Becoming a Saranac 6er

“Everyone wants to live on top of the mountain, but all the happiness and growth occurs while you’re climbing it”

Andy Rooney

My friend, Adam and I decided to go after our last three mountains to become Saranac 6er’s. It’s a day that both of us won’t forget but neither will our legs. What started as a lofty goal and quick hiking slowly became searing pain by the time we reached Ampersand Mountain. There’s moments where you realize it’s more than achieving a new challenge. You have to be persistent with these challenges and obviously make sure you’re fit if you do three of the Saranac mountains in a day. I’m planning to do the Ultra 6er at some point as well with Adam. That would be all Saranac mountains in 24 hours. Hopefully, we can get to it some time next year if he’s in! Anyways, let’s get right into this day.

1st Mountain: Haystack

To clarify, there’s two Haystack mountains in the Adirondacks. This is one that I’d say is more family friendly. We started this hike around 7 AM and I cannot explain where our energy came from. Perhaps it was due to the fact that we were about to finish our first Adirondack challenge. We reached the summit at 8:05 AM and relaxed for about 15 minutes. Afterwards, we made our way down and jumped into the car around 9:30 AM to head towards St Regis Mountain. Below, I’ll add the stats to each mountain if you’d like to do them separately!

Views from Haystack (around 8 AM)
Landscape from Haystack
Another landscape view from Haystack

Haystack Stats:

  • 7.4 miles RT (AllTrails)
  • 1,758 ft elevation gain (AllTrails)
  • Located in McKenzie Mountain Wilderness Area
  • Family friendly
  • Dog friendly
  • Easy day hike
  • Can be paired with McKenzie Mountain (Another Saranac 6er)

2nd Mountain: St Regis

The drive to St Regis is incredible with the panoramic view of the High Peaks in route. In my opinion, this was a trail that I’m not used to because I usually see a lot of running streams while climbing mountains. There’s barely any on the St Regis trail except for at the start of the hike. This trek seemed more like a blur to me as we kept moving toward finishing the challenge. I thought I saw the fire tower at least three times during our ascent. Although, once our legs took a bit of a beating, we finally reached the summit. Climbing up the tower gave way to incredible views of the Adirondacks and there was one more left for the day. I don’t remember exactly what time we began but we reached the summit at 11:40 AM. I’d assume we started around 10 or 10:30 AM if I’m to be correct. Now, let’s get onto one of my favorite Saranac 6er’s that we finished our challenge on!

Adam next to St Regis Fire Tower
One of my favorite views from St Regis
Adam w / view from the summit
B&W Landscape from St Regis

St. Regis Stats

  • 6.2 miles RT (AllTrails)
  • 1,538 ft elevation gain (AllTrails)
  • Located in St Regis Canoe Area
  • Family friendly
  • Dog friendly
  • Quick day hike

3rd Mountain: Ampersand

To start this hike, we accidentally walked to Middle Saranac Lake instead of Ampersand which is across the road. Mainly, it was my mistake. I was extremely excited and didn’t even think twice about hikers coming from the other side of the road. Once we actually began, the hike had a gradual ascent. After putting down two mountains and close to 14 miles, our legs were really feeling it. The trail goes from a gradual ascent to a very steep grade with rock scrambles. If this was our only mountain that day, this would’ve been much easier for us. Getting closer to the summit, we were a bit side tracked and couldn’t find the trail at first. The trail seemed a bit confusing so just keep an eye on where you’re heading! When we saw the opening and the bare rock summit, I think relief shot through both of us. It was a grind of a day but we were able to get it done and enjoy ourselves (for the most part). I’ll go into the day as a whole if anyone is interested in doing half of the mountains or the ultra in a day. This is a fantastic challenge, especially for anyone being introduced to hiking.

Ampersand Trail
Landscape from summit
Detail from Ampersand
Heading down Ampersand

Ampersand Mountain Stats

  • 4.8 miles RT (AllTrails)
  • 1,742 ft elevation gain (AllTrails)
  • Located in the High Peaks Wilderness
  • Family friendly (although steep)
  • Dog friendly
  • Short day hike

Reaching Ultra or Half Ultra

Obviously, we did half of these mountains in one rip compared to usually six of them in under 24 hours. We started at 7 AM and ended around 5 PM, a little under 11 hours. Less than a week before that, we did the Haystack, Saddleback, Basin loop in the Adirondacks. If our legs were more fresh or perhaps had more time off, we would’ve completed this quicker! I think if you can do a 25 mile trek, then the Ultra 6er is completely plausible.

Side Note

Originally, I planned on doing this challenge through normal day hikes. There wasn’t any plan to do three within a day. If you’d rather do them as day hikes or as a family, you’ll truly enjoy it. I suggest tagging both Haystack and McKenzie in a day though since they’re quite close to each other. The challenge can be completed any time of year but during the entire winter season if all peaks are tagged, you’d be a winter Saranac 6er instead. If you’d want to take this challenge on as a family, I highly recommend it during the summer!

Thank you!

I appreciate anyone who took the time to go through this, whether it’s in the interest of an Adirondack challenge or a small day hike. This was probably one of my favorite days hiking this summer. I was mostly caught up with working but anytime I could get outdoors, I’d take it. I wish you luck if you go for the Ultra as well! Keep on adventuring and feel free to leave a like, comment or follow. Until next time!

– Alex

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