5 Tips for Introducing a Newbie to the Adirondack High Peaks

For many of us, one of our biggest passions is peak-bagging in the Adirondacks or winter hiking in the Presidential Range, and there are few feelings better than sharing that with a co-worker, family member, or new love interest. But unfortunately, many of these newbies think hiking is like strolling through the neighborhood mall or sticking to the tame trails at the local park, which we all know definitely isn’t much like climbing a 46er Peak. Still, sharing your love of the wilderness with the uninitiated can end in success if you follow these five simple tips.

Newbie Hikers

Tip 1: Curb Your Ambitions

You may love the straight-up verticality of Mount Colden’s Trap Dike, but many newbies will find it daunting, if not demoralizing or downright impossible. So, keep the mileage reasonable, but also realize that distance is not always the most important consideration: I’ve had fellow hikers turn around twice on the relatively short three-mile trip up Giant Mountain due to its immediate verticality and steep slides.

On the other hand, guiding new hikers on much longer treks with more gradual inclines ended in success every time. There’s a reason Mount Marcy is the most-accomplished first peak for 46ers.

Newbie Hikers

Tip 2: Choose a Climb With a View

As an aspiring 46er, I no longer need a spectacular view awaiting me at the end of every trail. Just stepping into a wilderness with the smell of pine or the trills of an early morning thrush are enough to put me in a good place. But those new to hiking usually expect one thing: a monster view. And, it had better deliver. Fortunately, the Adirondack High Peaks are rife with great mountaintop views without having to hike 12 miles and 3,000-plus feet in elevation to find them. And, summit scenery goes a long way toward getting your companions to come back for round two.

Tip 3: Take it Easy

You might be a trail runner or simply used to a pace that allows the bagging of three to five peaks in a day. But, today is not about that: It’s about making sure your newbies feel as comfortable, secure, and just plain happy as possible. Let them set the pace and, if possible, do so with the impression that this is your usual speed. I’ve had friends express the uneasy feeling that they were “slowing the group down” or that “everyone had to wait for me,” and that anxiety really dampened their enjoyment. Make them feel like hiking with them is no different from your usual excursions in the wilderness: easy conversation, frequent breaks, and lots of laughs.

Newbie Hikers

Tip 4: Make Sure They Bring “The Right Stuff”

Or better yet, bring it for them. If you and your new hiking pals are staying together the night before, supervise their packing of food, water, and gear. Don’t be afraid of being a know-it-all: They will thank you later. If you are meeting at the trailhead, advise them beforehand with a specific list of do’s and don’ts (this one might be a good place to start), and then have an extra set or two of everything in your car anyway. They may hear your warnings against denim and cotton T-shirts, but some will still likely show up with just a 12-ounce water bottle, cut-off jean shorts, and no backpack. I always throw extra fleeces, socks, head lamps, and lots of snacks in my car before heading out.

Newbie Hikers

Tip 5: Celebrate

Make an event out of the experience. Take some fun selfies along the way and plenty of dramatic or inventive captures on the peak to share later. Finally, when hiking in the Adirondack High Peaks, I often cap the adventure with a fun dinner in Lake Placid, where we can drink a celebratory beer, replenish carbs, and laugh about the most grueling or surprising moments of the day.

After that, they’re sure to share your love for those mountains.