Ascent of Whiteface Mountain on 2008-01-15

Climber: Gabriel Couët

Date:Tuesday, January 15, 2008
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Whiteface Mountain
    Location:USA-New York
    Elevation:4865 ft / 1482 m

Ascent Trip Report

This was somehow a rushed project. I had taken 5 days off from work this week, me and the partner I had found this autumn had talked about going to Mt Whitney during this week, so in case it would concretize, I made sure I'd be free. But it didn't happen so I faced 5 days of free time. I told myself I could always drive down to the Adirondacks and bag a couple summits!

The final things were settled on Sunday, so on monday, I rushed to get all my things ready, went to buy some food, mostly fruit bars and energy gel. I had in mind to stay two days, doing Whiteface and Esther on the first day, and then see what I could do the next according to my fitness. When everything was settled, I drove off. Customs were a bit of a hassle since I didn't have my passport (yet). They searched my car, held me for 20 minutes, asked me the same questions 3 times, made me fill some forms, but then sent me on my way. One of the guys seemed to know the Adis, and he was all "hmm fishy" when I told him I didn't know my way exactly, didn't know the parking name, the City Whiteface is in, etc.

It was rushed, but my plan was to stop eating somewhere and read through my Adis guidebook for all that info just before I got closer. Next time, passport and knowing where I'm headed might prevent getting stuck with a climbing customs agent.

I got in Wilmington and started looking for the parking. It was already night, so navigation was hard. I asked directions, but only got vague and ultimately wrong directions. I looked some more, and turned back along the right way JUST before the actual parking. After a while I got tired of looking for a decent spot where to park and sleep in the car, so I headed to Lake Placid to get dinner. When I got back, it was around 10. I found a recreational area, and hoped it wouldn't cause any problems. I got bad sleep because of the incessant roaming of snow plows. They drove all night, but hardly 5cm of snow fell, it actually ALL melted by noon the next day. I wouldn't like to see them deal with the kind of snow we have up here, they would go crazy.

I woke up to my alarm at 5am. I got dressed, ate some bars, drank some Tang, and put everything in my day pack. I was carrying crampons and ice axe (I guessed they might go handy above tree line), walking poles, and snowshoes. I was also wearing my big plastic double boots. I was expecting thick snow cover, since we had crazy snow near Quebec City at the time (I went on a day hike in early december and was postholing deeper than my height in powder...).

I left the register at the trailhead around 6:30. To my surprise, there wasn't much snow on the ground. I was snowshoeing in footprints. People in the last few days had completely destroyed the few places where there was enough snow to support my stride, and the rest of the time, it was just like if it had been in october or november; uneven rocks with a thin layer of powder on top. I walked in mud and gravel in many spots. My boots were not helping, too stiff. I strapped my snowshoes on my pack and kept going. I really hated the first part of the trail, going up to Marble Mt. It was the worst thing I had hiked in ages, both on the way up and down. Slippery rocks, hard to read and tread.

As I went higher, past Marble, it became easier. I had a hard time because going up on stiff soled boots without crampons is a PITA, especially in the earlier days' hikers postoles. At least the weather cooled and I dealt with hardened crust. I was front pointing my boots in many places, up until I hit the plateau just under Lookout Mountain. I passed the junction to Esther. I told myself I'd hit my main goal before, and advise afterwards to see if I'm still in shape for Esther. The next part of the trail was actually enjoyable, it went downhill a bit, then steeper until I hit the Memorial highway. Here I faced a completely frozen wall which I had to climb in order to follow the trail, so I put my crampons on and replaced my poles with my axe. I was happy to have those at this point. The rest of the way was neve all along the ridge towards the summit. I saw skiers on the slopes below. I was completely alone on the mountain, towards the top. I finally made the summit at 10:45am. My camera wasn't working well (it was an old camera borrowed from a friend, I knew it could malfunction). I wasn't sure it would work, but I took a picture of the summit post anyway. It turned out good, so I'm glad for that. I lingered around for a while, it was clear skies all around but in the distance, I could see seas of clouds, especially to the north, towards the St Lawrence valley. I should have taken pictures even if I wasn't sure, they would probably have turn out well like the other one. Then I packed everything and started going down again. I took off the crampons a little further down, when I got back to the plateau. I was in shape, except my left hip was starting to hurt a bit. When I got to the junction to Esther, it wasn't even noon yet, so I decided to go ahead with it. I made Lookout's summit, and started following the trail down to the col, but I lost the tracks, and couldn't figure out the unmarked trail, so instead of getting tired in vain, I decided to turn back and do it again with someone who knows that trail. I really couldn't figure it out. The descent started to get more difficult as soon as I got off the plateau. The lower I got, the less snow there was, so I was decending on really jaggy and uneven rocks with stiff boots again. I really had to work hard not to twist anything. My hip got worse here. But the worst part again was from Marble down. This made me curse quite a couple of times.I should have packed my leather boots. They were waiting in the car...

At least, the energy gels were able to keep me from bonking. I really love this way of eating on the trail. Every half our or so, I just gulp one, with a good chug of water, and I never seem to run out of energy. It's extraordinary that I didn't bonk, because yesterday, I hadn't had any breakfast, and my only meal of the day was dinner in Lake Placid, a Subway footer. And today, my breakfast was two fruit bars, worth 100 calories, and 750ml of Tang. I think I'm addicted to gels now, I'm not even really tired right now after the 6 hours drive back to Quebec City(1:40am).

All in all, this was probably a stupid trip, going alone up a summit, with no information on conditions, bad equipment match, poor nutrition, and generally no training or exercise in the past weeks. But it's done, I'm back in one piece, and another winter summit checked off of the ADK46. Top 5 too. I'll have to get my hip checked. It's been a couple outings that I've felt it causing trouble. I hope it's nothing serious, because I need a couple days to get over the pain from a hard hike now.


A view of Esther Mt while going up towards the plateau.

The view of Whiteface's summit from the plateau just besides Lookout Mt.

Summit pic

View from Lookout Mt.
Summary Total Data
    Elevation Gain:3832 ft / 1168 m
    Elevation Loss:928 ft / 283 m
    Distance:6.8 mi / 11 km
    Route Conditions:
Road Hike, Maintained Trail, Snow on Ground
    Gear Used:
Ice Axe, Crampons, Ski Poles, Snowshoes
    Weather:Cold, Breezy, Clear
Ascent Statistics
    Elevation Gain:3832 ft / 1168 m
    Distance:5.5 mi / 8.8 km
    Route:Wilminton Trail
    Trailhead:Wilmington, HWY 86  1033 ft / 314 m
    Time Up:4 Hours 0 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Elevation Loss:928 ft / 283 m
    Distance:1.4 mi / 2.2 km
    Route:Wilmington Trail
    Trailhead:Esther Mt Trail junction  3937 ft / 1199 m
    Time Down:1 Hours 
Ascent Part of Trip: Whiteface Mountain

Complete Trip Sequence:
1Whiteface Mountain2008-01-15
2Lookout Mountain2008-01-15

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