A Bit of History

The Adirondack Forty-Sixers™, Inc. is a hiking and service club whose members have climbed the summits of the 46 peaks over 4,000 feet in elevation in the Adirondack mountains of northern New York state. The organization is dedicated to protecting and reserving the wilderness character of the High Peaks region and sponsors a variety of programs on the conservation principles of “If you carry it in, carry it out,” and “leave no trace.” In coordination with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, the club supports an active all-volunteer trail maintenance and trail adoption program. The Forty-Sixers maintain a long-standing tradition of corresponding with those hikers who are seeking membership. Hikers are assigned a correspondent who serves as a mentor throughout their quest to become a 46er. Information on how to become a member is available on the How to join/Historian page.

The history of the club dates back to the 1920s, when only twelve of the 46 peaks had trails (but no trail markers and few signboards to guide hikers), when large expanses of forest that had been denuded by the timber industry and scarred by logging slash and ravages of fires, and when one could spend all day hiking, and not see another person. Brothers Robert (Bob) and George Marshall and their friend and guide Herbert Clark were the first to climb the 46 high peaks in this environment that would seem unfamiliar to today’s hikers. They began their quest with a climb of Whiteface Mt. on August 1, 1918, and finished on the summit of Emmons on June 10, 1925. Since then over 7,000 people have followed in their footsteps and have registered their climbs to become Adirondack 46ers.

Bob Marshall recounted the hiking exploits of the trio in a small booklet, The High Peaks of the Adirondacks, published in 1922. Five years later Adirondack historian and climber Russell M. L. Carson published Peaks and People of the Adirondacks, a history of the mountains and the people who first explored and climbed them. These two publications caught the attention and imagination of a group of like-minded adventurers in Grace Methodist Church in Troy, NY. The church’s pastor, the Rev. Ernest Ryder (#7) and two parishioners Edward Hudowalski (#6) and his wife Grace (#9) led members of Ed’s Sunday school class on hikes of the High Peaks throughout the 1930s and 1940s. Six months after Ed and Rev Ryder finished the 46 on Dix on September 13, 1936 they formed a hiking club called the Forty-Sixers of Troy. Grace began recording the climbs of each member of the new club and encouraged them to write about their experiences. Thus began a tradition that continues today of climbers writing in to the club to register their climbs.

Herb Herb and Bob on road The lure of the Adirondack High Peaks spread to hikers throughout the Northeast. In order to include hikers beyond the greater Troy, NY area, it became apparent that the Troy group needed to expand their reach. With the blessing of the Forty-Sixers of Troy, the inaugural meeting of a new club named the Adirondack Forty-Sixers took place at Adirondak Loj on May 30, 1948. Twenty people attended that first organizational meeting. The group elected Grace Hudowalski as President, Kay Flickinger as Secretary, and Adolph “Ditt” Dittmar as Treasurer. The rest, as they say, is history. The organization grew from being a social club whose members hiked for fun and adventure, to an enterprise that is integral to the care and preservation of the region. Today’s Forty-Sixers play the dual role of “hiking partners, mountain stewards.” The club continues to mentor hikers and register their climbs. In addition it coordinates and supports a number of educational and conservation projects aimed at maintaining the wild character of the High Peaks region for future generations of hikers to enjoy.

A comprehensive history of the organization’s development and profiles of the individuals who molded its direction, values and traditions, as well as comprehensive histories of each of the 46 peaks are included in the club’s newest book, Heaven Up-h’isted-ness! The History of the Adirondack Forty-Sixers and the High Peaks of the Adirondacks. Whether you are a hiker or a history buff, you will be led on a journey of discovery through the Adirondack High Peaks and get to know the people who climb them. Click here for additional information on the book or if you would like to purchase a copy of Heaven Up-h’isted-ness!

Click for the Forty-Sixer Timeline

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