A few minutes later, we arrived at the airy second hairpin. The second hairpin is built-up on a broad, curving wall of stone, and it has excellent views over to Esther and down into the Olympic ski area. Off in the distance to the south, the Central High Peaks were half-covered in a blanket of undercast. cool!
We ditched the snowshoes at the 2nd hairpin and started snowshoeing up the scenic north ridge of Whiteface. The snow was pristine and fairly firm. No one had been up here hiking recently, so we broke trail for the short distance to the summit, eyeing the busy olympic ski hill below us the entire way.
We didn't dally long at the summit, because if this bit of trail wasn't broken, then it was very likely that the trail over to Esther was also unbroken, and that was going to take substantially longer that our little jaunt up here. So, after a few quick snaps, back down we went, retracing our steps.
Great Range holds it back
We hiked back down to the 2nd hairpin of the toll road, then continued down and to the right underneath the road's looming supporting wall. The trail was indeed unbroken, and it took a few moments to locate the right point where the trail descends down into the trees. Fortunately we would be heading downhill more than uphill on our way to Esther, and that made breaking the trail easier. We would then be able to climb back up later on with a somewhat broken-in trail.
It was a fairly straightforward but still somewhat tiring trudge over to the junction with the herdpath to Esther (which now has an actual sign at the junction where the herdpath starts). The herdpath itself was, unsurprisingly, not broken out. The trees were heavy with snow, and often boughs would be bent over, obscuring the otherwise fairly well-defined herdpath. I kept a close eye on my pre-existing GPS track (from an earlier summer climb of Esther), and this helped to keep us on the right route in several spots.
Even so, the going was slow, and we arrived at the summit of Esther later than I had wanted, at about 3pm.