March 12, 2014

Whiteface Mountain

By Stephon Boatwright In ADKs

Peak: Whiteface (4,865 ft.)
Hike Distance: 10.4 miles round trip via Wilmington Trail
Trail Map

Our first ventures into the mountains were always a bit uninformed, at times foolish, but always thrilling.  The common logic says you should climb Whiteface and Esther at the same time.  We made the silly mistake of climbing them separately, despite the fact the trail for Esther is only about a mile trek off the trail to Whiteface.  No mind, it meant having twice as much fun.  This was a special hike because it was the first that Allie joined Brian and I on; she had no idea what she was getting herself into by hanging with us.  Nineteen summits, a world of jokes, mocks, and laughter later, she has been thoroughly integrated into the crew.

The classic route up Whiteface, although there are many, is the Wilmington Trail off of NY 431.  The trail ascends some 3,700 feet, but you barley feel it due to how long and gradual the hike is.  Whiteface is unique in the ADK’s for two reasons.  Firstly, it is the only High Peak with a ski resort on it, and it is also the only one with a road that travels up its spine.  The road was opened in 1935 in a ceremony presided over by President Roosevelt, who, as Governor, initiated the project to began with.  Climbing the mountain can be a bit odd in the summer as you stumble upon the seasonally abandoned ski resort and chair lifts.  They make for some great photos for our future album cover if we ever start a band though.

It took about 10 tries to take this pic with a precariously balanced iphone

The day was blistering, but as we got closer to the top the wind help cool it down a bit.  The trail is strewn with debris from storms and slides, but you also pass through some clear-cut spaces that were there to make way for resort.  To be honest, the further up the mountain you get, the more you feel like a mountain dwelling tourist than a hiker.  We didn’t let the development get us down, as we came across bizarre purple-winged insects and friendly frogs we got reminded we were still in the mountains.
 The last 3/4 of a mile, the trail snakes its way through high brush and stubby trees, allowing for some great views towards the summit and the castle/weather observatory that sits up top.  For anyone who climbs up Whiteface, be prepared for an awkward dynamic upon reaching the summit.  Because of the road, stairway, and elevator that assist the time-crunched or less athletically capable to reach the top, we were among everyone from senior citizens to 8 year olds in flip flops.  It was hard not to have a bit of smugness since we actually climbed our way.  We were overwhelmed by the general jovial feel of the summit though; everyone was just happy to be there looking out over the ADKs, with views all the way Canada.
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