We had hiked this on February 21, 2004. It was Mark, Chris, Justin, Derek, and myself. It was an overcast day with snow flurries, a typical winter day in the Adirondacks. I cannot remember the temps, but I don't recall being overly cold, probably in the mid to upper 30s.
It was a crowded day on the trails, which is typical, especially on the weekend. The trail from the Loj was hard-packed to Marcy dam. This is a highly trafficked section of the trail as it is the only route to Marcy Dam from the Adirondack Loj, a parking area to several trails leading to several of the high peaks in the heart of the Adirondacks. This also means the Loj is a highly trafficked area and a major parking area for hikers. When we had hiked, Marcy Dam was still intact, hurricane Irene had since destroyed it, and the remnants were removed. This means the crossing point the dam had provided hikers had to be moved downstream, where a footbridge was constructed.
The Van Hoevenberg trail from the dam to the junction with the trail for Phelps and beyond was not as hard pack and had fresh snow. This is a nice trail, especially under a snowpack, since all the rocks and roots are covered. This is a nice relief for tired legs. This is also a major trail heading up to the junction of Mount Marcy and the trail to the Great Range.
The trail from the VanHoevenburg trail to Phelps is uneventful for the most part until just below the summit, where there are a few ledges to scramble up and an ice flow; we used crampons for this section. Shortly beyond this point, it then feels like it levels out or becomes less steep until you come out of the trees, where again there are a few more ledges to step up on, and then you come out onto a nice ledge which is the summit.
The open ledge usually offers terrific unobstructed views of Mount Marcy, Big Slide, Colden, and Algonquin on a clear day. We had no views today since it was all overcast with snow showers.