Dr. W. W. Ely (who cut the first trail up Ampersand Mountain) named this 3,895-foot peak after William (Bill) Nye around 1873. Bill Nye, a popular North Elba trail guide, was admired for his quirky personality, with a great sense of humor and long hair and beard. Nye helped helped Henry Van Hoevenbergh cut many of the trails from the Adirondack Loj in the 1880s.
Nye is well-known for a story told about him in Seneca Ray Stoddard’s guidebook “The Adirondacks” in 1874. As Nye waded through Avalanche Lake, during a section where the cliffs of Avalanche Pass descend straight into the lake, he carried a woman on his shoulders to keep her out of the water. When she started to slip down his back, her friends shouted “Hitch up, Matilda!” through their laughter. “Hitch-Up-Matilda” then became the name for the floating log rafts (and now, stilted wooden bridges) chained into the cliffs during this section.
A legend, which told of a silver mine on Nye Mountain, led Nye to search for this mine on the mountain. Though there’s no record that he found the mine, some believe he did and lived off of the silver he harvested there, since he was seen carrying a large basket to Vermont once a year. Nye also hunted on the mountain, but there’s no evidence that he was the first to reach the summit. The Marshall brothers and Herbert Clark recorded the first known ascent in 1921.