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Santanoni and Little Santanoni

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Neil

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3/9/2018 – Santanoni and Little Santanoni – Start: 7:03 AM Finish: 7:54 PM

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Glen all smiles in his natural element.

Glen, Bill B. and I began the long walk up the Bradley Pond Trail near 7a.m. on a mild Friday morning. It was snowing and had snowed enough in the past 48 hours to let us know what the Santa Direct would be like. We were just behind of a large group of young people and their teacher. They had plans to do the 3 peaks and descend via the direct. I was skeptical given the new snow, the difficulties they would surely encounter and the inertia-inducing size of their group.

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Santanoni Direct trail. Some breaking required.

We enjoyed the well-packed trail they made until we veered onto the Direct, which we quickly lost, then found and stayed on until the flat area below the final steep ascent. The snow was deep and we switched leads every one hundred feet of vertical ascent. It was slow going and hard work, even when you were in the tail position. We lost the trail several times but quickly found it again thanks to 3 pairs of eyes.

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Just below the rock wall. Snow depth increasing.

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We made the junction to the main herd path and immediately turned down towards the final col about 500 feet below. We were on and off the herd path, mostly on. There were no traces of it under the new snow but sometimes we could feel it. From the col it was 2.2 miles to Little Santa. We began the 1,000 drop in very thick and steep woods. I was going first and pushed hard getting a full-body workout while being showered copiously with granular snow. As expected the woods opened up quickly and we followed the seams and open lanes. Glen had his compass out and kept us on a 260M bearing, which was going to get us 80% of the way there.

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Oh Baby, I hate to go.

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Close to the top. Look at the snow! That’s why it’s called winter hiking!

500 feet below the Santa ridge, Bill decided to turn around. A tough decision that requires experience and wisdom. Glen and I continued, on and on through open woods with a few gnarly sections until it was time to switch bearings and begin the long ascent to L. Santa. After an initial steep climb of 350 feet we continued interminably with gentle ascending until the summit (GPS and visually confirmed) and immediately turned around, knowing we had a packed trail back to our vehicles. It was 2pm IIRC.

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After the out and back to Little Santa. Nothing like good old water.

The re-climb of Santa was long and tiring but, always mindful of the next day’s more ambitious hike that was planned. We maintained a slow, energy conserving pace. When we got to Bill’s turnaround spot the going became much, much easier. We slowly made our way up, way up to the Direct junction. The large group had not done Santanoni but the trail was firm under the newly fallen fresh powder snow. We dropped packs and broke trail in deep powder to the summit, took a few pics and turned around.

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Dark and gloomy trail to Santanoni’s summit.

It was cold, windy and incredibly eerie in the falling darkness with the trees plastered in snow and rime ice. We got out our headlamps and changed into dry, warm clothing, which was nirvana-inspiring! The fog was dense but you could perceive the gully and steep exposed rock to the left as you descended. Our in-bound trail was fading fast in the new snow but was nevertheless easy to follow.

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Take the picture and let’s go home.

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Glen on Santanoni for his 30th (???) time.

Part-way down I stopped and changed my socks and put platsic bags over them. Time-consuming, but necessary, and good for another wave of nirvana.

Down, down we went over a soft trail that spared the knees and required little effort. We arrived at the Bradley Pond trail, which was like getting onto the Northway and then we trudged and trudged back to the gate for a 12 and a half hour day. It was going to be a short night.

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