My 46er Finish on Esther and Whiteface Mountains

Saturday afternoon after hiking Seymour, I was pretty tired. I decided ahead of time to get a space at Tmax & Topo’s in Keene, a hiker hostel. It’s owned by some pretty legendary 46ers (they even made an appearance in the The 46ers Film!) and is frequented by high peaks hikers. So staying here on the eve of my finish, along with so many other accomplished hikers, seemed fitting.

I showered, cooked my dinner (trader joe’s boxed mac and cheese!) and hunkered down in my room, reflecting on the journey while other hikers milled about discussing their day’s hikes. I chatted with my bunkmate who had just hiked Marshall. He was considering hiking Esther and Whiteface the following day, also! I felt at home.

I slept like a rock, woke up around 6:00 am to quietly gather my gear, and snuck upstairs to the kitchen to make my oatmeal. Soon, my friend Jona, also a 46er, arrived and we carpooled over to the Whiteface trailhead at the Reservoir in Wilmington. I was so happy she was here! We were meeting Jenna, Colleen and my boyfriend Jordan at the trailhead at around 7:30. We started down the trail at around 7:55.


I chose the trail from the Reservoir because it’s less steep than the one that begins at the Atmospheric Science Research Center. After hiking 15 miles the previous day, I wanted an easier route.

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We got to the cairn marking the unmarked trail to Esther at 10:18am. You can’t miss it.
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I had heard the herdpath was nice and flat, which was a relief. 


It took longer than I expected though, because we reached the summit at 11:02 am. The weather had taken a turn and it became extremely windy and overcast. Not sure if there are usually any views on this hike, but we didn’t have any.

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So happy to be at high peak #45, Esther (named after the 15 year old Esther Macomb who discovered the summit when she got lost).




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The walk back was quick. Onward to Whiteface. At about 12:26 we came to an old ski trail, which was interesting to see. It looked like a tornado had ripped through there. We also saw Chair 6, which was pretty awesome.

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At around 1:00 we got to the rock wall, meaning we were close! The toll road was just up ahead. The trail runs to the left of the road, my parents were parked up there across from the lookout. I was so glad they came! But, we couldn’t celebrate yet, I had to make it to the summit. The winds were so bad, the path up to the summit from the parking lot was closed, so I was a little nervous. Thankfully, we had the alternate hiking trail to climb to the summit.

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Visibility was pretty bad, so we had to follow the yellow markings on the rock to make our way. Soon enough, we were there and the summit sign was right in front of me. I made it to the summit of Whiteface at 1:11pm, a 46er.

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On August 17, 2013 I hiked my first two high peaks in the Adirondacks, Cascade and Porter mountains. I still remember driving up route 73 to Lake Placid the night before, the sun setting, casting its glow on the peaks. I think that was when I really fell in love with these mountains.

It has been one long, crazy journey filled with sheer joy, determination, paralyzing fear, and at times defeat. These mountains are nothing to mess with, and finishing some of these hikes was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I’m proud to be able to finally call myself a 46er!

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We didn’t stay on the summit for long…it was cold and windy. We hiked back down to where my parents were parked. They had donuts waiting!! It was time to celebrate! We had some champagne, ate our donuts and then started back to the car.


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Thanks Jona for presenting me with the Official 46er Patch!
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We said our goodbyes to my parents (and Jona…she got a ride down because she had to be back in Troy at 5!) At this point my legs were getting pretty tired…but I had to hike the last 5.5 miles down. The descent was slow-going. Around 5pm we arrived back at the reservoir. Still on cloud 9 (and hungry!), we drove to the Noonmark Diner for a celebratory dinner. And then it was time to go home.

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Mount Esther and Whiteface Mountain (45 and 46/46)
12.4 mi RT from the Reservoir
Ascent 4,187′
Esther Elevation 4,239′
Whiteface Elevation 4,865′
Total time (including stops) 9 hours

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“It was tough. I was on all fours sometimes. I didn’t think I was going to get there. But I had to get to the top – there was some reason. God knows what it was but I had to go on. And on the top just for a fraction of a moment, the clouds lifted while I was there and I looked down and there a mile below me was Lake Tear of the Clouds, the Hudson’s highest source. And you know, that did something to me. I had seen something – I felt it.”–Grace Hudowalski, 46er #9, and the first woman to climb all 46 high peaks

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Seymour Mountain

With last Monday’s hike up Cliff Mountain, I had three peaks left. Seymour, Esther and Whiteface. Seymour was orphaned in August after hiking most of the Seward Range, so driving the 3+ hours to Saranac Lake had to be done. I was not particularly looking forward to this hike, either. I planned to make a weekend of it and hike Seymour on Saturday and finishing the 46 with Esther and Whiteface on Sunday.

