SARANAC LAKE - The Adirondack 46ers honored the late Herb Clark, a Saranac Lake guide and the first 46er, on Sunday, May 26, at the Saranac Lake Free Library.
The dedication ceremony was held because the 46ers recently purchased a memorial stone for Clark's grave at St. Bernard's Cemetery; the new stone has an inscription noting Clark's hiking achievement. Originally scheduled to be held at the cemetery, the event was moved indoors because of wet weather.
The ceremony was attended by leaders of the 46er organization, state Assemblyman Dan Stec (a 46er), village Mayor Clyde Rabideau, dozens of Clark family members and a large contingent from the public. The bottom floor of the library was packed.
"It's been fantastic," said Tom Clark, Herb Clark's grandson, who lives in Saranac Lake. "We've always been proud of our grandfather, Herb Clark, as being the first 46er, but to have him recognized like this and to meet all the other 46ers and to have politicians here honoring him means a lot to us. This whole week has been fantastic."
Tom Clark is one of four grandchildren - Jim Clark, John Clark and Cathy Mose - who live in Saranac Lake. They were among several family members who received certificates of achievement from 46er historian Tony Solomon during the ceremony.
Herb Clark became the first person to summit all 46 High Peaks on June 10, 1925, when he topped off on Mount Emmons with Bob and George Marshall. Clark worked as a guide for the Marshall family, who were part owners of the Knollwood Club on Lower Saranac Lake. The trio climbed all 46 mountains together.
The Marshall brothers first climbed with Clark as their guide on Aug. 13, 1916, when they hiked Ampersand Mountain. Clark was 46 years old while Bob was 15 and George was 12. They climbed their first of the 46 High Peaks, Whiteface Mountain, on Aug. 1, 1918.
"Seven thousand, eight hundred and six people have quite literally followed in the footsteps of Herb Clark and Bob and George Marshall for the privilege of being able to call themselves 46ers," said 46er Suzanne Lance, one of the speakers during the ceremony. "That's 7,806 people who have tramped through the same Adirondack mud, fought their way through the same cripplebrush and who have gazed in awe at the views from the same summits that the first 46ers did, all for the sheer joy of climbing. We honor 46er number one for setting such a fine example, both as a hiker and as a person."
The current version of the Adirondack 46er club was formed in 1948.
This was the second event this weekend honoring Clark, who lived with his wife, Mary, and died at age 74 in 1945. The village unveiled a bronze plaque and inducted him into the village's Walk of Fame Saturday evening at the Berkeley Green during festivities inaugurating the Saranac Lake 6ers, a new club the village started for hikers of six more modestly sized mountains that surround Saranac Lake. In addition, the village board recently proclaimed the week of May 26 through June 1 as "Herb Clark 46er Number One Week."
"The guy was amazing," said Joe Ryan, a 46er from Saranac Lake. "The guy knew how to get to the top of a mountain. He was the guide for all us. We're all very grateful to Herb."
Ryan is the one who got the ball rolling on the 46ers recognizing Clark. Ryan said he came up with the idea last summer while recovering from a knee injury.
"As part of my exercise each day, I walked up to the cemetery," Ryan said. "(One day) I found his grave, and there was no mention of it (his being the first 46er), and it just didn't seem right. Number one should be recognized."