View Full Version : Whiteface Brook Slide & Esther Attempt 1/9th-11th

01-16-2004, 01:07 PM
Our group of 7, from Rochester left the Connery Pond Trail Head
on snowshoes, along Rt 86 Friday the 9th. The temperature was minus 12f.
The Lot was not plowed, nor was the road that leads back to the private residences before the gate, so we parked down the road a bit. Trail was broken and in pretty good condition all the way to WF Landing. From there, the trail was post holed horrendously bad until the first Brook crossing . Even though the temps were extremely cold, water crossings all weekend were to say the least, tricky.
The first crossing was the hardest, but Jimmmymac, found a safe crossing, by carefully getting out in the middle of the brook, and winding his way up stream until he found a safe edge to exit on. While Jim M. was crossing, Jim D. broke through up to his knees, but was pulled out by Mike T. Good thing he had gaiters, or our trip my have ended right there. From there, it looked like it had been a couple of week since anyone had been any farther. Some faint tracks, it may have been Alpine Summit’s ski tracks from 2 weeks earlier. I think the brook crossing had turned a few people around. We arrived at the lento in about 1.5 hrs just before dark. We set up tents, and used the lento for cooking. The tempatures plummeted.
We were told later on Sunday at the HO JO buffet, that it reached –38f, and only rose to –25 all day Saturday.
Out of 4 stoves only 2 functioned properly, a trusty 10 yr old regular non shaker jet Whisper Lite, and the raging XGK. We hung around for a bit, talked about how freaking cold it was, and after discovering the schnapps had frozen solid, decided we better hit the bags!

I must say, I think this was the coldest night I have ever spent out in the woods. And I’ve spent some pretty cold one’s above the Arctic circle, and up high out West. And again, my trusty Western Mountaineering zero rated Puma, with a cheap thin liner did the job. And for those looking for warm mountaineering single non plastic boots, my new LaSportiva K4S boots, kept my feet warm and comfortable all weekend. Just as warm as those in Koflach’s. Although, it took a couple of warm water bottles in them, to help dry, and warm them up in the morning.

It took awhile for us to get going in the morning, John U., was cold all night in his Marmot minus 20 Col bag, so we decided to split into 2 groups. The first group of 4 would head up the Western Slide to get Whiteface, then head on to Esther. Myself and the Uchal brothers would leave later, summit Whiteface Via the slide, descend to the road via the stairs, and wait in the summit tunnel for the first group to meet us on their return from Esther. From there, we would go back over the summit and head down the trail together back to camp.

So we left camp about 10:30, headed up the normal trail for about 20 min, then descended to the left off the trail, deep into Whiteface Brook. The first group did a great job of breaking up the Brook, crisscrossing, and climbing the banks and waterfalls to avoid thin spots. It was just beautiful, deep blue skies, and bright sun and calm winds.
Slowly, the brook turns into the slide, that turns from packed windswept Alaska type snow, to some of the hardest, most bulletproof ice I’ve seen. You had to stamp your foot into the ice to get solid purchase.
About ¼ of the way up, I planted my ice axe above a small bulge in the ice. I had not put the leash around my wrist yet, and began to pull to clear the bulge when my snowshoe slipped on the hard ice. Like slow motion, my hand slid off the cold aluminum shaft of the axe, and down I went. I slid for about 20 ft into a nice soft pocket of powder deposited in a flat spot. I looked up to my Axe, still firmly planted in the ice.
Mike was on crampons, and yelled down, “I’ll get your axe”, and pointed to where John skirted the bulge to the right on snowshoes.

I decided it was time to put on crampons and get serious!