I left home at 4AM Saturday morning and was on the trail to Seymour by 7:45. I met a new hiking friend at the trail head (One of my 46er friends connected us so so I didn’t have to hike solo!) I was worried the parking lot was going to be empty and we’d be the only people on the mountain. Boy was I wrong. It was FULL!

The first 5.2 miles of the hike is relatively flat, following the blueberry hiking path. It was a gorgeous fall day.

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It went by pretty quickly and before we knew it, we were at the Ward Brook Leanto (at 9:45AM).

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The herdpath to Seymour is marked by a cairn on the right just shortly after passing the Ward Brook Leanto. It starts out gradual but soon climbs steeply. Eventually you see the slide. On this day, it was wet. And muddy. Very muddy. I don’t have any pictures of this section, but believe me, it was muddy. Eventually the herd path keeps right to avoid the slide. We made our way up slowly, arriving at the ridge (thankfully), passing by the lookout at the top, and then finally hitting the summit t 11:48AM. I was so happy to see the summit sign I nearly cried.

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There were great views just beyond the sign at a small lookout. But after snapping our summit pictures, we headed back to the first lookout that we passed on the way to the summit to stop for food.

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There’s a nice view of ampersand lake and ampersand mountain.

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To the far left of the ledge you can get a great view of Seward, Donaldson and Emmons.

After stopping at the ledge for about 10 minutes to sit and eat our lunches, we headed back down, dreading the descent down the atrocious slide. I don’t think I’ve seen that much mud on a hike, ever. I also ripped what was probably my 5th pair of hiking pants during my 46ers journey due to butt sliding down the mountain.

At about 2:15 we reached the cairn marking the start of herd path, and now it was just an easy walk back to the car. We made it back at about 4:45 pm, in just under 9 hours total, including our breaks. My hiking partner and I both enjoyed a beer at the car when we were done…it was well deserved!

Seymour Mountain (44/46)
15 mi RT from Corey’s Road trailhead
Elevation 4,055′
Ascent 2,676
Total Time (including stops) 9 hours

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Gear used: Northface rain shell, Kelty trekking poles, Kelty Amber backpack, Keene Durand hiking boots, EMS Gore-tex gaiters, Cloudline hiking socks, Platypus 3L bladder, LL Bean fleece gloves, Nike baselayer long sleeve, and EMS hiking pants

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Fall in the ADK and Hiking Cliff Mountain

This past weekend was prime for leaf peeping in the Adirondacks! Sunday morning I drove up to Keene Valley to hike one of my favorites, Indian Head! Last summer Christine and I hiked it and I couldn’t wait to come back.  Just look at this view.

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Monday was my first day off since Labor Day! Brendan and I drove up to the Upper Works trailhead in Newcomb to go back for Cliff, a peak we orphaned back in May when we hiked Redfield. It was going to be a long day.

It was in the mid 30s when we got to the trailhead. Brrr! We got there around 7 and were on the trail by 7:15. The parking lot was crowded, but we were wondering where they all were since we didn’t see many people on the trail. The 4.5 mile hike in to the Flowed Lands was uneventful. We passed the time chatting. When we got there, we signed in and headed to the Uphill Lean-to. We got to the Lake Colden bridge at 9:40am.
Looks like winter here
Looks like winter here
Then it was up, up, up to the Uphill Lean-to. We got there at around 11:45 and stopped for a brief snack before taking the herdpack on the right to Cliff/Redfield, marked with a cairn. I forgot the herdpath splits and Cliff’s goes to the right, and Redfield’s continues along the Opalescent. At 11:15 we were climbing Cliff.
We got some nice views while climbing. There was ice on the neighboring peaks!  Winter is coming!
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The bog was a sloppy mess, but the “cliffy” sections of cliff weren’t as bad as I was expecting. There were lots of hand holds and tree roots to hold onto. There was only one small section where I needed a boost.
We arrived at the summit at 12:30, which was 8.8 miles from Upper Works. We made pretty good time!
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Descending was a lot easier. It included a lot of butt sliding. I had to take my pack off and throw it down first before going down some sections.
After descending the final cliff, our friend took off to hike Redfield, while Brendan and I made our way back to the Uphill Lean-to for lunch. We got back there at 1:40. We shared some lentil soup and cookies. Perfect for a chilly fall day! We also had a visitor, a little Pine Marten! So cute!
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We started heading back at around 2. Again, the hike out was uneventful. We got back to the bridge over Lake Colden at 3:00, stopping for a snack for about 5 minutes. It turned out to be a gorgeous fall day.
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Our speedy friend caught back up with us with a few miles left so we all hiked out together.
We arrived back at the car at 5:45. It was a long, but enjoyable day in the mountains. I’ve got three high peaks left. It’s a bittersweet feeling.
 
