View Full Version : Mount Marcy in winter?

Mohamed Ellozy
08-26-2004, 05:51 PM
Just back from Marcy, already planning to do it in winter if my back allows. Planning to pull a sled to Marcy Dam (no more heavy backpacks for me :( ) and camp there for two nights, bagging the peak in between.

Just one question: What is the condition of the open ledges in winter? I found them tough going, but I suspect that it was mainly because I was getting tired. Still, are they covered with a decent layer of stuff that crampons can bite into, or are they a mixture of bare rock and thin ice?

In case I do not write up a trip report I will just say that the idea of using the Truck Road is a winner. I lucked out, the weather was bad on Saturday so I postponed it to Sunday, which was a glorious day.

08-26-2004, 06:20 PM
Conditions can vary considerably, but I've climbed Marcy in the winter both in the daytime and on a full moon night and didn't have any problems. You'd probably find a mixture of snow/thin ice/thick ice/bare rock, but since it's so wide open, you'd be able to pick your way up and down.

08-27-2004, 05:21 AM
I did it with a mixed group of snowshoers and skiers up from the dam a couple of years ago. Plenty of snow in the woods but the summit cone was icy enough that the skiers had no hope of summiting. Luckily us snowshoers had crampons in addition to crampon equipped snowshoes, so we reequipped the skiers and summited. Of course they were back in camp about an hour before we got back!

08-27-2004, 06:17 AM
Beverly's got it right - "it depends". Conditions can change drastically in just a few hours. If you've got snowshoes AND crampons you'll be fine. It can actually be easier in winter, weather permitting.

08-27-2004, 08:16 AM
It does depend, but keep in mind Marcy is one of the most popular winter desintations for both skiers and snowshoers, so odds are that unless you pick a very bad day, you'll find the trail beautifully packed out in front of you all the way to the summit. Just be sure to wear your snowshoes so you leave it in equally good condition for those who follow.

Most winter days, it's easier and faster than in the summer.

08-27-2004, 08:37 AM
What can make it a bad day is high wind and low visiblity. It's very easy to slap high fives on the summit ,snap a pic and then not know what direction you came from or what direction you need to go. Bring a compass.

08-29-2004, 11:39 AM
If one was to make an ascent/descent of Marcy from Marcy Dam on tele gear with skins/televators would the bottoms and edges get trashed?
Are crampons de rigueur and will they work with plastic tele boots such as T3s? I assume taking along another pair of boots and changing them on the trail in winter is dangerous/dumb.
And, on a resonable day, how long should the ascent take?
This all is assuming there is adaquate snow cover.

08-29-2004, 04:11 PM
No, in season the trail is fantastic and tele gear and skins are all you need. Forget crampons unless you insist on bagging the peak no matter what the conditions - if it's skiable, it's usually skiable all the way to the summit rocks. Skiers generally depart the hiking trail somewhere after the last trail junction, 0.6 mi from the summit, and head slight left of trail (south) into the large bowl on the east side of the summit dome, work their way up through that, and on to the top. If conditions are really lousy, esp. if there's low visibility, it's best to stop at that last trail junction and enjoy the trip down. Once you're above that, you could easily lose your way coming off the summit without a map, compass, and some familiarity with the peak. Even in off snow years, Marcy is pretty much always a reliable ski, and it gets so much traffic that it often feels like it's been groomed for you. It's a classic and once you've done it, you'll always keep coming back.

Depending on what shape you're in, and the conditions, it's reasonable to do the round trip to the summit on skis in anywhere from 5-1/2 hrs up to 6 or 7. And there certainly those who do it a whole lot faster than that. Just not me!

08-29-2004, 08:22 PM
That's just what I wanted to hear. An aerobic workout up and a joyful descent. Now to find a way to get it into my schedule.
I suppose trail conditions will appear on VFTT so, short of a freezing rainfall, I can have an idea what to expect. When I did the Van Hovenberg trail in summer a few years ago I noticed that the ascent was both moderate and consistant. Those 2 characteristics under good conditions would make for a nontechnical ascent on skis. But hearing it form you is music to my ears.
Most eastern lift serviced trails tend towards being wide. I remember when Stowe's Lord was a mere country road. It had an identity as opposed to a ubiquity. If you were to liken the descent on the Van Hovenberg trail off Marcy to a lift serviced run what one or ones come to mind?

08-29-2004, 09:14 PM
Hank - it's a little hard to compare to lift served. As you've observed, it's not super-steep, just the occasional steeper-than-average drop. It's got great variety to it, which adds to its popularity. There's the open-bowl skiing on top, some tight turns through dwarf trees on the plateau, gentle stretches, tighter, steeper turns through the Corkscrew, then another gentler run down to Indian Falls, then some more steeps... just lots o' fun. All in all, probably would be an intermediate trail at a downhill resort, except for the fact that it's 15-20' wide instead of 150-200'. That tightness is what makes it a challenge.

Anyway, it's just what you described - a great workout on the way up and an exhiliarating descent on the way down, with some of the most spectacular scenery you could ask for along the way. Now if it would only snow!

And yes, check here for conditions. Like I said, it gets skied so much that it's often in much better shape than other trails. The only thing to avoid is a hard freeze after a thaw or rain with no new snow in between - then it's like skiing the luge track!

08-29-2004, 09:31 PM
To sit here in NYC on a hot summer evening and think about cutting turns down Marcy is like waking from a wonderful dream. Snow and weather are always the wild card. If we extapolate the current weather pattern we can expect a wetter than normal winter with mild temperatures. However, milder temperatures around Marcy might be a plus as long as it isn't too mild.
Any problem with avalanches on this trail? Is the bowl near the summit very big and is a slide a real possiblity?

08-29-2004, 09:43 PM
I guess you should never say never, but... no, avalanches on Marcy (at least where it's skied) are just not much of a possibility. The bowl just isn't that big, it gets stabilized by all the skier traffic, and soon enough there are trees to stabilize the snow pack even further.

You never know, of course, how good a snow year it's going to be, but like I said before, even in a very lean snow year, if any trail's a sure thing for skiers up there, it's this one. Too high, too central in the mountains not to get its share of snow over the course of the season. At times it can be a bit sparse getting from the Loj to the dam, but from Christmas to April there's almost always good skiing from there up to the summit, other than the occasional thaw/freeze cycle. But it even rebounds pretty quickly from those. Even without a big storm, the mountains seems to wring enough moisture from each passing cloud to pile up freshies each week.

A nice thought for this hot, humid night!