And the photography skills improve (a little). At this point in my hiking career I’m still terrified of taking my beauteous DSLR hiking with me…so the crappy point-and-shoot is all we’ve got.
August 23, 2014
I was so excited I barely slept the night before our trek up Esther and Whiteface. And my anxiety got the best of me and I failed to “eat” a healthy breakfast that morning. I would pay for that later on in the day. I forced a frozen waffle down my throat as we left the driveway at 5am and drove to the trail head. We decided to take the route from the Atmospheric Science Research Center. This route would take us up Marble Mountain and then on to Esther & Whiteface. On the drive up, we determined we’d hike Esther first, thinking if we made it to Whiteface first, we’d probably skip Esther on the way back down.
We arrived to the trailhead at just after 9am. We could not find the trail register, so there was no signing in for us? It was foggy and a little chilly as we began. This would be my first trek with my Hydrapak Reyes backpack. Though small, this bag can fit my gear. For the length of hike ahead of us I was glad to have a smaller pack.
The first 0.9 miles of the trip was rocky and steep. Not having eaten much so far in the day and starting right off with an ascent is not a good plan. We stopped a few times on the way up to catch our breath. The path up was wide, and every so often we’d come across large cement blocks. It looked to us like it used to be a ski slope or chair lift section. (After a little research later on, Marble Mountain used to be one of the largest ski areas in the Eastern U.S. but was abandoned around 1960 just after the ski area on Whiteface was opened. So our assumption of this being a ski slope was correct.)
This 0.9 section took us almost an hour and a half to trek up. We had finally made it through (what I would call the worst trek up ever) and to the summit of Marble.
The clouds were beginning to lift, and we were getting excited for the rest of the trip. We continued on to find the herd path for Esther. It would be about 2.5 miles before we would make it to Esther.
The next 2.5 miles were a fairly easy glide. Most of the path was level, yet muddy. We were beginning to realize that we would not be “clean” at the end of this trek. After those 2.5 miles (or so) we finally arrived to the cairn marking the herd path to Esther. Though un-maintained, this trail was very easy to follow.
You will hike Lookout Mountain during this trek. Many have arrived at Lookout Mountain, assuming it is Esther. You’ll know you’ve made it to Esther when you see the plaque on the summit commemorating Esther’s namesake, Esther McComb.
There will be some views from the summit of Lookout Mountain, but on this day, the clouds were still hanging low and we did not see much. We continued on to the summit of Esther. Once arriving we found the plaque and stopped for a snack. Our pants and boots were looking muddy. I was grateful for a rest, for water & for carrots!
Esther’s summit is measured about 4,239 feet. At this point we had topped three summits. After snapping some pictures we decided to head on our way to summit Whiteface.
After making it back to the start of the herd path we headed right up the marked trail to Whiteface. The trail continued to be muddy but stayed fairly level for quite some time. Then we began the ascent. Several times we would cross over cleared ski trails and have a view. It was just a small taste of what the view would be like from the summit. I was beginning to get excited. Once we started crossing over the ski trails, we began to notice it getting much more of rocky terrain instead of mainly dirt.
We stopped for a few photos just after climbing (almost quite literally) the auto road wall. After this view, you’ll head back into the “woods” for at time and then come out on the rocks. As you approach the summit you’ll get a breathtaking 360 degree view of the Adirondacks.
On a clear day it is said that you can even see Vermont and Canada. The summit was crowded with people (most of which who took the auto road up). I have been on the summit of Whiteface before, but there is nothing more rewarding then being on the summit after you’ve just hiked up it! At 4,867 feet Whiteface is the fifth highest peak in New York State.
Once on the summit we stopped for photos and for lunch. It felt good to sit down! At this point it was around 3pm. We didn’t stop for very long knowing that we had the long trek back to the car, and then the 2 hour drive home.
The summit was windy but the clouds had cleared and the view was amazing.
And so we began the trek down. The down portion always takes us less time than the up portion, which after what we had accomplished so far was welcoming. We headed back down the trail. I always seem to take more photos on the trip down. I am able to see some interesting things, like this crooked tree.
We were amazed at the number of people still coming up the trail to Whiteface, and by their unpreparedness. One man was with two young children, with no backpack, just some bottles of water. And another was trail running with normal clothes on and not a backpack or water to be seen!
By the time we reached Marble Mountain we were exhausted. It would be a long trek down that 0.9 miles. I was beginning to lose momentum and ready to just sit down. We were realizing that sun was going down and were anxious to get back to the “safety” of the car.
We finally did make it and were oh so happy for sitting for the 2 hours back home. The total mileage of this trip was 9.9 miles clocked by my GPS. With a time of 8 hours and 44 minutes we made an ascent total of 4304 feet and a decent total of 4329 feet.