Cliff Mountain
17.5 mi RT from Upper Works
10.5 hours, including stops
Elevation 3,944′
Ascent 2,691′
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Gear Used: EMS Gore-Tex gaiters, EMS hiking pants, ExOfficio long sleeve, Reebok puffy vest, LL Bean fleece gloves, Osprey Sirrus day pack, Kelty trekking poles, Keene Durand hiking boots, Smartwool socks, 3L Platypus hydration bladder
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Wakely Mountain Firetower

A few weeks ago Brendan and I drove up to the Adirondacks to hike another firetower. We’ve both been simultaneously hiking the 46 and the Adirondack firetowers, the latter being the easier of the two challenges. We parked at the trailhead on Cedar River Road (12 miles from the turn off on Route 28 in Indian Lake). The first 2 miles were a very nice walk on a wide logging road. It was gorgeous. The climbing began about a mile from the summit.

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Soon enough we arrived at the helicopter pad.

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The firetower was only a few steps away. Sadly there aren’t any views unless you climb up.

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Wakely Mountain Firetower
11/18 ADK Firetowers
Distance 6.1 mi RT
Elevation 3,766′
Ascent 1,640′
Time 3 hrs, 40 minutes

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Hiking the Seward Range

I’m interrupting my trip recap to bring you a new Adirondack Trip Report!

Catching up? Check out my last few posts:

So, anyway, last weekend I went backpacking in the Adirondacks to snag three more high peaks in the Seward Range, Donaldson, Emmons and Seward Mountains.

Jenna, Brendan, Margaret and I drove up to Saranac Lake (The Sewards are the furthest away out of the high peaks, with a 3hr drive from Albany!) to the trailhead at Corey’s Road. We hiked in with our gear to a tent site along the Caulkins Brook, off the horse trail. Jona had mentioned this site to me and it sounded like a good idea! After a short 1.4 mile hike, we found our site and set up camp. Unfortunately, it started to rain during the night…complete with a thunder storm. Thankfully, it wasn’t severe and we were all dry in our tents! But the wet made for a gloomy hike the next day.

Saturday morning we took a left out of our camp site at about 6:30am, and met the herd path to the Sewards at around 7:10. Instead of taking the Blueberry Trail and the steep route up Ward Brook, we opted for the gentler Caulkins Brook Herd Path.

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Take a left at the bucket

The herd path follows Caulkins Brook for some time. It’s a gradual incline and is quite pleasant! Before we knew it, we were approaching the summit of Donaldson Mountain! It was 9:50AM, a little over three hours after starting.

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Number 38, it’s gettin’ real!

Still socked in, we had no view.

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We decided it would be wise to head over to Emmons first. I didn’t do my homework on this hike and assumed the peaks were close together. Ha. So Wrong. It took us about an hour to get to Emmons (11:00am). I was having flashbacks of the dismal Couchsachraga from last summer in the Santanonis. The hike to Emmons wasn’t particularly fun. It was wet, muddy and dark. I hated Couch, but I liked the Santanonis better overall.

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Thankfully on the hike back, the skies cleared and allowed us some views.

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Looking over to Seward from Emmons

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Grey skies

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On the way back we decided to hit up Donaldson again because it was right there and we wanted to see if there was a good view–there was!

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But, we couldn’t linger. Time to make the trek over to Seward. I don’t remember much, just that I wanted the day to be over. It was 2:00 by the time we reached the summit.

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The best hiking gang–40 peaks done!!!!!

If I had one word to describe this range, it would be blah. But, I did it! The trek out was long. We stopped at Caulkins Brook to refill our water using Jenna’s gravity filter (Jenna is the Water Queen), and hiked the remaining few miles back to the camp site.

My original plan was to camp a second night and hike Seymour the next day, another peak in the Seward Range that is just a bit further out (see my amazing map skillz below). Jenna and Margaret estimated it would be about a 10 hour day. Since we both had to work Monday, and we were tired, Brendan and I were just not feeling it. We orphaned Seymour and packed up our gear and walked the 1.4 miles back to our car to make the three hour drive home. It was nice to sleep in my own bed after such a draining day! Jenna and Margaret stayed and hiked Seymour the next morning–such troopers!

The decision was tough. I debated it in my head over and over almost the entire day. Hiking Seymour would get me one peak closer to goal, but I’d be miserable. Physically I could have done it, but I was mentally done. I hike because I enjoy it and I love the Adirondack Mountains. Yes, I have a goal, but is it worth it to suffer just to bag a peak when I’m not having fun anymore? No. Seymour isn’t going anywhere!

Overall, we hiked about 14 miles on Saturday, including the hike out to the car.

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40 down, 6 to go. I can see the finish.

We got back to the site at about 7 and were at the car by sundown. It was a long day.

The Seward Range
Donaldson, Emmons, and Seward Mountains
~16 mi RT via Caulkins Brook herd path
12.5 hrs to and from tent site

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