Avoid Outdoor Activity (Whiteface & Esther)

The title comes from the dire warning from the NOAA weather advisory, and is in response to the near-zero (Fahrenheit) temperatures and high winds across the Adirondacks. The rest of the title is, of course, my response to ignore it.

Tuesday (March 2nd) was a beautiful, sunny day. It was indeed cold when I woke up (-8°F/-22°C) but warming, so I delayed my hike of Whiteface & Esther until after noon. When I got to the ASRC trailhead it was a balmy 7°F (-14°C) so I was a little surprised that I was the only one there!

We had gotten some fresh, powdery snow overnight, so I had a fresh bed of snow over a very well-traveled path. The snow was so soft that it was only real trailbreaking in the drift spots, which admittedly were many. The wind was whipping even under the tree canopy.

Esther was a nice little side trip, the views over to Whiteface are so much better when there is six feet of snow to stand on. It came with a risk though, as I dropped up to my chest in a spruce trap trying to get a photo. A photographer’s burden, I guess. The pictures showed the wind whipping snow off of Whiteface’s ridge, so I knew what was coming.

The Wilmington trail was easy all the way to the “wall”, the turn in Whiteface Highway that starts the final open ascent to Whiteface. There must have been 20-foot drifts, so high that it almost would have been easier to climb the rest of the way up the wall. I geared up and followed the normal path instead.

The blast of wind hit me the instant I popped out on the road. You could see the snow swirling its way straight down the road; in the late afternoon sun it was something out of a post-apocalyptic frozen wasteland. I hurried up the ridge for one short reprieve and then the remaining quarter mile was completely open.

My last winter ascent of Whiteface I didn’t have goggles, and Joe and I were met with a painful biting wind on that hike. I since added goggles to my kit; while they helped greatly keeping the bite away, once the fogging completely froze it made it a little hard to, you know, see. I had to “take a peek”, walk a little, then take another. All the way to the summit.

And the winds were horrific. Joe and I felt like we endured 40-45 mph winds. According to the monitors on Whiteface, winds during my visit this time were maintaining 50-60 mph and gusts as high as 70 mph. The ambient air was -5°F (-20°C). Not gonna lie, it was cold.

I had the summit all to myself. The view over to Lake Placid was unusually gorgeous. It was a fabulous day to enjoy some outdoor activity.