Local woman climbs NY’s 46 peaks to raise money for NY college

KEENE, N.Y. (NEWS10) – Within the Adirondack National Park, there are 46 mountains that measure at more than 4,000 feet.

For many, climbing them all is a lifelong goal. For Bethany Garretson, the mountains were calling to climb them all in just two weeks.

It’s the quietness of the wilderness, the challenge of a trail, and the feeling atop a summit that made Garretson fall in love with the mountains.

“It’s amazing, it’s humbling. I love it because it just reminds you of how small you are.”

She hiked her first 46-er in 2009 up Mount Marcy, the park and the state’s highest peak topping out at more than 5,300 feet.

“As I was coming down I was like, I just want to keep climbing. So I went out the next day and I bought some gear and I headed right back.”

It was her gear that was crucial as she set out for this hike.

“No drops, I have everything I need.”

Initially, Garretson was planning to climb the mountains as an unassisted thru-hike in just eight days.

Her pack was ultra-light containing her food, sleeping gear, and other equipment, weighing in at just 30 pounds.

“When I talk to people about this hike I get lots of different reactions. Lots of people in the area are really enthusiastic and inspired. Other people think I’m crazy.”

Garretson headed out.

She had dubbed this hike “Climb It 4 Climate” to raise money along the way for a sustainability program at Paul Smith’s College. She invited other hikers to snap a photo of them on a summit, post it to Facebook, and the school would donate money to Garretson’s cause.

However, on day five of her hike, the temperature in Keene Valley had climbed to 95 degrees and she knew she had to come off the trail.

“That type of weather and with the mileage I was doing and the terrain I was covering, I wasn’t comfortable with it. I was worried about dehydration.”

Garretson was sad, frustrated, and more than anything, angry.

“I knew that I wasn’t going to keep going, and I knew that I didn’t want to stop.”

Once out of the woods, she collected her thoughts and decided she would start again the next day and finish the 46.

“The trail, it’s really a metaphor to the mountains. You have highs, you have lows, you go up and you go down.”

Even though the hike changed after that, the meaning behind why she was doing it didn’t.

“We are very small and this fight is worth it. Whether we’re fighting for an environmental issue or a social issue, it’s humbling. I love it. it’s amazing.”

“Climb It 4 Climate” raised more than $15,000 which will be matched dollar for dollar by Paul Smith’s and used for the sustainability program at the school and for student scholarships.

As for Garretson, she says she’ll try an unassisted thru-hike of the 46 sometime in the future.

For her, there was no better place to talk with people about environmental issues than in the backcountry.

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