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Breaking Trail on Whiteface
Trip Report

Breaking Trail on Whiteface

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Breaking Trail on Whiteface

Page Type: Trip Report

Location: New York, United States, North America

Lat/Lon: 44.36580°N / 73.9031°W

Object Title: Breaking Trail on Whiteface

Date Climbed/Hiked: Mar 4, 2007

Activities: Hiking

Season: Winter

 

Page By: rasgoat

Created/Edited: Mar 19, 2007 / Nov 17, 2008

Object ID: 279376

Hits: 3771 

Page Score: 89.29%  - 29 Votes 

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The Plan

Going to the mountains in the winter is a new experience for me. When I'm there, I find that same feeling come over me as when I was a child playing in the snow in the backyard. I guess these days I realize that I just need a bigger backyard.

On this trip, the backyard was the Adirondacks. After a succesful ascent of Skylight and Marcy with nartreb in January and another summit of North Kearsarge in February, I was eager to get back out there. Maybe a little more challenge this time, I thought to myself... A challenge is just what I got!

My buddy Paul and I had been trying to get out on some mountain trips for a while. I gave Paul a call on a Wednesday night. Lets go! I told him. This was short notice. By Friday we had a plan. It was going to be the Dack's, either Dix or Whiteface. We'll figure it out on the trip up we decided.

We met up at a park and ride near Newburg New York at six am Saturday morning. It had taken me 45 minutes to get to this point and the trailhead was about three and one half hours away. On the way up we talked about the weather forecast for this weekend in our home towns, almost 50 degrees! A little warm for the beginning of March. Paul expressed his concern for the snow conditions on the mountain and I confidently assured him there would be plenty of snow. I couldn't have been more right.

We decided that it would be Whiteface from the south, 3 miles hike from the trailhead to camp, a place called Whiteface landing. This is an area right on the north shore of Lake Placid with a dock where people take small boats and kayaks from civilized areas to hike from there in the summer. From Whiteface landing it was 3 miles (so the book said) and 3000 Ft. elevation gain to the summit.

Day one

We arrived at the trailhead happy to see the parking area covered with four inches of fresh snow from the night before, but it was beaming sun and about 45 degrees! Wow I thought, this is winter? We pondered what the conditions would be like. this was a popular trailhead and we saw many cross country ski'ers and a few snow shoer's like ourselves. A ranger was preparing his skis for a small juant and he asked us our plans. We told him and he informed us that the trail is seldom used beyond Whiteface Landing and that routefinding could be a problem. He also said that the mountain produces it's own weather and if the summit was socked in with snow to turn back, as whiteout conditions were not uncommon. This information got us excited and we thanked the ranger.

After about a half hour of getting our stuff together, we began our journey. The trail was well trodden and we quickly came upon Connery Pond. The view of Whiteface from here was truly impressive! This is a real mountain! I exclaimed and the anticipation built.
Whiteface
Whiteface from Connery Pond


The rest of the hike to Whiteface Landing was uneventful. The forest was beautiful, covered with inches of fresh snow from the night before on top of the two feet received on Valentines day. Upon arrival at Whiteface Landing, we dumped our packs and headed straight out onto the frozen surface of Lake Placid. After walking out onto the lake for a while, we were blessed with more views of the mountain.
Whiteface
Whiteface from Lake Placid


This gladdened us and we decided to go and find a place to setup camp and then return to try to cross the lake and reach Moose Island, as we had the afternoon to kill. As soon as we stepped off trail towards the clearing in the woods that would be our campsite, it became very apparent how deep the snow really was. This made us wonder what the trail conditions would be like. We peeked at the trail towards the mountain, no tracks whatsoever. I had assumed such a popular mountain would have been climbed recently but it turns out most people go the easy way, from the north. The rangers words rung in my head.

After stomping down a sufficient area in the snow with our snowshoes, we setup camp rather quickly and headed out for adventure on the lake.
 
Whiteface Landing
Paul putting the finishing touches on the camping area while munching on a snack
 
Camp at Whiteface Landing
Camp is up!!


Clouds were now moving in and the temperature had dropped considerably. We were ready though and actually welcomed the return of winter. Out on the lake the views of the mountain were gone. After a short while heading towards Moose Island we came upon a deep slushy area hidden by the fresh snow. This spooked us both, so we fell back to re-assess the situation. I was eager to go but Paul was a bit more cautious. We don't want to ruin our trip he said. This made sense to me but after chatting with a few locals who had skiid out to the landing we were confident that the ice was very thick under the slush, so off we went!

