A non-profit organization whose members have climbed the 46 major peaks of New York’s Adirondack Mountains. As volunteers we are dedicated to environmental protection, to education for proper usage of wilderness areas, to participation in New York State Department of Environmental Conservation-approved trail projects, and to the support of initiatives within the Adirondack High Peaks region by organizations with similar goals that enhance our objectives.
What does it mean to BE a 46er?
By Siobhan Carney Nesbitt, #5930W
Adirondack 46ers Vice President & Office of the Historian Co-Chair
I hike because I love to hike.
While spending time outdoors with my family and friends, I love to hear babbling brooks, rustling leaves, twittering birds, chattering chipmunks, and sometimes in the dead of winter, the snow muffled silence. I love to share experiences with my young daughter. She delights in feeling the wind on her cheeks as we approach an open summit and touching or tasting the dirt, rocks, sticks, and dried leaves that line the trails, a strangely appetizing treat for a toddler as she learns about nature.
Why do you hike? This is a question that we must all ask ourselves at a certain point of our hiking adventures, whether at the beginning of a quest to become a 46er or during consecutive rounds of the 46 and explorations elsewhere. Have you evaluated why you are out on the trail?
For many of us, our quest to “become” 46ers begins with the allure of “the patch”. It is that emblem and the “challenge” that draws our attention at first. However, how do we approach our journey and what do we do once we complete it?
How do we, as 46ers, represent the club? Just because we’ve hiked all of the peaks, does not mean that we know everything about them or that we did everything the “right way” when we climbed them. We should learn from our mistakes, mishaps, and misadventures as well as our successes. We know what our own experiences were like while climbing, but the same 2 mile hike and 1000 feet of elevation gain can be different for each hiker, depending on trail conditions, the weather, and overall fitness level.
Do we wear “our badge” with the pride in accomplishment that it is intended to represent? The first time I saw “the patch”, as a 13 year-old in my father’s ski patrol building at Snow Ridge Ski Area. I was impressed, intrigued, and motivated to get one of my own someday. Almost 20 years hence, I remain humbled to be a part of the club as I am aware that even though my number is 5930W, there were many others who climbed before me, and others still who never officially registered their climbs. I am a proud member of a special hiking organization that is rich in history and pride. Often, while on the trails, I stop to think about how the trails must have been when Herb Clark and the Marshall brothers first officially blazed them.
What do we do to promote and preserve the ADK “experience” and enjoyment for others, for those who follow us? The trails certainly are more heavily traveled today than they were in decades past. We can see that even if “leaving only our footprints” is our goal, footprints in themselves can erode quite a path. Fortunately, we have many opportunities to volunteer with the Adirondack Mountain Club or the 46er Trail Crew to complete trail work. But if trail work isn’t something we are able to do we can always lead by setting a positive example by digging appropriate holes for our toileting, carrying out ALL of our trash, and abiding by posted hiking regulations. We can be mindful of hiking group size rules and keep our summit celebrations joyful… and reasonable, while still appreciating the unique experience that is “becoming and being a 46er.”
Twenty years after noticing a 46er patch, I feel blessed having been able to completing multiple rounds of the regular and winter 46, the Long Trail, the Northville Lake Placid Trial, the Cranberry 50, the Firetower Challenge, and the regular and winter Northeast 111 with much more hiking in my future. Despite considerable trail time, I take nothing for granted. I still must prepare mentally and physically for each hike. We are all different with a myriad of goals, experiences, expectations, and areas of knowledge. We learn from our mistakes, and, hopefully, we don’t experience a mishap or misstep that harms ourselves or others.
While we can certainly learn from others, we should all do our own research of the trails, the conditions, and the gear we may need. While completing my first round of the 46 in 2006 with my now husband, I was often unprepared and relied heavily on his knowledge and research to climb the peaks. Eventually, I learned the importance of knowledgeable use of a map and compass. We can’t always rely on our GPS, even though they are quite useful! Together, Lee (#5031W) and I have educated ourselves about principles of “Leave no trace”, considered the advice of others, but most importantly, we have prepared our own plans based on our own particular abilities and goals.
From time to time, out on the trails we may encounter others who, in our opinion, are not representing the hiking community in the “right” way. What is the “right” way? Individual climbers must choose how to represent themselves on the trail. We may meet the “know-it-all” hiker, the loud hiker, or the group of hikers that is far too large (remember that day group size is limited to 15 and overnight group size is 8). The good news is that the group of people who fit into this category is limited. Sometimes, however, a small group of people can tarnish the reputation and-/-or experience of the hiking community as a whole: another reason to lead by example and be open to change.
How do we prepare for our hikes? The Internet can connect people in different ways and allow the hiking community to share information and advice more publicly to a broader array of people. Despite this I have met an ever-increasing number of hikers on the trails who appear to be unprepared. Perhaps this is because of the overwhelming amount of information and opinionated speculation available to the contemporary explorer. It is certainly a challenge to sort out the “good” resources from the unhelpful ones. The busy nature of our lives can also hinder wise and informed preparation. Have you noticed less camaraderie among new hikers because we are trying to break and set new “records”? Hiking the 46 should not just be your “next challenge”, but your next adventure where you learn and grow and find appreciation in your accomplishments and those of your fellow hikers. It’s fascinating to listen to stories of hikers who climbed their first rounds in the 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s… These climbers had far less technology and high tech gear, and, necessarily, relied more on each other in such different ways.
Paul Jamison wrote, “It is easier to become a Forty-Sixer than to be one. The art of being is to keep one’s sense of wonder after the excitement of the game is over. There are few experiences in life that do not need to be expressed in words. Becoming a Forty-Sixer is one. How to be one is up to the individual.”
With so many people working on climbing the 46 Adirondack High Peaks, it is important that we take a more active role in being positive Stewards to the mountains. There has been an increase in the number of 46er finishers each year. It is worth noting that the Class of 2015 welcomed as many finishers as there were in the first 46 years that the 46ers was an organization! Times are changing and our approach to climbing the 46 should change as well. We can still enjoy the climb and be proud of our accomplishments while respecting and appreciating nature and each other.
So what does it mean to you to BE a 46er?
The 46ers book Heaven Up-h’isted-ness recently received the Adirondack Literary Award in the nonfiction category for books published in 2011. The Adirondack Literary Awards, presented by the Adirondack Center for Writing, celebrate and acknowledge the books that were written by Adirondack authors or published in the region in the previous year. If you haven’t already, be sure to order your copy of this award-winning book now! More information about the award can be found on the Adirondack Center for Writing website.
Knowing our climbers enjoy the lean-tos dotting the lower slopes of the 46 High Peaks, we have donated $11,324 since 2011 toward the Lean2Rescue volunteer operations, for the purchase of material for lean-to rehabilitation.
We love Adirondack bears but prefer to keep them at a safe distance! Since the summer of 2012, the 46ers have donated $15,300 to fund a part-time steward at the Upper Works trailhead each summer to educate hikers and distribute bear canisters, as needed, as part of the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Adirondack Bear Steward program.