Why the 46ers?

Last winter, Zach and I took on an exciting challenge with our coworker Caroline. Our goal was to summit all 46 of the High Peaks in the Adirondack region between the months of May and September, and ideally before her (not that we are competitive or anything...).
Rock on!
"Au sommet!"
The Adirondack Mountains are situated in Upstate New York, with most hikes only about a two hour drive away from Montreal. In the early 1900s the 46 higher peaks in the region were measured to be over 4000 feet of elevation. With more accurate measurements, 4 of them were actually just shy of 4000 feet and another one was over the 4000 foot barrier, making it the "bonus" peak. Regardless, over the years, the 46ers have become a destination and a challenge for all kinds of hikers across the United States as well as Quebec and Ontario. Given the proximity and the possibilities, it really is a wonderful playground for us.

Zach and I had a wonderful time testing our endurance and capabilities while discovering what the Adirondacks had to offer over 16 weekly hikes. We thought a little Q&A would be a great way to share our adventures, give you some advice and above all motivate you to take on the 46ers yourself!
Whiteface Mountain
At the peak of Whiteface Mountain, our final peak!

How long did it take to complete the 46ers?

Having only one day off together, Zach and I had to be efficient with our planning to complete our hikes in due time, and to win our challenge. We first looked at the map of the region and chose which peaks were close enough to be combined into day hikes. It made for bigger days, but also greater challenges.

Some peaks are part of ranges that are really worth doing all together, like the Dix Range (5 peaks, about 30 km) or the Lower Great Range (5 peaks, 27 km). We also had a few hikes where we accumulated peaks just for time constraints, like when we did Marshall, Redfield and Cliff or combined Street, Nye, Cascade and Porter. And then, there are peaks that are meant to be done alone because they are far from anything else, like Mount Allen.
Heart Lake
Heart Lake

With some good planning, we had our goal in the bag within 16 hikes ranging from 20 km to about 48 km. However, most people complete the 46ers over the course of a few years. Some do it with their kids, some before specific milestones, and some enjoy a few peaks here and there solely for the beautiful views they can enjoy. I think the essential reason we could finish them all within one season is how dedicated we were to our Fridays: going on a weekly hike really improves your overall fitness and specific endurance for hiking, making the weekly outings significantly easier than it they were sporadically spread out over a few years.

Are the conditions significantly different in May compared to September?

Definitely! In the spring, at higher elevation, you may face more snow and ice than expected. Ideally you would be equipped with crampons or hiking poles to compensate and help with balance. Sometimes we had no choice but to bushwhack our way out of icy slides. Funnily enough, those are the same days as our most significant sunburns!
Bad weather
Rainy weather...

Later in the season, humidity and high temperatures were another challenge. Bringing more than enough water is really key to an enjoyable hike in the middle of the summer. And of course, we had the occasional downpour. With the appropriate gear, those experiences do not slow you down much and they are part of the hiking experience. In fact, it feels great to know that whatever weather we encounter, we are still up for it and enjoying what the mountains can give us.

Which peak was your ultimate favorite?

Not surprisingly, it's too hard to say! If I've learned one thing doing the 46ers, it is how people's opinions on each peak can vary significantly depending on their personal experience the day of. Weather, temperature, dehydration, and fitness are all aspects that can really alter one's feedback on a specific hike.

The Dix Range was probably our favorite hike because we were lucky enough to do it on a weekend where so few people were out hiking that we really had the feeling of having the mountains to ourselves. On top of that, 4 of the 5 peaks in the range offer beautiful views, some even 360°! We also had a lot of fun hiking Allen, although everyone we had talked to said it was the most boring hike. The long approach is admittedly uneventful although still beautiful, but the ascent is very engaging, crossing multiple streams on steep rocks. Allen has a treed summit, but pushing a few meters further exposes a view of the Great Range, which is totally worth it!

Hiking the Dix Range
Hiking the Dix Range

Also in my top 3 hikes is Algonquin, Wright and Iroquois. It was our first of the season in early May, so most of our way down those peaks was done sliding down melting ice (most often not purposely, for me) while wearing shorts because the temperatures were changing and allowed for that funny contrast. But more importantly, the views were breathtaking and nothing compares to the feeling you get when scrambling over rocks as you follow the yellow painted lines all the way to the top once in the alpine zone.

All right, I'm sold! Which peak should I start with?

I believe there are two approaches to this question. One would be the one we followed: starting with an ambitious enough hike (3 peaks, including the 2nd highest) to know what we are getting ourselves into, while allowing some time to a learning curve to be ready for the very big and difficult days.

The second approach, which we used with friends and family members who wanted to be part of our adventures, would be to choose a few easy hikes to start with and get used to what the rocky trails in the Adirondacks are all about. The classic peak for that state of mind would be Cascade (can be combined with Porter without a problem) because it is a short hike very representative of what the other ones can look like and also offers stunning views. Other peaks such as Big Slide, Colden, or Giant could be great introductions to the 46ers.
Lake Colden
Lake Colden

If you own a dog (or a goat, yes, some people hike with goats), know that a few trails are dog/pet friendly. As long as you keep in mind the basic motto "Leave no trace behind", you can bring your furry friend along with you for some exciting adventures in the woods!

What do I need to bring?

Buying the map of the Adirondacks High Peaks Region is a 5$US investment. Truly an investment. It's important to plan, and crucial to bring a map along because trails and forks can sometimes be confusing. You might want to cut a hike short or even literally “go the extra mile”!

Usually a 20 liter bag with a hip belt (such as the Angstrom or the Lithus and Aleia) is ideal for day hikes and will fit all these items while not being too bulky. Always pack your bag with these essentials:

- Headlamp
- Map and compass
- First Aid kit
- Food and snacks
- More than enough water
- Waterproof shell
- Fleece or insulated layer in between seasons
- Sunscreen and sunglasses
Phelps Mountain with Caroline

When it comes to clothing, most of it is up to personal preferences. However, try to avoid cotton and stick to merinos and synthetic fabrics which will wick away moisture to keep you comfortable for long days. I also like wearing a hat which not only helps to protect my eyes from the sun, but also helps with sweat and branches getting stuck in my hair.

The last very important item you need is a pair of shoes you feel comfortable with. Zach and I both run a lot, so we chose to use trail running shoes for our hikes. They are lighter and models such as the Ultra MT or the Ultra Endurance offer great grip even on icy, snowy or wet rocks.

If you need more support, do not hesitate to look into hiking shoes like the Hedgehog Hike and the Ultra Fastpack, which will be stiffer. Higher hiking boots like the Hedgehog Hike Mid which will procure even more ankle support, are ideal when carrying a heavy backpack.

But did you win the challenge?

Of course we did! Jokes aside, we had a healthy competition with Caroline which really encouraged all of us to learn more about the region and gain even more experience regarding hiking. It also allowed us to test a wide variety of products to be even more helpful with our advice to our customers.
Lake Placid from Whiteface Mountin
Lake Placid from Whiteface Mountain

Now it's your turn! Take on the challenge, embark on this journey with friends or family, share your favorite peaks and tell us how it feels to be on top of your 46th peak!

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