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March 7, 2014

It's cold, but there's still plenty to do

The Daily Star

---- — This has been a tough winter. In fact, it has been one of the coldest winters on record.

Now don’t get me wrong, I love winter and I always have. I’ve always believed that people who don’t like winter don’t have anything to do when the snow flies and temperatures drop below freezing. But I’ve never had that problem.

When I was a kid, I’d ski down all the hills in the neighborhood. My brother and all of our friends would take our two-runner Flexible Flyers and slide down Brewster Hill Road all day long. We ice-skated on the pond, raced down the hills on our toboggan, built snow forts and had snowball fights. Winter was a great time of year.

I tried to remind myself of those wonderful times Monday, when I was riding up the chairlift at Belleayre Mountain. The temperature reached a high of 6 degrees and the wind howled at about 18 miles an hour, making the wind chill better than 20 below zero. It was so cold that after an hour of skiing, I couldn’t feel my fingers as I tried to hold on to my ski poles.

So we took a break, warmed up a little and then hit the slopes for another couple of hours. Did I have fun? You bet I did.

The other day, a friend of mine wanted me to go to the Adirondack High Peaks and summit one of those magnificent mountains in winter. He has that desire to climb every peak in sight. I bowed out, saying I’d consider hiking in the Catskills rather than driving four hours north. But had we gone, we wouldn’t have been alone. Hundreds of people are climbing mountains when there’s ice and snow on the ground.

One day while skiing, I rode up a chairlift with a woman who was a year or two older than me. She told me that she had just accomplished one of her goals in life. Before she turned 70, she was going climb all 36 of the Catskill summits above 3,500 feet during the winter. The weekend before, she climbed her final peak. After congratulating her, I asked what else was on her bucket list. She was going to learn how to ski moguls, she said.

Speaking of winter climbing, I just read in The Adirondack Almanac about a man who just summited all of the 46 Adirondack High Peaks (4000-plus feet) this winter in just 10 days.

Neil Luckhurst, 58, is the vice-president of the ADKHighpeaks Foundation. He started this quest on Feb. 18 and accomplished his goal Feb. 27. He covered a total of 213.6 miles and climbed a total of 69,500 feet in elevation gain. This was a fundraiser for the ADKHighpeaks Foundation, but he also did it to memorialize his son, who died in an avalanche in the Canadian Rockies back in 2008.

Amazing. I did two peaks last fall and thought I did something great.

Note: Last week, I mentioned a flock of robins on Dan Baker’s yard on Feb. 2. A reader named Priscilla emailed me with a comment on that sighting. This phenomenon is called irruption. It happens when certain birds overwhelm their food supply. They seem to flock together and migrate to find food.

Rick Brockway writes a weekly outdoors column for The Daily Star. Email him at