Climbing Log: Santanoni, Couchsachraga, and Panther

Mountains Climbed: Santanoni Peak, Couchsachraga Peak, Panther Peak
Date of Hike: Saturday, March 7th, 2009
Hikers: Seth C. Burgess, Adam C. Chapin, Jessica L. Burgess, Tanner W. Burgess

Trail Conditions: Ice on road, hardpack on Blue Trail on way in, powder after crossing Santanoni Brook, rainy wetpack on the way out

Comments: Spent the night in Long Lake on Friday 6 March in order to be able to get an early start out of Upper Works the next day. We needed pet-friendly Adirondack accommodations and made arrangements for a room at the Shamrock Motel--we arrived late after having grabbed dinner at Okey Dokey's in Floyd, New York.

Sign for Okey Dokey's Restaurant

The next morning we made the short drive to Upper Works and unloaded from my Av into the Santanoni trailhead parking a few minutes shy of 0800. We skied the 1.8 miles in on the private road until we caught the junction with the Blue Trail, followed by the rising sun. The road was the iciest stretch of the day.

Jessica skiing the road

The trail narrowed around us as we approached the first bridge, gaining speed without knowing what was around the corner. I went first and fell flat on my face trying to ski up onto the bridge. I yelled back to Grizzly Adams to veer right of the bridge down into the brook, as it became apparent to me that others moving at a more cautious speed had done so.

 First bridge on the Blue Trail

The second bridge was a skis-off no-brainer. Even without skis, the narrow and icy crossing was a challenge. We carried our skis up the steep awaiting us on the far side of the bridge, atop which we snapped back in and continue following the blue DEC markers.

 Second bridge on the Blue Trail

 Grizzly Adams carrying skis up the steep section

The skiing was quite good along the bank of Santanoni Brook and we imagined the ride down would be similar to bobsledding, with the single narrow beaten path and multiple feet of snow buildup on either side. We stopped at the first Santanoni Brook overlook for a breather and continued up the Blue Trail until I spotted a herdpath turn-off for the "new-old" trail directly to Sanantoni Peak.

Adam and Jessica at the Santanoni Brook overlook

At this point, we were still wearing skis--and we finally dropped them on the west side of Santanoni Brook where the herdpath crossed it. I explored just a bit in boots only to make sure the herdpath continued, as I had no intention of breaking trail on a triple-summit attempt day. Things looked good, so Adam, Jess, and I fastened into our snowshoes and dug into the mountain. Tanner chose to remain bare-pawed.

Two-thirds of our ski stash on Santanoni Brook

A group of two gentlemen caught us ten or fifteen minutes up the herdpath (we were first group of the day on it) and we ended up allowing them to take the lead. That decision was mostly due to the fact that a party in our group doesn't like to be closely followed by other hikers. My judgement was that their pace would be similar to ours and I wished to remain out front, although it wasn't a battle worth making. We bumped up to those two fellows many times all the way to Santanoni Peak's summit.

 Grizzly Adams cruising the Santanoni Express

The decision to attempt the "new-old" Tahawus Club trail, which is starting to become referred to as the Santanoni Express, was applauded by all members of our group. It was an excellent ascent route of an excellent mountain in the excellent morning weather of an excellent late Spring day. Upon topping out on Santanoni, our group made lunch and lingered there for around forty-five minutes. It was gorgeous.

 Adam reaching Santanoni Peak's summit

 Seth, Jess, Tanner, and Adam atop Santanoni

We made our way to Times Square and then down--way down--to Couchsachraga. The spur out to Couchsachraga Peak is one of the mentally toughest High Peaks I have climbed. It just doesn't seem right to have to look from the trail down to the mountain you are heading for.

 Looking down upon Couchsachraga from Times Square

After reaching Couchsachraga, the weather transitioned to overcast skies. We admired the wooden sign someone had hauled and hung, and the views over to the Seward Range as well as Long Lake.

 Group atop Couchsachraga Peak

Snow was falling on the return up to Times Square. Once back at the landmark boulder, we made our run to the third and final peak of the Santanoni Range--Panther Peak--which was an easy stroll from the hub of the Santanonis (Times Square). Daylight was taking its last bow, and we headed down Panther Brook to make a nice loop of things back to the Blue Trail. The descent and remaining hours our our long hike were marked by darkness and steady rain.

 On Panther Peak, third High Peak of the day

We took a break at Bradley Pond, where we had been in June 2008 during a lightning storm-shortened attempt at the Santas, before continuing on and eventually retrieving our ski gear. The ski out was quite exciting in the now slippery bobsled track that was the Blue Trail, headlamps glaring. Adam and I skied most all the way back to the second bridge, while Jess made the smarter decision to carry the skis and not risk a twig in the eye or a tumble into the adjacent ravine. We all skied from the south end of that bridge the whole way back to the parking lot. The private road was greatly softened by the hours of rain and was a comfort on the final 1.8 miles out. Total trail time was fifteen hours, 0845 to 2145.

Special Equipment Required: Snowshoes a must after leaving the Blue Trail.



Gil Burgess said...

Looks like it must have been a lot of fun, but, the question remains: Who was Santanoni? What about Couchsachraga?

Adam C. Chapin said...

Now I have to find a new nemesis after conquering the Santanoni's, man what a fight though!

Seth C. Burgess said...

@Adam Don't worry Grizzly, YOUR NEMESIS WILL FIND YOU!

@Gil According to Adirondack Trails: High Peaks Region, 13th Ed., edited by Tony Goodwin:

Santanoni Peak
"The name of the highest peak W of the Hudson River and the dominant one in the range is derived from Saint Anthony. This name filtered down through the French Canadians to the Abenaki Indians, who adopted their own pronunciation of the words."

Couchsachraga Peak
"Pronounced 'Kook-sa-KRA-ga', this term is an ancient Algonquin name for the Adirondacks that means 'dismal wilderness'."

Gerry Benedict said...

Congratulations on "knocking off" three more peaks! How many of the 46 are left?

Seth C. Burgess said...

I have hiked a shade over half the ADK High Peaks, 24/46. A few of my companion Adirondack hikers are making good progress as well.

Yugoboy said...

OK... I mentioned over at the Seward post that I'm planning on doing the Seward Range this summer. After realizing that I hike faster than most people, and given that I'm taking 2 days for this little adventure anyway, I looked about for some other close High Peaks and found that Santonini is pretty close (as these things go). Any clue how difficult it is to get from Seward Range to Santonini? Are the trails maintained well enough to follow easily? Should I have my wife pick me up at the Santonini Trailhead?

I see you did this in the winter. No way that's happening for me. What's the normal time for this mountain?

Anything I really need to know?

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