In the Midst of a pending ice storm, The beginning of winter marked the official start of the Saranac Lake “Winter 6er” program. At 6am, no one knew who would be the first “Winter Sixer” but there were definitely a few contenders… In this program, Saranac Lake Mayor Clyde Rabideau described the scene.. We’ll speak with Kelly Brunette who is the Community Development Assistant.. She’s played a key role in development of the Saranac Lake Sixer Program.. We asked her what it takes to become a Winter 6er.. and We speak with Village Clerk Kareen Tyler for the prizes for the first three Winter Ultras. Following the award of the Number One Winter 6er Patches and hat to Caleb Strong of Rochester, we honor Adirondack High Peak 46er number one. Clark is buried in Saranac Lake and a special Memorial Day ceremony recognized his accomplishments.
On Saturday, December 21st, 68 intrepid souls braved severe weather that included freezing rain, snow, ice and sleet and descended upon Berkeley Green in the heart of this Adirondack village during the dark and early hours of the Winter Solstice, wearing rain-gear, crampons and headlamps, to register and commence a 6 AM “shotgun start” that would launch them upon a 33-mile, 6-mountain hiking odyssey and vie them for the title of “Saranac Lake Winter 6er,” with most hoping to finish in 24 hours and claim the luster of having “Ultra” added to their names. 23 registrants did just that.
The first to return to the iconic gazebo in Berkeley Green and ring “the 6er Bell” was 57-year-old Caleb Strong from Victor, NY, who finished in an astonishing 9 hours and 59 minutes.
60 minutes behind Strong finished Loring Porter, who is hailed as “Saranac Lake 6er #1,” having finished first in the successful 6er kickoff event last May 25, when this nascent hiking and tourism promotion program was launched by the Village of Saranac Lake. Finishing with Porter was his hiking partner, Kyle Bissell.
Mayor Clyde Rabideau presented Strong, Porter and Bissell with hand-crafted “spirit wood” hiking sticks, especially carved by local artisan, Rick Gonyea, from Vermontville, as “trophies” for their top 3 finishes.
Rabideau commented, “All of the participants in our Winter 6er Kick-off are commended for enduring the severe weather and showing true Saranac Lake 6er spirit and now they are part of our Saranac Lake family.”
Strong is a retired paintball entrepreneur from the greater Rochester area who was a scholarship cross-country runner at St. John Fisher College, outside of Syracuse, in his earlier years. Said Strong, “I trained like hell for this event during the last four months and I wanted to win.” Strong finished #5 in the May 25th kick-off.
Nancy LaBaff, from Canton, was the only woman to finish in the first 24 hours, coming in at #11 with a completion time of 17 hours and 25 minutes. Last May, she was part of “The Ultra Dozen,” those being the only 12 to finish in the first 24 hours in similar weather conditions—temps in the 40’s, rain, sleet and snow—and finished at #10.
Only one Saranac Laker made the “Ultra cut” and that was Sam Racette, finishing right behind LaBaff at #12 with a time of 17:25.
Over 500 people have completed the climbs of all Saranac Lake 6er peaks since the May 25 kick-off with thousands more in varying stages of completion.
One key to the success, according to Mayor Rabideau, is village staff volunteering to run and administer the program.
Said Rabideau, “We’ve got a dedicated cadre of village staff who work on their own free time to make this program happen. In fact, Kelly Brunette, our Administrative Assistant in the Community Development Office, is due to have a baby in a few weeks and she and her family spent the whole day at Berkeley Green to make sure the event ran smoothly.”
Rabideau also lauded Village Clerk Kareen Tyler and Community Development Director Jeremy Evans, calling their volunteer efforts “vital and above the call of duty.” Also, Trustees Tom Catillaz, Allie Pelletieri and Paul Van Cott delivered set-up equipment to Berkeley Green at 4:30 AM the day of the event in village pick-ups and stayed the entire day to assist.
The 23 24-hour Ultra finishers hail from throughout New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Quebec.
74 had pre-registered for the Winter 6er Kick-off which was anticipated to draw over 100 hikers, but only 50 of those showed up on Saturday morning due to unusually severe driving conditions. 18 others registered before the start.
Rabideau talked about the year ahead for the 6er program, saying, “We have no events of this type planned for 2014, but we do want to host a “Saranac Lake 6er Stewardship Day” in concert with the Department of Environmental Conservation, and invite all our 6er family back to Saranac Lake this summer to help maintain the trails and attend a reunion-type barbeque to celebrate our good fortune of being in the Adirondacks.”
The Tentative listing of Winter Ultras follows (Dec 22-3 PM):
Caleb Strong, Victor, NY; 9:59
Loring Porter, Lake Placid, NY; 10:59
Kyle Forbes Bissell, West Salem, MA; 10:59
Kyle Dash, Paul Smith’s, NY; 11:06
David Gomlak, Lake Placid, NY; 12:45
Alistair Fraser, Florida, NY; 14:26
Neil Luckhurst, Laval, QC, Canada; 14:28
Justin Thalheimer, Cherry Valley, NY; 15:29
Jeremy Preston, Schenevus, NY; 15:29
Trevor Kent, Plattsburgh, NY; 16:42
Nancy LaBaff, Canton, NY; 17:25
Sam Racette, Saranac Lake, NY 17:35
Doug Duncan, Elmira, NY; 17:37
Michael Cady, Elmira, NY; 17:37
Jim Wallace, Oswego, NY; 19:00
David Guilfoyle, Syracuse, NY; 19:00
Simon Sédillot, Montréal, QC, Canada; 20:00
Marc Sédillot, Montréal, QC, Canada; 20:00
Mark Purdy, Liverpool, NY; 20:00
Michael Fiorentino, Watertown, NY; 20:15
Scott Donato, Watertown, NY; 20:15
George Grzyb, Carteret, NJ; 20:19
Matt Hicks, Pleasant Valley, NY; 20:25