The ADK Explorer

Hiking, Camping, and Exploring in the Adirondacks

Monthly Archives: December 2010

Whiteface and Ester, The First Day of Winter

You wouldn’t really know it by looking out my window, but Winter has arrived. Of course, over the last few weeks, the snow has really been piling up in the mountains. As I set out for the first hike of winter, I wasn’t quite sure where I wanted to go. By the time I reached Keene, though, I had picked Whiteface as my destination. I headed up Rt. 9N to 86, and up towards the Memorial Highway. Then a little less than a mile up 431, turn left on Reservoir Rd. There’s a little parking lot there, with enough room for 3 or 4 cars. Today the lot was empty. IMG_4778 - CopyThere are a few other ways to climb Whiteface, but if you’re going to climb Ester also, this is one of the best. Actually, all though I’ve never gone up that way, there is a slightly shorter route just up the road (431) at the Science Center. From the sign on the trail, at the junction, it looks like it’s almost a mile shorter. It isn’t long before the trail gets really steep. This area was originally a ski slope (Marble Mountain) which explains the steepness. Near the top of Marble, around 2.2 miles, is the junction for the other trail I mentioned (to the Science Center), clearly marked with a big sign with the mileage. The trail continues to climb up to the ridge, around the southeast side of the approach to Ester. You can’t miss the turn to Ester. There’s a sign pointing the way, indicating the unmarked trail. The trail is in pretty good shape, and easy to follow. It’s 1.3 miles to the summit of Ester. IMG_4796 (Custom)When I got there, I wasn’t quite sure I was at the peak, until I spotted the little yellow sign, marking the top, buried in the snowy tree tops. After backtracking to the main trail, I headed towards Whiteface. The trail was in good shape until I reached the intersection with the Memorial Highway. The drifts near the top were up to my waist in spots, and it made for some slow progress.  The rest of the way, visibility was low, as it was overcast, and getting late in the day. The winds weren’t too bad, though, only 20 or 30 mph. I took a few pictures at the top, and looked around at some of the buildings. It was now around 3:00, and getting dark, so I readied for the return trip. I didn’t need the headlamp until I reached the summit of Marble. As I headed down the final stretch, I swear I heard Christmas music echoing through the hills! I must be near the North Pole.

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Catch ya later!


Deep Powder on Sawtooth

It’s been quite a while since I’ve hiked into the Ausable Club area. The weather was a bit overcast, but there were a few breaks in the clouds. Passing the golf course, off to my right, IMG_4696 (Custom)Giant looked ominous and snowy, with its peak in the clouds.  As I stopped to sign in, I expected one of the rangers to come out, as they usually do. This morning, though, they let me pass without the usual interrogation.  The trip up the road passed quickly, and I stopped almost at the end of the road to prepare for the trail. By this time, there was around a foot of fresh snow. I also noticed that no one had gone this way, at least since the last snowfall. It looks like I’d be doing a little trail breaking. By the time I neared the junction, between Sawtooth, and Gothics, the snow was around 1.5 to 2 feet deep. I stopped at the junction for a breather, and some food. I was originally going to grab both Sawtooth, and Pyramid, but the combination of time, and trail breaking, I decided to skip Pyramid. Pyramid is a beautiful spot for pictures, so with the weather now mostly overcast, I wouldn’t be missing a great photo session.

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The last 1/2 mile of trail, up Sawtooth, is tough going. The snow was really deep, unpacked powder. There was very little base for me to get a bite with my ice axe. And most of all, it gets pretty steep in spots. It took a while for me to scramble my way up to the top.  As soon as I reached the summit, the sun broke through just enough for me to get a few pictures of the south side of Gothics.

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Going back down, I ended up doing a little sliding on my rear! Grabbing the trees on the side of the trail, and with some help from my axe, the rest of steep stuff was pretty easy. By the time I neared the lake, I had to use my headlamp. That last 3+ miles always seems to take forever, after a day of climbing.

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Catch Ya Later!

Cold morning, an adventure ahead


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Coldest morning yet, up here. Single digits at best! Wasn’t long, though, before I was taking some layers off. I’ve had trouble, in the past, with cold feet. I realized that my summer sock setup, with a light liner, and a hiking sock over that, was no good for winter. The inner liner was wicking moisture off, which was OK, but that process also makes my feet colder (the evaporative process, OK for summer). So now I use one thick sock, and it’s working great. It seems as though the weather up here is almost always cloudy in the winter, and today was no different! I keep saying this, but the snow just gets deeper and deeper, which is OK by me! IMG_4642 (Custom)I needed microspikes right away, due to a thick icy base layer. It actually wasn’t until the third Brother that I really needed my snow shoes. After that, there were drifts, in spots, over two feet deep. This is the fourth time I’ve climbed Big Slide, and every time I say “Whoever measured the distance to this peak is way off!”. It feels more like 5 or 6 miles, and not 4. Maybe I’m just getting old. The last 1/2 mile is as steep as ever, and I probably should have changed back to crampons. Also, my ice axe would have come in handy, instead it was sitting in my trunk. I just did the usual scramble and crawl up the mountain trick! Works every time. There was at least 18 inches of snow, and ice underneath. As I neared the top, I cut over to look at the slide. It’s really impressive when covered with ice and snow, and the wind whips around.IMG_4661 (Custom) There wasn’t much to see, at the top, as by now, the weather was changing for the worse. I started back down, sliding on my butt a few times! Wasn’t as bad going down, as up. On the way back, I was surprised to meet a fairly large group, coming up. I was surprised, in part, because it was getting pretty late, and looked like it would be dark in an hour or two. As it was, I ended up needing my headlamp as soon as I reached the Brothers. This time of the year you really need to start out a lot earlier to beat the darkness. Oh well, maybe next time!

Catch ya later

Looking more like winter


Well, it really is starting to look a lot different out here. As my fourth week of training (getting ready for a few winter peaks!) continues , I have found my way back to Marcy Dam. In part, I’ve come here in support of the search for Wesley Wamsganz. Wes has now been missing for more than a week. From what I’ve heard, every trail and lean-to in the High Peaks region, and more, have been searched. The search will now be scaled back. The Rangers will keep looking, on their regular patrols, and everyone else will keep Wes in mind as they traverse the woods. There’s over 6 inches of snow up till Marcy Dam, and the ice there is now frozen over.IMG_4519 (Custom) As I head up past the dam, and up the trail to Colden, it’s more like a foot of snow! I see lots of ribbons on the trees that were used to mark the recent grid searches. On one of my breaks, along the way, I spotted what looked like a large squirrel. As he came towards me, though, I realized it wasn’t a squirrel, but more like a weasel, or perhaps an ermine. I’ve never seen one of these out here, and it’s great to be able to catch a glimpse of some of the varied critters that inhabit these woods.  I stopped at Lake Arnold, just to scout around, and also, take a few pictures. The weather was warming up, and there was a mist that was floating over Colden. From Lake Arnold on, the trail was icy, so I put on the crampons. It seems like every time I climb Colden, the skies are clear a the bottom, and it clouds up when I get to the top, and today was no different! IMG_4529 (Custom)Actually, it didn’t turn out to be too bad at the top, especially for this time of the year! I had the usual PBJ at the top, and took some pictures, and looked around a little bit. Every once in a while, a helicopter would fly over, real low, as this was one of the few days they’ve been able to safely fly and search. Back down on the main trail, I ran into a few people, around the area Wesley was last seen. When I checked out, I saw that Wes’s dad was still out there keeping the search going. We will all say a prayer for Wes and his family.


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