The trend of earning hiking patches by completing challenges continues, with the newly-formed Lake George 12ster challenge.
The latest Adirondack hiking challenge, in the same vein as the 46ers, the Saranac Lake 6ers and the Tupper Triad, offers more of a challenge than the latter two, but still less than the grueling requirements hiking all the High Peaks.
This new challenge was created last summer, and any hikes of the mountains completed prior to Aug. 20 last year don't count toward the challenge.
This trail sign in the Lake George Region shows distances of the Tongue Mountain range.
Photo provided by Wikimedia Commons
The Lake George 12ster requires people to climb a dozen mountains in the Lake George region, and much like the Saranac Lake 6er program, hikers can earn an "ultra" patch by doing all the hikes in 24 hours or less.
And much like the other Adirondack hiking challenges, separate patches can be earned for hiking the mountains in the winter - from Dec. 21 to March 21.
While the Lake George challenge isn't as demanding as becoming a 46er, this is still no joke. The 12 mountains require almost 40 miles of hiking and about 9,000 total feet of elevation gain. For comparison, the Saranac Lake 6 are just a few miles shorter in total distance.
The mountains that make up the Lake George 12ster are located on both the east and west sides of the lake. They are: Thomas and Cat mountains on the east side of the lake, as well as the Tongue Mountain range, which is made up of Brown, Huckleberry, Five Mile, Fifth Peak, French Point and First Peak. On the west side of the lake, Black, Erebus, Buck and Sleeping Beauty mountains round out the dozen peaks.
If you're not in the market for an ultra patch and have the time, visiting Bumps Pond near the summit of Sleeping Beauty will add just a little extra to your hike. Going to the pond will make the trail a loop, but several trip reports said the hike can be done in about four hours, including stops at the summit of Sleeping Beauty and the pond.
The Tongue Mountain range is one of the most recognizable in the Adirondacks. Named as such due to the fact that the range is part of a large peninsula that juts into the lake, this part of the challenge will offer great views of the lake and the mountains across the water.
While 12 mountains may sound like a lot to accomplish, half of them are in this one range, meaning that a traverse of the range will go a long way toward earning your 12ster patch. The range also offers lean-tos and camping sites along the way, as well as the pleasure of reaching the highest point in the town of Bolton when you summit the 2,256-foot tall Five Mile Mountain.
Backpacker Magazine has featured the Tongue range several times, saying in a July 2000 article that "the Tongue is a wild, mountainous peninsula that juts into Lake George. It's a world apart from the frenzied resorts and theme park atmosphere that draws millions of tourists to the southern edge of the lake."
It should also be noted that the Tongue Mountain range is home to timber rattlers, which are poisonous snakes that can pose a serious threat to hikers. Timber rattlesnakes can grow up to 4-and-a-half feet in length. While the snakes are listed as threatened in New York, there can be dense populations in local areas, such as along the mountain range.
The snakes, like other pit-vipers, are temperature-sensitive and may be found basking on the bare-rock cliffs that dot the range. Hikers should avoid the snakes and use caution if any are spotted. The 12ster challenge is family friendly, but a special eye should be kept on kids when in rattlesnake territory.
Despite Backpacker's analysis, one of the perks of the 12ster is certainly its proximity to the attractions, lodging and, of course, food and beverages that the village offers. There are several state Department of Environmental Conservation-run campgrounds that offer an affordable and stay and hot showers in the area, as well as thousands of hotel rooms of all price ranges.
For more information on the Lake George 12ster, including maps and registration information, visit www.lakegeorge12ster.com.