Mount Skylight is the fourth highest summit in New York State and a very remote destination of the Adirondack High Peaks, making it very tricky to climb in one day. For example, if you were to crunch all the numbers to plan a one-day attempt to this summit, with the Adirondack Loj at Heart Lake as a starting point, you’d soon come up with a round-trip calculation of about 18 miles. Double check your math and. . . . Yep — Eighteen miles of climbing and hiking sounds a lot like ‘Plan B’ to me!
Luckily the High Peaks region of the Adirondacks is full of some really nice camping spots along this hike, which Tom, Frank and I took full advantage of last weekend. This makes Mount Skylight our first-ever summit reached via an overnight stay inside the infamous High Peaks wilderness of the Adirondack Mountains; home to black bear, snakes, black flies, bacteria, sharp rocks, and piercing sticks hiding around every corner — just waiting to plunge into an unsuspecting eyeball!
Day 1: Calamity Brook Trail
to Colden Dam
Our weekend officially began with a sleepless camp out in the trail head parking lot (Upper Works), and a bright-and-early start down the 6-mile trail to Colden Dam, our planned camping spot for the next two nights.
The Calamity Brook Trail kicks things off with plenty to see. Along the way is Calamity Pond, Calamity Brook and plenty of mountain vistas. The early morning fog shown above was interesting to see rolling off the mountain tops.
About four miles down the Calamity Brook Trail, the lake above appears out of nowhere when the trail come to a junction. This lake is known as Flowed Lands, and our destination is revealed for the first time away in the distance — inside that valley is Lake Colden, named after the mountain to the right.
Finally arriving at our campsite, Lake Colden (shown above) will be outside our front porch for the next two days. The water level in Lake Colden is controlled by a dam, and the small area near the dam (not shown; behind the photographer) is where most of the State campsites and lean-tos are located.
Colden Dam was also outside our front porch view for the next to nights as well — and the air was as cold as it looks. Tom sacrificed some valuable sleep to get this shot, waking up around 3:00am. I’d say it payed off.
Day Two: Mount Skylight via
Opalescent Brook & Feldspar Brook Trails
Saturday morning began with a quick breakfast, a long packing routine, and a great first mile of hiking along the Opalescent Brook, which offers several picturesque waterfall scenes right off the bat while the hiking is still easy.
The waterfall above required some risky equipment maneuvering and a sacrifice of about thirty minutes of time. But again, it was well worth it – this is just one of many great shots that Tom snagged. The Opalescent Brook Trail turns into the Feldspar Brook Trail about a mile ahead where the waterfalls become less common due to the deepening of the gorge. On the way up to Mount Skylight, the Feldspar Brook first leads past Lake Tear of the Clouds, and the Gray Peak trail head.
Lake Tear of the Clouds is something that we anticipated seeing ever since the Skylight hike idea was born. It was one of the key factors in deciding to take this hike. It was a highly anticipated destination along this hike. It was supposed to blow our minds, and. . . well, there it is (above). All kidding aside, the lake above (the whole body is not in the frame) is thought to be the highest known source of the Hudson River. Seriously – that’s it right there!
Shortly after passing this famed lake, the trail meets with another in between Mt. Marcy and Mt. Skylight. This junction is called the Four Corners, and marks the last push to the summit of Mt. Skylight (or Mt. Marcy if that’s where you’re headed).
Sec. 2 – Summit of Mount Skylight
Mount Skylight is named after its wide-open 360-degree views of the surrounding Adirondack Mountains, and it lives up to its name. Fifteen to twenty minutes after leaving the Four Corners, a quick yet grueling climb is over, the summit is reached, and the clouds up there appear almost close enough to reach out and strangle. If you look close enough (above, below) you can see these particular clouds had a little surprise waiting for us. . .
Mount Skylight’s summit also has a terrific view of Mt. Marcy, the closest peak shown here (center), which is right across the Four Corners a half mile back down the trail. It’s a tempting offer since the Fours Corners junction just below has a path leading straight up to Marcy’s Summit. By our estimates, after descending from Mount Skylight, a detour trip up to Mt. Marcy’s Summit would be about one mile in length, 400 higher than the Skylight ascent, and should take an extra hour and a half maybe?
However, a hail storm complete with thunder and lightning had suddenly forced us down Mount Skylight, which would make an unplanned ascent of Mt. Marcy a little more complicated – could we pull it off?
Be sure to check back later this week for whole story on the Mount Marcy climb, as well as. . .
- Lots of extra photos/slideshows
- Video clips of our trip
- Behind the Scenes material
- Exclusive Interviews
- and a Bonus Story about Chris’s Warning ticket issued by the DEC