Esther is number twenty-eight in order of magnitude in the Adirondacks, it also is the most northerly of the major Adirondack peaks. Like Whiteface Ester is of a different composition than the other High Peaks. It is another anorthosite incursion of newer rock, rather than the ancient Precambrian igneous and metamorphic Canadian Shield rock that makes up most of the High Peaks area.
Esther like Whiteface is atypical of the High Peak area in that is still shows signs of recent Alpine Glaciation. There are three distinct arêtes all of which can be made out from ground level and even one is fun to walk along. “Ahhh if only it was another 3 of 4 thousand meters higher I would be so happy.” The views are not as impressive as Whiteface since it stands in the way but one does get a good look at the Great Range and an impressive close up look at Whiteface.
The most popular route to Esther is to take the Wilmington-Whiteface trail from either direction until one begins to flank the sides of the hump marked as Lookout Mountain on most maps.
If going toward Whiteface one will eventually pass the reamins of an old shed (at one time used to store tobogans) the trail to Esther is a few hundred meters past this. On the left hand side there will be an old tree with small bolt 5cm sticking out of it (this is all that remains of an old sign as of March 2002) the trail should head off the main trail to NW or right.
If you find a large old sign with Wilmington trail written on it you have gone too far head back down the trail looking for the bolted tree on your right.
Once off the trail one assend about 300m the trail turns sharply to the left up and onto the ridge. This spot is easy to miss if you start to decend they you have missed the turn.
Once on the ridge continue N along the arête (ridge really) to the summit of Lookout mountain which is marked with a cairn and a small stone wall directing you to the left. The rest of the herd path is well defined but there are one or two false summits along the way as well as alot of blowdown and a swamp. There is no summit sign yet but you have reached the summit when the trail runs out or you start to decend. The total trail is about 2km long.
As a quick note Esther is also a good place to practice your map and compass navigation. It is almost impossible to get too badly lost around this mountain as it is flanked on one side by a major road and the other by a well-worn trail. One need only head N and one will run into the road. As bonus the area is not as rugged as most of the High Peaks.
To get to the Wilmington trailhead take the Whiteface Memorial Highway 0.6 of a mile from rt. 86 in Wilmington and then left onto a dirt road marked with a small DEC sign. After about 0.2 of a mile there is a parking lot on the R. just before a sign promising that any car parked beyond it will be towed.
An alternate to this start is to take an unmarked trail from the Atmospheric Sciences Research Center 2.4 miles up the highway on the Left. Drive all the way around the turn-around and park on the right hand side of the exit, near an old road. There should be sign posted nearby.
Normal restrictions apply.
There is a toll for taking the Memorial Highway and obey any parking signs you may see or you car will be towed.
When To Climb
Summer is usually best for the average backpacker.
In winter, the area is quite deserted and does require good snowshoes, and in places crampons, ice picks/ski poles may also be required.
Finally, though the peak is mostly treed over it does get blasted by high winds and the trees offer little cover, so good goggles and a face mask are a good idea.
In fall there is a normally a spectacular display of colours well worth the hike.
General rules for the Adirondacks
1) No Camping above 4,000 feet
2) No camping within 150 feet of a stream or other water source except at a designated campsite.
3) No soap or washing within 150 feet of water
4) Pack it in Pack it out is the rule for garbage
5) Only dead and down wood can be used for fires and set in a proper fire pit. ( local etiquette is to use a stove and not a fire)
Some good links
Adirondack Hiking Portal
What's in a Name
Esther is one of a select breed of mountains that is named after the person that did the first ascent. It is also the only peak in the Adirondacks named after a woman.
Esther McComb made the first ascent in 1839 solo and at the age of 15 while she was trying to climb Whiteface from the N. At this time the high peaks area was virtually unknown and Esther was only the eighth high peak to be climbed.
She became lost and found herself on the summit of Esther instead. She made a great fire and stayed overnight. The next day she managed to meet up with a search party already partly up Whiteface who had set out to search for her the night before. They had seen her fire the night before thus confirming her first ascent.
In 1939 the ADK 46ers placed a tablet to her memory on the summit, which is still there to this day.