The Journey of a 46er

Finishing on Whiteface Mt.

The Journey of a 46er 

It is easier to become a Forty-Sixer than to be one. The art of being is to keep one’s sense of wonder after the excitement of the game is over. There are few experiences in life that do not need to be expressed in words. Becoming a Forty-Sixer is one. How to be one is up to the individual.” Paul Jamison.

For a moment, as I descended Whiteface Mountain on August 5, 2020, after reaching my forty-sixth Adirondack High Peak, I thought, “I can’t believe it’s over.” Game over. A journey of twenty-three months and three weeks. The miles climbed. Trips planned. Miles driven. Joys and tears. Cuts and bruises. Over. 

Yet, the journey is only over if one determines it to be. No thanks. I’ll keep going. The thrill of the forty-six does not evaporate in a moment, or with a full roster sheet. One simply goes deeper into the majesty of the mountains themselves. 

The beginning. 

On June 20, 2018 I asked my son if he wanted to hike Bald Mt. in Old Forge with me the following day. That June 21sthike was the beginning. At 350lbs, I struggled to hike the one mile trail to a summit I had climbed dozens of times over my life. Still, every week that summer my son and I would take a day trip to a trail, somewhere in the Adirondack Park. This pattern was the beginning of a change. For years I had struggled with weight issues, depression, anxiety, and stress. Slowly, as lifestyle changed, I changed. 

Aidan and I on Cascade Mountain, my second high peak.

High Peaks.

The week before my son was to return to school for his senior year of college, we set out for a challenge. I knew Mt. Marcy, and some other high peaks, but beyond that I knew little. My experience with the Adirondack Park had been limited to the more southern zones. Then on August 13, 2018 two high peaks were in view: Porter, my first, and Cascade, my second. A common beginning. I had lost 25lbs in the previous month and a half, but, as my son can report, I genuinely struggled to ascend and descend these peaks.  


Even in pain I was intrigued. Several weeks later I would hike Tabletop and Phelps mountains. The next week, Marcy. The week following that, Giant. Do you see a pattern? I ended my first season on Algonquin, as my eighth high peak. Every high peak in 2018 I climbed while being over 300lbs, and six of the eight I did as solo hikes. 

Mt. Marcy, my 5th high peak.

I continued into the winter, snowshoeing a high peak, Giant, and several low peaks. I lost more weight. In the summer of 2019 I did 26 high peaks. More snowshoeing, and winter climbs in the high peaks in 2019. In 2020 I reached my forty-sixth peak, Whiteface.

What are the 46?

The “forty-six” refer to the forty-six mountains of the Adirondack Mountains over 4,000’ in elevation. Four of the forty-six are actually under 4,000’, but challenging nonetheless; and several that you climb along the way are over 4,000’ as well, but too close to other peaks to count, adding to the challenge. And when an individual has summitted all forty-six peaks they are referred to as a 46er. 

For the joy of the climb. 

I recall vividly the first time I turned onto Adirondack Loj road. Immediately after that turn you are greeted by Mt. Marcy, Mt. Colden, Wright, Algonquin, and Iroquois among others. Intimidating. There is something surreal about being immersed in these mountains. The beauty of the landscape, the majestic sounds of waterfalls, rivers, and streams. The seemingly ever-present mud. And who can forget the miles of rocks, boulders, and roots.

Wright Peak, fall 2018.

There is a joyful, yet unnerving feeling as you sign the trail register, leaving behind your vehicle and relative safety, for the great unknown of the miles ahead. I recall as I set out for the Seward Range and Seymour Mountain thinking, “Ok, just twenty-two miles to go.” What?! Over four high peaks, thousands of rocks, roots, and sloppy mud, all a joy, except for the .2 of the last mile – that seemed to take forever. Ironic. 

Yet, even with the miles and often difficult paths, the joy of the climb draws you back time and again. More than half of my climbs ended with me saying to myself, “I’m never doing this again.” Only to begin planning my next hike as I was driving home. I, and many others, return, not because of the pain or the uncertainty, but the joy of climbing and reaching a summit of unique beauty. While up there the joy overtakes the enormity of being out there. Joy, if one opens their eyes on these treks is to be found everywhere, even when the moment – excuse my casual tongue – sucks. It happens. 

Renewed life. 

