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History and traditions of 46ers explored

April 20, 2011
By MIKE LYNCH, News Outdoors Writer
When 19th century guide Orson “Old Mountain” Phelps would stand atop Mount Marcy, he would sometimes find standard English words inadequate to describe the inspiration and satisfaction he felt.

Instead he would use a phrase he invented on his own: “heaven up-h’isted-ness.”

Now, more than a century later, these words have once again found their way into the vocabulary of hikers, as the title of the Adirondack 46ers new book: “Heaven Up-H’isted-ness!: The History of the Adirondack Forty-Sixers and the High Peaks of the Adirondacks.”

Released in March, this 702-page tome has chapters on the peaks written by 17 club members, in addition to a section devoted to the history of the 46ers club written by Suzanne Lance. Throughout the book are 150 photos and illustrations, many from the photo collection of longtime 46er historian Grace Hudowalski, the ninth person and first woman to climb the 46 High Peaks.

“The publication is part history book, part trail guide, and part hiking journal,” states a press release about it.

Keene resident Tony Goodwin, who is 46er No. 211 and author of the Adirondack Mountain Club’s hiking guidebook for the High Peaks region, ties together the many aspects of the book in a six-page introduction. He writes about the excitement in the early days of the 46ers club, the traditions it established and how it has affected many hikers over the years, including himself.

“This shared sense of true adventure and exploration created a core group of founders who intensely shared experiences and forged a bond so strong that the traditions they established have extended through the membership to the present day,” Goodwin wrote. “Needless to say, the effort required to finish one’s ascents of the forty-six has become somewhat less over the years, but the traditions established many years ago help to keep up the excitement as the newest aspirants close in on their goal.

“I can well remember the final two weeks of the summer of 1961 as I hiked nearly every day to achieve my goal of finishing before having to return to Hartford, Connecticut, and school. I have therefore often smiled, forty or more years later, as an aspirant breathlessly explains what they have just hiked and what they will soon be hiking to finish. Tradition established; excitement undiminished.”

The book also contains profiles of key members of the group, including the first 46ers: guide Herbert Clark, who led the brothers George and Bob Marshall up the peaks.

Other key profiles include founders Grace and Ed Hudowalski; renowned guide Jim Goodwin, who recently died at age 101; Ed Ketchledge, a biologist whose work led to the protection of alpine vegetation in the Adirondacks; and Glenn Fish, an former 46er president who led efforts to improve the conditions of the muddied and littered trails.

In an article in the fall/winter 1988-89 issue of “Peeks,” Fish described the conditions of the trails in the late 1960s and early 1970s:

“Trails were sloughs of mud, and litter of every type — paper, glass, metal, plastic — caught the eye at every turn,” Fish wrote. “Even the two-room stone hut on the summit of Marcy had its floor paved with eggshells, orange and banana peels, paper and worse ... You could always tell when you were approaching a lean-to by the abundance of litter scattered about from the garbage pits by animals, the wind, and hikers with poor aims ... I felt a growing revulsion for the litter I saw on each trip and absolute disgust for those contributing to it. Not content with just complaining, I began to search for answers.”

More than anything else, this book is a celebration of the Adirondack’s 46 High Peaks and a club whose members have spent decades providing stewardship for them, studying their history and, of course, exploring their every nook and cranny.

“The wonderful thing about a huge mountain massif like MacIntyre is the plethora of hidden jewels in her craggy crown: sublime alpine gardens in their spring glory; numerous open bumps and perches with their unique vantages; secluded waterfalls and mountain tarns where dragonflies rule,” wrote Sean O’Donnell in his chapter of the MacIntyre Range. “All of these treasures, some off trail, and some on trail, and some off, off trail, are what have inspired and enthralled the visitors to and natives of this region since man first set foot upon its soil and bedrock. Seeking out, stumbling upon, and relishing these treasures is one of an Adirondack explorer’s favorite things to do.”

The book also includes a complete membership roster of recorded 46ers from Herbert Clark and George and Robert Marshall, who were the first to climb all of the 46 high peaks in 1925, through the finishers as of Dec. 31, 2010.

“Heaven Up-h’isted-ness!” is available online through the 46ers’ website,, for $29.50 plus tax and shipping.

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