Grace Hudowalski

Grace Hudowalski

Grace Hudowalski on the top of Whiteface Mountain

This image was taken before 1957 when it was discovered that the elevation had shrunk five feet to 4867'.

It now measures 4865' above sea level.

          Grace Hudowalski (1906-2004) was a champion of the Adirondack Mountains. She was a mountaineer, mouthpiece, and motherly sage, often repeating her words of wisdom: “Mountains can give you a lot if you can take it.”

          She was the first woman to climb all forty-six Adirondack high peaks, and only the ninth person overall. She was the first president of the Adirondack Forty-Sixers, and as the club’s one and only historian, she answered hundreds of letters from hikers every year. They reported to her about their climb of each peak and she responded by sharing personal reminiscences, inspiring the hiker to appreciate the scenes along the way, and encouraging the next climb. She also promoted the region through her dynamic writing and storytelling.

Grace Hudowalski

Grace on Allen Mt.

          She often gave hikers the advice her father gave her: It is not important whether you reach the top of the mountain, but it is important how you make the climb. She also repeated the motto: Can’t never did anything.

          During her first climb of Mount Marcy, Grace never gave up. She reached the summit on all fours, crawling like a dog, feeling her way through the soupy fog. “Everything else was forgotten but the fact I had reached the summit,” she said. Atop Marcy, the fog lifted for one shining moment. She saw Lake Tear of the Clouds and, “That was all. It was enough!”

          Grace wrote many articles for Adirondack Mountain Club magazines and newsletters and for the Forty-Sixers. But she had never been a paid writer until the Conservation Department asked her to be a publicity writer. She took the job, and then just a month later she went to the Commerce Department. From 1945 to 1961, she worked as a travel promotion writer, popular storyteller, and radio personality. To her surprise, her salary soared to $3,100. “I was earning twice as much as my husband!” Grace boasted. 

          The Forty-Sixers adopted an ethic “to give something back” to the mountains. Grace welcomed new hikers with the message: “We hope that you will join the Forty-Sixers in a growing stewardship for the high peaks. May you have many enjoyable, safe and responsible trips in these mountains. Good climbing!"

          On March 13, 2004, just days after her 98th birthday, Grace passed away. “Grace dedicated her life to helping others follow the trail of the first forty-sixers, guiding, educating and entertaining each climber in the 46er pursuit,” says L. John Van Norden, Forty-Sixer #2110. “Her tales of those early days are legendary and have always been an inspiration.”

          The Adirondack Mountain Club awarded Grace its highest honor, the Trail Blazer Award, in 2004. Currently, there is an effort under way by the Adirondack Forty-Sixers to have a mountain named for Grace. 

** This effort was rewarded in 2014 when East Dix was renamed Grace Peak

Grace Hudowalski

"Amazing Grace Climbs Cascade" August 29, 1986

Fred A. Johnson, Edyth W. Robbins, Chuck H Bennett, Grace L. Hudowalski, Mrs. Ed Hale, Edward Pike, and L. John Van Norden

Grace Hudowalski