Thursday, August 11, 2016

Whiteface Mountain (ADK 9/46), August 5, 2016

Whiteface Mountain (4,867') via Trails #83 (old ski lift trail) and #82, August 5, 2016.

Mileage:  8.5 miles (RT)

Elevation gain:  

Trailhead: This trail is accessed just beyond the entrance to the Atmospheric Science Research Center (which is located at 110 Marble Mountain Lane/Rd, Wilmington, NY).  From Wilmington center head west on Route 431 (Whiteface Memorial Highway). Turn left onto Marble Mountain Road and just past the entrance to the Science Center there is a sharp curve, parking area is there - on the right. There is a small "Hiker" sign just on the right at the curve but no sign marking the trailhead.

*My camera malfunctioned on this trip so some of the photos here are from the Mt. Esther hike (see previous report) and from Ed's camera - thanks Ed.

Hiked with Jill, Ken and Ed. We scrapped our original plan which was to do the McIntyre Range and opted for hiking Mt. Whiteface.  Since this mountain is so popular, we figured we'd beat the crowds by hiking it on a Friday.  The temps soared toward 90° and 8.5 miles in the heat was a struggle at times.  In the end, we were glad we saved the 11+ miles of the McIntyre range for another - cooler - day. 

The "old ski lift" trail is also the way we went to bag Mt. Esther (see Mt. Esther report).  It's steep but the shortest way to get onto trail #82 (also known as the Wilmington trail). 

So, here we were again parked near the entrance of the Atmospheric Science Research Center.  The trail drops down to an old road (go left), passes an old generator and heads straight - becoming a narrower footpath up the mountain.

Parking area.  The bench shown here is to the left of the trail entrance.

Gravely road - look for an old generator.

The pitch is steep and rolly rocks can trip you up. We pushed our bodies upward for the dreaded .8 miles.

Ski lift foundations remain.

The top of the old lift corridor is indicated by a cairn and a viewpoint (both left of the trail). We headed right to continue on the trail, up the slabs and toward Marble and Lookout Mountains (trail just skirts their summit areas). 

It's nice in this area, with alternating slabs and smooth flats.  In no time we were at the big cairn that marks the unmaintained trail to Mt. Esther. Today we were very glad we'd already hiked Esther (see previous report). It was hot and our sites were on Whiteface.  Ed, however, still needed to do Mt. Esther.

Cairn that marks the Mt. Esther path - go straight for Whiteface.

Beyond the cairn the trail is unremarkable, at least for a while.  There are muddy spots with logs on them, flat sweet spots, and one particular area where the trail hugs the side of the mountain by way of haphazard large rocks that must be navigated.  We saw easterly views through the trees - Mt. Mansfield in VT and Lake Champlain - and we also got glimpses of Mt. Whiteface's summit.

Summit of Whiteface peeking through the trees.

Ed was ahead of us, scouting.  He stopped and let out a "whoa, wait til you see this!"

A large stone wall (I mean LARGE) was in our path.  Fortunately, it wasn't part of the path but the foundation for the auto road. The trail goes left along the massive stone structure.

The wall is actually built to support the auto road.

The trail is more interesting at this point. Two couples from Pennsylvania who'd driven up the auto road were at the top of the wall peering down, quite surprised to spy the elusive "northeastern peak baggers in their natural habitat."  The trail meets the road through a series of large boulders, quite easy to negotiate. Once up on the road the couples asked us questions and seemed impressed (or maybe sorry for our insanity, not sure).

We popped out by the side of the road and then headed straight, up the small rock knob.

We popped out onto the road - go straight up the rocks from here.

At once we were on a ridge, heading toward the summit building.  The views are incredible as we walked up rock slabs and through narrow scrubby paths.  We could see the top of the ski area, the summit rock, the winding auto road, and a castle near the top (we found out later that the castle houses the restaurant).

View up the ridge.

Loving that ridge walk!

Excited, we made quick work of getting to the summit, scrambling up the last rock to the summit sign. Here we met many fresh and sweet smelling people (those who drove up) and some rushed up to us to ask about hiking up the mountain.

There is also a USGS marker on a rock near the sign.

The summit was hopping! There was a wedding, a 46er finish, kids, and grandparents - everyone enjoying the weather and views. We had lunch in the round building (which houses the elevator to the restaurant, restrooms and parking lot).

There was a wedding on the other side of this building.

The "castle" is actually the restaurant and parking area.

View from the top.
After lunch we watched the wedding ceremony then headed back down.  Ed picked up his pace and breaking from the group, rushed down the trail in an effort to tag Mt. Esther and meet us at the car.

It took no time for us to get back to the big cairn but it seemed a surprisingly long walk from that point down to the old ski lift section.  The heat finally got to us and we were lagging.

After a careful descent on the gravelly, tricky ski lift trail we were back on solid ground and making our way up to the car. Ed arrived about 20 minutes later, having bagged Esther in record time.

The Mt. Whiteface hike was more formidable than expected, but that's the way the Adirondacks have been for us.  We had beautiful views and great (although hot) weather.

NE 111 (78/115)