SANTANNONI MOUNTAIN RANGE
ADIRONDACK PARK,
NEW YORK


(Special note to Mom: click on photos for full size images)

This was quite an adventure for what was likely our last winter trip of the year. The cabin trip 3 weeks ago must have turned Dominic on because he chose this trip over downhill skiing!

The Santannoni Range comprises three peaks that are included in the Adirondack 46's. This means they are over 4000 ft. high, or at least were once thought to be that high. It turns out that three of the 46 summits are just under 4000 ft. but surveying techniques back in the old days weren't what they are today. Nevertheless, to become a 46er (ie someone who has climbed all 46 pks. once thought to be over 4000 ft.) your climbs have to include those three under 4000ft. One of the three in the Santanoni range is 3900 ft. The Santanonis are off the beaten track and don't even have official trails up to their summits. As a result there are many braided improvised trails that can make ascension difficult and in some cases can involve some very serious bushwhacking. In the winter there are snowshoe trails that become overblown with snow, lead to nowhere, go around in circles etc. We were lucky on our trip because the trails were fresh and easy to follow.

Our adventure began right from the get-go as we didn't leave Montreal until 4:00PM and it was snowing hard. We were headed to an area we didn't know and our instructions to the trail head were gleaned off the Web. After an adrenalin filled drive dodging snowplows we turned off the interstate and for 40 km. followed a totally deserted road covered with several inches of fresh snow.  After only one wrong turn we made it to the railhead just as three guys were coming out.  It was encouraging to learn we were at the right place but we were not thrilled to see that the exiting hikers were soaking wet. The precipitation looked like snow but behaved like rain.  According to my internet sources we had 5 miles to go over an official trail, well used by snowshoers, until we would arrive at a lean-to.  

Using our headlamps we hiked along the trail and made pretty good time to the lean-to. It was quite something having only a circle of light to follow but was really no more difficult than driving at night. The trail register indicated that 6 people were in the area which was good news as the lean-tos hold 8 people. However, this one only held 6 and they were all fast asleep of course when we got there at 10:30.  Luckily, I had brought a tent fly and by settling ourselves down across the mouth of the lean-to, under the overhang we got a fairly good night's sleep.


On this particular trip I decided to rent high-tech snowshoes from MEC which turned out be a great decision. They sure don't look anything like the ones we used to use. If they discover snow on Mars they'll want to use these.

Our bunkmates left early Sunday morning after giving us the lowdown on the routes to the various peaks. Dominic and I then had the lean-to to ourselves. I whipped up a breakfast of bacon and eggs and then proceeded to melt snow for our day's water supply. Notice how Dominic does a great job of making his eggs disappear.





Life around the lean-to is not like being at the Chateau Lake Louise.







It was 9:00 by the time we hit the trail. The high-tech snowshoes were an essential asset as the trails were steep and we had over 3000 feet of elevation gain. The conditions were cloudy, snowing and windy with no views. We had lots of fun anyway but if we go back often next year I'll want more clothing. The tricky part is that you work very hard climbing up and even though I only wore an ultra thin synthetic top I was soaked when we hit the ridge and bore the brunt of the wind.  I put my polar and anorak on over top of the wet top which was rather horrible only for the next 5 minutes. Then, thanks to my body heat, I felt warm again! We managed to get to the top of two of the summits whereupon I decided, much to Don's disgust, that we would do the third summit on another trip.

Even though it was officially spring it was -13 Celsius, there was 5 ft. of snow on the ground and a good 5 cm had accumulated on the trail by the time we headed down to the lean-to at 3:30. We quickly packed up and the trip out was uneventful. As we hiked out It was interesting to see where we had been the night before. We were dog tired by the time we got back to the car and Dominic agreed that my decision to forego the third peak was a wise one.







As you can see, there was still tons of snow! Dominic seems to have lost the trail. I doubt that even the high-tech snowshoes will help him here.

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