Honoring the Past, Shaping the Future
The Adirondack Forty-Sixers club was organized on May 30, 1948. Twenty people joined together at Adirondack Loj to discuss some simple form of organization. By the end of the meeting the group had selected an executive committee and the rest, as they say, is history.
But to understand the impetus for that inaugural meeting it is necessary to look back three decades. The story of our current club begins with three separate yet connected events: the hiking exploits of Robert and George Marshall, and Herbert Clark; a first climb of Mt. Marcy by a young girl named Grace Hudowalski; and a hiking and camping trip in the Adirondacks by a Sunday School class from Grace Methodist Church in Troy, New York.
Below is a timeline of these three noteworthy moments as well as a summary of the club’s evolution. What started as a small group of people in 1948 has burgeoned to 14,845 members and counting. The club that was started 75 years ago with the simple purpose of bringing together outdoor enthusiasts who enjoyed the special experience of hiking in the Adirondacks today has become one of the most important contributors to the stewardship of the High Peaks region. The club’s varied education and conservation initiatives, all sustained by an army of dedicated volunteers, are helping to preserve the wilderness character of the Forest Preserve for future generations to enjoy.
In the late 1950s the club developed a climbers’ code. It reminded hikers to:
Climb joyfully, filled with the beauty and wonder of the mountains. Climb prepared. Climb with conservation, preserving the wilderness unmarred for those who come after you. Climb thoughtfully, with understanding and humility, grateful that to you a great gift has been given – the opportunity to walk the mountains.
Come, walk through history as the 46ers celebrate their 75th anniversary, grateful for and proud of those stalwarts from the past who preserved, for us, the opportunity to become a 46er.
August 1, 1918 — Robert and George Marshall, who live in New York City and spend their summers at their family camp on Lower Saranac Lake, and their Adirondack guide and friend Herbert Clark climb Whiteface Mt., their first Adirondack High Peak.
1922 — Robert Marshall publishes The High Peaks of the Adirondacks, a small booklet printed by the Adirondack Mountain Club that recounts his climbs of 42 of the 46 High Peaks with his brother George and Herb Clark.
August 1922 — Sixteen-year-old Grace Leach Hudowalski, born in Ticonderoga, NY, climbs Mt. Marcy, her first Adirondack High Peak.
June 10, 1925 — Robert #3 and George Marshall #2 and Herbert Clark #1 finish the 46 with a climb of Mt. Emmons. [Note: The climbing numbers that are added after each name were not assigned until the Adirondack Forty-Sixers club was founded in 1948.]
1927 — Russell M. L. Carson publishes Peaks and People of the Adirondacks, a major contribution to the history of the High Peaks area.
July 1932 — Captivated by the stories in Marshall’s The High Peaks of the Adirondacks and Carson’s Peaks and People of the Adirondacks, Edward Hudowalski leads his Sunday School class at Grace Methodist Church in Troy, NY, on their first hike – a backpacking trip to climb Marcy, Basin, and Saddleback.
September 13, 1936 — Edward Hudowalski #6 and Rev. Ernest Ryder #7, pastor at Grace Church, complete the 46 on Dix Mt.
February 1937 — The hiking club called the Forty-Sixers of Troy is formed, comprised mainly of Edward Hudowalski’s Sunday School class. Ed designs a patch for the club.
August 26, 1937 — Grace Hudowalski #9 becomes the first woman to complete the 46 with a climb of Esther Mt.
September 1937 — C. Howard Nash #10 submits written summaries to the club to document his climbs, thus establishing the 46er tradition of hiker correspondence. Grace Hudowalski begins her lifelong commitment, as the club’s Historian, to maintaining individual climbing folders for and corresponding with each hiker who is working on climbing the 46 peaks.
July 29 & 30, 1939 — The Forty-Sixers of Troy host the Esther Centennial, a two-day celebration commemorating the first recorded ascent of Mt. Esther, and place a plaque on Esther’s summit rock.
October 1940/May 1941 — The Forty-Sixers of Troy submit petitions to the State Board of Geographic Names for the official and permanent naming of Blake’s Peak, Couchsachraga, Mount Marshall, Mount Phelps, Mount Emmons, Gray Peak, Mount Wright, Mount Algonquin, and Mount Boundary.
May 1948 — Kay [Katherine] Flickinger #41 and Edward Harmes #18 send letters to hiking clubs and all those known to be climbing the 46 High Peaks to inform them of a meeting scheduled for the Memorial Day Weekend, May 29-31, to discuss some simple form of organizational expansion beyond the Forty-Sixers of Troy.
