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Two Whiteface Bushwhack attempts. With Stewart for openers.

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  • Two Whiteface Bushwhack attempts. With Stewart for openers.

    Two days of carwash.

    Day one: Stewart Mtn. in the Sentinel Range to close out the Sents for Boghollow.

    We took what I call the Gregory Karl Route after a one hour approach along the Old Iron Road off Rte 86 then up a drainage (perfect ramp on the left bank!) to approx 2400' elly. Then it was full on winter whacking with never-ending snowshowers down the back of our necks. Had spooky views of Kilburn from on high but no views of mighty Whiteface. Chilly day with temps at the car of 21F both at the beginning and the end of our 7h30m hike. Cold wind on the final approach to the summit. In spite of plenty of fresh blowdown the tree with the S carved on it still marks the summit.

    Day two. Time warp.

    Ambitious bushwhack hike this one was of Whiteface. Left a car at the toll gate and drove 2 miles down Gillespie Rd. (I bet no one knew the name) to a pullout at 2000' elly. There followed a very long SW walk through wide open woods to go around Baldwin Hill then we curled south and began to make our way up to a ridge at 3500'. Blowdown of biblical proportions with an endless lawn of snow-covered balsams killed a ton of time and drained our energy reserves. Fresh bear and moose tracks kept us entertained through this hell.
    Time warp.
    Finally made the ridge and I asked Tom what the time was (I forgot my watch).
    "One o'clock".
    "No way, it must be later than that"
    "My watch has been screwing up lately, me check the time my GPS. Oh, it's 2".
    We still had a long row to hoe. 300 feet of descent , a 1 mile side hill approach to the slide then 1400' of slide climb and thick final whack to the summit.
    After some discussion we decided to bail by following the ridge .9 miles due east to the Placid Turn on the road. That effing ridge had relentlessly repeating episodes of blowdown fields with thickets of snow-encased balsam blooms springing up. By deviating to the north we detoured around many of them. I was caked in ice and soaking wet but as long as I was on the move I was comfortable. We had stunningly beautiful views of Lake Placid and the summit buildings from the ridge as we painfully inched pour way eastward to the road.
    We made the road at what we thought was 4pm and were surprised at the number of people skiing up and down. After I changed into a dry set of clothes we walked very quickly down to my car. The clock in my car said 4 pm which made us realize that when we made our decision to bail it was, after all, only one o'clock and we would have had enough time to do the slide and make the summit.
    Oh well, still an amazing day and , as they say, the mountain isn't going anywhere.

    One week later

    Boghollow and I thought we would continue last Saturday's bushwhack hike, which ended at the Lake Placid turn on the Whiteface toll road. Our plan was to ski up to the turn and switch from skis to snowshoes (18'' of snow accumulation according to reports). Once the .6 miles of bushwhack to the slide would be traversed we would switch to crampons and ascend the slide. From the summit we would walk the road back to our skis and glide down to the gate.

    Best laid plans?

    By the time we made the Placid turn we and our heavily laden packs were coated with a layer of ice. We began the steep descent off the ridge and quickly realized it was going to be extremely hard and dangerous. The wind was roaring and the visibility was nil. Most of the 18'' of snow was stuck to the very tight balsams and underfoot was constant blowdown and hidden holes. We turned around thinking we would deposit our snowshoes at the road and head back down. However, the incredibly difficult (short) re-climb gave us an opportunity to reflect soberly on our bushwhack/slide climb, which we decided then and there to abort.
    A ski to the castle followed by a trip to the summit was a perfect consolation prize. However, the visibility was limited and the wind kept roaring. In fact, the higher we got the harder the wind blew. At the Willmington Turn the wind was a constant roar and the road was bare pavement with a thin sheen of ice. Visibility was even more limited. I started thinking about what it would be like, exposed to that raking wind, switching to crampons at the castle, ascending and descending the stairs, switching back to skis and finally, dealing with a descent on the icy road. It didn't help that neither of us had thought to bring goggles and face masks. (DUH!)
    I stopped, turned to Tom and asked him if he felt a compelling need to summit. It turned out that he felt no need to summit Whiteface at that time. So, we turned around. The ski down turned out to be difficult and hard on the quads due to the extremely fast and squirrely conditions.

  • #2
    Nice write up indeed. I hope some rookies read your post Neil, because you are a very experienced and healthy mountaineer of all seasons and yet turned around when conditions, etc, warranted that. Take heed others. The mountain will always be there. Do not put yourself or rescuers at risk.

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    • #3
      I once skied Whiteface in similar conditions, wind howling like a banshee around the turn and all the way to the castle. We almost bailed but decided to continue, cramponning and goggling up in the shelter of the turnaround castle and climbed the stairs, arriving on the summit expecting the worst, but only finding a pleasant calm. We could clearly hear the wind howling below us though. Spent the most time on the summit that day than any other. That mountain has funky wind funnelling patterns. Or maybe it was just luck that day.

      That bushwhack sounds nasty!

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      • #4
        Here is one more reader who is taking to heart your example, Neil. Thanks for sharing.
        46/46, 16/46w "I only went out for a walk, and concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in." John Muir

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        • #5
          Face it, Neil, Fridays and Whiteface are bad luck. Are you going to make it three?

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          • #6
            Originally posted by JoeCedar View Post
            Face it, Neil, Fridays and Whiteface are bad luck. Are you going to make it three?
            Well, only one of the attempts was on a Friday but my no matter, I'm leaning to waiting for summer and doing a repeat of what I did the first time around. Ie. Mossy Cliff Peak followed by a traverse to the slide.

            I think "failing" and turning back is a good sign. It shows ambition tempered with good sense. When I was fourteen, after a day of downhill skiing, I proudly declared to my family that I hadn't fallen once all day. My mother immediately retorted that all that meant was I wasn't skiing hard enough.

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