Thursday, August 8, 2013

ADK 46: Esther Mtn

In the fall of 2006 I did my first high peak hike without my usual summer camp.  The plan was to do Whiteface mostly because we knew it was accessible to the road.  What we didn't know, is that there is a second high peak tucked next to it that most people typically climb during the same trip.

When we hiked Whiteface, we went from the Connery Pond trail, so we never actually passed the turn off for Esther. But now that I've memorized the peak names (also: ask me to recite the presidents, I can do that too) Esther was on the peakbagging list.

On Monday night I filled up my water bottles and threw the nalgenes in the freezer (note: must learn to do it earlier so it freezes through better) and a pitcher of water in the fridge to pour into my hydroflask.  I knew I was packing an obscene amount of water considering the day/conditions but I did have to fill from the stream last hike with some iodine so I figured it wouldn't hurt. Plus, when I do the Dix range I'll need to be carrying at least this amount if not more so it was good to practice.

My legs were quite dead when I woke up at 5:45 (never mind I wanted to be on the road around then)  I had gone hiking in the Lake George region on Friday ( Crane Mtn - awesome hike & excellent 180 views), did a 15k trail race on Sunday, and went to my first ever bodypump class on Monday.  Needless to say,  driving for 3 hours and hiking wasn't totally on my desired to do list.
But the school year is quickly approaching and the weather looked unpredictable for the rest of the week I eventually left my bed and apartment.

I got a way later start than I wanted and wasn't officially on the northway until 7am and at the trail head until 9:30.  Thankfully it was a cool day and with only one peak on the plan I knew I'd have plenty of daylight.  

At the parking lot I met a family (presumably from CT given their license plate) exchanged pleasantries before they took off and I finished getting myself organized. I didn't expect to see them again until the summit but caught up a bit after a half a mile.  I passed them and continued up the dried up river bed.  
It might be trail-less but at least there are clues!


First view of Whiteface from the trees
Esther is considered trail-less but the herd path is quite obvious.  The trail is also directly up.  So long as you're walking straight up the side of the mountain, you're probably on the trail.  It was a thigh-buster and with my legs already feeling tired, I was a bit nervous for the remaining 6.5 mile RT.  But I continued on, slow and stead until I reached the first junction.  

Here, the trail links up with the Whiteface red trail, for about 1.2 miles before reaching the second junction that leads to Esther.  My book (and all the blogs I read) mentioned that I would see the cairn.  I though I might miss it and end up on whiteface but when I approached the cairn, I realized there was no way I could have missed it.  So for as much as I read about it being maintained and trail-less.  It was quite easy to find Esther.  No compass or map needed today.  
large cairn!
My book had said it was 1.2 miles from the trail so I knew I'd be walking for another 30+ minutes   What seemed confusing was when the trail begins to descend in the opposite direction of the nearest peak.  I decided to trust the 1.2 goal and kept walking rather than second guessing.  As it turns out, my book was right and there I was on the summit of Esther.  
in the top left you can see the tiny marker indicating that I really did make it to the top! 

like every good hiking blogger, I took a photo of the plaque

I had the summit to myself for about 20 minutes before the family that I met earlier caught up and a couple that I had passed a while ago also joined in.  At that point, I figured I'd get out of the way and head down.  The summit doesn't offer much in views other than staring at the road up Whiteface but I enjoy sitting on top of any mountain so it was still nice.

The long descent was a bit tough on my knees and for the first time I wished I had poles with me (I struggled all winter to get my snow baskets on mine, and haven't bothered to take them off) There was some mud, but not nearly as wet as Porter was back in October, and easily avoidable. The climb down while sore on the joints, were kind to the lungs and heart and I made my way down fairly quickly.

anybody know what kind of bug this is?
While climbing I remembered the amazing sandwich I had in Lake Placid Village back in June and was determined to have it again, so I drove slightly out of my way to LP to enjoy a linner before making the drive back to Albany.  

It was totally worth it. 

High Peak in order 28
High Peak # 20 for me!
RT roughly 7 miles


  1. I love that plaque! Go 15 year old! And that sandwich looks delicious! Nice hike.

    1. I have dreams about that sandwich quite often. I'm looking forward to getting one after Ragnar next month!

  2. For the sheer joy of climbing!

    That's been one of my favorite sayings/mantras since climbing Esther in 2009.

    1. can you imagine what it must have been like hiking back before those well beaten down herd paths?!