If you’ve ever been interested in the 46er Challenge – hiking all 46 high peaks in the Adirondacks – you’ll definitely want to check out the High Peaks Wilderness Area hiking challenge.
Mt. Marcy, part of the HPWA hiking challenge, photo credit to Kelsey Schumacher
The HPWA challenge comes from avid hiker Erik Schlimmer, who recently created the route because he enjoys trying hikes that few people have ever tried before. The challenge involves traversing 270 miles of State Department of Environmental Conservation trails in the nearly 204,000-acre High Peaks Wilderness Area.
Although this route won’t make you a 46er, it is not for the faint at heart – this is a challenging but highly fulfilling series of hikes. Hikers can expect three takeaways from the HPWA challenge: solitude, physical challenges, and unparalleled beauty.
Isolation is absolutely going to be a significant part of the challenge – which is great if you enjoy hiking to get away from it all in the first place.
“The section of the Northville-Placid Trail that parallels the Cold River is probably my favorite section of trail,” Schlimmer told Lake Placid News. “It’s one of the most remote sections to hike, solitude is nearly guaranteed, and it looks like the American West in certain spots.”
Not surprisingly, some areas of the challenge are indeed challenging. For instance, a section that goes from Bartlett Ridge to the top of 4,961-foot Mount Haystack involves a 1,200-foot vertical climb for about three-quarters of a mile.
“[It’s] one of, if not the, steepest trails in the High Peaks,” Schlimmer told Lake Placid News. “The descent was headlong careening by boulder-hopping down stream beds and butt-sliding down steep bedrock.”
However, don’t let the more intense aspects of the challenge dissuade you – Schlimmer completed the route, despite several personal challenges of his own.
“Overall the biggest challenge involved my disabilities and injuries,” he told Lake Placid News. “From my time as an Army paratrooper I have fractured vertebra in my neck and two degenerated disks and two bulging disks in my lower back.”
Schlimmer admits he might at some point retire to a canoe, but for now, he’s probably got a few more hiking challenges in him.
Of course, the challenge doesn’t come without a reward – some of the best known, most picturesque elements of the Adirondacks are included in the HPWA challenge: Wallface Cliff (tallest rock face), Mount Marcy (the highest high peak at 5,344 feet), Lake Tear of the Clouds (the highest body of water at 4,318 feet), and 18 of the 46 High Peaks.
Like the 46er challenge, the HPWA challenge is based on the honor code. You can get a list of the trails from Schlimmer’s book, “Among the Cloud Splitters: Place names of High Peaks Wilderness Area.” After completing the hike, you can get a patch and certificate for $15, including free shipping.
Schlimmer is also behind the Trans Adirondack Route, which runs 235 miles from Blue Line to Blue Line.
If you enjoy intense hikes, check out our hiking challenges guide.
- Lake Placid News: A New High Peaks Hiking Challenge