ESSEX COUNTY — Two hikers misjudged the time needed to climb Whiteface Mountain in Essex County this past weekend, then called a taxi to pick them up only to find out the highway to the top remained closed, the state Department of Environmental Conservation said this week.
The hikers were unharmed in the incident, but a forest ranger ultimately drove up the highway himself and returned them to their vehicle, the DEC said.
The incident happened Sunday afternoon. The hikers, who were not identified, told rangers they had parked near the mountain at Connery Pond and then walked to Lake Placid, the DEC said.
There, they said they spoke to a person about hiking Whiteface, and they were told the climb would probably take about 45 minutes.
Whiteface is the fifth-highest mountain in New York state.
“After climbing through the ice and snow to the summit for several hours, the hikers called for a taxi to return to their vehicle, which was six miles away,” the DEC wrote in its weekly forest ranger highlight report. “They were informed the Whiteface Mountain toll road was closed.”
The mountain offers the Whiteface Veterans’ Memorial Highway, which leads vehicles directly to the 4,867-foot peak. But it’s closed in the off-season and remained closed Sunday. It is set to reopen for traffic Friday.
In the hikers’ case, Essex County 911 heard from the hikers at about 4:19 p.m. and transferred the call to the DEC’s Ray Brook dispatch.
Forest Ranger Robert Praczkajlo then drove up the closed highway and gave them a courtesy ride to their vehicle by 5:50 p.m., the DEC said.
The incident was the last of five wilderness incidents, including search and rescue operations, highlighted in the weekly forest rangers report, four of them in the Adirondacks and one in the Catskills. All had successful outcomes.
Rangers last year participated in 346 search and rescues, according to DEC, the majority of them in the Adirondacks. Rangers have said they need more staffing as they deal with an increase in hikers, many of whom are inexperienced.