We drove over to the Adirondacks and parked at the SUNY Atmospheric Sciences Research Center to bag a couple of high peaks.  I’ve only done two so far but I planned to double that today with Whiteface and Esther.

We started on the Old Marble Mountain Ski Area Approach and climbed straight up a rocky old lift line for about a mile.  The high was to be 85 today and it was already hot and humid in the morning.  We stopped many times to breathe and sweat.

We reached a lookout near the top of Marble Mountain for a quick break and then joined the Wilmington Trail to head towards Whiteface Mountain.  The trail was steep for a while again but eventually leveled out some right before the turnoff for the unmaintained trail to Esther Mountain.  We took a longer snack break there and enjoyed the fairly level path until the ski lift.

From there, it got steep again as we climbed up to the Whiteface Veterans’ Memorial Highway, built around 1930 and quite the structural feat.  We briefly walked along the rock support wall before climbing to the top of it and then up some steep rocks next to the road to continue on trail to the summit.

The ridge walk was short but scenic.  It was really neat to look back at the road winding down the mountain, and ahead to the castle on the summit.  We popped onto the summit at 4085′ to find a ton of other people up there too.  After all, you can drive up, and either walk the remaining distance up some rock stairs, or follow a long tunnel into the mountain before taking an elevator to the top.  We found a clear rock and sat down for lunch.

After enjoying the views for quite a while, we walked around the castle to check it out.  There’s a weather research station inside, as well as a visitor center at the bottom.  I really wanted to check out the elevator and tunnel in the mountain but the line was too long at the top so we decided to walk down the stone stairs to the bottom and then take the elevator back up.

We checked out the visitor center at the bottom and then went into the tunnel.  It was so nice and cool in there, but the line for the elevator was again too long, so we decided to walk the road back to the trail instead.  Oh well.

We headed back the way we’d come and got a bonus view of Esther Mountain, where we were heading next.  We turned off the Wilmington Trail onto the unmaintained trail to Esther, which really is almost as well maintained as regular Adirondack trails.  Enough people hike out to all the high peaks and that it certainly wasn’t hard to follow, and the tread was pretty decent too.  We went over Lookout Mountain at 4085′, down into a col, and then back up to the summit of Esther Mountain at 4240′.  The whole trail was fairly gradual and easy compared to the rest of the day’s hike.

Esther was a 15-year-old girl who made the first recorded summit of the mountain back in the 1850s “for the sheer joy of climbing.”  Go, Esther.

The way back out was uneventful, just back the way we’d come.  The last steep, rocky mile was annoying, but we made it to the bottom right as the thunder and lightning and rain started.

Two more high peaks in a 10.5 mile hike!