Katie Rhodes was out on a trail run a few months ago when an idea struck her.
“I started thinking about how much connection there would be with the mountains if I did all 46 [Adirondack High Peaks] as a thru-hike,” Rhodes, a Saratoga County resident, said. “I heard about the concept before, I didn’t really know a lot about it. But I couldn’t shake the thought of it.”
So she did some research. When Rhodes visited and saw all the names of thru-hike record-breakers, they all had something in common.
“I saw a lot of men’s names associated with this challenge,” Rhodes said. “And that was a little bit intimidating.”
But she didn’t let that stop her. If anything, it was added motivation, prompting her to link up with a new friend and hiking partner in Keene resident Bethany Garretson and take the challenge on for themselves. Finally, on Sept. 10, the dynamic duo — who were both already 46ers — took off via the Seward Range. Seven days, four hours and 50 minutes later, they finished.
Garretson and Rhodes, with the completion of their journey on Sept. 17, became the first women to complete an unsupported thru-hike of the Adirondack High Peaks, tackling all 46 of them in just over a week. Of course, the pair had hoped to take home the all-time record — beating Michael Jaworksi, Paul Fronhofer and Dan Fronhofer’s June 2020 record of six days, five hours and 40 minutes — but at the end of the day, they’ll always be known as the first women to make it happen; something they’re both proud of.
The journey wasn’t without its challenges, of course. After a storm on the summit of Mt. Marcy, New York’s highest mountain, forced them off the range, they almost decided to call it quits.
“When we came out of the storm, and we got above the range, the next day, we were still pretty wet. Stuff had to dry out,” Garret-son said. “I was pretty low, I had a low moment on trail where I was thinking that we were not going to get the overall record, maybe we should just come back and try again. ‘This can be our trial run together, we did really well, but we just need a better weather window.’ And, you know, I expressed that to Katie, and she’s like, ‘Well, I’m gonna finish. We just need to, women haven’t done this yet.’ And it was just big to keep working through that. And then to feel — at the end — that it was much more important to finish what we started than to even get the overall record.”
Things certainly were tough throughout the week-long journey. After seven days of navigation and the occasional bushwhack in the dark — which the two called a “fun adventure” — supplies ran low toward the end. The aftermath of the rain especially put a damper on their expectations. But they persisted.
Rhodes jokingly admitted that she thought she was going to “ugly cry” when they got toward the end of their journey.
“Once we hit Esther Mountain, it was just euphoria. The brain just takes over, you know, you can’t even feel your body anymore,” Rhodes said. “And in that, especially once we started descending marble and started hearing our loved ones and friends waiting for us, it was just a very euphoric moment, for sure. I think it took both of us a while to process it afterwards.”
They’re still processing the victory and admit they’ve forged a special friendship from the expedition.
“The biggest thing I took away from it is, if you can still go when you can still be safe, keep going,” Garretson said. “And that’s what we did. We worked really well together as a team and helped each other at different times on different days. She’s the reason I kept going at times. That’s, in the end, what got us both to the finish line.”