The Saranac 6 is a hiking challenge in the Adirondacks that started in 2013. The goal is to climb all six peaks for a patch; if you do it in winter you earn a winter patch; if you do it in 24 hours you get an “ultra” patch. More information on the challenge and its history here. These peaks are all below 4,000 feet and don’t count towards your 46-er status, but many of them are challenging in their own right.
See my post about our previous day’s hike of Baker here.
The peaks: St. Regis Mountain
Total distance: 6.2 miles
We’d heard that St. Regis had beautiful views from the top, and this would be our first firetower hike in the Adirondacks. We woke up at 4:30 am and drove the 30 minutes from our Airbnb to the trailhead. The parking lot wasn’t plowed, but we found a spot next to a snow bank that would be adequate, not wanting to park on the road.
It was a chilling -20 degrees when we started this hike, and I was bundled up in six layers. I did not need a layer break all day. The trail up to St. Regis was already broken out, and it was a relatively flat hike until about 2.5 miles in. Whoever had broken out the trail had turned around before it got steep for some reason, so we were responsible for breaking out the trail from there on up. The trail runs along a creek and we had to be careful not to step in water and to move our feet quickly if we did. I stepped in water once, and although my feet didn’t get wet, the water immediately froze on my snowshoe, making it much heavier to lift up.
I quickly discovered that my THREE LAYERS of neck gaiters would not be enough. They didn’t vent, and as I breathed in and out my breath would freeze, creating a cold, wet, frozen mess across my face. There are also many schools of thought on the proper winter footwear, and I thought two pairs of socks with my regular hiking boots would be enough, as is usually the case with my partner, Jake. We were a couple miles into the hike when I realized that this would not be adequate for me—I bought proper winter hiking boots with 200g of thinsulate as soon as we got back.
Amy’s trekking pole broke on this hike, so she had a more difficult time making the steep ascents, but still did so like a boss. This was my first time breaking trail, and although it was fun, it was about twice the work, so our pace slowed down considerably. The more we climbed, the steeper it got, but we finally reached the summit. There wasn’t a lot of wind, so we were able to hang out up there for a bit and enjoy the view.
Sonic and Axel climbed the firetower, but because our snowshoes were such a pain to get on and off, Amy and I elected to stay on the ground. The views were sweeping, and it was a clear day so you could see so much in the distance.
We took our usual shot of Rumchata in celebration—probably the coldest Rumchata any of us have ever had—and started down the mountain. Sadly, the trail wasn’t steep enough for good buttsliding, but we still had a fun time going down quickly.
We were tired after this hike, and elected to participate in a sound healing session at our Airbnb rather than attempt a second peak, which would have to be descended after dark. We instead opted to climb Ampersand the following morning, repeating our early morning routine before we headed back to the city.
How we got there: My friend Sonic drove us up in his car, which was super handy. He had equipped his car with snow tires which really helped out with the rough and icy winter road conditions we faced. I spoke to some people in the area that said that all-season tires would have sufficed, but at this time of the year I’d be weary of going without proper snow tires.
Where we stayed: We stayed at an Airbnb dubbed The Doctor’s Inn. Guys—they dug our car out for us in the morning. It was amazing. I can’t speak highly enough of these people. They also ran a sound healing practice out of the downstairs of the farmhouse, and we participated in a session, which was super relaxing.