Alpine Angles in the Adirondacks
Posting first appeared on www.sectionhiker.com
Carin on Giant Mountain with the High Peaks in the background
New York State’s Adirondack Mountains are home to 46 mountains that are over 4000 feet in elevation. People who frequent the area know these mountains as the 46 or the High Peaks and a person who has climbed all of them and registered with the ADK 46er organization is known as a 46er. I grew up just outside of Albany, NY and spent my summers in Schroon Lake inside the Adirondack Park.
Early morning sun on Mt. Colden as seen from Marcy Dam
My hiking career started when I was about 10 years old, I hiked and backpacked with my parents in the Adirondacks. I have a few fond memories of the High Peaks from climbing Algonquin while being eaten alive by blackflies, seeing a black bear and climbing Mt. Marcy on “spring break” in several feet of snow without snowshoes and grossly unprepared for the cold weather. For one reason or another I took a 15-year hiatus from hiking. About 3 1/2 years ago I rediscovered the beauty of the area while on a backpacking trip at my younger brother’s suggestion. We didn’t climb any mountains on that trip the day after Thanksgiving but I did relearn just how beautiful it is being in the mountains and I was hooked from there.
Winter school 4-day backpack group crossing Avalanche Lake in front of the iconic Trap Dyke
After that trip I decided I wanted to be a 46er and dove in headfirst. I needed to get educated on how to be prepared in the backcountry since most of my knowledge was fuzzy and incomplete from my childhood experiences. I searched the Internet for gear recommendations and general backcountry knowledge. I came across two great resources, the www.sectionhiker.com blog and the Adirondack Mountain Club’s Winter Mountaineering School (WMS). I read just about every posting on Section Hiker as well as all of the information in the WMS handbook. I signed up for WMS and attended the weekend backpacking section. I’m now a WMS instructor and highly recommend anyone looking to get into winter hiking or backpacking attend the school.
WMS was a great experience. In late January 2011 our group climbed Wright and Algonquin. Once we broke out above the tree line on Wright peak, my first winter exposure in 20 years, I was 100% hooked on mountaineering and haven’t turned back since. The views were amazing and I was in awe. I snapped a few quick photos with my small point and shoot camera that I’d never really used much before this trip. The photos from Wright’s summit didn’t turn out very well but they still make me smile remembering the experience.
Hiker on the windy summit of Mt. Marcy
That night while setting up our campsite my brother and I decided we were going to climb Mt. Washington the next weekend (which we did successfully) and then after that my next goal was to climb Denali (Mt. McKinley) the tallest mountain in North America.
In order to climb Denali I needed to be in great shape and what better way to do that than climbing mountains. So began my real obsession. I started training on weekdays for climbing and spent every single weekend in the mountains from there on out. I became a stronger and more efficient hiker and was able to do increasingly difficult hikes and climbs. I successfully summited Denali in 2012 and from there I began to plan hikes to keep me challenged, entertained and to get a few good pictures at the same time.
Sunrays bursting though the clouds in the valley as seen from the Brothers on Big Slide Mountain
Along the way I realized I was pretty good at capturing images of the beauty of the Adirondacks. I took hundreds of photos each week and posted them on Facebook for my friends to see and there were always a few good shots sprinkled in there that people seemed to really enjoy. As I continued to climb and snap pictures I decided that I should see where my ability could take me and began to learn about photography to see if I could improve.
Misty morning on the foot bride crossing Lake Jimmy on the way to Allen Mountain
Just like when I started my obsession with mountain climbing I dove in headfirst. I did research on cameras and software and determined what would work best for me. I have a technical background in my day job as an IT consultant so I was able to pick up the technical nature of photography quickly without any formal education. As I progressed, I bought bigger and better cameras, learned the ins and outs of Adobe Lightroom, and started to only post what I considered my best work for others to enjoy. The response from my friends was exceedingly positive. Each week, I posted new pictures and people continue to enjoy them, share them with their friends and ask me all sorts of questions about how I was able to get such great photos. My answer is usually to be in the right place at the right time.
Summit of Giant Mountain on a windy fall day
There are many amazing photographers that take pictures in the Adirondacks and I enjoy their work immensely. As I looked at some of the amazing pictures of the Adirondacks out there, I found I was one of the few Adirondack photographers that combined photography with the more remote hiking and climbing. Because of all of the training I have done and continue to do, I can get to very remote locations in difficult conditions, and capture some great images at the same time.
Near whiteout conditions on Whiteface Mountain, the wind was so strong we could barely stand.
I steer the goal of many of my hikes towards getting better pictures. Over the summer, I decided to do a solo Great Range Traverse as a training hike. A Great Range Traverse is an undertaking in itself, crossing 8 mountains and close to 10,000 feet in elevation gain. In order to get some good pictures, I started from the trailhead at 2AM to get to the summit of Mt. Marcy at sunrise. The hike to Mt. Marcy was close to 10 miles on the route I took and I had to run the last bit to get to the tree line before sunrise.
Sunrise on Mt. Marcy
The results were worth it and I ended up getting so many good pictures it was difficult to choose my favorites.
Golden hour sunlight from Mt. Marcy
Slide climbing has given me many additional opportunities to capture some great photographs. It is a much more dangerous and difficult activity than hiking. A slide is a term used to describe an area where a landslide occurred and stripped the mountain clear of vegetation. Slides usually occur during periods of intense rain.
For example, the slide on Cascade Mountain was recently cleaned out of debris and vegetation during Hurricane Irene. What is there now, is a technical roped climb up the mountain with a bushwhack at the end to the summit. On a recent trip, a group of friends and I climbed that slide.
Roped up climbers on the first pitch of the Cascade slide waterfall
Once to the upper portion of the slide, we were able to see an amazing sunset on our way to the summit.
Sunset from the Cascade Mountain slide
In order to prepare people for slide climbing, a friend of mine who runs the New York Mountaineering Meetup group ran a slide-climbing workshop this winter. We taught and practiced some experienced hikers the skills necessary to ascend a slide safely on the low angle slide on Macomb Mountain in the Dix Range of the Adirondacks.
Climbers ascend the slide on Macomb Mountain
During my time hiking in the Adirondacks, I’ve joined the ranks of the 46er organization and completed all of the 46 in the winter as well. I’ve also had the pleasure of hiking alongside many other fellow hikers when they achieved their 46er status. There is usually some form of celebration on the summit. On a recent trip up Mt. Marshall, a friend of mine completed his Winter 46 and we planned a St. Patrick’s Day theme for him as a surprise on the summit where we all donned green mustaches.
Winter 46er finish on Mt. Marshall summit, St. Patrick’s Day style!
From reaching outlying areas in the backcountry, to making technical climbs, to just enjoying an amazing memorable day with great friends, climbing in the High Peaks region of the Adirondacks and other exciting and challenging destinations has given me an opportunity to take some great photographs and memorialize incredible accomplishments.
Chris Lang on the summit of Allen Mountain after finishing his Winter46
About Chris Lang
Chris Lang is an avid hiker, climber and photographer living in the Capitol District of New York State. He has a full time job in the IT field and spends the majority of his free time in the Adirondack Park climbing the 46 High Peaks with occasional trips to New Hampshire’s White Mountains and Maine. He has also climbed in the Alaska Range, summited Mt. McKinley (Denali), Mt. Rainier in the Washington Cascades and Mt. Hood in Oregon.
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