Saranac 6: Ampersand Mountain

On the top of Ampersand

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.

The peaks: Ampersand Mountain
Total distance: 5.4 miles
Difficulty: Moderate

Sonic swore that Ampersand would be the most fun peak we did that weekend, and he was right.

We woke up bright and early after hitting snooze a couple of times. Groggily donning layer after layer, we trudged to the car, eager for the day ahead, but also for our nice, warm Airbnb beds. If you’d asked me what I was looking the most forward to, it would have been the brunch that I knew awaited me at The Breakfast Club in Lake Placid after our hike.

Our idea had been to make this a sunrise hike, but we aren’t the quickest hikers, and our final press of the snooze button was enough to nix that idea. The sun was just starting to peek out when we began, so we didn’t really need headlamps. Having learned from the day before, I’d bought a 2-in-1 neck gaiter to prepare for the -15 temperatures, which after the -20 ones the day before, actually felt pretty warm.

Bundled up and ready to go
Bundled up and ready to go

Like Scarface the day before, the trail was decently broken out, and we didn’t need to break trail at all. The trail was quite flat, until it got very steep towards the 3/4 mile. There were several places where the ice axe came in handy for a boost up, which I would have used had I been by myself. Axel and Sonic had run ahead, so I mainly relied on Amy to give me boosts up the larger ice boulders, which she had no trouble conquering on her own since she’s so much taller than I am.

Hey guys, wait for me!
Hey guys, wait for me!
The perils of being short
The perils of being short

There were only two spots where I got really nervous, and this was one of them.

This climb was particularly rough
This climb was particularly rough

The trail went into a little thick of trees, where it went up, and then down. I’d have probably thought this was the summit had I not known it wasn’t a viewless one.

Are we there yet?
Are we there yet?

We finally met up with the boys, who were huddled at the base of what looked like the summit. They warned us that it was super cold and windy up there, and that we should put all our layers on before we traversed across it. We bundled up and started the trek across.

This was when I realized that Sonic was right, and that nothing I’d been looking forward to later in the day could top this summit. The views were spectacular. The summit was flat for aways, and walking single-file to the highest point in -50F wind chill was the most epic feeling.It’s rare that a summit itself is absolutely beautiful, in addition to the views, but this one was. We did absolutely have to have our snow goggles at this point, otherwise we could have done real damage to our eyes.

This is actually us going back the other way, but you can see how vast the summit itself is
This is actually us going back the other way, but you can see how vast the summit itself is
Summit shot
Summit shot

We spent about 10 minutes at the summit taking photos and reflecting back on our journey, which was about as much as we could stand in the lower temperatures.

Axel strikes a pose
Axel strikes a pose
The best groupie we could manage
The best groupie we could manage

We descended and huddled together at the base of the summit, where we took our final Rumchata shot of the trip—a toast to a weekend well-spent with friends accomplishing great things.

The final shot
The final shot

Our fun didn’t stop with our spectacular view—the way back was finally steep enough for butt sliding! Axel and Sonic slid ahead, but Amy and I hung back and had a little too much fun sliding down the first 3/4 mile of the way back. We were simply able to sit and let gravity take us down all those steep climbs we had difficulty with on the way up. We got snowy and wet, but it was beyond worth it. The Adirondacks had suddenly turned into a giant jungle gym!

Wheeeee!
Wheeeee!

Our Airbnb was kind enough to let us come back and shower, and afterwards I finally got my trip to The Breakfast Club.

"Look at this effin' millennial"
“Look at this effin’ millennial”

Until next time, Adirondacks!

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.

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