Adirondack 46: Esther and Whiteface

On May 30, 2015, my dad, brother, a friend and myself climbed two of the 46 Adirondack High Peaks, Esther and Whiteface. While the ultimate goal is to climb all 46, these were my first official climbs.

We drove up to Lake Placid the night before our ascent. It's one of the larger communities in the Adirondack Park, probably most known for hosting the 1980 Winter Olympics.

We started the hike strong around 9 a.m. We stopped occasionally to drink some water and eat the energy bars and sandwiches we packed. By the time we got to the split between Esther and Whiteface, it was starting to get hot out and the black flies came with the heat.

We reached the top of Esther Mountain, which doesn't have an exposed peak. The bugs were so bad that we almost immediately turned around and headed back down to the Whiteface trail.

My brother and dad had just received their first FitBit fitness trackers which track distance, elevation, calories, heart rate etc., so naturally we received a complete fitness report every five to ten minutes of the climb.

 This is the trail we took, but the stats were a little different for us (I took this image from a google search).

This is the trail we took, but the stats were a little different for us (I took this image from a google search).

By the time we approached the tree line, the bugs were unbearable. Alex and I blazed the trail because we knew that if we stopped, we would be swarmed by the bugs. At this point in the journey, I don't think any of us were enjoying the hike. Thankfully we knew we were near the summit.

We reached the summit of Whiteface, home to a weather observation station. A road leads right up to the summit, so we had some surprised and impressed onlookers as we trudged up the last couple hundred yards. The heat was terrible, but the bugs were worse.

 My dad making sure we never got off track.

My dad making sure we never got off track.

Thankfully, the wind at the summit was enough to drive the bugs away. We took our shoes off, stretched our legs, ate lunch and drank whatever little water was left. I only brought one Nalgene of water with me, and ran out early on. Thankfully, I had been hydrating the evening before and morning of the hike, so thirst was not a problem for me on this hike.

We looked out from the summit over the tiny Lake Placid and watched as a raincloud quickly moved our direction. It was around 3 p.m., and we still needed to climb all the way back down the mountain. We took shelter inside the observation center, and I took a quick 15 minute catnap in a chair as we waited for the storm to blow over. I could have slept just about anywhere at that point.

We started back down the mountain, but quickly found out that Alex's knee had locked up during our down time. "Well, there's only one way out of this." He loaded up with Ibuprofen, grabbed a stick for support, and pushed on. 

Near the base of the mountain, another storm rolled through and lighting struck what seemed nearby. By counting the seconds between flash and thunder, it never came closer than 10 miles to us. The rainstorm kept the bugs off us the remainder of the hike.

The rest of the trip was pretty uneventful short Charlie tweaking his knee near the bottom of the mountain. Tensions were pretty high near the base as everyone just wanted to sit down. The sun had set and we were racing the daylight as we finished our hike around 8 p.m.

Our plan was to go to the bar after the hike, but instead we had one or two beers in the hotel room before passing out early. The hotel had a hot tub that we took full advantage of. 

The Esther and Whiteface hike was a lot of fun and a lot of  hard work. We justified stuffing our faces with pizza and breakfast the next morning after learning that we burned more than 8,000 calories during our 10 mile, 11 hour hike. On to the next 44!