Great Range Traverse, Adirondack Mountains, New York

Start Elev: 2022' Max Elev: 5344' Min Elev: 1609' End Elev: 1617'

Scrolling Photographs of our Traverse

August 24, 2013 - On most days life seems to drip onto the page in a steady
pattern of repetition and predictability.  We increasingly settle for secure and
comfortable lives - safe - but too secure, too comfortable.  The soul gets restless;
it seeks to experience the joys of discovery, challenge, and climax more frequently.
So, some of us create diversions to fill the void of daily ennui and once in awhile
splash the page with a waterfall of experience that usurps the tedium of everyday
life and gives us a glimpse of what we may be missing just beyond the edge.  This
day was just such a day - an explosion of sensation that holds the potential to
reset the foundation and maybe lead one to consider tackling life from a new 
perspective.  I, for one, came away soaked, thoroughly saturated from this 
shared adventure, and find myself becoming even less patient with the drip, drip, 
drip of complacent living.

Our traverse of the Great Range in the heart of the High Peaks of the Adirondacks
would run counter-clockwise from a 0630 start at the Garden parking lot out of
Keene Valley, with out-and-backs first to the state's highest peak, 5344-foot 
Mt. Marcy, then to Little Haystack and Mt. Haystack.  Our group of 14 steadily
climbed the trail along John's Brook to summit the first peak in about three hours
for the nine miles or so it took to get there.  Conversation never had a break with
this group of largely ultra trail runners.  The time and rocky trail passed quickly.
Once the peak bagging began the group splintered by pace and tempo, with
Lisa, Elizabeth, Garry, Tommy, Pete, and Fred moving ahead while the rest of us
brought up the rear.  After Haystack - Donna, David, Peter, Deirdre, Joe, Charlie,
Amy, and myself, mostly stuck together until the start of Gothics, when Peter
and Deirdre returned via a more direct route and David and Donna moved ahead
of the four of us that remained.

Backpacker Magazine called the traverse we were doing the third hardest dayhike
in America.  I am at a loss to find words that describe the trail adequately to convey
just how challenging this hike is.  Nor do the photographs do it justice.  But I would
not disagree with Backpacker's assessment.  We travelled peak to peak all day,
up and down out of the cols in between, over false summits, over steep eroded
rocky and rooty trail beds, taking just shy of 14 hours to cover the 25 miles or so.
Some in the advance group finished in less than 11 hours, but nobody was running
to accomplish this.  Our group worked just as hard, but at a more leisurely pace,
confident of finishing before it was dark.

There was no crux to the hike, just a long steep ascent up the slab face of the 
Gothics, rendered a little less dangerous by a helpful series of cables for climbing.
A couple of ladders got us over some precipitous pitches via ferrata.  Exposure
was minimal, with one exception - a 700-foot sheer drop between the Wolf Jaws.
No one suffered any kind of egregious injury, just a few bloody pokes to the legs
from protruding limbs and roots and some minor thigh burns from butt slides.  Amy
got her hair tangled in the underbrush, but was saved by Joe's galant efforts,
avoiding a call to S&R for extraction on Charlie's new satellite phone.

After a beer or two at the end, some of the group had to leave, so we parted 
company after sharing a memorable day together.  Charlie and I met Elizabeth,
Garry, Tommy, and Lisa at the Baxter Tavern for a few Swithbacks, something
to eat, and some great cameraderie.  While there, 81-year old Margo Fish moved
gracefully through the restaurant as she approached our table to introduce herself
and speak to us briefly.  Margo is a legend and pioneer in women's marathoning,
having run the Boston Marathon as early as 1967 to defy marathon policy of no
women runners at the time, and totalling 44 finishes there in all her years.  Still
very sharp and attractive she said she was there in 1975 when I asked her and was
a friend of Kathy Switzer, who helped change the standard at Boston that year.
It is of interest to me, because I finished within seconds of Katherine that year and
am clearly visible finishing ahead of her in the file footage.  Wow!  Coincidence?  I
don't think so.  Everyone was impressed with the fortuitous meeting.

I ended the day by following Garry back to a hostel, enjoying a bed for a change and
a hot shower after a sweaty day's outing.  As I drifted off to sleep in my bag I could
feel the drip, drip, drip returning, but it felt more like honey on my lips, with a great
sense of accomplishment in the day's effort still fresh in my mind.  Right then I
vowed to come back to the ADK.

Elevation Profile is an approximation of the route we followed, with the finish at the Rooster Comb Parking Lot.