Santanoni had been my nemesis for a year. Last October, we had started out to climb the Santanoni Range, heading up the Panther Brook trail to climb first Panther, then Couchsachraga before going to Santanoni, and down the Express Trail.
Our thinking was that if, for some reason, we couldn’t get to Santanoni, we could always come back and do an up-and-back via the Express. And it turns out that we couldn’t get to Santanoni- by the time we got back from Couch, it was getting late, and we didn’t particularly want to walk back out in the dark.
So fast forward to March. Steph had decided to try and do a winter ascent of Santa – having had success with Cascade, Porter and Allen, she thought she’d give Santa a try. Unfortunately, the Express trail wasn’t broken out, and she while she could find the start of it, she lost it shortly there after.
Fast forward again to August. We climbed Cliff on the Saturday, and then attempted Santa on the Sunday. We made good time to the junction with the Express, but then we started to lose steam – our aches and pains from the climb before were hitting us hard. We arrived at the Hilary Step around 2:00, and decided to turn around. At the pace we were going, it would be another hour and a half to the summit, and we’d have to get down, and we were driving home that night.
So that makes 3 (4 in the case of Steph) attempts at reaching Santanoni’s summit. We were really feeling discouraged, but also determined – that summit was going to be ours.
We headed down in September for a weekend, and bright and early on a Saturday we were at the trailhead. We headed up the road to the trail, and hit the express is just under 2 hours. We were already making better time than our last attempt. After a brief stop to chat with other hikers, we cross the stream (the water was low enough to rock hop) and head up the trail.
|In August, at the Hilary Step
The Express trail is a bit erratic. It starts off fairly even and flat, then there’s a rocky section that’s flat, then it evens out again but climbs, then a rocky section…this goes on for a bit before the trail starts climbing in earnest. It starts off as a moderate grade, but quickly becomes steep….steeper….steeper… until you come to the Hilary Step – a massive white section of rock, that you have to skirt around to get back onto the trail, a point that Steph and I call ‘The Awful Up.’
This section was muddy and slippery the two times we’ve gone up it (and the two times down.) We had to stop talking so we could concentrate on our footing – start climbing here, cross there, monkey swing around this, don’t pull on that it’s loose, climb up over there, cross again. It took us a half hour the first time around in August, but only 15 minutes this time.
From there you enter in an area of blowdown, and you get your first view of Santa – and it looks a loooooong way off. But just like Nippletop, the view is deceiving. The trail descended a bit into a col, then climbed steadily (and steeply) through grabby trees, until we started to see more open rocky patches, with amazing views of Wallface, Marshall, Iroquois and Algonquin.
|Elation! We made it!
Eventually you come to a junction with another trail, running left and right. Turning left takes you over the false summit to Santanoni, right takes you towards Time Square. We turned left, and it was minutes later that we came out to the false summit, and from there it was less than 2 minutes to summit – we got there at 11:47, four and a half hours after starting.
We spent nearly an hour on the summit, chatting with other hikers, and just enjoying the views and the fact that we.finally.made.it. We headed down, elated that the hike had gone so well. Everything about the hike had been (and would continue to be) perfect – the day had warmed up to a nice temperature, not too hot or too cold, the summit wasn’t windy, the leaves had already started changing…our hike down went just as smoothly as the hike up, and we reached the register at 3:55. Santanoni was our 42 – only 4 peaks left!
Total climbing time: 8 hours 40 minutes
Left parking lot at: 7:15, returned at 3:55
Summitted Santanoni at 11:47