May 30, 1948 — Twenty people attend the organizational meeting at Adirondack Loj. Members of the Forty-Sixers of Troy agree to disband to allow the formation of a new club which adopts the official name “Adirondack 46ers.” The group selects club officers: Grace Hudowalski #9, president; Kay Flickinger #41, secretary; Adolph “Ditt” Dittmar #31, treasurer; and Edward Harmes #18, Orra Phelps #47, and P. Fay Loope #4, directors.
Ed Hudowalski redesigns the Forty-Sixers of Troy patch reflecting the club’s new name. His design remains the logo
for the club today.
August 20, 1949 — The Adirondack 46ers host a Haystack Centennial hike to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the first documented ascent of the peak by Adirondack guide Orson S. “Old Mountain” Phelps, along with two companions Almeron Oliver and George Estey. Eighty-two people climbed to the summit (well over the current DEC regulation for a maximum group size of 15) for a ceremony that was broadcast over the radio.
October 8-9, 1949 — The 46ers adopt articles of organization and bylaws that define the purpose of the club: “To aid the preservation of the wilderness character of the Adirondack Forest preserve” and “to further interest in mountain climbing and exploration through encouragement, information and example… .”
September 3, 1950 — The first official canister and register log is placed on the summit of Mount Emmons. Over the next several years the 46ers place canisters and register logs on all of the trailless peak summits.
1951 — The first 46er emblem items are offered for sale to club members – lapel pins, tie clasps, and cuff links.
1958 — The club publishes its first book, the 147-page The Adirondack Forty-Sixers. Four hundred copies were printed with 200 individually numbered so members could reserve the book number that corresponded with their climbing number.
March 10, 1962 — Edgar Bean #92W becomes the first winter 46er, finishing on Blake’s Peak.
1963-64 — The club begins publication of its newsletter, “Adirondack PEEKS,” a simple mimeographed bulletin, which is mailed to members. The first editors were Richard Babcock #115, James Goodwin #24, and Trudy Healy #148. Today, Adirondack PEEKS is a full color magazine.
June 5, 1964 — The club received tax-exempt approval from the U.S. Treasury Department, Internal Revenue Service.
July 28-29, 1966 — The 46ers hold a camporee for counselors from area boys’ and girls’ clubs to educate them on low impact camping techniques, litter control, and how to avoid creating false herdpaths on the trailless peaks.
1970 — The club publishes 1,200 copies of its second book, The Adirondack High Peaks and the Forty-Sixers, edited by Grace Hudowalski with pen-and-ink drawings by Trudi Healy.
1970s — State government shifts its priorities for the Forest Preserve from recreational development and improving access to state lands to wilderness preservation and greater controls over its usage. There are calls for the 46ers to disband to reduce the number of people in the High Peaks area. Two 46er presidents, Dr. Edwin Ketchledge #507 and Glenn Fish #536 lead the effort to redirect the focus of the club’s programs to conservation, education, and environmental protection.
May 19, 1971 — Grace Hudowalski and 46er President Glenn Fish meet with representatives of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), the first of six such meetings, to discuss the club’s proposals for conservation and education projects.
May 29, 1971 — Dr. Ed Ketchledge, a botanist who has conducted research on the ecology of the High Peaks for years as a faculty member of the NYS College of Environmental Science and Forestry, holds a “Trail Workshop” to describe his work to slow the rapid progression of erosion on trails above tree line.
May 20 & 21, 1972 — Forty-Sixer volunteers participate in summit seeding projects on the summits of Algonquin, Wright and Colden, organized by Dr. Ketchledge, to mitigate the ecological damage caused by recreational use. Volunteers carry 880 pounds of lime, grass seed, and fertilizer to distribute on the summits.
May 14, 1972 — The first 46er Wilderness Leadership Workshop, coordinated by Marion Fresn #273, is held at Marcy Dam to provide youth group leaders with information on planning successful and environmentally responsible hiking and camping trips. Now called the Outdoor Skills Workshop, this annual event has expanded through the years and is open to all hiking and camping enthusiasts. It continues to be one of the club’s major educational programs.
Summer 1973 — Plastic litter bags designed and purchased by the 46ers are distributed at select trailheads for the first time to help alleviate litter issues in the High Peaks. Printed on the bags is the message “Help keep the Wilderness as you would like to find it…Clean. If you carry it in, carry it out.”
May 25, 1974 — Forty-Sixer volunteers participate in the DEC-sponsored “Clean-up Day” in the High Peaks to pack out litter found on the trails and around camp sites. Fifty-three 46ers help carry out 303 bags of litter averaging 20 to 30 pounds each.