Flurries of snow began, ahh, it doesn't get any better than this I said to myself. About half way to the island the flurries turned into a full force snow squall! it was a whiteout, and for several minutes we couldn't figure out which way was what. As the snow dissapated, the island came into view, we were happy we were still on track. 
White out!
Whiteout!
Almost an inch of snow fell in a very short time. As we approached the island we noticied a boat dock and a huge house. This made us scratch our heads so we decided to check the map. After a closer inspection of the map, we realized that this was Hawk Island, a private island, and Moose Island was farther out. We decided that we have had our fun and after a few minutes hanging out on the banks of Hawk Island, we headed back.

We got to camp and proceeded to cook up some grub. I was in charge if melting snow and Paul cooked the food. I was very ill prepared food wise for this trip and was thankful that Paul had brought something other that Cliff bars. Thanks to Paul, dinner was a hit and I had melted plenty of water for tomorrows adventure. We noticed a small group moving in the direction of the mountain. It's too late to be summiting today I said. Paul mentioned that they were probably heading for the lean-to, a mile closer to the mountain. Paul and I had decided that 4:30 was the wakeup time as we needed to summit, break camp, and head home all in one day.

Summit day

I was up at 2:30, I had slept well since sunset and couldn't sleep no more. Paul on the other hand did not sleep so well and was diffcult to wake so I decided to start to pack up my sleeping bag and other things I was not going to need. Then I started up the oatmeal, this will get him I said to myself but all I heard was snoring. After finishing my breakfaast I decided to try and wake Paul again, he was more responsive this time so I warmed him some oatmeal and I melted some more snow while he ate.

By 5:15 we were off, it was 15 degrees and some fresh snow had fallen overnight. The trail was well broken from the group that had passed us the day before. We were happy about this and made it quikly to the Lean-to.

Once we reached the lean-to, one of the guys inside said Hey. It was still dark and we couldn't see inside the lean-to but we thanked him for breaking trail and told him it was our turn. He thanked us in advance and we continued.

A few more steps and there we were, faced with the trail. What trail? I said aloud, and it was clear that we had some work to do.
The Trail
What trail??Look close enough and find the trail marker on the center tree
What Trail?
Trail?


We both looked at each other with perplexed looks on our faces. It was obvious that nobody had been here since well before the Valentines day storm. luckily, I had brought my extensions for my MSR Denali snowshoes and they proved to really make a difference. As we pushed onward the snow grew deeper and there were many trees bent down over the trail from the weight of the snow. All around us was a pure, serine untouched winter wonderland. This ever-changing scenery is what kept me going. Paul was expressing his concern about the conditions with a few comments thrown in like "I have never in my life done so much work without pay!" I told him, We got all day Brotha! Little did I know, all day was what it was going to take.
1000 words
No need for words!


The sky brightened and we put away our headlamps. We took a look at the map and I guestimated our location, something I am usally very good at. About 45 minutes later, we reached that location, I just kept my mouth shut and continued to break trail. We were both experienced hikers, in good shape and I knew we had it in us although our confidence was being whiddled away.
Fresh Tracks
Fresh tracks


We decided to take a break. Paul pulled out a fresh, home made tuna fish sandwich with carrots and apples. What did I have??? a cookies and cream power bar! The power bar felt kind of tough so I checked the expiration date, Feb, 06! Great, this meal is going to need some help. I thought of the ingenious idea of dipping the bar into my nalgene bottle which was filled with hot water. This worked excellent, it was delicious! But by the second dunk, my grip failed and I just hear PLOOP! as I watch the power bar fall to the bottom of my nalgene. I stare at this in wonder. How am I going to get this thing out without sacrificing my precious water? Paul is laughing. I decided to drink a bunch until I could hold the bottle at such an angle to retrieve it with my fingers. I finally got it out and continued my meal. I had to drink this cookies and cream flavored water for the rest of the trip, YUKK!!

The topic of the lean-to guys came up and we wondered, Where the hell are those guys!!!!!!!!!! as we broke trail for two hours this discussion turned into comments like,,, Those Pussies!,,, Yeah, who goes all the way to the lean-to and doesn't even climb the mountain????,,,,, Yeah, they're probably re-enacting scenes from brokeback mountain!!! Yeah!
Birch &Snow
Snow, clinging to the shedding bark of white Birch


We continued to take turns breaking trail. The trail became steeper and there were several areas where big trees had been blown down over the trail. At this point I had to go off trail from the knee deep snow and climb embankments on the side of the trail in waist deep snow, actually having to dig a path in front of me before stepping, and grabbing small tree trunks to pull myself up! For me this was a realization that the Northeast really does get true powder and winter conditions, this was a joyful discovery for me, knowing I could find such conditions.

