November 9

Climbing the 600 Highest Peaks in the Adirondacks

By: Erik Schlimmer

Peakbagging can be addictive—even in the Adirondack Mountains, a range choked with cliffs, swamps, rivers, and dense forests. Like more traditional addicts, I began with the soft stuff. In my case, that was climbing the 40 summits above 4,000 feet. Then, I climbed the 100 highest peaks. Then, the 217 peaks above 3,000 feet.

Needing more, I took my peakbagging goal down, down, down to go up, up, up. After many days poring over topographic maps, I located every Adirondack peak between 3,000 and 2,500 feet, which brought my expanded peakbagging list up to an even 600 peaks—every single summit in the Adirondacks above 2,500 feet.

Fall is the best season to be in the mountains, and it was a fine time to reach peak number 600, which was 2,707-foot Buck Pond Peak, a lonely, but beautiful hill in Silver Lake Wilderness Area. What follows are ten images of what I saw during this 25-year-long journey.

Adirondacks

The six-million-acre Adirondack Park is home to more than 10,000 bodies of water. Seen here is an unnamed pond in West Canada Lake Wilderness Area, the second largest wilderness area in the Northeast.

Adirondacks

This image best sums climbing the 2,500-footers. Way out in West Canada Lake Wilderness Area on a four-day off-trail trip to grab six unnamed peaks. Storm rolling in over a meadow at 2,450 feet. Moose sign. Wildflowers. First-growth forest. Riverside camping.

Adirondacks

What aren’t shown on topographic maps are sections of beaver-flooded forests, which act as navigational barriers. Winter travel, at least when the snow is firm, can be easier and faster.

Adirondacks

Descending Blueberry Mountain. Boulders such as this one, dubbed glacial erratics, were haphazardly dropped off glaciers retreating north during the last ice age, which ended 13,000 years ago.

Adirondacks

Haystack Mountain, third highest peak in the Adirondacks at 4,961 feet. The Adirondacks have 40 peaks above 4,000 feet. As elevation drops, crowds disappear and wildness expands.

Adirondacks

Carrying my faithful Gossamer Gear Gorilla pack through Wilcox Lake Wild Forest. With so many peaks in so many regions, many three-day trips were completed so I could grab armloads of peaks at one time.

Adirondacks

Winter means no heat, no humidity, no bugs, and more open off-trail travel. The night before I reached this unnamed peak, ice and snow storms swept through the peaks, and a crystal clear day followed.

Adirondacks

Sunset at remote Metcalf Lake. A 25-year-long hiking journey ensures plenty of lakeside camping with accompanying sunsets and sunrises.

Adirondacks

View to an unnamed peak below an unnamed pond as I make my way to another unnamed peak. While climbing the 518 trailless peaks on the list of 600, I saw seven people—0.014 hikers per trailless peak.

Adirondacks

The beauty of climbing such a large list of mountains? Visiting spots that hadn’t been visited for the past century, if ever. This rarely-enjoyed view from Van Dorrien Mountain is one such spot.

Erik Schlimmer is up to 15,000 miles hiked, 2,000 peaks climbed, and 1,000 nights camped outside. He’s founding member of Friends of the Trans Adirondack Route and founder and resident author of Beechwood Books. Follow him on Instagram and Facebook.