As a hiker, I don’t measure much. The only metrics I think about are En, Sa, and TiN — enjoyment, safety, and time in nature.
But after a tough hike in the Adirondacks recently, my legs were sore for two days afterwards — which rarely happens to me after a Catskills hike these days — so I thought it’d be cute to quantify exactly how much more difficult the Adirondacks are over the Catskills.
Do we need this information? No.
Does this information feel important? Yes.
Obviously, the Adirondacks are tougher. I polled a handful of knowledgeable Catskills/Adirondack hikers and, basically, everyone agreed the ADKs are at least 50% harder than the Catskills.
That’s what I would have said too.
Would it show up in the data? Coz the data don’t lie…
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I went to my Gaia account and looked at the average moving pace for my most recent non-snow hikes in the Catskills and Adirondacks. (I don’t winter hike the ADKs and I wanted to make sure I was comparing dry hikes with dry hikes.)
The Catskills hikes I looked at were:
- Windham High Peak
- Dry Brook Ridge
- Rocky & Lone
- Hunter & Southwest Hunter
The Adirondacks hikes I looked at were:
- Cascade & Porter
- Dix Range
Both sets include a mix of easy hikes and tough hikes.
Pace (minutes per mile)
Catskills: 42, 38, 38, 40, 32, 48 — 238÷6 = 39.7 mpm
Adirondacks: 61, 37, 55, 48, 43 — 244÷5 = 48.8 mpm
48.8 – 39.7 = a difference of 9.1
9.1 ÷ 39.7 × 100 = 22.9%
9.1 ÷ 48.8 × 100 = 18.6%
So my average pace is 23% slower in Adirondacks — and 19% faster in the Catskills
So why does it feel so different!?
The Adirondacks (IMO) really do feel 50% harder and I know many of my online followers agree. After every ADK hike, my body definitely lets me know — that was tough!
I suspect it’s because of three things…
- The longer milage — many of the ADK hikes have long-walks-in before you really start climbing;
- The climbs themselves tend to be tougher and steeper;
- A lot of Catskills hikes start at fairly high elevations — all but two top out below 4000 ft — whereas Adirondack hikes often start at lower elevations and the summits are usually 500-1500 ft higher than in the Catskills.
Sometimes you can string two Catskills peaks together and it still won’t match a single peak Adirondacks hike.
- Indian Head & Twin Mountains: 8.4 miles / 2300 ft elevation gain
- Giant Mountain: 8.4 miles / 3600 ft elevation gain
In terms of general planning, this is definitely something to consider.
Anyway, the data are conclusive…
- 1 Adirondack mile = 1.23 Catskill miles
- 1 Catskill mile = 0.81 Adirondack miles
I did an Instagram Live talk on the 9 differences between hiking the Catskills and the Adirondacks that’s a pretty tight 20 minute watch.
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