Opalescent River to Lake Colden, then take the trail up the south side of Algonquin. Depending on your experience level, you may find that this is biting off more than you can chew. I would consider making it a 4 day/3 night trip if you really want to do Algonquin, so that you can devote an entire day to it (which will also make it easier to get Iroquois as well).

Also, remember that there is no direct route from Gray to Marcy. The fastest and easiest way is to return from Gray to Lake Tear of the Clouds and ascend Marcy via the marked trail. The DEC strongly discourages anyone from attempting the bushwhack straight to Marcy from Gray because of the sensitive alpine ecosystem that route traverses.

As far as snow- you can expect to encounter it that time of year. You may still need snowshoes (they are required by law when the snow is deeper than 8 inches), so check trip reports before you go. At the very least, it is more than likely that the snow will slow you down, so that is also something to consider.

Another thing to consider: Late May is Black Fly season. Around May 10th, they usually aren't out yet, but it's pretty variable- some years they come out earlier than others. I would definitely bring bug nets just in case.

Here are links to 2 sites on the ADK webpage that will help you plan your trip:

Adirondack Hiking Information
Adirondack Hiking/Backpacking Regulations

Hope that helps.
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Old 04-04-2013, 09:12 AM   #3
adkh20
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Originally Posted by rootmode View Post
Any and all advice would be appreciated!
Be sure to note that you will need a Bear Canister as detailed in the second link of DSettahr's excellent post. The bears are waking up hungry after a poor food season for them last year.
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Old 04-04-2013, 10:40 AM   #4
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The trail from Lake Colden up the south side of Algonquin is one of the steepest trails and can be very mud mess. I'll only go down hill on that trail.
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Old 04-04-2013, 09:24 PM   #5
DSettahr
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Be sure to note that you will need a Bear Canister as detailed in the second link of DSettahr's excellent post. The bears are waking up hungry after a poor food season for them last year.
Yes, this too- for some reason in my head I was thinking May 15th. But it's April 1st, so they are now required.

And the bears are indeed out and about already... I took this picture at Taylor Pond last weekend:

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Old 04-05-2013, 07:01 AM   #6
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Well thanks for all the quick info. You have been very helpful. However, I am now highly considering moving my trip to the adirondacks to later in the year when it will be warmer actually, its not the cold im worried about, I just want want to have to deal with alot of snow on this trip. I think im going to take your advice though, and keep an eye on the weather in the last week or two before the trip before I finalize.
That really sucks about the fire situation though. I did end read that on the adm website. Mind of unbelievable. Ive never gone on a backpacking trip and not finished off the day with a warm fire!

How are the bugs in september? Without getting into the winter months, whats the best time to avoid the black flies and mosquitos you guys are talking about?

What do you think about me setting up a 'base camp' at one of the camp grounds around heart lake and day hiking from there to marcy or algonquin, but always returning to the site at night? That way we would be out of the snow at least for the evenings and mornings...

Thanks again guys.
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Old 04-05-2013, 07:39 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by rootmode View Post
Well thanks for all the quick info. You have been very helpful. However, I am now highly considering moving my trip to the adirondacks to later in the year when it will be warmer actually, its not the cold im worried about, I just want want to have to deal with alot of snow on this trip. I think im going to take your advice though, and keep an eye on the weather in the last week or two before the trip before I finalize.
That really sucks about the fire situation though. I did end read that on the adm website. Mind of unbelievable. Ive never gone on a backpacking trip and not finished off the day with a warm fire!

How are the bugs in september? Without getting into the winter months, whats the best time to avoid the black flies and mosquitos you guys are talking about?

What do you think about me setting up a 'base camp' at one of the camp grounds around heart lake and day hiking from there to marcy or algonquin, but always returning to the site at night? That way we would be out of the snow at least for the evenings and mornings...

Thanks again guys.
Yeah, the fire ban is unfortunate, but the DEC really had no choice. The situation was completely out of control; given the levels of use, the resources simply do not exist for campfires to happen sustainably in the Eastern High Peaks.

Generally, the bugs are gone by mid-August. Anytime between mid-August and late September is a great time to hike in the High Peaks. However, you should also be aware that during this time the High Peaks are going to be packed on the weekends. It's a very popular time of year to hike.

