Peak performance Vt. Brothers climb the top 46 peaks in N.Y.
By Dennis Jensen
STAFF WRITER | September 22,2013
Brothers Paul Laramie, left, and Chuck Laramie, of Fair Haven, are shown after they reached the summit of Panther Peak on Sept. 6.
After four long summers, lots of sweat, tired legs and one near-bear attack, two brothers from Fair Haven conquered the Adirondack 46, a series of 46 mountains that, with four exceptions, are higher than 4,000 feet.
Chuck and Paul Laramie reached the top of their 46th mountain, Panther Peak, on Sept. 6.
They both said that the experience went beyond their greatest expectations.
Paul, 60 and retired from General Electric in Rutland, and Chuck a teacher, decided to tackle the 46 peaks after Paul had climbed to the top of Vermont’s five highest mountains, all which top 4,000 feet.
“Chuck had climbed Giant Mountain (in New York) one time and I climbed all of the big ones in Vermont,” Paul said.
Chuck had hiked some other 4,000-foot peaks in the Adirondacks and the brothers decided to tackle all 46 peaks.
“It just went from there. We just decided to do them all. Giant was the first one and it was the shortest, just a 6-mile round trip,” Chuck said.
“Yeah, but it was 3 miles straight up,” Paul added, laughing.
Their next climb was Mount Marcy, the highest of the 46 and one of the two peaks that exceeds 5,000 feet.
“That’s not a hard hike, but it’s a long way,” Paul said.
Most of the hikes took between 10 and 12 hours.
“Sometimes we would leave here at 5 o’clock in the morning and not get back home until 10:30 at night,” Chuck said.
It was on Mount Donaldson, “in a bit of rough country,” Paul said, when a black bear suddenly appeared and then growled at Chuck.
“I guess he was probably not more than 25 yards away,” Chuck said. “He scared the hell out of me.”
While some of the 42 trails that are well-travelled and well-marked, others are not so easily marked — or bear no markings whatsoever.
“We actually got lost sometimes,” Chuck said. Both men laughed at that comment.
“A lot of those trails aren’t even marked,” Paul said. “It’s easy to get lost on those herd paths. Sometimes, there’s little boulders to tell you where to turn. But sometimes there are no signs telling you which way to go. It’s easy to get lost.”
The brothers did partake in one overnight hiking spree.
“We hiked 26 miles in 34 hours and got four peaks,” Chuck said. “It was pouring rain, of course, and we never saw anything from the peaks. The fog was so thick you couldn’t see your hand in front of your face.”
According to Chuck, the Adirondack 46 began when Robert and George Marshall and their friend Herbert Clark identified 46 mountains in Northern New York State with an elevation of 4,000 feet or higher. They climbed all of these peaks between 1918 and 1925.
Their feat, Chuck said, continues to drive determined hikers to achieve this goal. Geological surveys would determine four of the 46 were under 4,000 feet, though by less than 200 feet.
The current organization called “The Adirondack Forty-Sixers, originated in 1937 when a church school class from Grace Methodist Church in Troy, N.Y., formed the Forty-Sixers of Troy.
The four-year quest was well-worth both the investment in sweat and time, the brothers said.
“It’s so incredibly beautiful up there. The views take your breath away,” Chuck said.
“You’re on top of the world,” said Paul.
Fitness, preparation and strong legs are required, Paul said. “There’s no way you’re going to make it if you’re not fit. You’ve got to carry enough water and food as well,” he said.
Some of the mountains, Dix Mountain being one, offer a simple, long walk and then an abrupt change in the landscape, according to Chuck.
“With Dix, there was a long walk and not a lot of elevation gain until you reached the base of the mountain. The test couple of miles are straight up” he said. “You have to have your hands free to climb some cliffs. When you’re climbing up rocks, there’s always the sense of stress that, if you fall, on that one slip, you could twist an ankle, break a leg, hit your head. If you do, you are stuck. There’s no cell service up there.”
The brothers met a good number of hikers and climbers along the way, including a 15-year-old girl who was going for five peaks and hiking alone.
“When you first start out and your legs are hurting, you take the time to look behind you and you see the spectacular views and all of a sudden the adrenaline keeps you moving,” Chuck said. “We ran into a lot of great people up there.”
“The views and the hikes were just great,” Paul said. “I finished with a great feeling of accomplishment.”