How To Not Fail At Hiking Your First Adirondacks Peak

Sunset on Lake in the Adirondacks

Diana from Handstands Around the World recently wrote about her summer 2014 trip the the Adirondacks, where she spent some time hiking in the Adirondack Park.  This really connected with me because I also travelled to the Adirondack Park in the summer of 2014, and totally fell in love.  The lakes were beautiful, and the streams and rivers amazing.  But the mountains? The mountains were just captivating.

We have “mountains” in Pennsylvania, and I love them too, but they aren’t at all like the mountains in the Adirondacks.

I loved them so much that when a Facebook Group about hiking the 46 High Peaks in the Adirondack Park crossed my feed, I immediately joined.  For three years I drooled over the pictures that other people posted about summit attempts, backpacking and camping on the High Peaks, butt surfing down them in the winter.  I loved it all.  I made a map with the High Peaks all marked, I bookmarked an article about hiking the High Peaks and reread it untold times. My research led me to discover that Cascade is the easiest to hike.

Step One: Research

Last fall, ok, it was November, I had an opportunity to go to Albany, NY for a family event.  Great! Cascade (the “easiest” peak to climb), is only a couple hours away.   I bought the maps and kept an eye on the weather.

Step Two: Pick a Date

Done!  the date was decided for me, but if I pulled the kids out of school a day or two early, we could drive up to Lake George, get a hotel for the night and climb Cascade the next day before meeting family in Albany.  It was a short trail, only 2 miles and change each way.  Less than 5 miles total, and you could actually bag TWO peaks, Cascade AND Porter.  How easy is that?

Step Three: Pick Your Partners

My kids were 12 and 15 as the time, with lots of hiking experience, big for their age.  So good choices both.  As the date got closer, I watched the trail reports.  It looked like there might be some snow and ice to contend with, so on the way out of town I swung by our local gear shop and picked up three sets of microspikes.  These are more aggressive than the nanospikes that I already owned.  They’re like mini crampons that you put on your boots to give you significantly better traction on thick, non-flat ice.  I also wrote, printed and gave my kids detailed packing lists, with instructions to “bring everything on this list, you will need it”.

Steps Four and Five: Prepare for the Weather, Use a Packing List

As we pulled out of the driveway I double checked, “Do you have everything on the list? We’re going to be 8+ hours away from home, if you forgot anything, tell me now. Base layer? winter boots? warm coat? gloves? hat? skiing socks?”  You can clearly see that I checked with them about having packed all the essentials. Keep this in mind, we’ll come back to it.

Two kids in the back seat

Here We Go!

After a VERY long drive, we finally arrived at our hotel, ordered room service, because none of the restaurants were open, it was the “off-season” after all.  Of course we had to try out the pool and hot tub, what else do you do with $50 worth of pizza and a beer you brought from home?  We called it a night!

The next morning dawned clear and cold.  The hotel had a free breakfast, and my two teenagers ate EVERYTHING.

Step Six: Climb the Mountain

Everything Was Fine Up Until This Point

This is where things started to go off the rails.  The kids realized that the “Big Adventure” involved hiking.  It turns out that one kid forgot her base layer, hat and socks.  Another kid forgot his snacks and gloves.

Getting bundled up for hiking

Note the sweatshirt used as a hat

Also, they didn’t believe me when I said, “It’s going to be cold.”  So off we went.  About 3 hours in we had donned our microspikes, yet hiked less than a mile.  They were hungry, tired and cold, and had completely mutinied on me, refusing to hike another step.  With tears in my eyes I admitted defeat, there would be no summit for me that day.  We were out of time and needed to get to Albany for dinner with family.

The Lesson about Hiking Your First High Peak in the Adirondacks

Planning will only get you so far, at some point other people will influence your goal, (if you involve other people).  Had I hiked with a different group, one that WAS adequately prepared, and as energized to make the two summits as I was, I probably would have seen the view from the top that day.  I did see it when other people that we met on the trail posted it on Facebook, but I still wanted to see it with my own eyes.  I vowed that I WILL go back, and I WILL summit Cascade and Porter, but next time, I’m not taking my kids.

2 Comments on “How To Not Fail At Hiking Your First Adirondacks Peak

  1. Looks cold! Bummer that you couldn’t make it to the summits… but it made for a good story.

    We’re heading back to the Adirondacks in a month to make a summit attempt of Marcy (if it ever stops being winter, that is), so I’ll definitely be keeping all your advice in mind. Thanks for sharing!


    • Good luck, and hopefully you find summer and not mud season!