October is also a good time of year for backpacking, but you're going to start encountering ice on the summits then, so microspikes are well warranted.

Getting a spot at Heart Lake is a great idea. It will mean longer distances each day, but at least it will all be done with day packs, and you won't have to drive afterwards (except maybe a quick trip into Lake Placid for dinner). Plus, Heart Lake is not in the Eastern High Peaks, it's a privately owned campground, so you can have a campfire there at the end of the day. And you don't need a bear canister; you can store your food in your car.
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Old 04-05-2013, 11:16 AM   #8
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Thanks again DSettahr.

Just booked 4 nights on heart lake and we'll run day hikes out of that.

Would you suggest buying bear spray or is that a waste of money? Ive never encountered bears before.
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Old 04-05-2013, 02:04 PM   #9
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Bear spray is unnecessary in the Adirondacks. Bears will be more afraid of you than vice-versa.

The bear population in the Adirondacks are black bears which tend to be timid. It is possible you could encounter a bear that has become somewhat habituated to people, but that bear will not look at you as food, only what you may be eating at the time. If that's the case, just make some noise to frighten off the bear, if it is still curious just leave your food and back away -- it will instantly forget about you and start munching on your food.
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Old 04-05-2013, 06:27 PM   #10
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While they tend to be more aggressive in the High Peaks, I agree that bear spray isn't necessary. They're after your food, not you. I'd be surprised if you had any problems on a day hike.
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Old 04-11-2013, 09:40 AM   #11
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Ive never gone on a backpacking trip and not finished off the day with a warm fire!

What do you think about me setting up a 'base camp' at one of the camp grounds around heart lake and day hiking from there to marcy or algonquin, but always returning to the site at night?
Regarding the fire, I have found that once I got used to having no fire I really prefer it. The lack of smoke and nice quiet of the evening without crackles and pops grows on you. Plus, it's much lower impact on this fragile and overused area.

The idea of returning to Heart Lake is a good one; there are great loops from the loj and the lean-tos around the lake are good. I think you can have a fire there too; they sell firewood. A loop over Algonquin and Iroquoise, down to Lake Colden, and out Avalanche pass is a fantastic and challenging day hike. A nice but much longer loop would be directly to Marcy from the loj via Indian Falls, then down the opalescent gorge to Lake Colden and out, or as a variation, to Lake Arnold, side trip up Mt Colden if you're a superhero, and out.
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Old 04-12-2013, 11:46 AM   #12
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Thanks halocline!

Anyone have a crampon brand to suggest? Ive never used them before. From what ive read, the best durability is found in steel crampons and is the way to go when traversing partial snow/rocky/muddy terrain.
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Old 04-12-2013, 12:26 PM   #13
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We bought these mid this year.

http://hillsound.com/hillsound-produ...l-crampon-pro/

I like them OK. They have a ton of grip on ice but they aren't for wall climbing or anything, just hiking. They don't seem to care what you have them on, they still seem to grip. Bare rock is where they are the worst but they still grab - you have to be careful because they will twist your ankle though.

I don't much like them on snow, even crusty snow. I'd much rather wear snowshoes. Even with the anti-balling plates these hurt my feet (pressure points). Snowshoes spread the load out and make my feet happy You will also find yourself glissading with them in soft snow - they really like hard pack or ice.

Most people that I see use these though:

http://www.kahtoola.com/microspikes.php

I'm sure they work fine (because 100s of peakbaggers use them) as long as you realize you DO NOT have any toe grip. You have to keep your foot flat with these while climbing which can be rough on the calves.

The micros are definitely disposable after a few years once they lose their sharpness. The hillsounds may be able to be sharpened but my guess is the bindings will break before that happens.

Make sure you keep them in a crampon bag because the hillsounds are sharp enough to slice up your bag and your gear. I cut right through my shell pants the first time I used them (now I wear my gaiters with them at all times )

Either that or get a real pair of SS black diamonds. I kind of wish I would have just spent the extra $30 and got those. The old fashioned binding system seems bullet proof although not as quick to put on and SS is nice because it won't rust on you. The hillsounds are getting rusty already.
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