Whiteface Winter Climb

Whiteface Mountain, NY
November 8, 2010
16 miles, 4,867 feet
Wes Chapman

The fresh ski tracks really say it all – this was a really beautiful morning. Whiteface Mt. Auto Road 8:00 AM.

Last week I received my acceptance into the 100 Highest Mountains in New England Club from the AMC, and my naturally OCD personality kicked into overdrive. That’s it – I’ve done that list – now what? Fortunately I live in reasonable proximity to the High Peaks of the Adirondacks, and the promise of 46 more 4,000 footers, and one third with no maintained trails!

My friend and neighbor Cam Eldred steered me to his pal Art Lussi, owner of the Crown Plaza Resort in Lake Placid, and father of two of the best ski jumping women in America. Art is an aficionado of the High Peaks, having climbed all 46 at least once, and runs a fine hotel overlooking the Lake. Martha and the two Girls (my poodles Mrs. Katie & Mrs. Baby) and I took off after Martha finished her teaching Saturday afternoon, heading into new country, via the ferry across Lake Champlain – a great adventure.

The weather has been fairly ugly for the last several days, caused by a front stalled just off the Atlantic coast, pumping tropical moisture into a Canadian air mass parked comfortably about 100 miles to our north. This weather system has produced a bumper crop of early season snow in the high country, and I had to check it out.

Plenty of snow at the base of the Auto Road on Whiteface.

We arrived at the hotel to the maelstrom of young hockey players in town for a tournament at the Olympic Center. The hotel Gods smiled upon us, and granted us an upgrade to a terrific room overlooking the Lake in a separate (quiet) wing. After a good night sleep we took off bright and early (6:30) into fresh snow and new hills. The weather had cleared, and we followed the suggestion of the clerk at reception, heading up the Auto Road. It was immediately clear that local knowledge is of great value – the road was covered with ski tracks, and we were stuck on foot.

The Auto Road on the north side of Whiteface, with the summit house.

Part of the 8 miles of Auto Road, seen from near the summit.

The hike up went really fast, and we were on top in just under two hours. The temperature was about 10 degrees and there was a 30 knot breeze. The Girls had recently been to the beauty parlor, increasing their pulchritude, but decreasing their thermal efficiency – they got a pretty good trim. Fortunately, they were wearing their neoprene, camouflaged dog suits, but we were in striking distance of doggie hypothermia. We did a brief tour of the amusingly overbuilt summit facility, and headed down before cooling off.

On the way up we saw a fox, and coyote and bear tracks, but no people. On the way down we must have seen 100 skiers out to make a few turns in the fresh snow. This is our kind of town.

An ideal spot for viewing, summer or winter.

Lake Placid.

Mrs. Katie investigating some bear tracks.

The glacier plucked rock from the South side of the mountain, creating the steep “whiteface”.
Wes Chapman
Written by Wes Chapman

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