Low-lying clouds (a.k.a. "undercast") were the day's 'flavor enhancer' for our trip to Marcy, Skylight, and Gray. The undercast spiced up the views by allowing only the Four Thousand Footers to poke their heads above the clouds and appear like islands in the sky.
Tom (Randomscooter), Alistair, and I left the Loj at 6:10 AM bound for Skylight and Gray by way of Marcy. Tom and I were on a 'list-fulfilment' mission. Alistair was out to stretch his legs after a hiking hiatus of several months. Seeing that his hiking muscles had been unused for so long, he reserved the right to tag Marcy and forego the other peaks.
|Dawn at Marcy Dam.|
Just before reaching Indian Falls, I heard the sound of a freight train gaining on me. I turned around and immediately recognized the two locomotives charging uphill; Steve (Little Brown Mushroom) and Wayne (Waynald) were heading to Lower Wolfjaw by way of a Great Range Traverse.
We paused at Indian Falls to greet them and discuss our respective itineraries. Everyone had a long day ahead of them so it wasn't long before we bid them good luck and they continued up the trail. Trail conditions eventually allowed us to catch up to them. Whoever had signed in for Marcy the previous day had stopped well short of the Hopkins junction and left the remainder unbroken.
We caught up to Steve and Wayne at the Van Ho-Phelps trail-junction where they were stowing their gear in preparation for a spur-trip to Marcy. We hitched our wagons to the two locomotives and followed the track they cleared.
|Tom, Wayne, Alistair, and Steve prepare for Marcy.|
With hand-shakes and well-wishes, Wayne and Steve departed Marcy and sped off to Haystack. Alistair confirmed Marcy was the turn-back point for his hike. We bid him good luck and watched him recede in Marcy's northern horizon. Spying the southern line of cairns Tom and I began our descent to Schofield Cobble. Moments after leaving Marcy's summit, we were out of the wind and felt the sun's warming rays. Tom suggested we stop for a snack and enjoy the moment. Windless, warm, sunny and with a commanding view, it was an ideal spot to survey our objectives: Skylight and Gray.
|Cairns mark our descent to Schofield Cobble.|
Four Corners was pristine; there was no trace of anyone's passage from the east or west. We unloaded some gear and Tom broke trail up Skylight. Being on Skylight's shaded side, the snowy trees did not drip melt-water onto us. We'd get that later on Gray. The view from Skylight's breezy summit was gorgeous. Only Allen poked out of the undercast but just barely so.
|Sky and Skylight.|
|Man and Marcy.|
At the outlet we, once again, stowed our surplus gear. The herd-path was in full sun and the trees were raining melt-water. In anticipation of a soggy ascent, I donned a hardshell and shell-mitts. The snow underfoot was a heavy, sticky mush that clung to poles and snowshoes. It was a wet uphill slog but at least the herd-path, although unbroken since the snowfall, was easy to follow. It was my sixth ascent of Gray so the route was familiar to me.
It felt good to tag Gray. With only Allen remaining for the Fall round, the completion of my Four-Season Grid (46 peaks x 4 seasons) seemed well within reach. We paused for a brief snack and shared our mutual concern about the re-ascent of Marcy. The trail was also south-facing and the snow would undoubtedly be heavy and wet. We rationalized it would be easier than Gray because we had already broken the trail earlier in the day.
|Misty Marcy (from Gray).|
For number-crunchers, the distance from Four Corners to the Loj via Lake Arnold or via Marcy is virtually the same (7.4 miles). The elevation gain via Marcy is 1300 feet versus 770 feet via Lake Arnold. In other words, for an additional investment of 530 feet, you get the benefit of Marcy's views instead of the (often) swampy trail to Lake Arnold and its limited views. The ascent to Lake Arnold from Feldspar Brook is about 500 feet. The ascent from Four Corners to Schofield Cobble is about 600 feet. Once you've reached Schofield Cobble, you are effectively above treeline and the remaining 400 feet of open views to the summit are your 'scenic payback'. Naturally, if the weather is horrible, returning via Marcy is much less appealing.
|500 feet of awe-inspiring ascent.|
|Blue light special.|
PhotosSee all photos.
- Distance: 17 miles.
- Ascent: 5800 feet.
- Time: 11h 50m.