I began at 350lbs., and ended at 227lbs. Obviously this was not a result of hiking the high peaks, but the preparation to do so. To me every hike, high or low, long or short, run or walk, is a preparation for the next hike. While I hiked the Seward Range and Seymour for peaks no. 41, 42, 43, and 44, I was preparing for Esther and Whiteface, peaks no. 45 and 46. And now, while I have several hikes planned for the remaining summer and fall, I’m mentally and physically preparing for the winter season. This preparation keeps me mentally and physically on track. They help me decompress, refocus, pray and prepare for my vocation – ministry. Ministry unbalanced destroys. Ministry in balance builds life. 

At 350lbs. a month before my journey was to begin.

The morning after my forty-sixer finish, a short ten mile hike, I got up and went for a quick 2.5 mile run. It felt good. No pain. I remember all too vividly the years of sitting on the couch watching television, and struggling to stand up from the couch. My body suffering under its own weight. To be in good health, physically and mentally, now, I thank the Living God for this change in my life. 


It was the inspiration of the Holy Spirit that caused me to ask my son to go for a hike. What if he had said no? Would I have gone? Heaven alone knows. I’m blessed that he said yes. That moment of inspiration was all that was needed to begin living again. 

Big Slide Mountain winter 2020.

On each hike, even though I often have music with me, I take some hours to pray, meditate, and commune with the Lord. It has been another level of inspiration and healing. To get away from the frenzy of daily life, unplug, and hear His voice more clearly. It’s a gift, and one that was not expected. I am thankful.

At 46. 

I finished my 46er journey at 46. Poetically pleasing. It seems to be a confirmation of the changes made, that are no longer changes, but a set lifestyle. It was His time. It was my time. 

Two pictures take a year apart. 350lbs on the left, 260lbs. on the right.


Everyone will experience this journey in a different way. For some each hike is a death march. For others a rather easy stroll in the park. I’ve tried to articulate, poorly I confess, in words what does not actually need to be expressed. I hiked miles, mountains, and survived. Yet, it seems that someone needs the encouragement of reading how an overweight middle-aged man, diagnosed as obese, lost weight, beat the terrible medical conditions he was heading straight into and started to live again. I pray you take that inspiration of the Holy Spirit, stand up, find what resonates with your soul, and do that something for the joy of doing it. I did. It feels great. 

The lower Great Range.

I climbed each mountain with my eyes open, my heart open, and a willingness to live in the moment He brought me to. Those moments I treasure. Now, I treasure them off the mountains as well. לחיים, L’Chaim, to life! 

Be well. Shalom; and happy hiking.       

On Whiteface Mt. after finishing my first 46er round.

My Gnarly Mountain

Mt. Haystack, October 9th 2018.

In October 2018, a 305lb. me sat atop Mt. Marcy, the highest peak in New York State. Marcy was my fifth high peak of the 46 recognized high peaks. I sat with a group of hikers looking toward Mt. Haystack, pictured above, the third highest peak in New York State (4,960ft). From the top of Marcy you could see the full scope of the mountain, and just how steep and rocky it was. Perhaps it was the adjectives used by those sitting around me, but a fear developed. What if I cannot climb Haystack? What if it’s just too difficult?

To me, Haystack just looked, well, gnarly.

I had no way of knowing what the next two years would bring. The weight I would lose. The fitness I would gain. Life changes I would make. The experience from miles of climbing and hiking. And the confidence that would grow along the way.

Yesterday, Haystack became my 38th high peak.

It started like any other day of climbing. Pack. Up at 2:15am. Drive. Embark. I’ve done many long days in the peaks, 15, 18, 21 miles over several peaks. The long miles of rock hopping, tripping, slipping, falling, breaking poles, cuts, bruises, etc. Yesterday was different however: can I do Haystack?

Intellectually I knew I could. I’ve done worse. But that seed planted on October 9th, 2018 had taken root. Doubt. Today I would hike alone, solo; which I’ve done many times. I knew it needed to be me and the Lord. Prayer. Reflection. And lots of “up” as my son and I say.

From the Garden trailhead, to John’s Brook Lodge, up the Phelps trail, and at the junction its .7 miles up to Haystack. Normal enough. Ascend Little Haystack; and there, get my first close up view of Haystack. Stop for a snack. Ascend. Before I knew it I stood at the top.

On top of Haystack, Mt. Marcy in the background.

Almost unconsciously I looked over to Mt. Marcy, pictured above, and looked to the exact spot where I sat nearly two years earlier, now standing where I thought I could never stand – Mt. Haystack. In my mind it was as if I looked back in time and said to myself, you did it. Relief. While the journey was long, the climb from Little Haystack to Haystack and back again was relatively easy. The real challenges of the day were still to come.

