DUTCHESS COUNTY, N.Y. -- In the high peaks of the Adirondacks, Mount Colden can be a treacherous climb in the winter, with help many hours or a full day away.
The time required to hike to the top is described as “a long day” on one climbing website.
The climb to the top of Colden was the longest day in 49-year-old race car mechanic Gregory Maschinot’s life. The Gardiner resident and his girlfriend reached the summit of this scenic peak just as the sun was fading, well behind their planned schedule.
The couple had a choice: Climb down the icy slope in darkness and risk a serious fall or shelter in place and wait for dawn in the frigid cold. They chose to wait.
The February night was bone-chilling with temperatures of minus 20 degrees. Without camping gear, they sheltered under a tree with only each other’s body heat for warmth. At first light, they trekked back to base camp, where exhaustion set in.
“We just thought we’d take a nap, but we ended up sleeping an entire day,” said Maschinot..
When he woke into the third day of the climb, Maschinot discovered his toes were black and blue. He found the caretaker of the Lake Colden Interior Outpost, who called the state Department of Environmental Conservation. A rescue effort was launched and Maschinot and his girlfriend were evacuated via snowmobiles and to Saranac Lake’s hospital emergency room.
Once stabilized, Maschinot was referred to Northern Dutchess Hospital’s wound care department due to his severe frostbite. His surgeons amputated all of his toes because of dead tissue, but used hyperbaric medicine to save tissue in the foot and avoid a partial foot amputation, allowing the most function as possible.
After nearly 60 hyperbaric treatments, visiting the center five times per week, Maschinot’s wounds have nearly healed. “I feel really fortunate I’ve ended up here. I really feel they saved my feet,” he said.
The goal of climbing a high peak again has Maschinot focused on his healing journey. “I have a challenge. Challenges you overcome. Problems you don’t,” he said.
“We can’t wait to see him walk through our doors and we want a rock-climbing picture,” nurse manager Elena Mandelbaum said. And, if 10 years of climbing taught him something, it is that he can do whatever he sets his mind to.