Completing the Adirondack 46

David on the summit of Whiteface.
David summits Whiteface Mountain, for the second time, to make it “count” for his 46.

It took 45 years, but I finally completed what I started.

When I was a young boy my family would make frequent trips to the Adirondack Mountains of northern New York state, camping and hiking in this beautiful “forever wild” region of high peaks, beautiful brooks, ample wildlife, and pristine lakes.  Inspired by my father’s love for these mountains, and his encouragement, I started racking up the miles and the mountains.  I discovered the concept of a 46er – a person who climbs all 46 of the peaks thought to be over 4000′ elevation, at least according to the 19th-century surveyors.  I was hooked, and set out to achieve this goal myself.  Today I finished – read on, and check out the photos.

I climbed my first 46er peak on June 30, 1972, when I was eight years old.  Just over four years later, I’d made it half-way through the list, and typed up Dad and Dave’s 46er list of mountains.  I knocked off a few more peaks while a kid at Camp Dudley and then while a student in the Choate outing club and Dartmouth Outing Club, and even a few in 1990 while in grad school at Duke.   Then I moved to New Hampshire and focused my energy there – completing the 48 White Mountains four-thousand-footers in 1996 and the 5 Green Mountains four-thousand-footers in 2012.

Twenty-six years went by and I decided it was high time I went back to the Adirondacks and wrapped up the final 13 peaks.  Last fall, I spent a lovely late-October weekend climbing Nye, Tabletop, and Sawteeth. This summer I made four Adirondack overnight trips to pick up Couchsachraga, Cliff and Marshall, Allen, and the Seward Range.  Just one left!  Mount Esther, a bump on the shoulder of Whiteface Mountain.

Well, two left.  My father and I first climbed Whiteface Mountain in July 1975, but never descended – my mother drove up the auto road and met us on the summit, giving us a free ride down.  So today I puttered over to the base of Whiteface and hiked up into the clouds, reaching the tree-covered summit of Esther a couple hours later, and the summit of Whiteface at the four-hour mark.  As arranged, I met my parents as they parked at the top of the auto road and we shared a celebratory lunch in the summit cafeteria.  It was truly special for me to have my father accompany me to the summit as I finished the quest I started with him over 45 years earlier.

David celebrates his 46th peak with his Dad on the summit of Whiteface.
David celebrates his 46th peak with Dad on the summit of Whiteface.

On the walk down the mountain – this time, I wanted to be sure it’s totally “official” – I thought about how many things I share with my father: a love of mountains, of photography, of travel, of science, and of teaching.  He has been a true inspiration for me, and it was an honor to have him there today.

This weekend? my father and I are going hiking… in the Adirondacks.

Check out the full photo gallery.

Distance: 12.8mi round-trip.  Net gain to summit: 3620.   Total gain: over 4000′.

[Founded in 1892], the [Adirondack] Park is the largest publicly protected area in the contiguous United States, greater in size than Yellowstone, Everglades, Glacier, and Grand Canyon National Park combined. [history]

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