author: Gary Fallesen

Photo provided by David White
Carol White scales an ice wall on 4,185-foot Upper Wolf Jaw Mountain. White is one of 50 women Winter 46ers — people who climbed all 46 4,000-foot mountains in the Adirondacks during winter.
On the Web
Women With Altitude: Challenging the Adirondack High Peaks in Winter by Carol White (North Country Books, $19.95) will be available in bookstores and online.

To learn more about the Adirondack Winter 46ers or climbing in the High Peaks, visit:

'Winter 46' women thrive on peak performance

A new book is high on climbing

(October 30, 2005) — Being a woman in high places doesn't necessarily have anything to do with climbing the corporate ladder.

Sometimes it's about hiking up a mountain trail in the middle of winter or clinging to an icy, wind-blown summit or escaping your burning tent.

Holly Sullivan, a senior planner with the Hudson River Valley Greenway, was climbing Allen Mountain in the Adirondacks with the Rochester Winter Mountaineering Society when her stove developed a mind of its own.

"Holly's tale about setting the tent on fire became something of a legend," says Carol White, who documented that and about 200 other adventures in her new book, Women With Altitude: Challenging the Adirondack High Peaks in Winter (North Country Books, $19.95).

White wrote the book, due out in November, after becoming the 20th woman Winter 46er in 1997.

A Winter 46er is a person who has climbed all 46 4,000-foot mountains in the Adirondacks during the winter months (Dec. 21 to March 21). After last winter, there were 313 Winter 46ers, including 50 women.

Women With Altitude tells the stories of 33 of the 36 women who became Winter 46ers during the canister era. Summit canisters, where climbers signed a register, were removed in late spring 2001.

"I'm the oldest woman to have started the Winter 46," says White, who began when she was 54 and finished at the age of 56. One woman finished at the age of 62.

"I'm still climbing the high peaks of New Hampshire this winter. I'll be 65 on Nov. 10 and am no athlete. But one gets into great shape in this very accessible sport."

White and her husband, David, took up climbing in the Northeast after accepting an invitation to hike up Mount Marcy in 1989. Carol quit smoking the previous year.

"We had never heard of the High Peaks," says Carol White, who lives in Clinton, Oneida County. "We hiked and camped in the Finger Lakes area with our children — a lot of fun swimming and hiking. Now our children are grown. We thought climbing New York's highest mountain was strange, but, of course, we said yes.

"That climb and the hour on Marcy's summit changed our lives. Dave and I have hiked every weekend since then."

The Whites have written two Catskill guides — Catskill Day Hikes for All Seasons (2002) and Catskill Trails (2005), both published by the Adirondack Mountain Club. Dave, who commutes to Henrietta to do computer programming for medical groups, is on the board of directors of the Adirondack Mountain Club.

The couple took up winter climbing in order to become Catskills 35ers. The Catskills' club is similar to the Adirondack 46ers — hikers are required to climb all 35 mountains that are 3,500 feet or taller, but four must be done in the winter.

"'Wow,' we thought. But we bought crampons and snowshoes," Carol White recalls. "It (winter) became our favorite season to hike."

After completing the Catskills 35 in winter, the Whites headed north. They did 15 peaks over three long weekends and had completed 31 of the 46 by the end of that first winter.

They finished the 46 in two winters and two months. After registering their feat with the 46ers' office of the historian, they received a list of all the Winter 46ers.

"That was what gave me the idea of writing a book," White says. "I could contact everyone on the list."

Her contacts included Jeanne Goehle (Nylund) Sternbergh, who worked for Eastman Kodak and now lives in California. Sternbergh, like Sullivan and New York City attorney Cindie Lovelace, all experienced trips with the Rochester Winter Mountaineering Society. Or, as White calls them, the "lean, mean hiking machines."

In Women With Altitude, White writes, "Many of us have characterized climbing the Winter 46 as the most adventurous thing we ever did, one of the happiest times of our lives, not only physically rewarding but emotionally fulfilling. We are spiritually nourished in the wild world. As one of us said, it is the most spiritual thing I do outside of church. Many speak of feeling a closeness to God out there.

"Winter climbing becomes almost addictive. There is no better high, many of us say."

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