100th Anniversary of the First High Peak Ascent by the First 46ers
By Joe Ryan #3787
On August 1st, 1918 two brothers, Bob #3 and George Marshall #2, climbed Whiteface Mountain with friend and guide, Herb Clark #1. It marked the first ascent of a High Peak for each of them; they also completed the 46 together on Emmons nearly seven years later. The achievements of this trio stimulated mountaineering in the Adirondacks and led to the eventual formation of a hiking club named The Forty-Sixers of Troy, predecessor to the Adirondack Forty-Sixers.
A 46er Club committee is now hard at work planning the centennial celebration of this event and we want to share with you how that planning is shaping up.
Bob Marshall #3, Herb Clark #1 and George Marshall #2.
Photo courtesy of the New York Public Library.
The Marshalls did not own a car so the day they scaled Whiteface began early. Herb Clark left his home on Lake Street in Saranac Lake and rowed across Lower Saranac to Knollwood, the home of the Marshalls. Herb picked up the boys and rowed them back to Lake Street. From there they walked into Saranac Lake to catch the train to Lake Placid, where they made their way to a waiting motorboat which shuttled them to the Whiteface Landing trailhead at the far end of the lake. Finally, they were able to attack the mountain.
Born and raised in New York City, Bob and George Marshall spent their summers in Saranac Lake. Louis Marshall, a wealthy constitutional lawyer, and five friends bought 500 acres of land on the Lower Saranac Lake, known as the Knollwood Club, which served as the base for the young Marshalls’ outdoor adventures. In 1916, Herb Clark, 46, guided Bob and George (15 and 12, respectively) up their first Adirondack mountain: Ampersand. This hike sparked the boys’ lifelong fascination with the mountains around them. Bob’s passion ultimately resulted in a national wilderness area in western Montana being named in his honor.
Herb Clark started work in 1906 as a guide for Louis Marshall at Knollwood during the summer months. He escorted family members on hiking, fishing and hunting trips, taught the children outdoor skills and supervised odd jobs around the property. In his writings, Bob Marshall made several references to Herb Clark’s speed and skill as a route finder. Herb, he wrote, “was more than just a nameless guide. He is just about the most distinctive and individual person I have ever known and also just about the grandest human being I have ever met. As a matter of fact, our relationship on these trips was not that of guide and guided, although Herb was much the most competent of the three of us. However, we would all hold a conference when different problems of route came up… and then decide on which route to take.”
A number of books were responsible for early enchantment with the Adirondacks. The appeal was romanticized in W.H.H. Murray’s writings and in Seneca Ray Stoddard’s photographs. A book on the Adirondack survey by Verplanck Colvin, found on the Marshalls’ bookshelf at Knollwood, piqued young Bob’s interest in the High Peaks. Peaks and People of the Adirondacks, by Russell Carson, stimulated many to climb the Adirondacks’ 46 highest peaks. Years later, the opening of Interstate 87, “The Northway”, led to easy access of this formerly remote area and then the Internet helped popularize climbing the 46 as a bucket list item.
Photo courtesy of the New York Public Library.
In 1939, the 46ers of Troy held a two-day celebration commemorating the first ascent of Esther Mountain by placing a plaque on the summit. Ten years later, the 46ers hosted a Haystack Centennial hike to note the first documented ascent of that peak by Orson S. (Old Mountain) Phelps, Almeron Oliver, and George Estey. In 1985, the 46er Club, in conjunction with New York State, sponsored programs that celebrated the forest preserve. 2013 was the year the 46ers honored Herb Clark by placing a footstone honoring his accomplishments at his gravesite in the town of Saranac Lake. Most recently, the club honored its matriarch, Grace Hudowalski #9, in 2015 with the naming of Grace Peak at the town park in North Hudson.
So, it is fitting that the Adirondack 46ers celebrate Herb Clark and the Marshall brothers’ first ascent of a High Peak.
The three-day event is tentatively planned for August 3-5, 2018, offering a little bit of everything for everybody. Expected highlights include an outdoor movie night on the 3rd in Saranac Lake featuring Blake Cortright’s movie, “The 46er Film”. The Adirondack Room at the Saranac Lake Free Library that holds everything Adirondack, including the George Marshall collection, will be open on the 4th. One of the major highlights of that day promises to be a commemorative hike with celebrants on each of the 46 summits simultaneously, with hikers dressed in attire and carrying equipment of the 1918 era.
The Wilmington Historical Society is preparing a unique program for us as well. To cap off the celebration there are tentative plans to hold a barbeque, perhaps at the Whiteface Mountain ski resort, on Sunday the 5th.
The committee is working on other activities, to be announced at a later date. We hope plans will be sufficiently firmed up to enable us to begin selling tickets in the fall of 2017. We invite you to check out our Facebook Group page that includes many historical photographs and information as well as updates on all future events. Visit us at: http://bit.ly/29zcmuR
Hope you can join us.
Announcing the 2018 Memorial Hike!
When: August 4, 2018
Where: Every One of the High 46 Peaks in the ADKS!
To commemorate the Centennial of the Marshall brothers and Herb Clark’s ascent of Whiteface, we are organizing synchronized memorial hikes up all 46 High Peaks. Participants will dress in attire and use the gear of the 1918 era. The hikes will be staged such that all groups will summit the peaks approximately 11:30 AM – 12:00 PM.
We are looking into a special surprise for all at 12:30 PM on that day! Stay tuned!
You must be a registered, dues-paid ADK 46r to participate. We are limiting group size to 6 people per group or peak. Space for this event is limited, and hiking slots may fill fast.
The most up to date sign up list is posted here:
Please send request for your place in this event with your full name and phone number to:
We will be sending updates/information via email.
Please reply if requested. Lack of your response may affect your participation!
Please notify if your email address changes!
Please notify us if your plans change and you cannot participate!
Find us on Facebook!
Adirondack 46ers anniversary celebration 2018 group!
Download the event flyer!
Watch for updates posted here: ADK46ers 100th Anniversary!