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Mount Marcy Winter Climb

Hello, I am planning on climbing Mt. Marcy and I had a few questions that I could not find ANYWHERE on the internet. Hopefully you guys can help me out. 

1. Is there a kiosk at the start of the trail to marcy dam that you have to sign into?

2. What is the likely hood you will see a park ranger?

3. How cold does it get at the end of feburary?

4. Will the path be clearly shown at this point of the year?

4. And Is there a place near lake placid that you could rent gear? (e.g. sleeping pads, snowshoes, etc.)


I hope to hear from somebody soon!! thank you for your time!

1. At the Adirondack Loj. Or rather the parking lot for hikers close to the Loj.

2. Depends on the day you are there after you leave the trailhead. Sometimes yes, sometimes no.

3. Hey, this is the Northeast! It can be fairly pleasant as winter goes, or it can be miserably cold (wet cold or dry cold) and a howling blizzard. Remember the Northeast weather slogan - "if you don't like the weather, wait 5 minutes - it will change!" Basic point is - do not set a firm date to do the hike. Set aside a window of 2 weeks, watch the weather forecast and look out the window, and when it appears there is a window of at least 3 days, grab your already packed gear, and go! Unless you like blizzards and want a tough challenge, that is. I have been on some of the mountains in Feb and Mar in the Northeast when we lived in Boston when it was in the 50s (F), and when it was well below 0F. We hiked up the Mt Washington road in mid-Feb and found 45F and calm on top, and Monadnok a week later in -15 weather (also started a bike ride in 50 deg weather and by the end of the day were in snow the first week of March). Just pay a lot of attention to the weather and be flexible and prepared.

4. The trails in the trees are a swath, with the trail signs high off the ground, hence well above the snow. When you get above tree line, they are marked by paint on the rocks, so may very well be covered by snow, though by that point you are headed for the high point (if you are hiking in a weather window, it will be fairly obvious and there are likely to be others on the trail). If you are hiking in blizzard conditions, you would do well to turn around at this point. I should note that there are ski trails that follow a more direct path than the foot trails, though they intersect.

4. (the second 4, that is) Snowshoes and skis, yes. Bring all other gear, unless you can assure yourself that what is available (and not already rented out) is what you need (different people have very different ideas about what they need for a hike like that).

The real question is how much experience have you had in hiking in the Northeast in winter conditions? And what kind of gear do you have? If you have the experience and gear, go for it. If this is your first time in winter in the area, think really hard about whether you want to take a chance on having the weather be good for your whole outing.

Snowshoes are required when there are 8 or more inches of snow on the trail.  This time of year there is probably 3 to 6 feet covering the trails.

Except after a fresh snowfall, the trail up Marcy is well packed.  More like an ice trail than a snow trail.  That's why many people prefer the MSR type snowshoes for climbing Marcy.

A par of crampons and an ice ax would also be a good idea.

You can rent snowshoes at the ADK Lodge, and also at EMS in Lake Placid. Call ahead to reserve the equipment you want.  

John Warren, of the Adirondack Almanack, gives an updated backcountry report every Friday morning on North Country Public Radio (NCPR).  You can listen live this Friday or just check the podcast.

Here is the link to last week's (2/18) report:


Another good source is the backcountry ski report - scroll the last entry on the page.

And you can learn from other people's experiences as well, like these three recent incidents in the high peaks region:

There's no helicopter, dude; it's not happening

wow, thanks guy!! I went camping this past weekend  (Friday and Saturday) and it was great! It was my first time winter camping ( sorry bill :) ) And it was bitter sweet. It was cold and i had to give my girlfriend my snowshoes and I used crampons the whole way up but the experience of climbing it and the knowledge i left with it was great. Loved it! thanks for your help guys!

the article about the recent rescues, and your own experience, raise a couple of important points that might be beneficial to repeat and remember:

-having the best gear in the world is no substitute for good judgment.  good judgment means being conservative, both about the weather conditions you face and about your own skills and endurance.  it may not be as much fun to turn around early, but i have had some really enjoyable card games under shelter while a storm rages outside.   

-when most people plan for "the worst," they don't truly recognize what "the worst" really means.  most people don't truly plan on how they might deal with getting lost and having to do an unexpected, unprotected overnight.  and most people probably don't plan on getting soaked in sub-freezing weather.  day-hiking in winter up there, it's smart to bring a sleeping bag and at least one change of socks and baselayers. 

-it's not just having the right gear, it's knowing how to use it in challenging environments.

i don't enjoy seeing these types of issues happen every winter, but they do, and hopefully, people can learn from them.

November 28, 2020
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