Whiteface and Esther mountains

We’re back at it!

So Rachael, Darcy, and I made it back into the High Peaks after quite a bit of time away (more on that in a different post). On Thursday, February 4th we headed up to Wilmington to climb one of my favorites, especially in winter! Whiteface and Esther Mountains! WOOP WOOP! The weather was for bluebird skies, low to mid 20’s at the summit, but windy.

Rae got to the house after sunrise and we bumbled our way to the Jeep for the ride up. We had to drop off our pup (Blue) first, so by the time we got into Wilmington it was after 9am. Unfortunately as the mountain came into view, Darcy realized she hadn’t grabbed her snowshoes! Since it’s almost 2 hours away, heading back didn’t seem like a good option. Actually, it wasn’t an option. “Let’s see how things look”, we thought.

Just after 9am we pulled into the parking lot and got ready to head into the snow. Darcy put her spikes on while Rae and I put our snowshoes on. The first steps over the huge snowbank were foreshadowing for the trail ahead as we flipped over the snowbank, with Darcy sinking immediately. We picked up and got started, and the trail wasn’t too bad at that point. That is, until we got off the road area…

Heading into the High Peaks after being away for awhile…

A short walk in the woods and we were out on the “road” for a little bit. From there you re-enter the woods and it’s basically a straight line shot up the mountain for awhile. Darcy was sinking with every step and having to stop, so about a half mile in we paused to evaluate. Post-holing isn’t good for anyone, and we were moving slowly to boot, so Darcy headed back down to spend the day in Lake Placid while Rae and I continued up. I almost envied Darcy. Like, quite a bit… at least for awhile.

There was fresh snow on the ground but the trail was definitely broken out. With Rae in the lead we eventually overtook a group of 4 that were heading to Esther. We only chatted a bit, then kept our pace to the junction with Whiteface. We ate a little, I hacked up a lung… a few times, and decided Whiteface was our primary goal. The trail up Esther looked less broken out so we thought “Hey! We’ll let the other group go first!” Actually they thought the same about us!

The trail up Whiteface after this point was less broken out than before, but you could still tell people had gone up. We passed the snow-machine trails and came to The Wall… the huge stone wall at the road up Whiteface. Rae asked “Um, how do we get up there?!” The trail swings left at the base of the wall and eventually meets up at road level. The snowdrifts were pretty deep until we popped up on the road, and from there we thought about walking it to the summit. Unfortunately there were no traces of snowshoe or skis on the road so we just headed up the trail anyway.

Coming out of the tree line the wind REALLY picked up. Like whippin-your-cheeks-slappin-your-face-making-you-cry picked up. And it was cold. It was low 20’s and if I had to guess, the wind was at about 40mph, so that would put the feels-like temp at -1!!! Check out the calculator: https://www.wpc.ncep.noaa.gov/html/windchillbody_txt.html

We could tell there were a few figures at the summit making their way down, and I liked the thought of the trail being even MORE broken out for the descent! We passed them (with their beautiful white Husky) coming down and finally made it to the summit about 11:30-ish. Ish is my go-to hiking time by the way. Rachael’s ADK46er #15!!!

The wind here was insane! But the views…. hoo boy
The iconic view of Lake Placid from Whiteface

The wind wasn’t as bad here, so we took some pics, ate, and headed back down into the wind. Back at the road we passed a guy coming up and shared some small talk, then ran across another guy at the base of the wall. He asked “Did you guys walk up the road?” and we said we didn’t. He said “Damn, the trail doesn’t seem broken out at all.” Didn’t feel broken out either, in my opinion. That’s why I kept asking Rae to go first! LOL

We got to the Esther junction and it was early, so we headed up, once again passing the original group of 4 heading down. The trees were beautiful, covered in so much snow! But they’re sinister as well… reaching out to rip my coat sleeve! Duck feathers were floating next to me for the rest of the trip.

We summitted Esther and snacked again, then made our way down, texting Darcy our ETA. A mix of walking and butt-sliding had us down quickly, but my knees were feeling it still.

We finally got back to the road area, cut into the trees for the short hike to the parking lot, and prayed Darcy was already there. Popping over the huge snowbank we saw the Jeep and WOOP WOOP again!!! We’re done! Rachael’s ADK46er #16!!! It was a good day. My knees didn’t agree and vowed to sit out the next one, though. Stupid knees…

Check out the Whiteface and Esther hike on All Trails!

BTW, here’s a great resource for checking the weather on the mountains! https://www.mountain-forecast.com/peaks/Whiteface-Mountain/forecasts/1466

No telling when we’ll be back out, it’s a bit hit or miss still. Got a post to write about book chapters, life chapters, thrills, spills, and getting older.

Be good, be well, be safe, BE IN IT.