A 46er is not something you can buy or join, it’s something you become
To become a 46er you must ascend and descend the 46 high peaks in the Adirondack Mountains. These are all peaks above 4,000 feet in elevation based on the original surveys. Yes, there are more peaks above 4,000 feet, but to be a “46” peak it must be more than ¾ of a mile from another peak. It is also true that with modern survey technology it was found that four of the original 46 peaks are actually below 4,000, but they are still considered “46er peaks.”
Measurements aside, becoming a 46er is no doubt a triumph of the body and mind. It is also representative of the love one has for the Adirondack region’s natural beauty. We recently interviewed NYFalls.com community member Jim Weeks (AKA: Backpacker) after learning about his 46er achievement.
What was the first Adirondack peak you ascended?
My first peak was Algonquin Peak. I enjoy hiking and talked my brother-in-law into joining me. Algonquin is the 2nd tallest peak at 5,114 ft. I had no intentions at this time to become a 46er. I just went out for a hike. The second time I climbed Algonquin was with a group of scouts before we went to Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico. My current hiking partner joined me on this hike and wanted to do Marcy at some point just to say he’s been at the top of New York. So we invited another friend to join us on our Marcy climb and it was then that the three of us decided to work on becoming 46ers.
What was the most difficult peak?
Most people would expect this answer to be one of the long distance peaks or a trail-less one. My most difficult peak was Phelps Mt. (4,161 ft). Phelps is actually a close and relatively easy peak; I’ve done Phelps twice and both times were in the winter. The first time I had the wrong type of snowshoes thus making it hard to walk; I ended up bare booting it, which is tough in deep snow. The second time we did Phelps in conjunction with Tabletop (4,427 ft), and I didn’t keep my furnace stoked and ran low on steam (didn’t eat enough).
Have you ever found yourself in a less than comfortable situation?
No, because I know when to call it quits and head back. I remember three hikes we turned back on without summiting due to weather or time. When you’re in the high peaks, area roads are far and few and your cell phone won’t work, so you have to have a level head and know when to turn around. On one trip my hiking partner got dehydrated and a little delirious which made for an uneasy day but we made it.
What was the most memorable peak for you?
I would have to say doing the lower range trail which includes: Lower Wolfjaw (4,175 ft), Upper Wolfjaw (4,185 ft), Armstrong (4,400 ft), and Gothics (4,736 ft), then coming out over Pyramid (4515 ft) for a total of 13 miles round trip. The day started wet with showers, but by the time we got to the ridge, the weather broke, the sun came out, the wind was mild and the temperature was nice for hiking. I believe this was our first encounter with log ladders too. The views from Gothics are amazing – not to mention you’re standing within the heart of the Adirondacks.
What essentials do you always carry?
My daypack is always ready. I just add food and clothing for the weather and I’m off. In a gallon Ziploc bag I have: duck tape, magnesium fire starter, hand warmers, emergency blanket, dried mincemeat, band-aids, Benadryl, aspirin, matches, instant coffee, TP (toilet paper). In the pack I have: headlamp, water filter, tripod, compass, 2 – 1 liter water bottles, knit hat, warm shirt, gloves, 1 pair of socks, map, candy, jerky, bread product, high energy high calorie food, and a Swiss army knife in my pocket.
What steps do you take to prepare for the more difficult climbs?
Every climb/hike is different or unique; in the ‘Dacks I would consider a long peak 17 plus miles round trip as difficult. If I know there will be open rocks to climb (slide) I’ll carry a small piece of rope. I do a lot of walking and stair climbing to keep my legs knees and ankles in shape, when doing stairs I’ll skip one or two at a time to simulate the climbing effect over rocks. While hiking the most important thing to do is keep you furnace fueled. I see so many people struggling, tired, and worn out towards the end of a hike that it’s hard to believe. I’m out there to enjoy the day, the climb, the people, and the view if I get one, I don’t want to be burned out and sore by the end of the day, that’s why I eat and drink continuously while I’m hiking.
When you reach the top, do you have any traditions or rituals?
No I don’t have any traditions or rituals. When we summit depending on the plan, weather, and distance, we’ll sit and eat, take in the views, take some pictures or move on to the next peak or head down and out.
What’s the best photo opportunity you’ve come across?
The best photo shots would be in the winter, you have to remember to correct for the snow but you can get the best distance and depth of field with winter shots. The biggest problem any other time is the haze; I’ve had hikes that I’ve taken less than 10 pictures due to the haze.
I would have to say the best photos I’ve taken were from the Cascade and Porter hike when it was minus 28. The sky was the deepest blue I had ever seen. We could see the Green Mountains in Vermont clearly.
Now that you are a 46er, what’s next?
I’ve seen a lot of interesting sights while working on the 46. There are many smaller peaks, lakes, ponds, and waterfalls to visit or revisit. There is a book called “The other 54” which are other peaks in the Adirondacks. I may try some of them. I would like to help friends finish their 46. My hiking partner and I have been talking about Mt. Washington and the Presidential Range in New Hampshire. I’ve also thought about the Vermont Long Trail which is 270 miles in length and traverses many peaks in Vermont. At over six million acres in the Adirondacks I’m sure I can find things to do and see. The Catskills has a Club called “Catskill 3500 Club” which is climbing on foot all 35 peaks over 3,500 feet. There’s also a Fire Tower challenge which includes fire towers from the Catskills and Dacks.
View Adirondack 46 Peaks in a larger map
Interviewing / Presentation