Summer 1977 — The first all-46er volunteer trail maintenance crew, led by Walter “Wally” Herrod #750, spends four days working on drainage to eliminate swampy sections of the Lake Arnold Crossover trail.
September 1978 — The club’s volunteer trail maintenance program is formalized, and Jim Goodwin #24 is appointed Trailmaster to coordinate the club’s trail improvement projects.
The 46ers establishes the Conservation Service Award and patch, earned by accumulating 46 hours of volunteer service on club-sponsored trail maintenance projects. Patches for additional service hours are added in subsequent years.
1982 — The club offers a 46er T-shirt for sale to members for the first time. The shirts quickly sell out.
Summer 1984 — With approval from the DEC the 46ers purchase and distribute plastic trowels at the Adirondack Loj and Johns Brook Lodge trailheads to encourage hikers to bury their waste when privies are not available in an effort to reduce the increasing contamination of mountain streams with the Giardia parasite. The project disseminates information about water contamination, but trowels abandoned by hikers litter the trails. Created to solve one problem, but inadvertently contributing to another, the project is abandoned in fall 1985.
Fall 1984 — The club presents Grace Hudowalski, Historian, and Ditt Dittmar, Executive Secretary/Treasurer, with plaques in recognition of and appreciation for their extraordinary service to the club.
1985 — The club participates in New York state’s 100th anniversary celebration of the creation of the Forest Preserve by leading day hikes, staffing an information booth, and marching in a parade.
Spring 1986 — The club presents a “Certificate of Accomplishment” to 50 new 46ers at the spring meeting. Fred Johnson #1788 hand-letters the certificates to include each climber’s name and 46er number. He goes on to hand-letter 1,700 certificates, which are mailed out to all previous finishers.
1988 — The Adirondack High Peaks Adventure Game, a Monopoly-style board game developed by Devon Taylor #2752 and Nancy Taylor #2753 is manufactured and offered for sale to members.
1990 — The club extends recognition for those hikers who climb all of the 46 High Peaks in winter with a “W” after their climbing number and a specially designed winter rocker patch.
June 1991 — The club publishes its third book, Of the Summits, Of the Forests.
1992 — In support of the 1992 Adirondack Park Centennial celebration, the club funds and builds new lean-tos at Bushnell Falls, Feldspar Brook, and Uphill Brook.
September 4, 1994 — The club celebrates its 46th anniversary at the fall meeting with the theme, “Adirondack 46ers: Hiking Partners, Mountain Stewards.”
1995 — The DEC present Adirondack Stewardship Awards to Trailmasters Chris G. Behr #1453, Chris M. Behr #1454, and June Behr #1455 for their 12 years of coordinating the club’s trail work projects, and to Dr. Ed Ketchledge for his 45 years of research on the ecology of the Adirondack open alpine summits. The Behrs’ individual volunteer contributions amount to more than 2,000 hours of trail work each.
May 25, 1996 — At the spring meeting the club hosts a surprise birthday party for Grace Hudowalski, who turned 90 on February 25.
1996 — The 46er trail maintenance program joins with the ADK and DEC in establishing the Trailless Peaks Committee to develop plans for sound and environmentally suitable paths on the trailless peaks and to provide minimal maintenance to prevent further environmental damage.
July 1996 — The Trail Crew Program holds the first all-women trail work weekend to side cut the Hunters Pass trail on Dix. It is a very popular and productive event.
1996 — Grace Hudowalski retires as club historian, a position she has held since the creation of the Forty-Sixers of Troy in 1937. A team of volunteers takes over her duties, including hiker correspondence.
June 2001 — Club members replace the summit canisters on most of the trailless peaks with wooden signs approved by the DEC in order to comply with the state’s High Peaks Unit Management Plan, which identified the canisters as “non-conforming” structures and called for their removal.
2001 — Ditt Dittmar retires after 53 years of faithful service as the club’s Executive Secretary/Treasurer. Phil Corell #224W assumes the duties of the position. A new position, Merchandising Clerk, is created to fill orders for 46er emblem items and maintain an inventory of merchandise.
Fall 2001 — The Executive Committee votes to increase member dues from $5 to $8 per person. The Executive Committee also forms a committee to investigate the feasibility of renaming South Dix “Carson Peak” in honor of Russell Carson, author of the book Peaks and People of the Adirondacks, and East Dix, “Grace Peak” to honor Grace Hudowalski.
Fall 2002 — The DEC formalizes its trail work arrangement with the 46ers with a contractual agreement, Adopt a Natural Resource, officially assigning stewardship duties for a five-year period for regular maintenance of trails to the summits of Dix Mountain and Giant Mountain.
