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The Santa Range Is Coming To Town


Submitted By Michael Virdone

The Mountains & Stats

18 miles with 4650 feet of gain
  • Couchsachraga (3793 Feet, NY) globe Mountain
  • Panther (4442 Feet, NY) globe Mountain
  • Santanoni (4607 Feet, NY) globe Mountain

People On The Trip

Trip Report

     It sees you when you're climbing, it knows when you're on cooch, it knows when you've been in the mud, so pack gaiters for goodness sake.


      Needless to say my trip yesterday has brought my sanity into question (so much so that i'm now spending my hikes singing xmas songs in my head).


      I'm trying to get Nicole caught up with me for mountains so that we can finish our 46 at the same time. Unfortunately I started my hiking as some of my other friends were nearing the finish of their 46, so I ended up doing a lot of the trail-less peaks in the beginning before Nicole got bitten by the hiking bug. I watched the forecast all week to see if I would be able to hike, the 20% chance of rain looked good enough so we decided to try for the Santas. We left work an hour early, stopped at McD's in Utica and were at the trailhead a little after 8:30. I checked the trail register and there was 1 group of 7 in ahead of us (we were hoping to get the leanto, but this brought that plan into question). We signed in on the trail register and began the road walk in, so far the weather had been nice and the bugs minimal. We covered the road section in a bit over a half hour and then began walking on the trail. It was clear that the area had received some recent rains as there was some puddling on the road. When we arrived at the first bridge we had the unpleasant suprise of finding it had a nice lean to the right (the railing is on the left) which made crossing the rain-slicked treading tenuous at best (we just walked through the stream on the way out). We soon crossed the second bridge and began our climb.

      To say that the trail was muddy is an understatement, I did the Santas in 2006 and I didn't remember the lower sections of trail being this terrible. We picked our way through the mud trying to keep our boots dry for the long day ahead of us tomorrow. Because of all the junk we had to pick our way through our pace felt like it slowed to a crawl. We slowly climbed the trail to the pass, savoring ever dry section of trail that we could make good time on. Eventually we reached the pass and descended down to the Bradley Pond area, of course here is where the real fun begins. We played balance beam gymnasts on the trail, eventually reaching the herd path junction. It's amazing how your stomach sinks when you go to put your trekking pole down for support and it sinks in half way up the second section :eek: .

      Nicole and I haven't gotten around to putting the regular baskets onto our trekking poles yet (still have snow baskets), but it turns out it works great for preventing them from sinking too deep into the mud. I'm going to contact the trekking pole manufacturers and suggest they call their winter baskets "Mud Baskets" and try and convince to buy a second set for hiking the Santas. Eventually we reached the leanto and were dissappointed to find it filled to the brim, to make matters worse the "dependable" campsites by the leanto were now disced as "NO CAMPING". I remembered seeing the "Advanced Base Camp" (ABC) campsite (described on adirondackjourney) on my last Santa trip so I twisted Nicole and Nate's arms until they agreed to go up there.

      The ABC site is on the herd path to times square at about 3100'-3200' There's some tricky climbing to get up to it, but the tent sites are gorgeous. After what seemed like an eternity (especially trying to follow a herd path in the dark) we arrived at the campsite. Despite the other's grumblings about the climb late at night it ended up being a nice place to stay. We set up our tents in the best spot we could find and went to bed.

      It was a cool night and we all had trouble sleeping to some degree. Unfortunately our group all turns to early risers while hiking so we were up with the sun at around 5:30. We milled around camp for a while before we got ready to climb at 6:30. Just as we were getting ready to head out I saw a hiker climbing past our site. He looked familiar and then I realized it was Marc Howes. I introduced myself and we chatted for a little while. We hiked together until panther brook where we had to refill our water so Marc continued climbing. We rehydrated and began our climb. The nice thing about really rugged trails is that it makes the footing tricky for everyone so Nicole and Nate aren't biting at my heels the whole time. We made our way up panther brook (my favorite section is where the stream goes below ground and then re-emerges later on) arriving at herald square in an hour and a half (from camp, including time to fill the water bladders).

      I like to get the hardest hikes out of the way first so we headed over to Couchie. I hate that descent down to the col simply because I know every step down is a step up that I am going to have to redo very shortly. As we made our way down we dealt with some of the tricky scrambles and a lot of pointless up and down as the trail goes over most of the bumps on the ridge. Eventually we reached "the swamp" and we picked our way through to the other side. Finally we began our ascent to the summit (along with some PUD along the way). We climbed the last few scrambles and arrived at the summit. Of course at this point the bugs decided to come out and visit (we were hoping for a nice relaxing food break). We donned bug nets hung out for a little while and then began our descent & ascent back to times square.

      The climb back up to times square was uneventful (although disheartening), but once we arrive we took a quick break for everyone's feet. After our break, we headed over to Santanoni. Aside from the rock slab near times square the descent isn't too steep (a few little sections, but not much). As we headed down the ridge we could see Santa getting taller and taller as we descended. As we descended a storm blew in and started raining on us (so much for 20%) . At the col we began our climb to the first of the false summits. I had forgotten how many scrambles there were on the way up Santa but they were a nice break to the monotony of hiking. At the first false summit the storm worsened and we got our first clap of thunder in the distance. We hightailed it to the summit took a quick picture and had a snack before heading to lower elevations. We descended and ascended to times square before climbing up Panther.

      By the time we climbed Panther the storm had blown over and the sun was shining (so the bugs were back out). We dried out a bit on the slabs at the top before beginning our descent. We took it easy going down Panther Brook (I'm nursing a sprained ankle still) before getting back to camp. Luckily we had left the tents standing so we took a half hour break inside of the tents to get out of the bugs and to change into some dry clothes. After our nice siesta it was time to get moving again, the sun was shining, the bugs were out, but not terrible, so we were all set to walk back out to the car...

      Think again, as soon as we got out of the tents another storm blew over the ridge, this time it was raining harder than before and the thunder was back. We tried our best to pack everything up quickly (while the dry clothes we had just put on got soaked again). Unfortunately the bugs were undeterred by the rain and had decided to stick it out so we were in the not so funny situation of having to wear a bug net while wearing rain gear. We began the descent down (the now rain slickened) herd path as the storm tapered off. By the time we reached Bradley Pond the sun was shining again :rolleyes: . I guess a 20% chance of rain doesn't include the 100% chance of "spite storms".

      By the time we reached the maintained trail we were all pretty much ready to be done with hiking for the day, and so began the trudge home. Back at the road we cranked as fast as possible to get to the car, my watch was now buried in my pack so I don't know how long it took, but I'm pretty sure we were at about the same pace. Let me say, that half hour on the way in feels like an hour on the way out. At the car we packed up, headed out, enjoyed a nice dinner at the Stewart's in Long Lake and then drove home.

      I would like to give a TREMENDOUS "Thank You" to whomever maintains the herd paths, the lack of blowdown was instrumental to our success.


      Cliff Notes: Hiked the Santas, Met Marc Howes, MUD MUD MUD, Bring Gaiters, Road walks at the end of a hike stink.

The Good and The Bad

The Good:

There were ok views
Herd path maintenance
The ABC Campsite
Meeting Marc Howes

The Bad:

Crappy State Trail
Full Leantos
Spiteful Rain Showers

The Drive

Drove up Friday through old forge/long lake. Drove home Saturday night (took a power nap outside of Old Forge)


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