The weather forecast was of intense interest the night before and the morning of this hike. We had settled on Whiteface-Esther and Morgan as a good foul weather hike. Indeed for Project 46 Glen, Geoff and I did Giant-RPR in the morning of a foul weather day followed by WF-E and it was an excellent combo.
At 8am (leisurely start time!) we began working our way up the 800 foot ascent of the old Marble Mountain ski lift “trail” In warm but damp weather. No rain yet and we were down to base layers pretty quickly until close to the Esther junction. We were going at a 100-peak pace and I was mindful to never feel like I was straining. This allowed for a rate of ascent of 30 feet per minute according to my altimeter, plenty fast to get the job done and yet slow enough preserve precious muscle glycogen.
At this rate we made Whiteface mountain in two hours and fifty minutes, the final 500 vertical feet after the road were done in a whiteout with rain lashing at our faces. The snow was quite heavy and we switched leads often.
No time was wasted on the wind-blasted summit and when we got back at the Wilmington turn wall, we put our packs back on, swapped out wet mitts etc. and strolled over to the Esther junction where we shed our burdens and enjoyed a relaxed out and back. The rain was light but never let up. We were back at the car after five hours and forty five minutes. It took a full hour to do a complete change of clothes, including socks and begin trudging up the trail towards Morgan Mountain. The trail nearly climbs the peak and we were 185 meters from the summit (gps verified) when we donned (still unlit) headlamps and dropped our packs. The rain had switched to (fairly dry) snow and it was a somewhat magical bushwhack to the summit in rapidly fading daylight. The snow was a foot deep and quite wet. The shoes hit bottom and had excellent traction.
We were back on the trail before the headlamp hour (days must be getting longer!) and the snow was coming down pretty good. But, it was only after we had switched the lamps on that we realized just how hard we were getting pounded. It was a very slow and slippery drive down the hill to Wilmington where it was raining.
Back at “Scooterville” Glen and I both felt that Project-100 was off to an excellent start. I am indeed lucky to have great hiking partners. It's not easy to find people who cheerfully put on a headlamp at sunset after a day of hiking in the rain and begin a bushwhack just as the rain turns to snow.