Climbing Mt. Marcy — Marcy Dam to bridge above Phelps Mtn Junction
I had left the parking lot trailhead of the Van Hoevenberg Trail at 8:30 AM and ran into no difficulties getting to Marcy Dam, 2.3 miles from the trailhead in the first hour. Now, at 9:30 AM, I was off to tackle the next section of the Van Hoevenberg trail. There is no specific section marker and anyone can divide the trail up in any fashion that they like, but, when I am out on a trail, I like to think in terms of sections so that I can better track my location, condition and travel times. When I was younger, the question would have been whether I would run the trail or walk the trail; now the question is whether I will walk the trail slowly or walk the trail quickly and will I have time and energy sufficient to get to the end and back :-).
At Marcy Dam, you could see some snow on the peaks but there was no sign of the heavy snow that had fallen in this mountainous region only two days earlier. The trails above the dam were definitely wetter than the trails immediately below the dams but the snow had all melted in the two days and was now rushing down the mountains with a mighty roar in the rivers and streams coming from higher up in the valleys and mountains.
It wasn’t too much further uphill when I began to see remnants of snow in the bushes to the side of the trail and there were definitely rivulets running between the boulders in the trail itself. When I reached the high water crossing bridge, it wasn’t hard to make a decision about whether or not to go further up the river before crossing. Crossing at the high water bridge easily won out over any other possible options.
With all of the running water sounds coming from all directions, the woods were actually quite noisy. I was happy, though, that the noises that I was hearing were not the noises of mosquitoes or black flies buzzing around my ears. With the cold weather and snow of the previous two days, the adult bug population had been knocked down quite a bit and I was having a relatively bug-free morning walk along the trails.
Once I got to the low water crossing point , I took a look and decided that I might have been able to cross there if I didn’t mind getting my feet soaked in ice cold water. Glad I decided on the bridge crossing!
Not far above this crossing point, snow began to become much more plentiful in the woods and by the time that I got to the Phelps Mtn junction, thee was no denying that I was going to have a much tougher trek for the second half of the climb than I had has so far.
It was almost 10 hours before I would get back to the Phelps Junction location and by then most of the snow seen in the image above had melted and added to the water running down the trails.
Past the Phelps Junction, conditions underfoot began to deteriorate fairly rapidly and past the next bridge the trail was for the most part snow-covered, slush-covered, water-covered or, at times, all three. Thankfully, some of the trail maintenance crew had been through the day before and had chopped away most of the branches and serious blow-down obstacles.
At the bridge above the Phelps Mtn Junction, I briefly spoke to three individuals contemplating whether to go on or go back. I passed them at that point and never saw them again. My assumption is that they decided to head back down when they encountered even more snow only a short distance higher up the trail.
Despite the sometimes slippery conditions, I was making reasonably good time and had covered the first approximately 3.5 miles in two hours. Things would not get easier after crossing this bridge!