Four hours after leaving camp, we stopped, I looked over at a large Birch and knew we were nowhere near the summit as these trees do not grow at the higher elevations. Paul expressed his concern for the situation but was willing to go on. I had misjudged our location several times now and we were both pretty tired. I said, (very unlike myself) Lets get outta here! You said it! Paul exclaimed and we reluctantly turned back.

We took a few steps, looked up, and there they were, THE LEAN-TO GUYS!!!!!!!!!!Where were you guys, I yelled. They told us of the gourmet breakfast they had cooked. Bacon, eggs, juice, and fresh brewed coffee. To top it off it had taken them an hour and a half to do what took us almost four hours!!!

It was great to see other people though. I stepped aside with a huge grin and simply said, your turn. I looked back at Paul and said, lets go. he gave me another perplexed look and said OK, lets do it!
Whiteface
The new trail breakers


The leader was strong, it was amazing how much easier the trail was with four other people up front. This was a big boost of confidence for us and the idea that we were gonna make it to the top was the fuel. 
Whiteface
Trail is getting steeper!


The trail soon became pretty steep and two of the other crew were having trouble with their Tubbs snowshoes. All of the rest of us had the Denali Ascent and the heel lifters proved themselves worthy. The traction was excellent. Soon the Birch trees were long gone and the Fir were getting smaller. The wind was picking up and the temperature was 10 degrees, snowing steady. At this point the two guys with the Tubbs turned back. The rest of us geared up for the summit!
Summit time!
Ready for the summit!


We proceeded towards the rocky summit. The winds had picked up to about 25 MPH and in my mind I was thinking of what a dramatic change it was from the day before and the lower elevations.

It seemed like every step we took, the mountain got higher.
Routefinding
Routefinding near the summit


Nearing the summit, we notice a trail sign. Whiteface landing 3.8 miles. SON OF A BITCH! I say aloud, realizing it was almost a mile more than the book AND the sign at the landing had said. The lean-to guy's were not surprised, noting the many innacurate signs in the Dacks. I now realized partially how we could have misread our position and why it had taken longer to get here!

Cliff after cliff, we kept climbing until finally the summit came into view. SEVEN HOURS and almost four miles since we left camp, we were staring at the summit. The lean-to guys gave us the honors of being the first to summit.
Well earned summit time.
Pual (left) and myself unbelievably on the summit!


We were all starving so we found a place near the summit buildings (closed) away from the wind. The Temperature was now hovering between 0 and five degrees. Paul had another gourmet tuna sandwich and I pulled out a, you guessed it, a cliff bar! the other two had bags and bags of stuff, one of them that looked like it was left over from halloween, candy pouring out. Both Paul and the lean-to guys were very generous to me and I stuffed my face gladly with free handouts. After pigging out we all made a mad dash for the lean-to, three miles away.

Both Paul and I were super surprised how everything had fallen into place!
The lean-to guys were just talking about all the food and coffee they were going to consume upon return to camp. This helped speed things up a bit.

As we approached the lean-to, I could hear the roar of three MSR Whisperlite stoves blaring. I am handed a hot cup of soup and a salami with cheese sandwich. You guys really know how to eat! i said. The lean-to guys told us they had been friends for many years and this was one of thier annual trips to the mountains in the spring, fall, and winter.
Whiteface
Most of the lean-to crew and myself enjoying some well deserverd good eats.


Paul and I expressed our greatest thanks and headed out for camp. We returned to find a few more inches of fresh snow on the tent. Camp broke down pretty quick and we were off for the last 3 miles of our foot journey.

The three miles went fast. We jumped in the truck and made a beeline for the Subway in the town of Lake Placid. It was snowing hard and we had a long drive ahead. Five hours, two cups of coffee and six chocolate chips cookies later I was home. It was 12:00 A.M. Monday morning and I had 8 hours to clean up, get to bed and get to work. I made it to work but had to leave early from exhaustion. Well I must say for those who think the North East is just a place with sissy mountains, I invite you to come up and have a go at it in winter. I'll see ya out there!








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Comments


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Viewing: 1-18 of 18    

Augie MedinaFeature TR

Augie Medina

Voted 10/10

Great report and great photos. Cliff bars can get tiresome pretty fast can't they, especially when you're out in the cold craving something salty and fatty. This should be a featured TR.
Posted Mar 20, 2007 12:18 am

rasgoatRe: Feature TR

rasgoat

Hasn't voted

Thanks MI!

