Ascent of Esther Mountain on 2011-09-03

Climber: Douglas Kemp

Others in Party:Elizabeth Grogan
Date:Saturday, September 3, 2011
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Esther Mountain
    Location:USA-New York
    Elevation:4239 ft / 1292 m

Ascent Trip Report

September 3, 2011 Ascent of Esther Mountain

You might say that we were the accidental hikers when we did Esther. Hurricane Irene had made our original hike -- Street and Nye -- impossible by washing out the bridge to the ADK Loj. Then DEC closed the Dix Range, which eliminated Macomb as a choice. We were left with Esther, or tackling one of the much more difficult hikes in the Western High Peaks. We opted to close out the hiking season on an easy note.

And easy it was (relatively speaking). We started our hike from the top of Whiteface, since we had hiked that mountain a couple years ago. The summit was shrouded in dense fog, and when we got to the top, we were told that the "nature trail" that leads from the parking area to the summit was closed due to slippery conditions. Our problem: we had Elizabeth's dog, and she wasn't allowed in the elevator to the summit. Our solution: we slipped past the "trail closed" sign and made our way to the top, thankfully concealed by the thick fog.

We left the summit of Whiteface around 10am and covered the approximately 1.8 miles to the junction with the Esther herd path fairly easily, in just about an hour. Other than some slippery rock face at the top of Whiteface, the trail was in pretty good condition aside from a few blowdowns from the recent storm. The junction with Esther is well marked, with both a large cairn in the middle of the trail, as well as a sign indicating the way to Esther.

The 1.3 mile herd path to Esther was also in decent shape. There were no problems following the path. We passed by a clearing with a cairn that marked (we think) the summit of Lookout mountain. There was not a great deal of elevation change on the herd path, and we made it to the summit in about an hour. The summit is clearly marked with a plaque dedicated to the Esther Macomb, who made the first recorded ascent. There is also a yellow trail marker with "Esther" written on it, nailed to a tree. We ate lunch at the top while talking with some other hikers. The summit is treed and we didn't bother to look for a look-out area given the dense fog.

Our return trip was a bit more strenuous, since we were now ascending -- rather than descending -- to get back to our car. However, we still made it back by about 2pm, making for a total time of 4 hours to cover the 6.2 mile round trip hike. Our fastest speed yet! We did cheat a bit on the return trip. Just below the summit of Whiteface, the trail runs along the retaining wall for the Memorial Highway, and there is a break in the wall where the trail is on the same level as the road. At this spot we hopped on the road and walked the remaining 10 minutes or so back to the car, just in case the nature trail to the parking area was still closed.

All in all, Esther was one of, if not the, easiest high peaks we've done. I suspect that this was mainly due to our decision to hike down from Whiteface, rather than up from the weather observatory or Wilmington Reservoir, which would have added a 1 or 2 miles, respectively, to the hike.

Trip in a Nutshell:

Whiteface summit to Esther herd path - 1.8 miles/1 hour

Esther herd path to summit of Esther - 1.3 miles/1 hour

Return Trip to Whiteface parking area - 3.1 miles/2 hours

Total: 6.2 miles/4 hours

Summary Total Data
    Distance:6.2 mi / 10 km
    Quality:4 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Road Hike, Maintained Trail, Unmaintained Trail
    Weather:Pleasant, Calm, Low Clouds
Very foggy at first, then hazy
Ascent Statistics
    Time Up:2 Hours 
Descent Statistics
    Time Down:2 Hours 

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