Trip Report for Fastest Known Time: Saranac 6er Ultra Challenge (Saranac Lake 6er Ultra Challenge)
Submitted for and by: Bethany Garretson
FKT achieved 10/26/19
Joe Sullivan, 8h:59m:58s, 10/12/18
Bethany Garretson, 8h:20m:33s, 10/26/19
Cloudy and slightly sunny in the AM, mid 30s, first summit was foggy/cloudy and the rest were clear and it was a sunny day reaching 48/50 degrees.
Mix of wet, muddy, leaf strewn (Haystack, McKenzie, higher areas on Scarface and Saint Regis), dry (Baker, Ampersand, approach to Scarface and Saint Regis)
The Saranac Lake 6er holds a lot of meaning to me. Saint Regis was the first mountain I climbed as a Paul Smith’s College student, my younger sister Mallory Garretson and I battled the elements to take second in the first ultra race, and for three years I’ve participated in the relay with some of the most epic mountain athletes I know.
Yesterday, I climbed the six mountains (Scarface, Haystack, McKenzie, Baker, Saint Regis and Ampersand), put in about thirty miles with 8000 feet elevation gain and stumbled away with the FKT for the Saranac 6er Ultra Challenge at 8 hours, 20 minutes and 33 seconds.
Adam Meyer and I started at the bell in Berkeley Square at 8:35 am.
Adam and I had done a couple of epic hiking/trail running days in the Adirondack backcountry and chatted about the idea of going for the Ultra 6er speed record. Based on our pace, I estimated we could do it in 8 hours and 30 minutes. On Saturday, 10/26/19 the weather looked good: Cold and clear. So, we went for it.
Andy Johnstone, my husband, crewed for us. We converted our caravan into an aid station and had two crates stacked with extra food and gear. Adam and I wanted to travel as lightly as we could on each mountain.
Our first mountain was Scarface (7.6 miles and 1480 elevation gain). Andy pulled up to the trailhead and Adam and I jumped out of the car. The first section of Scarface is dry and easily runnable. It’s a good mountain to warm up on. We reached the summit at 9:30 AM and snapped a photo.
Then we ran out and moved on to tackle the Haystack/McKenzie duo (8.1 miles, 2,444 elevation gain) from the LP Jackrabbit trail. We got to the summit of Haystack at 10:48 AM (photo) and made our way to McKenzie.
A little way up the steep section, Adam called to me and said that he pulled something in his leg. He was done. I shouted down and asked if he needed help. He said he was all right to get out and I kept going. He was carrying our pack (with a few gels, water and phone/camera) and left it on the side of the trail. At the time, I thought I’d do McKenzie, get back to the car and call it a day. On the summit I tapped my hand against the wooden sign and jogged down, thinking about what I’d do with the rest of my day. Shower, write, relax. Sounded good to me.
Then, I got to the van and it was 12:27 PM and I was ahead of pace. So, I drank some water and ate some food and went up Baker (1.8 miles, 884 elevation gain) without any gear but my MP3 player and awesome playlist! I got back to the car at 1:04 PM and recommitted to the challenge without having a partner.
“Alright, I’m doing this.” I said.
“Hell yeah, you are,” Andy drove away and I got ready for Saint Regis (6.6 miles, 1266 elevation gain).
I had to pace myself. My legs were cramping a bit and I didn’t take any water or food with me. (Feeling a little foolish about it now… but, on my causal jaunts up Saint Regis I don’t take anything.) Again, the only gear I had was my MP3 player. I figured I was refueling enough in the car. However, when I got back in the car at 2:54 PM, my muscles rippled with cramps.
On the way to Ampersand (5.4 miles, 1,755 elevation gain), I strapped on my hydration pack and took a few energy chews. I was going to need it. I was beginning to dread the idea of Ampersand’s wicked rock stairs. My goal was to break down the ascent and get to the top in an hour. Andy dropped me off and had to go back into SL to take photos for the PSC women’s hockey team. While I was on trail, our friend Ross Manny came out to pick me up.
Ampersand hurt. I was nauseous and it reminded me of mild altitude sickness. I took rest steps on the staircase and got to the summit at 4:14. The way down was wonderful and my legs rejoiced in not having to go uphill anymore. I got to the car around a quarter to five and Ross got me to the bell at 4:56.
This was a supported effort. Adam, even though he was unable to finish got me started and I didn’t sleep in and opt to use the day for writing. Andy was bomber and I could feel his support all day. And Ross was clutch in getting me to the bell… I’m not sure if I would have been able to drive with my leg cramps.
Overall, it was a beautiful day in the Adirondack Mountains and my first FKT.
0:00:00 Berkeley Green
0:06:56 Scarface trailhead in
1:31:45 Scarface trailhead out
1:39:23 Haystack/McKenzie Lake Placid Jackrabbit trailhead in
3:52:08 Haystack/McKenzie Lake Placid Jackrabbit trailhead out
4:06:15 Baker trailhead in
4:31:00 Baker trailhead out
4:52:13 Saint Regis trailhead in
6:17:35 Saint Regis trailhead out
6:49:02 Ampersand trailhead in
8:09:12 Ampersand trailhead out
8:20:33 Berkeley Green