Wright Peak – 001

Wright will always be a special high peak, as it was my first.

Wright Peak, Summer 2019

Completing any peak on my first hike was never my concern, and it never proved a problem. Rather, I was turning 30 this year, and it had been nearly a decade and a half since I had done any kind of hiking or even a relatable cardio-vascular activity. Sure, some running here and there, but nothing six or eight hours long. That is to say, even being a fit guy, there was some apprehension and uncertainty about what I’d be able to do. That’s why this hike was level-setting, a calibrating of what I was going to be able to accomplish in a day or evening, something I’d be able to use to plan my other hikes. That being the case, I created some options.

Plan A was to drive over early Friday morning and do an in-and-out of Algonquin, Iroquois, and Wright. I picked up my friend and we left Rochester late at around 10 a.m. If you’re not familiar with NY, Rochester is about 4.5 hours from the Adirondacks. With pit stops factored in, we got to the parking lot at about 2 p.m. which is not exactly the best time to start an in-and-out of these three peaks. But of course, we didn’t know that. So, ignorant enough to not realize the mistake we had just made, but not brash enough to throw caution to the wind; I had every intention of turning us around before it got dark.

Wright is one of the windiest peaks in Adirondack Park.

Plan A did not work out.

We unloaded at the Adk Loj where we were staying for the night. We went off to find the trailhead, and had asked one of the staff to point us in the right direction. They immediately gave a puzzled look. “You’re going to Algonquin?” was the response he had given. An anxiety had set in: did I really screw the pooch in planning this thing? Was this not the trailhead for Algonquin? Would I have to abandon the hike? No, it was the right place. It was that there was an implied “now” at the end of the staff member’s question that just remained unspoken. He told us when sunset was, which I forget the exact time, but I remember thinking we have a few hours and this guy needs to relax.

Well, turns out the staff member was right (go figure) and by the time we had reached the junction for Algonquin and Wright, I had to explain to my friend that considering the amount of time we had already spent getting to just the junction, we should play it safe and hit Wright and call it a day. We went to plan B.

Near the summit there is a plaque marking the site of a 1962 plane crash.

It’s 3.35 miles from the Adk Loj to the top of Algonquin, and the junction is 2.64 miles up from the Loj. That means the junction sits about 80% of the way up, meaning you have a fifth of the way to go still. From the time we arrived to that spot we were looking at about three hours before sunset. Because of the onset of exhaustion and the shock that it was taking this long, we cut our losses and the hope of hitting the second highest point in NYS, and made the left to go up Wright.

Air Force plaque on summit of Wright Peak

Wright is a rock scramble. That is to say it is not actual rock climbing, but it certainly ain’t rock walking either. You are climbing over rock faces and ridges, which is a common feature in mountain summits that are not considered “technical”. It can be exhausting to haul yourself up over a rock ledge that’s taller than you are, but it’s a hell of a lot of fun too!

At this point we were starting to break the tree line, the edge of habitat that allows trees to grow at higher elevations. With the trees beginning to not obstruct our sight, small pockets and windows were opening up of the grand views of a high peak summit. Our excitement was building, and we were very eager to get to the top. We followed the cairns and eventually the rock scramble turned into long, sloping sections. I don’t know what phenomena describes this, but whenever I see this I always get the urge to run. So that’s what we did, we ran up to the top.

Wright Peak summit, Summer 2019

We made it! We took our packs off, had lunch, and took in the views. It truly is amazing what you can experience on a high peak. It was a beautiful day, sunny and blue skies. We hunted for the survey marker, unsure if it existed or not. Unable to find it we settled for the plane wreckage and plaque that serves as a memorial to the lives lost on this peak. We spent an hour at the top, just taking it all in.

That gave us an hour before sunset, and I was thinking that the descent would be much easier and faster than the climb up. I think this is true for more people. But what I figured out very quickly was my 30 year old, 220 pound body was not the same as that 13 year old that climbed these mountains before. My knees were in severe pain. With barely a hint of exhaustion, I was taking breaks every five minutes to let me knees relax a little. The strong thudding of the huge steps I was making was taking its toll on my joints. I couldn’t believe it, but I actually had to start sitting down on the ground and doing a kind of stand up on the next step down so that there was less of an impact on my knees. You can image this took much longer than just walking down.

Night started to creep up on us. By the time we met the Van Hoevenberg Trail it was dark. Neither of us had packed a flashlight, thinking we had plenty of time to finish the hike in daylight. Thankfully, the trail from that point on was very well trodden and flat, so it didn’t prove too much an issue. I did of course make the mental note to pack a light for the next one.

We made it back to Heart Lake, for a roughly 6 hour out-and-back time. We were exhausted, sore, and ready for a hot meal. Walking into the ADK Loj we were discussing where we might grab a bite to eat after our showers, when chance would have it that the friend I was with ran into his coworker staying at the Loj with us the same night! What are the odds! A quick conversation about plans for the weekend revealed that they were trying for Street and Nye early tomorrow before the ride back to Rochester. So you might guess where hikes #2 and #3 came from on my journey…

Wright Peak

16th highest of ADK 46

33rd highest of NE 115