2003 — The DEC approves the Path Adopter Program for the wilderness paths on the “trailless” peaks. Forty-Sixer volunteers inspect and provide routine maintenance on the paths for several of those peaks.
2006 — The club establishes the Founders Award to recognize individuals who have made significant contributions in service to the club.
2011 — The club publishes its fourth and most ambitious book, Heaven Up-h’isted-ness! The History of the Adirondack Forty-Sixers and the High Peaks of the Adirondacks.
October 2011 — The club donates $15,000 for disaster relief efforts in the towns of Keene and Jay due to the destruction caused
by Hurricane Irene.
2012 — The club enters into a financial support agreement with Lean-to Rescue, a group of volunteers who work with the DEC to rehabilitate and replace lean-tos within the Adirondack Park.
2012 — The club changes the name of the Outdoor Leadership Workshop to the Outdoor Skills Workshop to more accurately describe the focus of the annual educational workshop.
May 2013 — Summit Pictures, LLC and director Fred Schoewbel release The Mountains Will Wait for You, a documentary on Grace Hudowalski and the 46ers.
Spring 2013 — Due to the tremendous increase in the number of hikers climbing the 46 resulting in an overwhelming amount of work for the Office of the Historian, the club suspends the long-time requirement that hikers correspond with an assigned club member to report their climbs. Members of the Executive Committee explore the possibility of developing a web-based reporting system.
May 2013 — The club places a permanent memorial marker at the grave of Herb Clark that identifies him as 46er #1 and holds a special ceremony to honor him.
June 2014 — After a 12-year campaign by the 46ers, led by Douglas Arnold #4693W, the United States Board of Geographic Names approves the club’s petition for the renaming of East Dix to “Grace Peak” in honor of Grace Hudowalski.
June 20, 2015 — The 46ers and the Town of North Hudson host a day-long celebration for the naming of Grace Peak.
Summer 2015 — The club goes live with a new electronic version of the 46er Correspondence Program, which allows hikers to log their hikes, post pictures, and use the messaging system to communicate with an assigned and personal 46er correspondent.
August 2015 — The 46ers, a documentary feature by filmmaker Blake Cortright about the men and women who hike the 46 High Peaks, is released. The filmmaker set out to answer the question, “What transforms ordinary men and women into the legendary mountaineers known as the 46ers?”
May 2017 — Under an agreement with the DEC, the 46ers establish the Trailhead Steward Program. On weekends throughout the summer 46er volunteers greet hikers at the Cascade Mt. trailhead and share information on DEC rules and regulations, “leave no trace” principles, and provide safety and preparedness suggestions. The program has since been expanded to other locations.
August 3-5, 2018 — The club celebrates the 100th anniversary of Robert and George Marshall’s and Herb Clark’s climb of Whiteface, their first High Peak, with multiple events.
2020-2022 — The COVID pandemic forces the club to cancel most of its usual programming and volunteer activities. But hikers flock to the Adirondacks and a record number register as 46ers.
2021 — The 46ers sign an agreement with the New York State Department of Transportation for the Adopt-a-Highway. Club volunteers care for both sides of six miles of highway, for a total of 12 miles, along sections of Route 73.
June 2021 — The club purchases 100 bear canisters and distributes them to local vendors who rent them so that they will have the necessary inventory to meet camper demands.
Summer 2021 — The 46ers’ Board of Directors offers two scholarships to members to attend the Leave No Trace Master Educator Course. A second round of scholarships are offered in 2022. In addition to training the club’s own Trailhead Stewards, the Trainers have held classes at BOCES in Saranac Lake for 11th and 12th grade students. Additional public outreach is planned.
2022 — The club rolls out its new interactive website that allows members to register their 46 finish, pay dues, order merchandise, and buy tickets for all three annual gatherings online.
End of the year summaries show that between 2001 and 2022, thanks to the generosity of club members, the 46ers have donated more than $825,000 to support educational and environmental stewardship programs in the Adirondacks. Some of the programs and organizations that these funds have supported include the Adirondack Mountain Club’s Pro Trail Crew work and Summit Steward Program; The Nature Conservancy; Residents Committee to Protect the Adirondacks; Paul Smith’s College Steward Program; Lean2 Rescue; DEC Camp scholarships; Wilderness First Aid Training tuitions; Wilderness Conservation Society Bear Canister Steward Program; Essex County Historical Society; Keene Valley Backcountry Rescue Group; Hurricane Irene Relief Fund for Keene Valley and Jay; and the club’s own volunteer educational and stewardship programs. Over the past 22 years club members have donated more than 42,000 hours in volunteer service.
2023 — Forty-Sixers celebrate the 75th anniversary of the club’s formation on May 30, 1948.