By Erik Schlimmer
In the United States bigger is better – when it comes to mountains it’s all about the elevation. For example, most hikers have heard of 14,494-foot Mount Whitney: highpoint of the Lower Forty-Eight. Washington State’s Mount Rainier, which also tops the 14,000-foot-level, is immensely popular while east of Washington State Idaho and Montana conjure images of monstrous snow-capped peaks. Utah possesses nearly twenty peaks above 13,000 feet, and ice rides through summer in the Wind River Range of Wyoming. Continuing east, Colorado is bigger and better than all other states: More than fifty 14,000-foot mountains reside within the Centennial State’s borders.
As you travel east of the Rockies the elevation drops consistently and considerably. By the time you get to New York’s Adirondack Mountains, where I do nearly all of my hiking, you have high country that Westerners call hills. Only two of our summits are brave enough to break the 5,000-foot-level. But what the Adirondack Mountains lack in elevation they gain in sheer numbers: 592 summits above 2,500 feet, and 46 above 4,000.
I like the little hills, especially during winter. No longer adventuring in the Adirondack High Peaks (the region that contains our highest summits), I have fallen in love with this range’s little ones. And I have found what I was looking for: solitude, wild land, and an appreciation for the little things.
Below are a dozen photos to whet your appetite for the modesty of Adirondack summits. This is where I find my winter wilderness: among the modest mountains.
1: Sawtooth Mountains from Van Dorrien Mountain
2: Tough off-trail travel in the Ampersand Mountains
3: Big view north from Hadley Mountain
4: The burned-over summit of Crane Mountain
5: Blue view south from unnamed ridgeline
6: Cozy in camp for the night
7: Post-ice storm in West Canada Lake Wilderness Area
8: On Niagara Mountain looking towards the High Peaks
9: Whiteface Mountain from tiny Scotts Cobble
10: Thaw on Hoffman Notch Brook
11: Shelter after four feet of snow
12: Making tracks towards Little McKenzie Mountain