August 2017 - HIKING & BACKPACKING
Adirondack Hiking Advice
By Mike “Kaz” Kazmierczak & Nick Gulli
At The Mountaineer, we’ve been assisting people with planning their trips into the High Peaks of the Adirondacks and beyond since 1975. In that time, the team has developed a good understanding of the best practices of spending time in the wilderness. Below are 10 hiking tips, right from the front counter and staff to make your next trip into the Adirondack Mountains a more enjoyable one.
1 ◾ Trip Planning – This is an easy skill to learn and one that makes the trip, once in the field, more stress free. We are always willing to share advice and suggestions, but taking some time at home with a High Peaks guidebook, map, a cup of coffee, and your ambitions can go a long way. We generally try to make it clear that the trails here are steep and rugged. This will slow your average hiking pace down, and combined with the amount of elevation gain and loss, can make for a longer than expected jaunt. A two miles-per-hour pace has proved to be common, knowing that you will most likely go a little faster in some places, but far slower in others. The trails here are old and steep, so err on the side of caution when it comes to time and trip planning. Take that two mph pace, divide that into your total trip mileage, and then add an hour. Three or more people? Add more “extra time,” up to two hours.
There are many maps and books that can help you with this planning, including the “Discover the Adirondacks” series by Bill Ingersoll, and “Adirondack Trails” series by Adirondack Mountain Club. As a starting point, the “Adirondack Great Walks & Day Hikes Guide” is an informative and intuitive brochure (visitadirondacks.com).
2 ◾ Using the Facilities – Well, there really aren’t that many facilities around in the High Peaks and on Wild Forest land in the Adirondacks, so you need to be comfortable with doing your business outside. You’ll need some toilet paper (that will need to be packed out) and a trowel to dig a make-shift privy 80 steps away from trail or water source. As with your entire impact while here in the Adirondacks, please practice a “Leave No Trace” seven principles mantra by leaving an area, after you have visited it, in the same shape as it was when you arrived (lnt.org). Many of the more popular trailheads, such as Cascade and Giant mountains, have porta-potties – PLEASE use them…
3 ◾ Bear Canisters – This is REQUIRED in the Eastern High Peaks region and has been for a long time. All your food, waste, toothpaste, toothbrushes, deodorant, etc. goes in there and gets stored on the ground 100 feet away from your cook site and tent. Do not hang your food or toiletries, the bears will get into them. This protocol is working as bears have begun to realize they can’t get into these canisters. Please make sure you own one of these or rent one for your trip.
4 ◾ Weather – Check. Re-check. Check again. Weather in the mountains can be very-localized, meaning in one valley to the next it can be quite different, and storms can move in quickly. Weather can be exacerbated by the high terrain, peaks and valleys, with strong winds, and dramatic changes in temperature. Just because it is sunny and 65 degrees in town, doesn’t mean it will necessarily be that way up higher. Plan ahead. Be prepared. You don’t have to be a meteorologist, just know what the potential is for changing weather during your outing. Make sure to stay off summits and high points if thunder and lighting is present or expected!
5 ◾ Phones – Don’t rely on your phone. Cell coverage is spotty even in towns throughout the Adirondacks, so do not rely on your phone as your primary source for navigation or as a guaranteed call-out for help or rescue. Take responsibility for yourself and your group, and again, plan your trip ahead! Carry a good map, have a compass, and know the basics of how it works, as well as have your trip plan written-down so there is no question as to what the goals are for the day. It’s not a bad idea for everyone in your group to have a map!
6 ◾ Food – For an adult, your body can only really consume about up to 200 calories per hour when you are moving based on your physiology, weight, etc. The idea of grazing is better than stopping at lunchtime to eat a huge meal and then continuing your hike. Many packs have convenient nutrition storage pockets on hip belts for just that purpose. Little bits of nutrition for the duration of your hike and your body will more easily assimilate the calories. Good Old Raisins and Peanuts (“GORP”) is still a favorite for salty sweet grazing.
7 ◾ Hydration – Same thing. Sip water, don’t guzzle down your Nalgene bottle in four stops. Your body needs to easily absorb calories and hydration, so take sips throughout the hike. Also, there is such a thing as too much water, and once you’ve started your hike you are always depleting your calorie and hydration reserves. The idea is to slow that process and maintain a slower depletion of these vital resources. Electrolyte replacement can be key as well and everyone is different in how deep in debt they can go here, but there are numerous nutritional solutions for this. Electrolyte tablets from Hammer Nutrition and electrolyte additives from Nuun or Hammer Nutrition can be a lifesaver on hot and humid days.
8 ◾ Clothing – There are lots of great options out there to keep you comfortable. Make sure you take the time to understand your own personal “climate.” Meaning, do you run warm, cold, sweaty, etc. Don’t just buy what the gear reviewer said was amazing. This can help, but know yourself and be honest about your abilities when talking to a shop professional, as they have the experience to help get you into what you need, not just what’s in stock.
9 ◾ Footwear – Take the time to get this right. When budgeting your gear allowance for hiking, climbing or skiing, do not skimp on your footwear. This can make or break your trip, so plan to sit-down with a good shoe or boot fitter, and find exactly what works best for your needs – and your feet!
10 ◾ Smile – You’re doing this to relax and have fun, so smile. Take a few in-trek precautions and your time spent exploring the wilderness and mountains can be hugely rewarding. Always make smart decisions.
That’s it… Well, there are always more things you can learn, but these are some of the key points to enjoy your next trip!
Mike Kazmierczak, Nick Gulli and the team at The Mountaineer in Keene Valley, purveyors of outdoor, fly fishing and mountaineering equipment. For questions or comments, contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org.