Haystack from Little Haystack.

Messiah said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Matt. 19:26). The words that took root on that October 2018 day developed a long shadow of doubt about Mt. Haystack. Was it impossible for me? Nope. The Lord was preparing me these last 21 months. Reshaping a life that was, well, misshapen. The 305lb. me would not have been able to do it, “with man this is impossible,” but the renewed man did.

There will be many challenges in life, some much more tragic than my fear of a mountain; but the remedy is the same: faith. Not faith in oneself, but faith in the ever-present, ever-faithful, living God who will never leave or forsake.

What is your Haystack?

From left: Basin, and just behind, Saddleback, and in the back Gothics.

The most challenging part of the day was the descent from Haystack (1000′ elevation loss), the ascent up Basin (900′ elevation gain), and then over the notorious cliffs of Saddleback. There was no fear or apprehension of these challenges, just the thrill of meeting them head on. My fear was now behind me.

Long hike back to car.


Milage: 17.5
Elevation gain: 5000 feet (+-)
Time on trail: 11.5 hours
Move time: 10.5 hours
High Peaks: 38, 39, 40.

Never give up. Never stop exploring. Trust in the Lord.

ADK Cascade and Porter Trip Report

Preparing to head down Cascade, and back to reality after a great morning of hiking.

On Thursday morning, January 30, 2020, I took a quick trip up to the High Peaks region of New York to climb Cascade and Porter Mts. I usually avoid Cascade as it is perhaps the most popular high peak, given its ease of access and short distance. During the spring, summer, and fall this trail is extremely busy, and because of that, not very enjoyable.

However, it is a fantastic hike. When I arrived at 8:00am the temperature was 3F. For any Adirondack winter hike, correct gear is a must – wool and microfiber clothing, in layers is vital. No cotton.

Frozen tree tops on the way up Cascade.

The trail was well broken out, as expected, which made for a faster pace. I used micro-spikes from start to finish. Snowshoes would have been overkill. The scenery was beautiful. Windswept and frozen trees against the clear blue sky. There are several places as you gain elevation for spectacular views to inspire and motivate to reach the top.

View of Cascade from Porter.

Porter Mt. is .7 from the Cascade trail. There is a quick loss and gain of elevation on the way out and back, but nothing of consequence. Porter is often an overlooked peak, but it does provide breathtaking views of the surrounding high peaks.

Part of the short climb up to the Cascade summit.

From the Porter summit to Cascade is a very quick 20 to 25 minutes. Cascade provides amazing 360 views of the high peaks, over to Lake Placid, and down to the trail head on Rt. 73. It is a bald summit, and in summer is a great spot to sit and take in the majesty of the Lord’s creation.

View from Cascade from Porter of Algonquin, NYS second highest peak, which towers of Wright Peak to the right. The MacIntyre Range is a personal favorite.

For a late January day the summit was very comfortable, even though it was probably in the single digits. No wind to speak of on the summit helped, and I was down to my marino wool base layer.

View of Mt. Marcy, NYS highest peak, from Porter. I believe Phelps Peak is on the left.

I spent about 30 minutes on top and had the summit to myself the entire time, as I did on Porter. On the way down I ran into the first people I saw all morning, and had a very pleasant conversation with them, sharing hiking notes and stories. I was a bit concerned with the other groups that I ran into closer to the trail head – no gear, improper footwear, and from what I could see, no water. I am not usually critical of people on the trail, but heading up to a high peak, on a cold winter day without proper gear puts other people at risk, namely the rangers and first responders who would be sent to fetch you. Always bring proper gear – and know how to use it.

Winter pack.

Pictured above is my winter pack. I wasn’t sure if the trail to Porter would be broken out, so I strapped my snowshoes (MSR Lightening Ascents 30″) to my pack – I generally do anyway, as it is a good habit to foster. Also, my Black Diamond ice ax. I didn’t think I would need it, but its good to have the tools of winter. Inside you will find: extra socks, shirt, gloves and hat; crampons; goggles; outer shell jacket in the sleeping bag compartment; food; map; headlamp; compass; TP; bivy bag; first-aid kit; and assorted other items. I carried 60 liters of water as well in the side pockets insulated by wool socks stored upside down (consumed about half of it). My pack is an Osprey Kestrel 48L, and I absolutely love this pack.

Totals: 6 miles, 2,300’ of elevation gain, move time: 2.5 hrs. Time on trail: 3.5 hrs.

Hope you enjoyed this quick report. Blessings.