- I awoke to stars in the sky at around 4:00 a.m. My foggy mind tried to understand as I’d expected rain. Stars were still out at 5:00 a.m. An hour and more awake, I watched the sun begin to light a near cloudless sky. I was out the door and en route to Whiteface by 6:20 a.m.
- Arriving at 6:30 a.m., I was walking up the Stag Brook trail system a couple minutes later enjoying the cascades and pools. Thereafter, I stayed on the slopes closest to the brook. Sheesh, I’m always amazed how darn steep the ski slopes are to walk up. The last trek under the old chair lift seems brutal each and every time. My burning quads now had me wide awake. I pleasantly noted that I was layered perfectly…not sweating and not chilly even though it was about 8:00 a.m. with temps in the 50’s and strong winds. (I nearly overheated a couple years ago).
Clean white track (and debris field) of the new track.
- It took me 1 hour 20 minutes to reach the beginning of the slide proper which gave me time to explore the drainage below. I dropped down about 200 vertical feet to the runout of #5 and re-climbed via the woods. FYI: The debris from Ski Slide #3 stopped even with the entrance of the Slide Out area, which also slightly blocked the runout of Ski Slide #4 (just opposite Slide Out).
- Wispy clouds blowing from the arete high above raced overhead, often in dramatic swirls. They contrasted against a deep blue sky. Behind, heavy cloud cover over Lake Champlain looked threatening, but was obviously not moving toward me.
- I love the bowl shaped feature that started the climb up #1 and, now, #3. Small steps kept it less than complicated. Good stone with moderate debris was the general rule for most of the climb. The first main pitch, common also to Slide #1 was steep, but had great steps throughout. Thereafter, the slab laid down in slope a bit. Interesting ledges and small runs of open stone led upward as the slide narrowed. The view behind was stunning, though the haze seemed to be increasing. Above, near a 15 foot ledge that runs upward with the slab, the slide narrowed to the final steep pitch. The features of the face of this ledge were interesting and I felt the itch to climb it…then thought better based on the weather.
Lots of ledges and clean open rock.
15' ledge as the slide narrows before the final pitch.
- The wind became “interesting” about halfway up. I’d aimed for a more complicated route up a 6 foot ledge when a blast of air knocked me sideways. Thinking better of my position, I gave up the attempt and simply walked around the end of it on small steps. At times the wind actually helped me upward like an invisible hand pushing from behind, there and suddenly gone. By the time I’d reached the top, it was seemingly angry. The cloud ceiling was well below by about 200 feet. Dark clouds blew quickly over the eastern ridge, dropped and raced northwest toward the steep walls of the aręte and up the slide…toward me. The first couple times, it knocked backward onto my rear as sand and whatever else the wind had picked up bit into my face. I learned quickly and braced against subsequent gusts. It became a game. Soon, I was fumbling around the bottom of my pack with numb hands searching for gloves. It’s not that it was extremely cold, but the warm summer had obviously lowered my cold-tolerance for the time being. The dampness didn’t help. In all honesty, this whole affair was a nice change from the blue-bird days of perfect slide climbing weather I’ve enjoyed all summer. It turned a laid back climb into a morning adventure. Bushwhacking up the steep slope to the aręte was only complicated by a few near vertical ledges. After these, waist high trees led to the trail atop the aręte. Twenty minutes later I felt the sensation of a thousand needles in my hands as they regained feeling. Some 20 hikers, most a sweaty contrast to me, were making their way up from the reservoir toward either Esther or the viewless summit of Whiteface.
Portion of the upper slide and clouds closing in.
Clouds getting thicker!
- One of the nice things about the Whiteface Slides is that it’s easy to “cheat” your way to an easier itinerary if you have options available. I cheated and called my parents (visiting from FL) and asked them to pick me up at the atmospheric research center. I planned to enjoy the best of both worlds…a nice morning climb alone and an afternoon spent in their company. Less than 5 hours from the start, I was sitting in their car being ferried back to my own. 11:45 a.m. found me making coffee at home...perfect!