The slide works it’s way up, directly below the summit building, getting steeper as it goes. The totally open views of Lake Placid behind you are awesome. Towards the top, it was pure ice before the exit into the scrub just below the headwall. After about 30 yards of spruce traps, from the top of the slide to the headwall, you reach the staircase railing. You can skirt the headwall to right if you don’t like the exposure. We climbed it, and hopped the railing. It took us much longer than we thought. About 4hrs. The cold and wind on top, was painful on any exposed skin.
Down to the tunnel we went. We waited for about 45 minutes in the warm tunnel, and no sign of the first group. With darkness setting in, we decided to head back over the summit and down via the main trail to camp by headlamp. We figured they were having a rough time over on Esther, and would be returning well after dark. We’d get down, and play sherpa for them, have the stoves roaring and drinks ready upon there’re return.
Turned out, much to our surprise, they aborted Esther after summiting WF, were worried about us returning in the dark, and welcomed us back into camp with hot drinks and chow. Thanks guys!
We crashed early, broke camp in the morning , and were stuffing our faces at the buffet before noon.

Even though we didn’t get Esther , and despite the cold and frost nip on my face, we all had a great time.

God Job, MikeT, JimM,JimD,MarkA, Uchal Brothers!

01-16-2004, 07:36 PM
One of the best reports ive seen in awhile. Thanks, and great picture!

01-17-2004, 11:22 AM

Nice trip report. Your comment on the boots sparked my interest too. So your feet really did not get cold in those boots, even at -25 all day? Did you use toe warmers?

I've been up that slide in the summer, and that headwall is pretty steep. Was it more of a snowy scramble, or were the ice axes absolutely necessary for that part of the climb?


01-17-2004, 04:05 PM
yes the boots kept my feet very warm all weekend. Only after standing around for about an hour in camp did they start to get chilled. But so did everyone else's in Arctic double plastics and Sorels, Degree's and Verticals and Scarpas Inverno's.
It was nice to have down booties to change into.
Lasportiva claims it's the warmest single mountaineering boot available.
Now I believe them.
I brought VB socks but never needed them.

They use some kind of ceramic embossed fabric backed by 2 layers of Thinsulate. Then the PU coating acts like a VB I think. The liner has some kind of insulation and reflective material on the bottom. The carbon fiber honeycomb shank helps with ground cold.
With all this, you can't believe how light they are. Way lighter than plastic. And they do it all, hike very well, and climb vertical ice as good as any boot I've tried.

If you can't tell, I'm very pleased with these boots! They're just what I was looking for. I have plastics, and hate them for long approaches.

I bet the new Vasques are very similar.

As far as the route went, 2 from the first group did the entire slide except the headwall in snowshoes.
I was impressed!
But they had to get off into the scrub, and deep spruce traps a few times, where it was solid ice and steep, with a long slide if you fell.
In my group, we all used ice axe's and crampons most of the way. It really had a nice Alpine Feel to the climb, out on the ice in the center of the slide. I'm sure it could and has been done without the technical tools, but I think it would take much more effort, and be quite dangerous towards the top. Especially with the conditions we had, with very little snow on the slide, just ice from the heavy rains the week before.
Here is a pic towards the top, it shows the ice, but it doesn't really show the steepness very well. If you fall here, your going for about an 800ft slide over some good size rocks. .
If you have anymore questions on the boots let me know. I can most likley get you a deal.
Now if I can only get my face to stop peeling off.......
I'm starting to look like leather face.

01-17-2004, 05:15 PM
I would also look into Lasportiva's Nupse double boot. I haven’t tried it on but, it's like mine, but with a liner. Perfect for multiday extreme cold, or Alaska.............. Anyone want to buy some plastics and about 3 pairs of other climbing boots??? I need a new expedition boot.....
Also, they're good to go, right out of the box. Mine never needed a break in. I would go at least a 1/2 size bigger than you think feels good. The lacing system and adjustable and removable tongue do an outstanding job of locking your foot in. No heel lift, something that is very hard to achieve in plastics on vertical ice and steep terrain.

Near the base of the slide....

01-17-2004, 06:21 PM
Anyone know of a good moisturizer???????

I'm not lite in loafers, but my face needs some help, after my ski today I need some "queer guy for the straight guy" help here!
What do you vftters use?

Barb Harris
01-17-2004, 08:54 PM
I can't let this go by! Mary Kay has a great moisturizer. You guys can use the Time Wise too! Can you guess I'm a Mary Kay consultant?:):)

Happy Trails!

01-26-2004, 04:23 PM
It's a few weeks old now, but I just downloaded Webshots to help save server space, and I couldn't wait to try it out.