Monday, March 12, 2012

Whiteface and Esther 3/11/12

          With a mild weekend and navigable snowpack predicted, the chance to climb some new high peaks arose. We arrived at the Atmospheric Science center at 8 and after slowly getting our stuff together and a bit of wandering around looking for the trail start, were on our way up Marble at 8:30. The initial ascent was a straight shot following the old lift line foundations I think(?) and a bit of a slog.

   There were nice views to be had at the intersection with the main trail. The camp site here is also compelling. The trail up lookout was quite pretty and we started to get some nice views through the trees. This part of the trail flew and we were soon at the intersection with Esther. There is a large cairn and a sign. Can't miss it.

   This was a lovely herd path, which was well packed out. The whole hike had well packed out trail, great for snowshoeing. enjoying the 4000 ft views in all directions we reached the summit in no time. The whole phase one of this hike flew by. Beautiful woods, gradual ascent and high spirits.  Back we went. We started running into people on our return and our thrall dissolved a little bit as we entered a different phase of our journey.

Esther Summit looking back towards Whiteface

     After about 15-20 minutes we reached the top of the lift for lookout mountain. Our good friends Erin Baxter and Christopher "Weekend" Moeller met us for a pow wow. They were spending a romantic weekend up at the face with their cat. It was great to spend some time, deliver Weekend his meteorite and sit down on a bench for a moment. Baxter had hard boiled eggs for us which fueled our final ascent.

Shredstars and sumitstars!

    In no time we began ascending the final push up Whiteface. Views opened up of the ski trails and we got to see people skiing and the lifts operating in miniature. Pretty neat. The trail opened up to the side of the highway, where there was a fairly steep section followed by a step up some ice. Jeanette came into this hike with some (and rightly so) fear of Whiteface Mountain. It's a very challenging ski mountain and the conditions are often even more challenging. With these feelings combined with some nerves about winter hiking in general (also, rightfully so), Jeanette got a little freaked out.

The final push along the arete.

Looking back
    She got up the steep part in snowshoes with no trouble and we sat down on the road for a switch out to crampons for the icy step up. This was also quickly reckoned with and we began our final ascent. Though still battling with (and overcoming) fear and anxiety, Jeanette pushed forward and was able to calm down, as the last stretch looked much more perilous than it was. The last section of trail along the arete is breath-taking as the ADK guidebook promises. Beautiful views out to the high peaks down south and vertigo-inducing views down into the slides. It was cool to do some recon on the slides for future trips on Whiteface. The second half of the pitch looks very manageable.

Possible slide access routes (?)  following natural lines

    We shared the summit with the usual gaggle of French Canadians and enjoyed our PB and J's. After some exploring and pictures we were ready to go. It was difficult to see on the map but it looked to me like you could walk a short distance down from the summit to the parking area. I started leading us down the west side of the summit where the observation machines are against Jeanette's best instincts. We realized after heading down a few hundred feet that this was the trail down to the lake. We went back up to the summit and trotted back down the arete to the road.

lake Placid and the other 44 from Whiteface summit

     The first stretch of road was intensely wind-blown. After getting in the protective shadow of the mountain, it dissipated and we needed to put our snowshoes back on. At this point we ate our summit chocolate and were recharged for the next bit of walking. We made good time and chatted more wildly as the mountain trance set in. Once time started to slow and our feet got to the point of being beyond sore, the snow thinned out and we were able to start bare-booting again. We sat at one of the many picnic tables and gave our legs a break.
Bare booting down the highway

    The final push wasn't terrible and as we approached the booth our spirits raised. Along the last half mile of trail, we saw numerous "dog" tracks and wondered if they might be coyote. On the last section of road walk, my feet became kind of deadened and sore. I could barely lift them! Back in the car at around 5:30. We hiked for around 8 hours with about a 1 hour of down time. Though sore, we both felt strong and appreciated the time we had been recently in the gym. 

   I took my time getting my boots off and having a snack before heading out and reflected on the hike. The weather was stunning, 30's in the morning and probably close to 50 at the highest, with a long afternoon and evening thanks to the spring ahead. I felt blessed. For my girlfriend, my buddies, this beautiful world and the opportunity to explore it.


  1. That was a sick day!!! I forgot we brought the cat that weekend!! To funny. I would love t0 do this one this year!!! 2012/13 ski season approaches!!

  2. Awww we love you guys! Your hiking is an inspiration to us!! Love you both! Xoxo