A mountain 6-pack

SARANAC LAKE – Some will try for all six peaks in less than a day. Others will tackle them at a more leisurely pace.

Either way, village Mayor Clyde Rabideau hopes his new 6er hiking program, which kicks off this weekend, will draw people to the Saranac Lake area for years to come.

“This is a program that will last indefinitely,” Rabideau said at a press conference last week. “We anticipate that a lot of families and individuals will be doing this over the course of the years. Some may come up for a weekend and do all six over the course of a weekend. A lot of people will try to do it within 24 hours.”

Launched in February by the village, the 6er program encourages people to climb the six mountains in the Saranac Lake area: Mount Baker, Haystack, McKenzie, Scarface, Ampersand and St. Regis. Starting Saturday, those who climb the peaks, apply to the village for certification and pay $5 will get a patch and bumper sticker featuring the 6er logo, along with their official 6er number. An “Ultra 6er” patch will be awarded to those who climb all six mountains in less than 24 hours, and there will also be a “Winter 6er” patch.

The program is a smaller-scale version of one run for decades by the Adirondack 46ers, an organization of hikers of who have climbed to the summits of the 46 traditionally recognized Adirondack High Peaks. More than 7,000 people have registered their climbs and become 46ers since Saranac Laker Herb Clark and brothers Bob and George Marshall did so in 1925.

Rabideau said the 6er program is designed to showcase Saranac Lake to the greater Adirondack hiking and mountain climbing community.

“We know that the 46ers have a lot of traffic. A lot of people know about them, and when I travel the 46ers and talk to people on the trail, which I often do, I ask them if they know about Saranac Lake – and most of them don’t,” Rabideau said. “So this is a way to introduce Saranac Lake and our beautiful mountains to that community, from Montreal and further north all the way down to New York City and beyond.”

The program will kick off Saturday morning with what’s been dubbed the Ultra 6er Challenge, a race to see who will become the first 6er. It begins with a pistol start at the Berkeley Green at 8 a.m. The first person to hike all six peaks, verify their climb by signing a summit register and return to Berkeley Green will be 6er number one. Each finisher will then get to ring the 6er Bell, located in the park’s gazebo, six times.

It’s by no means an easy task, as climbing all six mountains involves more than 30 miles of hiking and roughly 7,000 feet of total elevation gain.

“There’s a lot of talk on the street about how fast this will happen,” Rabideau said. “We’ve heard anywhere from 9 hours to 16 hours for the first Ultra 6er to come back here and ring the 6er Bell.”

Participants in the Ultra 6er Challenge can pre-register until 4 p.m. Friday at www.saranaclake6er.com or register in person beginning at 7 a.m. Saturday in Berkeley Green.

For those who aren’t hiking, the village is hosting events in the park from 3 p.m. on, including an Adirondack trivia contest, poetry readings by local school students and live music. The village will also induct Clark, the first Adirondack 46er, into its Walk of Fame at 7 p.m.

To market the 6er program, the village has relied largely on area news media and social networking sites, like Facebook. It’s distributed Saranac Lake 6er trail guides and maps to local restaurants, hotels and motels. Village employees have also been spreading the word to hiking clubs; they set up a table to promote the Saranac Lake 6 at Eastern Mountain Sports in Lake Placid during the store’s “Club Days” earlier this month.

EMS store Manager Yvonne Sheffield said she and her staff have also been highlighting the 6er program to their customers in the last few weeks.

“I think it’s a great program,” she said. “A lot of folks say to us, ‘I can’t do the 46; I’m not much of a hiker.’ So now we can say, ‘You know what? You should do the 6.’ All those peaks are doable for people with families, and it’s a great way to expose your youngsters to hiking without them thinking, ‘This is so much work.'”

“Anything that gets more people outdoors and connecting with the natural environment is a good thing,” said John Million, deputy executive director of the Adirondack Mountain Club. “I’m encouraged that this particular program snowballed so quickly. It seems like there’s a lot of local support for it. I hope it’s successful and my sense is it’s going to be.”

It’s worth noting that some of these hikes are easier and more family-friendly than others. For example, Mount Baker is a one-mile stroll with just 700 feet of elevation gain. But McKenzie and Ampersand, in particular, are much more rigorous climbs, each involving more than 1,500 feet of elevation gain and many miles of hiking.

While the village is managing the 6er program now, Rabideau said he’d like to be able to pass it off to another organization in a few years.

The mayor said the village has spent $2,000 to $3,000 on the program, although he said much of that money has been raised through underwriting and selling of advertisements on the trail guide. The rest is revenue the village is getting from the sale of T-shirts, hats and other items containing the village’s trademarked 6er logo.

“We’re not using tax dollars,” Rabideau said. “We’re just generating the funds within. There’s a trademark for all the Saranac Lake 6er stuff, and that way we can keep some control over residuals, getting some money coming back to keep the program going.”