Climbing Mt Whiteface and its neighbor East Sleeper via the Downes Brook Trail is not your typical winter route. Running 5.2 miles and requiring 10 stream crossings to the Sleeper Trail junction linking Whiteface to East Sleeper, it would have been a long approach had we made it. But we didn’t.
Why didn’t we? Well, that’s a different story. Some people in the group I was with were tired from breaking trail unsuccessfully up Mt Jefferson, the previous day. Others were intimidated by the fact that we’d lost the trail, buried under several feet of snow, even though we were following a handrail (the stream…up a ravine) to our destination. Some were justifiably worried about the snow bridges we’d crossed and whether they’d be passable later that evening in the balmy temperatures. Others were just gassed, breaking trail at a one mile per hour pace through deep snow.
I wanted to keep going. I knew where we were relative to our trail and our destination. I had plenty of energy left. I knew we could bushwhack around any of the snow bridges if they didn’t hold. But I turned back with the group because that’s how winter hiking works. I couldn’t finish the hike without them and you don’t split a group. Disappointing, but it will inform our next attempt.
Total distance hiked: 8.0 miles with 1200′ of elevation gain.