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Old 10-23-2018, 11:53 AM   #1
Eddie Fournier
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Esther & Whiteface 10/22

I had decided to take a day off for hiking and started at 6:17am from the hiker parking close to the Atmospheric Sciences Research Center. Trailhead was not super obvious in the dark, but my phone app guided me perfectly. I quickly realized I was sweating, so I removed a layer. I carried way too much clothes on this hike, but I need to find gloves that don’t become wet. Reached the top of Marble Mountain 35 minutes later and witnessed daybreak. I could now take off my headlamp.



Ice became gradually more prevalent and I put my crampons on about 1 hour into the hike. Some people call them microspikes, others crampons; I’m not sure of the difference but the company calls them “trail crampons”. Anyway, having them made walking on ice a true pleasure and I never came close to slipping.

I reached the junction to Esther Mountain in short order. There is a huge cairn there. The only sign I saw points an arrow towards Esther (right), but someone has stuck a big branch in the cairn pointing left for those continuing to Whiteface. The path to Esther is supposedly a “herd path” but it is super easy to follow and, although the summit offers no view, the trail is fun and easy – the detour takes about an hour. This trail has a reputation for being very muddy (even in Adirondacks standards) but it is now frozen. The only footsteps I saw were those of a dog or similar creature.



By this point my hydration system was frozen (got to be more careful next time), but I had a backup bottle. Once back on the main trail, there is long flat portion until you cross a large clearing (fire lane?). The ascension then resumes, but nothing very steep – grade is similar to that of Marble Mountain – nor technical (presuming you have spikes/crampons, otherwise it would be very dangerous at this time of year). I reached the top about 4 hours in. The summit was in the clouds, which was not what the forecast had said the day before. Not a single soul here except me.



During the last third, my knee started aching, so I took the option of coming down the road. This adds maybe 2 miles to the trip, but it’s a lot easier on the knees. Plus there are fantastic views West and North when you get below cloud cover. Crampons were not necessary on the road. Know that you cannot use this option when the road is open to traffic. Got back to the car after 6.5 hours of hiking (including short breaks). All in all, not a difficult hike aside from the knee issue, but very enjoyable.
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Old 10-26-2018, 12:09 PM   #2
Lucky13
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Great shot of the Station in the clouds! A scene I am pretty confident I will never see in person!
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Old 10-28-2018, 01:14 AM   #3
debmonster
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Thanks for the report. I like the daybreak photo. Cool that you got to walk the road now that it's closed for the season.
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Old 11-04-2018, 07:50 PM   #4
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Great trip report. You asked about water in another thread and I see you had difficulty here too. I may try hand or even body warmers on next trip for at least one of the two bottles I carry. I slept with a body warmer night before last hike and the little bugger was still generating heat well into the next day. I also have one, will invest in more, sleeve for my nalgene. We have not made the jump to a bladder system yet. I reaaaally like my water while hiking and like to know exactly how much is left with every sip.
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Old 11-04-2018, 11:45 PM   #5
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Tip: Never leave water in the hose. Always purge it after use.

After taking a sip, either:
  • Raise the hose above your head and pinch/open the bite-valve to let the water drain back into the bladder
  • Blow into the bite-valve to force the water back into the bladder.

I have used a hydration system successfully for several winters. The valve and hose are the weak-links; I never had the water freeze in the bladder.

I also have an insulating sleeve for the hose (black foam) and a cover for the bite-valve. However, that's insufficient to prevent any water in the hose or valve from freezing.

The few times I've had problems is when I failed to purge the line and water froze within the valve or hose. This can also happen if you use your pack as a seat (sitting on the water bladder forces water back into the hose and bite-valve). Tuck the frozen valve/hose into your jacket and body-heat will defrost it (or put the valve in your mouth and chew it to break up the ice).

If you do carry water in bottles, invert them. Water freezes on the surface, which will now be at the opposite end of the bottle's mouth. Obviously, don't do this if there's any chance the bottles leak.


Oh and the so-called "herd path" to Esther stopped being a herd-path decades ago. Why people continue to call it a herd path is a mystery. It's an official trail, albeit unmarked for a little extra challenge (very little), that receives minimal annual maintenance and some infrastructure (you may have noticed the boardwalk in the col between Lookout Mtn and Esther).
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Old 11-05-2018, 08:50 AM   #6
Neil
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In winter I usually put boiling water into a nalgene (at home at 4:30 am.) and slip the nalgene into a water bottle cozy. The cozy goes into a cooler for the 2h30 m ride to the trail head. If it's very cold out I'll take care to envelope the water bottle and cozy in clothing in my pack. There is no need to invert it, the water stays warm all day and might descend to room temperature by 3 pm if it's well below zero.
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