I really hope so!

Ralph
Posted Mar 20, 2007 1:39 am

Alaska Mt ManGreat Trip Report!

Alaska Mt Man

Voted 10/10

Rasgoat - I really enjoyed the read and agree it should be a feature tr. Sounds like it was a looong, rewarding day!
Posted Mar 22, 2007 4:34 pm

rasgoatRe: Great Trip Report!

rasgoat

Hasn't voted

Thanks abunch Alaska MM!

It was very rewarding, one of those I can look back on and enjoy for a long time.

Ralph
Posted Mar 22, 2007 9:44 pm

rasgoatRe: Nice report

rasgoat

Hasn't voted

Maybe Puma, but they made up for it with the generous portions of food they handed out,,, saved my ass. (I had fricken power bars)

I learned that in summer, power bars, are okay, but in winter, bring some real sustinence!!!!!!!!

Thanks bro


Ralph
Posted Mar 23, 2007 12:40 pm

zofonWhiteface report:

Hasn't voted

Sounds like the Adirondacks to me! I've had to do my share of 24+" of fresh snow trail breaking so I know your pain. :-)
I love to see Adirondack reports as featured reports.
Posted Mar 24, 2007 3:43 pm

rasgoatRe: Whiteface report:

rasgoat

Hasn't voted

Thanks bro,

Go Dack's!!!
Posted Mar 26, 2007 9:39 pm

CRiedel2Great Trip Report

CRiedel2

Voted 10/10

Thanks for the great read and pictures. Sounds like a great time.
Posted Mar 25, 2007 3:54 pm

rasgoatRe: Great Trip Report

rasgoat

Hasn't voted

Thank you,

A day in the mountains yields goodness!


Posted Mar 26, 2007 9:40 pm

starship_jenWhiteface Climb

starship_jen

Hasn't voted

Great story! We went up Whiteface St. Patty's Day weekend after the other big snowstorm and while we went up the more used Wilmington Trail, not a soul had been on it and we ended up breaking trail too. It was the most exhausting day I've ever experienced! It took forever just to hike 4 miles! The fresh snow made for a beautful hike, but I can relate to how tired you guys were! Way to push it! : )
Posted Mar 26, 2007 1:26 pm

rasgoatRe: Whiteface Climb

rasgoat

Hasn't voted

Thanks SS Jen!

Whiteface doesn't fool around!
Posted Mar 26, 2007 9:42 pm

WalksWithBlackfliesWhiteface

WalksWithBlackflies

Voted 10/10

Nice TR! I was thwarted twice on Whiteface due to deep snow before I finally got it. I did a similar route, except I skiied across Lake Placid from Whiteface Landing to the Village. Walking through the village with my full pack adorned with crampons, snowshoes, and skis, I could easily distinguish the townies from the tourists by the looks on their faces.
Posted Mar 27, 2007 1:11 pm

rasgoatRe: Whiteface

rasgoat

Hasn't voted

cool, wwbf, funny story! It must have been nice to be able to ski across the lake, sounds like a bunch of fun!

Posted Mar 31, 2007 1:49 pm

The LawrenceGreat story

The Lawrence

Hasn't voted

guys. The "Lean-to-guys" are a prime example of what everyone should experience on the mountain. I have run across so pretty not nice people in mountaineering and hope that I run across them. Going up from the north side is short but is steeper and conditions are more dangerous. I always begin the season of winter summitting Whiteface and end the season with it also. If you ever want to attempt it via the north during winter, email me I would enjoy going with you. My wife and I's home is always open as a layover an hour fourty five away in Glens Falls.
Posted Nov 30, 2007 12:48 am

eric bNice job

eric b

Hasn't voted

A good read and a great lesson on what not to bring for food. I traded in those things years ago for something in between that and what the lean two guys had. I also liked the part about people thinking that eastern means sissy mountains. Probably the same people that look at elevation as equating difficulty. Great job (even if its a year late on the congrats!)
Posted Feb 6, 2008 4:30 pm

rasgoatRe: Nice job

rasgoat

Hasn't voted

Thanks Eric, Keep Climbing!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Posted Jan 27, 2009 6:26 pm

capanachegreat read

capanache

Hasn't voted

really enjoyed reading this report. in fact it is the reason i joined this site. thanks!
Posted Jan 27, 2009 2:30 pm

rasgoatRe: great read

rasgoat

Hasn't voted

Thank you!
It was an extraordinary trip.

Ralph
Posted Jan 27, 2009 5:05 pm

Viewing: 1-18 of 18