Thursday, November 12, 2020

Documenting historic High Peaks hikes

Bethany and KatieIn September, Katie Rhodes and Bethany Garretson added their names to Adirondack hiking lore by doing an unsupported trip through the High Peaks in just over seven days.

According to fastestknowntime.com, a website that tracks and verified hiking challenges around the world, the pair are the first women to do this style of trip through the High Peaks, at this pace. Unsupported means they carried their supplies from the start to the finish and didn’t get any help along the way from anyone else. Supported speed hikers receive assistance from others on their trip.

They were at least the second pair of women to thru-hike the Adirondack High Peaks this fall. Sarah Keyes and Alyssa Godesky did a supported version of the Adirondack 46, with Godesky setting the women’s record in 3 days, 16 hours and 16 minutes.

I’ve been writing about these types of Adirondack hiking challenges for about decade, dating back to January 2010, when I wrote about two men – Cory Delavalle and Jan Wellford – becoming the first men to document this same type of unsupported trip.

Part of the culture

These types of challenging trip have always been a part of the Adirondack hiking culture, with a few notable trips always bubbling up to the surface to become public.

For instance, in 1977, Ed Palen, owner of Rock and River Guide Service in Keene, joined with Sharpie Swan to climb the High Peaks in four days and 18 hours. Unlike the unsupported trips, the pair got assistance from others and was considered supported. Their record time stood for 25 years until Oregon resident Ted “Cave Dog” Keizer came through to set the speed record in 2002. Keizer drew some criticism because he was viewed by some as doing the trip to draw attention to himself.

But as former Adirondack Explorer editor Phil Brown wrote in 2002, “Speed climbing is nothing new to the Adirondacks. Bob Marshall, the co-founder of the Wilderness Society, went up 13 High Peaks in one day in 1932. An account of his hike appears in The Adirondack Reader, edited by Paul Jamieson (and published by ADK). The following year, Herbert Malcolm climbed 18 High Peaks in a single day, ascending almost 21,100 feet.

“Back in the 1920s, Marshall, his brother George and their guide, Herbert Clark, became the first to climb all 46 High Peaks, a feat accomplished over several summers. In 1948, Lillian and Daniel McKenzie set the first speed-climbing record: 23 days. Other hikers followed suit, whittling the record down to nine days by 1972.”

What is notable about this most recent trip by Garretson and Holmes is that this trip was the first documented, unsupported speed hike through the High Peaks completed by two women.

Katie Rhodes and Bethany Garretson, who hiked all 46 Peaks continuously, unsupported. Photo provided

Editor’s note: This first appeared in Mike’s weekly “Backcountry Journal” email newsletter. Click here to sign up.

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Mike Lynch

Mike Lynch is a staff writer and photographer for the nonprofit Adirondack Explorer, the regional bimonthly news magazine with a focus on outdoor recreation and environmental issues.

Mike’s favorite outdoor activities include paddling, hiking, fishing and backcountry skiing. In 2011, he paddled the 740-mile Northern Forest Canoe Trail from Old Forge to Fort Kent, Maine.

From 2007 until 2014, Mike worked as an outdoors writer and photographer for the Adirondack Daily Enterprise in Saranac Lake.

Mike welcomes story ideas and can be reached at [email protected]


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4 Responses

  1. Ed says:

    Being an “old timer”, the first speed 46 record I can remember was 11 days and was accomplished by Peter Welles who was supported by Camp Pok-O-Moonshine (including his dad) in 1962. That record was reduced to 9 days in 1969 by Father Donahue of the Lake Delaware Boys Camp in the Catskills and his friend, Norman Grieg. That was soon followed by a 7 day ascent (1972) by Swan and Palen who were also supported by Camp Pok-O-Moonshine. A month prior in 1972, Patrick Griffin and Chris Beattie (North Country School in Lake Placid) tried to finish the 46 in 5 days but on day 4, Hurricane Agnes ushered in tragic results as Griffin died of a heart attack while ascending Marcy in the wind and pouring rain. Five years later in 1977, Swan and Palen bettered their record of 7 days by finishing in 5 days. That time held until Cave Dog bested that time as mentioned, 25 years later.
    Cave Dog’s record was significant in that it ushered in what I would call the endurance athlete era as opposed to attempts being primarily undertaken by camp supported, recreational hikers. Under this new concept, rules were adopted and the timing of the challenge was measured down to the second as opposed to number of days. Most importantly, it appears to me that the modern competitors still abide by the over-riding concepts of respecting the environment, having fun and strongly supporting one another…

  2. Paul Kalac says:

    Congratulations! They’ll want to go back and see the mountains now! 😉

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