The Climb of a Lifetime

What an adventure Kolby and I have had! It’s hard to believe that the one week we both spent so much time training for has come to an end. From the very start we knew that this event would make a difference somehow, but what we didn’t realize was the extent of the reach it would have.

Back in April it was hard to imagine what 46 Climbs would turn into. All I knew was that I was making a commitment to attempt to hike all 46 Adirondack High Peaks in a week, which was completely and utterly crazy.

The night before our event Kolby and I were extremely nervous. We were sitting next to each other and thinking about the long day ahead at our friend’s house. After trying to calm each other down, we headed to bed hoping that we would sleep that night.

 


Day 1: Following some prayers and a pep talk from our parents, we darted off into the dark at 5:00 AM towards Allen, headlamps leading the way. It was colder than we had thought and we were hoping the day would warm as the sun rose.  We set a conservative pace, walking swiftly on the trails, spirits high and nerves buzzing. It wasn’t until we summitted Allen that our confidence grew. On sturdy legs we descended, careful to stay away from the slippery red algae Allen is known for.

After Allen, Kolby’s parents were waiting for us by the suspension bridge in the last .2 miles of the trail. After some pictures, we were rushed to the cars for water, gatorade and food. Completely restocked, we jumped into the car and drove 5 minutes to our next trail head. At around 2:30PM we headed back into the woods to snag the Santanoni Range. Again we set a good pace on the gravel road leading to the trail for our next range. We made it to Times Square before 6PM and headed out to snag Couchsachraga. The mountain took longer than we expected and we made it back to the junction right at dusk, leaving us in the dark for our next two mountains. By the time we finished Santanoni and Panther were exhausted and ready to head back to the trailhead. Unfortunately we didn’t make it back until 1AM, making our day of hiking officially 20 hours and 38 miles.

Mr. and Mrs. Ziemendorf gave us food right when we approached the car, and after a light stretch we headed towards Elk Road.

 


Day 2: We wanted to make sure our bodies got enough rest each night to continue to function at this high level of activity, so we slept for 7 hours and started the Dix Range at 12:30 PM. We had woken up by 10AM, and were hoping to get on the trail around 11AM, but as life seems to go, things never go exactly as planned. That day my knee was acting up from the prior day, making our pace slow. So a day that normally would take us 8 hours took us 10 ½.  There were times in the hike that I had to stop, and stretch out to minimize the ache. It was with encouragement that I managed to keep moving, and push my limits that day. Once Kolby and I made it back we ate a large dinner on the car ride over to Keene, NY where we were spending that night at a bed and breakfast called the Snow Goose.

 


Day 3: Our first mistake on this day was starting at 9:30. This was a result of starting the first day too conservatively, creating a domino effect of late starts. Starting from The Garden, we quickly scaled “The Brothers” mountains to reach Big Slide, our first High Peak of the day. After a quick snack we descended to Johns Brook Lodge and made the lengthy trek out to Haystack. This took longer than anticipated, but it felt good to reach the Range. It was after Basin that we realized we were in a predicament. We stopped in between Basin and Saddleback at 9:00 PM and made the decision that it was not safe to finish out the next 6 mountains, not only at this time, but in fog that barely allowed us to see our own feet and in our current physical state. After 42 hours of hiking in the last three days, we were exhausted beyond belief and were becoming paranoid. We did not have time for disappointment as we still had to climb over, the very technical, Saddleback and Gothics mountains before dropping down to the private Lake Road to walk out. After making it three miles on the road, a light came from the side of the road. This light was followed by another, making it clear that they were in fact the eyes of a black bear staring back at us. We screamed, clapped, and blew a whistle continuously to scare the animal off, but it would not budge. We slowly retreated back to Ausable Lake and Kolby got his dad on the radio to try to get someone to open the gate and get a car down to pick us up. While he was working on that we got back on our feet and tried again. This time, the bear had moved further up the road towards us. After attempting to scare off the bear again, it took a step towards us. At that point we knew we weren’t getting past. We retreated back down the road again to hear Kolby’s dad’s voice on the radio saying, “No one is coming for you.” We later heard that there was difficulty getting someone to open the road for a rescue crew the prior year. On the radio Kolby blatantly told Mr. Ziemendorf that we were spending the night in the boat house, even though there were huge ‘no trespassing’ signs on display. So we grabbed our gear, squeezed between two canoes, wrapped tarps and life jackets around ourselves, and waited for morning to come.

