DoNorth

Winter Hiking Through the Adirondacks

As a young boy growing up in the Albany area, John Sasso always loved the outdoors. Annual summer outings spent at Thacher State Park proved to be a fond memory for him. Sasso and his father would hike the popular Indian Ladder Trail, which is situated along the Helderberg Escarpment. The two would check out the spectacular views of the Hudson-Mohawk Valleys as well as pick around for fossils. These childhood expeditions with his father are what inspired Sasso to continue with his passion for climbing. With upstate New York buried in snow for the next few months, many people…

As a young boy growing up in the Albany area, John Sasso always loved the outdoors. Annual summer outings spent at Thacher State Park proved to be a fond memory for him. Sasso and his father would hike the popular Indian Ladder Trail, which is situated along the Helderberg Escarpment. The two would check out the spectacular views of the Hudson-Mohawk Valleys as well as pick around for fossils.

These childhood expeditions with his father are what inspired Sasso to continue with his passion for climbing. With upstate New York buried in snow for the next few months, many people will find themselves at the beginning of a trailhead, preparing to embark on a trek. Popularity for year-round climbing has increased, specifically winter hiking. From Dec. 21 to March 21, hikers take the challenge to climb all 46 High Peaks in the Adirondack Mountains. This elite group of climbers is known as the Winter 46ers. Their reward? Pride and a one-of-a-kind 46er patch.

To be qualified as a high peak, a mountain must be over 4,000 feet. However, four peaks accidently made the cut and remain on the list: Blake Peak, Cliff Mountain, Couchsachraga Peak and Nye Mountain. Almost 8,000 hikers have earned their 46er patch by climbing each summit and of those, 634 have completed the challenge in the winter.

Sasso now joins this elite group. The 46-year-old first began the winter challenge back in February 2011 and completed it last March.

“I had already climbed eight Catskill High Peaks and several Adirondack fire towers in the same winter season,” Sasso says, “but I had not considered pursuing the Winter 46ers until after talking with friends.”

Regardless of patch or membership, Sasso enjoyed winter hiking in the High Peaks because it revealed a monochromatic splendor of the views of the Adirondacks. It was not about merely completing a list; it was about gaining and enhancing his skills as a winter hiker. Winter hiking is a mind and body experience that will offer a little something to everyone whether it is a breathtaking view or the feeling of accomplishment after completing an incredibly hard and emotional task.

“I will never forget my Winter 46er finish on Mount Marshall,” says Sasso, who lost a special amulet while hiking a year and a half before his 46er completion, only to find it again 100 feet from the summit back in his backpack. “You see my dad passed away on February 19, 2012, the Sunday after the Adirondack High Peaks Forum Winter Gathering.”

Here, all participants succeeded in climbing all 46 High peaks.

“I wonder if the amulet was somehow returned to me by my dad,” he says.

Although Sasso finished the Winter 46ers, in no way has he closed the door on winter hiking in the High Peaks. Helping his friends and girlfriend complete their final Winter 46er peaks is next on his to-do list. As a seasoned winter hiker, Sasso wants to pass along his knowledge and skills so others can enjoy their winter hiking experience.

There’s no stopping this mountain man.

Issue 4: Winter/Spring 2014

0 comments Show discussion Hide discussion

Add a comment

More in Open Air