Sunday, June 22, 2014

Sunrise Hike up Mount Marcy - Adirondack hike report

Sunrise Hike up Mount Marcy, NY - Adirondack hike report

by Kathleen Lisson

Arun and I decided to take advantage of the Strawberry Full Moon in June to hike up Mount Marcy in the dark and experience sunrise from the highest point in New York. This trip would also prepare us for the summit hike up Mount Kilimanjaro, which also starts at around midnight.

We stayed at the Wilderness Campground at Heart Lake and had dinner at the Adirondak Loj. The folks at the Loj packed a trail lunch for our summit meal, complete with their delicious Marcy bars!


Up until we lost cell phone reception when we left Lake Placid, the weather looked good. It was overcast, but set to clear out Saturday night and be sunny and mid-70's on Sunday. We set up out tent and got an hour of sleep before dinner. There was a drizzle of rain on the tent when I woke up. That should have been my first clue that the weather was changing, but I held out hope. We had dinner and slept some more. Waking at midnight, it was cold and completely cloudy. We set out and I left my waterproof jacket on until we arrived at Marcy Dam, then took it off because I felt warm. 


Those first two miles were interesting - hiking in the dark left me feeling a little lonely. I asked Arun to give me a hug at one of our snack breaks. I used the hike to practice using my headlamp and hiking in the dark.


We continued on the path and the light misting of rain never let up. Since we were hiking seven miles to the summit, that light mist had a chance to get our outer layers completely wet, even though we didn't ever feel it "raining." Luckily, I had a base layer, hiking pants and gaiters on the bottom, a hat and three layers on top. As we got higher up and closer to the treeline, I told Arun it was time to put the pack cover and rainjackets on. I felt much warmer with the rainjacket hood over my hat.


Once we were in the alpine zone, it was light enough to take off our headlamps. The wind really picked up as the trees got shorter and Arun told me he saw snowflakes. We also hear the call of a white-throated sparrow. It was a unique setting, the chilling fog/rain blowing sideways and the sweet, happy call of a bird at dawn.

The call of the white-throated sparrow:

As we hiked on the solid rock slabs of the summit, the weather was increasingly poor. Wind blew steadily and threatened to knock me over. I had to take extra care to not step on any of the plants. The rain/mist blew sideways and the howl of the wind was only overcome by the occasional bird song. 

It was humbling to see the plants and animals surviving and thriving in these harsh conditions and think about the negative impact that humans can have on our environment. The tiny flowering plant survives ice storms, snow cover, howling wind but would be harmed if I stepped on it with my boot. 

We turned back onto the blazed path and headed to tree cover before eating our Marcy bar. 

If it had not been socked in by a storm, this is the view from the summit of Marcy:

After we took a shower and a nap at the Wilderness Campground, we packed up and had a late lunch at the ADK Cafe in Keene.


  • Always wear layers, and bring extra layers and gloves in your pack.

  • Don't rely on a weather report. 

  • Buy the brighter headlamp.

  • Hiking in the dark can bring out emotions. 

  • Wearing a bearbell on the Camelback tube ensures it will ring constantly. 

  • Shower + nap after a long hike is the best way to relax.

  • I can hike in harsh spring conditions!

Read about another Mount Marcy sunrise hike in the Summer 2014 edition of the ADK Cloudsplitter:

Other Mount Marcy sunrise hikes:

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