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Groups issue Adirondack eclipse backcountry hiker caution

Eclipse-Adirondack marketing logo
Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism
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Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism
Eclipse-Adirondack marketing logo

The Adirondack High Peaks will be in the path of totality during the April 8th total solar eclipse. But groups that offer hiking resources are advising people to stay off the peaks unless they are expert winter hikers.

The Adirondack Council, the Adirondack Mountain Club and the Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism are cautioning that while April 8th may be a springlike day in some down country and areas south of the Adirondacks, the mountains will still be experiencing winter conditions.

Adirondack Mountain Club Director of Communications Ben Brosseau says the region’s so called mud season can be dangerously unpredictable and there are concerns that visiting hikers will be unfamiliar with the area and its variable weather conditions.

“You might start at a trailhead that is a little muddy," notes Brosseau. "You know things look like a typical spring and in a couple of miles you might be in waist deep snow. Conditions are all over the place. We typically say there’s mud, there’s ice and there’s snow and it will depend on your elevation and where you’re going. One of the really important things as it relates to safety is that that snow is often unstable. We call it rotting snow and it’s something that tends to cause injuries because people will be walking over it and then they’ll punch through it and fall up to their waist sometimes.”

Adirondack Council spokesperson Justin Levine says while there are concerns about April hiking on all Adirondack mountains, they are issuing the backcountry warning directed at the High Peaks.

“The unique thing about the eclipse combined with the beauty of the Adirondack Mountains may make it sort of irresistible for some people," Levine says. "The Adirondack Park covers one-fifth of New York state and so conditions across the Park are going to be quite variable. However the path of totality for the eclipse is going to be passing directly over the High Peaks area of the Adirondacks. That’s one of the most popular places for hikers to go any time of year. And so we wanted to make sure that people knew that it’s not going to be just a nice springtime hike. It’s going to be a winter hike. That being said there’s a lot of communities in the Adirondack Park that are having viewing parties.”

Levine also notes that at that time of year inexperienced hikers can also cause significant ecological damage on the High Peaks.

“If some of the ice and snow is gone that may expose our very thin soils and delicate plants," says Levine. "We have rare alpine ecosystem plants here in the Adirondacks and people can really do a lot of damage without meaning to.”

Venturing into the backcountry during early spring comes with inherent dangers including getting lost, injured, hypothermia or other emergencies. Brousseau cautions that people considering a backcountry eclipse hike must be prepared to self-rescue.

“With this eclipse if we get the numbers that they’re calling for emergency responses are going to be slower," anticipates Brosseau. "You’re not necessarily going to be able to get a ranger out to people as quickly especially if there are lots of people that need help. You know in remote backcountry rescues it can take many, many hours. There was a recent rescue on South Dix that took about 12 hours. That was in a normal situation, if you will. If we’re looking at a situation where traffic is heavy, where access to a trailhead is difficult for rangers and emergency response personnel it could be much, much longer. And if there are more rescues than normal, they might be spread very thin.”

The solar eclipse is expected to start in the Adirondack region just after 2 p.m. with totality beginning at about 3:25 p.m.