Saturday, January 7, 2023
Start/End: The Loj
Elevation gain/loss: 9308’/9449′
Peaks: Phelps, Table Top, Marcy, Skylight, Grey, Colden
With rested legs, I started from the parking lot right before 6am, hiking by headlamp for the first hour and a half or so. I started in spikes, carrying snowshoes on my pack, and was lucky enough to have perfectly favorable conditions allowing me to stay in my spikes the whole day. I made good time to Marcy Dam and didn’t realize until half a mile later that I’d taken the wrong fork and was heading towards Phelps rather than Colden. I shrugged and kept going. I initally missed the Phelps side trail and had to turn around and walk back a few hundred feet. I started up the side trail with my backpack and decided after a bit that I could quite safely drop my pack. I quickly scampered to the socked-in summit, said hi to the 3 people heading up as I headed down, and then retrieved my bag (after some poking around to find it again). Back on the main trail, I managed to blow past the side trail for Table Top too and had to go back a little to go up that spur. I dropped my bag in a more memorable spot, passed by two hikers, tagged the summit in the clouds, and then went back to my pack. Then it was my day’s longest climb up to Marcy; I passed at least 8 people as I ascended and the clouds slowly started to dissipate. The wind was bold on top but not too bad. I kept moving and headed over the summit, back into some passing clouds, and traveled cairn to cairn for some of the descent. The day became progressively more sunny as I began climbing Skylight; I stowed my pack for the last push above treeline and enjoyed the beautiful ice-covered summit. Then it was back down to my pack and then over to Gray. Grey was a quick up and back, with a few icy sections that were mostly avoidable. The trail was well packed but quiet on this side of Marcy; I didn’t see anyone from the summit of Marcy until I was by the intersection to head over to Lake Arnold and Mt Colden. With only one peak left and blue skies, I enjoyed my time hiking over to the base of Colden. I dropped my pack, checked the time, and decided I could easily make it back to my pack before dark. I headed up Colden with surprisingly fresh legs and enjoyed the beautiful interactions between sun and clouds as the day headed toward sunset. I was excited to be done with almost all of my climbing for the day! The trail was firm and fast and I really took advantage of that as I headed back towards the Loj.
As I passed by Marcy Dam, I went to sign myself out of the log and three young men who were camping nearby asked me what I’d hiked today. I started listing peaks and they exclaimed partway through my recitation, “oh wait, you’re THAT guy from the trail register!!” I smirked a little and asked if they expected me to be taller. They demured and said they didn’t know what they were expecting. We had some fun conversations about their plans for the next few days and then I headed out to finish up the last 2 miles. Those miles felt like they took forever in the dark, but it wasn’t more than 45 minutes before I was back at my car! I finished at 6:25pm, almost exactly 12-1/2 hours from the time I left. A grand day where I got to feel like a celebrity!