SARANAC LAKE - This time, they expect to see snow.
Dozens of hikers and climbers will vie Saturday to become the first Winter Saranac Lake 6ers by hiking six mountains in the Saranac Lake area - Ampersand, Baker, Haystack, McKenzie, St. Regis and Scarface - on the first official day of winter. The village's "Winter Saranac Lake 6er Kickoff" event is set to begin at 6 a.m. with a shotgun start at the Berkeley Green.
The village launched the hiking program with a similar event on the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend, a day that featured rain, 40-degree temperatures and up to 2 feet of unexpected snow on the mountain summits. A dozen people completed the grueling 30-mile-plus trek - six within 24 hours, becoming Ultra 6ers.
"Ironically we had snow cover in late May last time, but no one was prepared for it," said village Mayor Clyde Rabideau. "So they'll be prepared for anything now. The temperatures will be moderate, which is good, and hopefully we'll get a little bit of sunshine. I'm really looking forward to a lot of fun."
As of Wednesday, at least 60 people had registered in advance for the Winter 6er Kickoff, according to village Community Development Assistant Kelly Brunette. The cutoff for preregistration is 4 p.m. today. People can also register in person from 5 to 6 a.m. Saturday in Berkeley Green.
The list of people who've preregistered, Brunette said, includes 11 of the first 12 Ultra 6ers. Among them is Loring Porter of Lake Placid, who was the first person to hike all six mountains at the inaugural 6er challenge in May. He did it in 10 hours and 22 minutes.
"We'll be following the same kind of routine as last time," Brunette said. "There will be canisters on top of the six peaks, and people that register will get a punch card if they intend to finish within the first 24 hours."
Rabideau said organizers are stressing safety, given the snowy and icy conditions hikers will encounter.
"The (state Department of Environmental Conservation) wants everyone to wear or bring with them crampons, snowshoes or skis and a headlamp," he said. "We're really going to stress those items. They don't have to have the skis, but they should have snowshoes, crampons and a headlamp.
Trail courtesy is also being stressed, the mayor said. If hikers use the Jackrabbit Cross-Country Ski Trail, which runs between McKenzie and Haystack mountains, they're being asked to wear snowshoes or cross-country skis. Walking on the trail could create postholes that make the trail dangerous for other skiers.
"The second courtesy is not to slide down trails, because that can make it really slippery for those coming up the trail," Rabideau said.
A heated tent will be set up in Berkeley Green during the event. Village staff will be on hand as the first Winter 6ers return to the park and ring the 6er Bell in its gazebo.
"We're going to be there till 9 o'clock at night," Rabideau said. "We're surmising there will be some finishers before then. If the first finisher isn't in by 9, I'm sure we'll stay till the first person comes in."
A total of 492 people have hiked the six mountains and registered their climbs with the village since the 6er program was launched. Rabideau said he expects to surpass the 500 mark this weekend.