 


Day 4: We woke cold, and stiff at 6AM that morning covered in tarps and wedged between two Canoes. Through the radio’s static we could hear Kolby’s Dad telling us that security was coming to pick us up from the boat house. We were groggy from lack of sleep and food, and had no idea how we were going to hike that day. The security officer told us to jump into the bed of his truck and he drove us through the pouring rain up the 4 mile road to meet up with Kolby’s Dad. That morning we met Tim in person for the first time. Tim was going to help us by packing in some food and water to Colvin. Sadly, we had to call that Thursday a rest day, but it was great to meet such an upbeat and kind individual. We made it back to the Snow Goose around 7AM, and the owners were so generous and kind to us. After dinner of chicken and sweet potatoes, we managed to catch some shut-eye until 11AM. We then had breakfast and packed up the cars to head to the ADK Loj.  The owners of the Snow Goose, were more  than generous in supporting our event and let us check out late, as well as take over their kitchen. Over at the ADK Loj we mapped out our remaining 3 days and rested up.

 


Day 5: Up nice and early Kolby and I sat down for breakfast with his parents. A little tired and sore we ate and discussed the next two days. Our plan was to hike Phelps, TableTop, Marcy, Skylight and Gray that day and then camp over at Uphill Lean-to for the night. We would then wake up the following day and hike Iroquois, Algonquin and Wright. Of course even this did not go as planned. Tired and achy we took our sweet time and spoke to fellow hikers on the trail and summits. It was here that I realized that there is only one way to hike the Adirondacks, and that is with the intention to enjoy every aspect of it, much like how we should, but forget to view the many events in our lives. After a long while of hiking we decided to head to the lean-to to meet up with three friends who were acting as porters for our event. It was great to see all of them, and their energy was incredibly easy to feed off of. After saying farewell to them, as they prepared to night hike Cliff, Kolby and I hit the sack.

 


Day 6: Kolby and I woke up to a chilly and damp day at 7AM last Saturday. After a bit we crawled out of our sleeping bags and made oatmeal and coffee. By the time we had eaten and cleaned up, it was close to 10AM. On the trail we were praying the rain would hold off, but of course it started to pour once we reached Lake Colden. We then started our hike up the backside of Algonquin, meeting several people on the way up. Everyone warned us about the 50 mph winds, but we shook it off not quite believing their stories. I’m not sure if we didn’t believe them or didn’t want to believe them, but when we reached the summit of Iroquois we were surprised. The wind almost blew me off the mountain as a scrambled/crawled to the summit and then back to the short tree cover.  Kolby on the other hand was having a blast, and leaning back into the wind into an invisible chair. Once we were down from Iroquois we started to get cold, our dry clothes were soaked from the wind and rain, and we hurried to snag Algonquin. To our surprise Algonquin’s wind was even stronger, this time actually taking my feet out from underneath me. I ended up clipping my heels and falling. I had barely hit the ground before Kolby grabbed my arm and we were moving again. Once we summited Algonquin and started our hike down the wind instantly died down. The side facing toward the ADK Loj was a lot calmer than the side we hiked up. Drenched and soaked we hike/ran down the path until we reached the information center. There our parents awaited us with quarters and dry clothes. We quickly grabbed a shower each, and set out to dinner with our parents.

 


Day 7: It was a little hard for us to realize on this day that our event was ending. All the training, and hard work we put in for months and months lead up to this point. We were a little disappointed that we weren’t finishing all 46 mountains, but we were grateful that we were in good health, and able to hike our last mountain with our parents. Ultimately, to us our event wasn’t so much about hiking the 46 mountains in a week, or setting a record for the 1st couple to do so, rather it was about the cause and making a difference in someone’s life. Our end goal was to save a life, and start the talk about suicide. When we were hiking up Whiteface it was amazing to share our passion with the people who support and love us.  It was great to see my Dad finish his 1st high peak and declare he wanted to hike them all. At the summit a large group of friends gathered around us with pies and smiles. Even though we hadn’t finished all 46 we still were treated as if we had. Even someone we had never met came up and congratulated us, and told us how much she was praying that we wouldn’t get hurt.

I can’t even begin to describe how amazing this journey has been. I could never imagine how things turned out. All the ups and downs, learning to rely on another, and even celebrating the small stuff were all things taught to me this past week. I really got to see the good nature in so many people, and learned that nothing upholds to human compassion. We had friends coming out in the middle of the night to make sure we were okay, strangers tuning into our tracker and wishing us good health, churches praying for our safety and parents turning gray with worry. What we wanted to show, and did show was that though there may be many ups and downs in life and depression, no matter where or who  you are people will gather around you and lend you their prayers, good faith and strength. The true mission of 46 Climbs was not to hike 46 mountains, but rather to pull the community into supporting a cause to stop the number one killer of teens and young adults: suicide. And I believe we achieved this.

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Thank you to everyone who has supported us in any way. We will forever be grateful and will remember all the stories shared. Please keep checking back with us, the event isn’t over, but rather just beginning. Kolby and I have great plans to continue 46 Climbs and to get more people involved, because hiking isn’t just an activity, it’s therapy and it’s good for the soul.

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Thank you again,

Always climbing,
Catherine

 

P.S. If you would like to submit ideas for our future event, or want to help out 46 Climbs please e-mail me at catherinez@46climbs.com or Kolby at kolbyz@46climbs.com