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The journey to become a 46er

Tom Passmore
tpassmore@the-leader.com
Pictured is Owen Zahradka and Zach Stephens at the top of Whiteface Mountain. Whiteface Mountain is the fifth highest mountain in the Adirondacks.

Two Corning Hawks football players, Zach Stevens and Owen Zahradka began a journey to become ‘46ers’ this summer.

A ‘46er’ refers to an individual who has climbed all 46 high peaks of the Adirondack Mountains located in northeastern New York.

So far, the pair has climbed up 10 mountains together and plan to go back every summer to complete the full 46 at some point.

“We kinda made a pact with each other to hike them all together,” said Stevens. “We want to do them all together within the next coming years.”

The two got the idea of taking on the challenge of becoming a ‘46er’ from Stevens’ grandfather, who completed all 46 peaks.

“He’s always telling me stories about all the mountains he’s hiked and everything,” said Stevens. “I wanted to do it and I talked to my friend and he wanted to do it, so we started hiking together.”

Stevens’ grandfather has been sort of a mentor for the pair on how to climb up the highest peaks.

“It’s awesome because he has a really good memory of like every mountain,” said Stevens. “It's cool to have that connection with him.”

The duo knocked off the second highest peak of the 46, Algonquin, which stands at 5,114 feet along with Wright Peak and Iroquois Peak on the same hike.

“Our plan was to do Wright, Algonquin and Iroquois as one,” said Zahradka. “We hiked three miles in and camped and did three peaks in the morning.”

Zahradka and Stevens have no particular order in which they are going to climb the 46 peaks, but they both know what peak they want to conquer last.

“We want to do Mount Marcy last, which is common because it's the tallest,” said Zahradka.

Mount Marcy stands at 5,344 feet and is the highest peak in New York State.

Without football camps to attend this summer due the COVID-19 pandemic, the duo is getting in some exercise scaling the peaks at a relatively quick speed.

“We move right along,” said Stevens. “We average 2.5 miles per hour up a mountain, which is a very good pace. It’ll be good conditioning for football.”

Both Zahradka and Stevens prepare accordingly when climbing up the peaks, often taking water, Gatorade and snacks to recharge and stay hydrated on the often multiple hour hikes.

The ADk46ers club was founded in 1936.

Owen Zharadka and Zach Stevens have completed 10 of the 46 peaks in the Adirondacks.