Friday, May 29, 2015

46er!!! ...And the Next Adventure

On Saturday, May 23, 2015, I hiked to the top of Nippletop and became an (unofficial) 46er.

However, this trip report begins at 11:00 a.m. on Monday, December 29, 2008. Bear with me: I have a story to tell. It's a tale of adventure, struggle, character - and yes, it's also an old fashioned love story.

So here I am, the baby face of 6.5 years ago: I'm standing in lightly drifting snow, figuring out how to put on my snowshoes, fresh out of their eBay box. I've got my Columbia jacket I've had since college, with its thin fleece lining and non-water-resistant shell, and a pair of my mother's old wool mittens from Sears. The cap is already partially frozen onto my waterbottle. I am drastically under-prepared and dramatically over-excited, because it's Day 1, Mile 1 of my second winter hike ever, and my first High Peak experience.

I'm hiking with two friends and the guy I started dating seriously just a month before. The trail goes straight up, and it takes us 3 hours to go 2 miles because we stop every 1/2 mile. It bitterly cold on the summit, and savage winds make mincemeat of my sad jacket. But just like that, I've hiked my first High Peak.

Cascade Mountain, 12/29/2008
Then my boyfriend reminds me that we're not turning around just yet - there's a second summit "over there." I realize that anyone who hikes 46 of these beasts must be certifiably insane, plus possess powers of stamina, balance, fortitude, and power that I would never have. I was frozen to my core, my knees ached, and the roar of the wind took my breath and left me fearful - and exhilarated. I was so small on that mountain, yes, but I also was something that mattered, someone who could remain standing while the wind roared.

Why did I return to those mountains? Stubbornness? Curiosity? Something to prove? Adrenaline rush? Fear of missing out? A budding love of the wilderness? I don't know, because my first experience was kind of miserable.

But I did return.

Sometimes with friends...

Rocky Peak Ridge, 2/23/2012
Sometimes alone...

Phelps Mountain, 3/3/2013
But usually with that boyfriend. That boyfriend, who took me up the Trap Dike, over Colden, then up the back side of Algonquin to traverse the MacIntyre Range on my first ever backpacking trip. (Let's just say that he was trying to kill me, and if I survived, I'd make a decent girlfriend.)

Algonquin, 8/16/2009
Some of his "adventures" were my misadventures, and especially in the early days, I didn't always love him when we were in the mountains. But as the miles passed under our feet, we learned to work as a team. My developing backcountry skills gave me confidence to voice my opinions and needs. He learned to give appropriate feedback and recognition. And eventually, there were no more misadventures.

We hitched our lives together on the summit of Mt. Marcy, highest point in New York State: a fitting place for our love, born in the wild.

Mt. Marcy, 6/15/2013
Without noticing, I had hiked 28 of the High Peaks and had become one of those certifiably insane hikers who can start a one match fire and who carries a toothbrush without a handle (saves 15 grams!). 28 down, 18 to go - and then I thought I might finish, because what the heck: I, and he, and we were having fun.

Finally: the morning of Saturday, May 23, 2015. Today I finish my 46. I'm hiking with some friends, and of course, my husband. As we gain altitude, I start to see the back side of the Great Range, Haystack there, Colvin and Blake in front - memories from so many miles of trail, each peak an old friend now. Speaking of old friends, those hiking partners from my first High Peak trip are married, with a baby son, and live across the street. It's a bluebird day - reminds me of my wedding day - in fact, there's Marcy.

After 6 years, 4 months, and 25 days, 275 miles, 117,000 feet of elevation gain, 18 distinct trips spanning 27 calendar days, 3 pairs of hiking boots, 50 pounds of trail mix, and an infinite number of black fly bites, I summited at 12:45 p.m.

After 46 of these, there isn't much to say. It was a lovely day, and this adventure was complete.

Of course, the completion of one adventure always marks the start of the next one...

P.S.  Completing the 46 on Nippletop was a total coincidence - but it does make me chuckle.

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