Mount Colden was named after David C. Colden, a potential investor in the McIntyre Ironworks company from Jersey City. In August of 1836, Colden joined David Henderson, William C. Redfield, Duncan McMartin, Archibald McIntyre, and a few other men on an expedition to find the source of the Hudson River. Though the party only reached Lake Colden, Redfield named the lake and the mountain that towered over it to the east on the spot in honor of Colden.

In 1837, when Redfield published an article about the journey in the American Journal of Science and Arts, he referred to the peak as Mount McMartin, even though his field notes from the trip explicitly named it Mount Colden. Duncan McMartin, a proprietor of the McIntyre Ironworks company, had led the Lake Colden expedition the previous year and had since passed away. Throughout the 1840s and 50s, both names appeared in Adirondack books with no clear winner.

So why was this mountain granted two different names? According to Mills Blake (assistant to surveyor Verplanck Colvin), Colden was the original name of the peak. However, proprietors of McIntyre Ironworks were upset that Redfield had given a mountain on their property a name without their permission, thus Emmons renamed it. While Mount McMartin stuck for the next few years, Mount Colden dominated by the 1860s, with McMartin only referred to as a prior name of the peak.

Carson laments that McMartin did not become the surviving name of the peak. In his opinion, Colden is the more unworthy of the two, having only visited the McIntyre region twice. Carson admonishes Colden for “quitting an exploring expedition on Lake George because of rain” while honoring McMartin for his “leading part in the opening up and development of the region” (48). McMartin’s skills in construction and road work, in addition to his political influence, were extremely valuable assets to the ironwork company. Though it appears McMartin did have a bigger impact on these Adirondack lands, the name Colden has nevertheless persisted.

Robert Clark and Alexander Ralph recorded the first ascent of Mount Colden in 1849, the clerk and manager of McIntyre Ironworks respectively. The duo ascended via the trap dike- one of the most iconic routes of the high peaks even today. The trap dike formed through the erosion of gabbro that had intruded into solidified anorthosite. Severe rainfall events have accelerated the erosion of the dike, enlarging it to an impressive one hundred feet deep and sixty feet wide. In 2011, Hurricane Irene completely stripped the dike of vegetation, as landslides pushed mounds of debris into Avalanche Lake. While the route doesn’t require any technical climbing equipment, multiple people have fallen to their deaths while attempting to ascend this exhilarating route.

View from the summit of Mount Colden, with Phelps and Tabletop in the foreground, Marcy to the right, and the Great Range in the background
The Trap Dike, from Avalanche Lake

Mackenzie, Kevin B. “Adirondack Landslides: History, Exposures, and Climbing.” The Adirondack Journal of Environmental Studies, vol. 21, 2016, pp. 167–183.,