Phelps Mountain is named after Orson Schofield Phelps, also known as "Old Mountain Phelps," who created the first trail over Mount Marcy. According to “The History of the Adirondacks” by Alfred L. Donaldson, he was an early Adirondack guide from Keene Valley. He was not considered a great guide. In fact, he was not considered even a good guide. He became a local legend due to publicity by people such as writers Charles Dudley Warner and E. R. Wallace, and photographer Seneca Ray Stoddard. Phelps named many of the Adirondack High Peaks.
I had hiked Phelps Mountain previously on two occasions, both were in the winter, and each time there were no views. I have wanted to go back on a nice day so I could enjoy the wonderful views the mountain has to offer. Today was that day, my first Adirondack High Peak since my surgery.
I arrived at the Adirondack Loj just before 6 am. I had to get there so early in an effort to get a parking spot. The previous weekend proved fruitless as by that same time the lot was full and I was turned away. It is very difficult finding places to hike in the High Peaks during the peak hiking season.
I signed in and was on my way to Marcy Dam, it was 5:50 am. It was a brisk morning at 30 degrees. I had to don my hat and gloves for a bit to keep warm. The trail to Marcy Dam has not changed much in the last 15 years with the exception of the reroute just before the dam, and the dam itself the trail was rerouted downstream after the dam was destroyed by Hurricane Irene. The area has not looked the same since.
The views this morning from Marcy Dam were wonderful under clear blue skies. Many people were starting to show up already. After a quick break and snack, I was soon on my way up the Van Hoevenburg Express. A misnomer for a name as I do not find it quick at all navigating the rocks of varying sizes. In the winter with all the rocks under snow cove, yeah it is quick then. In any event, it does not take long to reach the junction that takes you to Phelps Mountain.
From here, the trail is a steady climb up. This is the first time for me climbing Phelps without the snowpack, so I was surprised at the amount of rock and scrambling that the trail has to offer. Today was definitely a leg day. There were two or three steep scrambles to go up before the trail eases up. As I continued, there were several spur trails off the main trail to lookouts. I eventually arrived at the last ledge that comprises the summit shelf at 9:40 am.
While I was not the first on the summit, I did enjoy it by myself for about a half-hour having a snack before more hikers showed up. I eventually started my way back down. Going down took me longer than going up, as I wanted to avoid falling. I passed several upbound hikers on my way down. It was a busy peak today.
Returning to Marcy Dam I was surprised to find a Jeep near the outpost. I had never seen a vehicle there before. There were not very many people at the dam at this time. I would however pass several hikers making their way to the interior as I was on my way back to the Loj, eventually arriving at the parking lot at 1:50 pm.
The elevation gain from the Adirondack Loj is 1,982 feet.
This hike is dedicated to the nurses that cared for me at Johns Hopkins.
Started: 5:50 AM
Trip Time: 8:06:45
Dist. Traveled: 8.23 mi
Average Speed: 1.01 mph
Max. Speed: 4.37 mph
Max. Elevation: 4148 ft