Meadow Hackett from Ray Brook celebrates the climb on the summit of St. Regis Mountain, while knocking off another one of the Saranac Sixers.
By all appearances, the winter season is here to stay. Despite the usual thaws, and a few occasional bouts of rain, the winter of ‘13-’14 has been relatively normal and just plain, old cold.
The snow has come and gone, and enough of the white stuff stuck around long enough for most skiers and snowshoers to have a good go at it.
The hard water anglers have been on the ice covered lakes and ponds for nearly two weeks already, and they largely seem happily content.
Reports continue to trickle in with tall tales of big fishtails, including some photos of the monster pike taken from Great Sacandaga Lake, some nice salmon from Lake Clear and an unexpectedly large, lake trout that was taken from a lake that shall remain nameless.
Unfortunately, there is only limited snow cover in the woods after last week’s rains and in many areas the recent ice storm left trails crisscrossed with downed saplings and scattered branches
Until the next snowfall, some of the best opportunities will be found ski skating, or just simply skating across the local snow covered lakes and ponds.
With the potential for a few inches of fresh snow on the way, there may also be some skiable trails available on a few local Fire Truck Trails especially in and around the St. Regis/Paul Smiths area. However, crampons should still be considered standard equipment for all travelers.
The Chilly Saranac Sixers
On Dec. 21, the ever frosty village of Saranac Lake launched the latest round of the Saranac Sixers Campaign while hosting the inaugural edition of the Winter Sixers and the Ultra Winter Sixers.
The Ultra Winter Sixers in attendance were composed of a certain set of individuals who obviously enjoy traveling up, over, down and through some of the most tortuous terrain the local mountains have to offer, in all sorts of weather.
The Sixer Campaign is the brainchild of Saranac Lake Mayor Clyde Rabideau, who fostered the idea in an effort to bring visitors to town and spur on a bit of additional tourism. The effort has been very well received, with merchants offering special deals for participants featuring licensed Sixer products which include local wine, beer and clothing.
The weather pattern that greeted the climbers who had gathered to attempt the inaugural kickoff of the Saranac Sixer Campaign last spring, was nearly identical to the weather conditions that greeted the Winter Sixers last week, although the heavy rains during the spring event were much tougher to deal with due to the heavy runoff.
A crew of hardy, runners, climbers and similarly minded mountain masochists departed Berkley Square in downtown Saranac Lake in the darkness of the early morning hours as they spread out to tackle six local peaks, ranging in elevation from a mere 2,452 feet on Mt. Baker, which requires a 1.8 mile round trip to the remaining peaks including McKenzie Mountain at 3,861 feet, with a 10-mile round trip hike, and Ampersand Mountain at 3,261 followed by Scarface Mountain at 3,088 feet elevation, Haystack at 2,874 feet and St. Regis Mountain in Paul Smiths, which stands at 2,865 feet.
The morning of the event dawned with cold temperatures, winds and a combination of snow and freezing drizzle as Saranac Lake Mayor Clyde Rabideau launched the inaugural group off to the local trails in the dimming darkness of a bracing Adirondack morning.
The first group of Winter Sixers to finish included Caleb Strong of Victor, NY; who finished in a time of 9:55 and set a new Ultra Sixers speed record for the climb by knocking over an hour of the original record.
Strong was followed by Loring Porter of Lake Placid, NY; who finished in a time of 10:59. Porter became the original Ultra Saranac Sixer when he topped the field at the inaugural event in May by finishing in a time of 10 hours, 22 minutes.
Rounding out the field of top finishers were 3. Kyle Forbes Bissell, West Salem, MA; 10:59, 4. Kyle Dash, Paul Smith’s, NY; 11:06, 5. David Gomlak, Lake Placid, NY; 12:45, 6. Alistair Fraser, Florida, NY; 14:26 and 7. Neil Luckhurst, Laval, QC, Canada.
Many of the hardy crew who attempted to become Winter Sixer left town in the cold darkness of the morning to tackle the peaks and they returned in the darkness of a cold, and blustery evening.
Climbing for a Purpose
While peak bagging may not be for everyone, the Sixer Campaign has proven to be an exciting and sociable event that continues to bring visitors to the local communities.
Although some critics may complain about the competitive aspects of peak bagging and the potential for damage caused by the overuse of a fragile resource; I believe the positive benefits of the Sixer Campaign concept will far outweigh the negatives.
Participants can attempt a variety of achievements with a Sixer finishing up all six peaks, and Ultra 6’ers completing all six peaks in a 24-hour time span. Winter 6’ers are those who complete all six peaks during the winter season, and Family 6’ers will do it all as a family.
The effort has also spawned a notable contingent of local youth who have taken up the challenge. When local youth get involved and learn to utilize the local environment for a positive purpose, they learn to appreciate their surroundings.
When this happens, the local landscape takes on a new purpose and it is considered to be of value. When the land is perceived as having value, it is more likely to be utilized, appreciated and protected.
Stewardship of the land is the next natural step in this progression, and this type of non-consumptive recreation is easily expanded especially in an area that is literally brimming with natural potential for fishing contest, natural inventory events, bird counts, bike/hike/swim triathlons, and more.
The Adirondack Canoe Classic offers a prime example of how a regional outdoor sporting event can benefit a variety of small communities by drawing them all together for a shared positive purpose.
Every community along the route has the potential to show off their hospitality to a group of traveling athletes, and their families.
The idea of making a competition out of climbing can be easily adapted to paddling events participating on the local rivers or lakes, or mountain biking event that are contested along the back roads, or skiing or snowshoe events utilizing the connecting trails between communities such as the Jackrabbit Ski Trail from Keene to Paul Smiths or a similar potential course for skiers along the old railroad route from Lake Placid all the way to Old Forge.
We need to have our youth involved, as they have the potential to be the next generation of stewards. If they learn how to play in their own backyard, the lands will be of value and they will make efforts to protect them In the process, everyone will be healthier and happier as a result.
Adirondackers are not simply a group of independent communities scattered about in the mountains, we are a group of communities that are defined by these mountains and by the lands we chose to settle.
And though our communities are unique, we all share a special bond with the land, the weather, the natural resources and especially with each other. We live here by choice, nobody forced it upon us. It is this fact that proves we all knew how to make at least one good decision.
Joe Hackett is a guide and sportsman residing in Ray Brook. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.