Recent Graduate Quickly Climbs Adirondacks' 46
Ed. Note: This story originally appeared in the May 23 edition of the Oswego Palladium-Times. This modified Web version is republished with permission.
As BrieAnne Wilson '10, M' 12 trudged upward, wind and cold gnawed at her face. It was only November, but the weather had surprised her and her friends with snow and temperatures that dipped below freezing.
Now they were caught in a snowstorm on the side of a mountain in the Adirondacks. Unlike Wilson, who brought winter gear, half the group forgot hats and gloves. Some even neglected to bring winter coats.
They pushed on through the snow. When Wilson finally hoisted herself up to the summit of Big Slide Mountain, which stands 4,240 feet above sea level, she was greeted by a panorama of New York state's highest and most rugged mountains.
"The view was absolutely fantastic," Wilson said. "The fulfillment of getting to the top ... I felt very rewarded once I got to the top."
On the summit of one of the Adirondack High Peaks — the 46 mountains in the Adirondack Park that rise more than 4,000 feet — Wilson, who had never climbed a mountain in the Adirondacks before or even trekked into the wild with snow on the ground, made a decision.
"I made a goal on top of Big Slide that I would finish and complete my 46 before I finished grad school," she said.
That was in 2009.
Now Wilson, 24, of Gloversville, who graduated from Oswego with a master's degree in mental health counseling in mid-May, has conquered all 46 of the Adirondack's High Peaks.
Her entire family has always enjoyed the outdoors she said. Her first family camping trip was when she was 8 months old. But Wilson had never considered it a goal to climb a group of mountains.
Then she joined an outdoor club at Herkimer Community College. After transferring to SUNY Oswego in 2007 to finish her undergraduate degree, Wilson joined the college's Outdoor Club, which was much more involved, she said.
The first High Peak she climbed — Big Slide — was with the club and it whetted her appetite for more climbing.
"Honestly, it's the biggest high," she said. "It's addictive."
She was officially inducted into the exclusive Adirondack Forty-Sixers Club May 27 in Lake Placid.
The notion of climbing all 46 High Peaks materialized a century ago when Robert and George Marshall, along with guide and friend Herbert Clark, identified 46 mountains in northern New York state as having an elevation of 4,000 feet or higher. The trio was the first to ascend all 46 peaks, which they did between 1918 and 1925.
More than 7,000 people have climbed the High Peaks since then.
Wilson and her friends tussled with dozens of dangerous situations. On one of the first climbs, the group dropped their packs within half a mile of the summit to hustle to the top before the sun set. But they forgot their headlamps and ended up sprinting back down the mountain after summiting to reach their gear and lamps just as it was becoming too dark to see.
That trip taught her a valuable lesson, Wilson said.
"Never drop your stuff."
Some mountains were just more difficult to climb than others. On Cliff Mountain, which stands at 3,960 feet, the group suffered through freezing rain that pelted them and Wilson was struck with severe illness.
"It's always an adventure with Brie," Stephanie Graudons '07 said.
Graudons climbed many of the High Peaks with Wilson and said that the close friendship between several of their friends who climbed together helped make the excursions more enjoyable.
"It's more about who you're with ... it doesn't matter how hard the mountain is or how cold the weather is," she said.
Wilson dedicated her final mountain, Gothics, to her deceased grandfather, who along with her father got her interested in the outdoors when she was young.
"He had a love for the outdoors," she said.
Finally on Oct. 29, 2011, Wilson hoisted herself to the top of the 4,736-foot Gothics peak in weather that was similar to her first climb: snow and wind. On the summit, she placed a memorial and drank a toast to her grandfather with wine she carried up.
Now the 7,328th person to climb all 46 High Peaks, Wilson said she has her sights set on something new. She said she wants to climb all 46 High Peaks again, but during winter. That would put her into an even more exclusive club. Only 564 people have accomplished that feat.
"You get such a rush from it that you're like ‘I need to do this again,'" she said.
⎯ Ken Sturtz '12
BrieAnne Wilson' 10, M '12 climbed the first of 46 Adirondack High Peaks in 2009 when she scaled Big Slide. Her quest to join the Forty-Sixer Club ended successfully atop Gothics Oct. 29.
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