Whiteface Moutain is arguably the most unique High Peak, due to its exciting history and current recreational use. Standing as the fifth highest high peak at 4,867 feet in elevation, Whiteface is also rather isolated from the other High Peaks (along with Mount Esther) at the northern edge of the region. Whiteface towers high above the villages of Wilmington to the northeast and Lake Placid to the southwest.
According to Carson, Whiteface was the first high peak to be officially granted a name. The name first appeared in print in 1813, and while it is unclear who actually named the peak, its origins may lie in several Native American names for Whiteface. Thei-a-no-guen, a Mohawk word for “white head,” Wa-ho-par-te-nie, an Algonquin name meaning “it is white,” and Ou-no-war-lah, a Mohawk word for “scalp mountain” are a few possible sources of inspiration.
Unsurprisingly, the name has to do with the physical features of the mountain. As Ebeneezer Emmons described in 1837, Whiteface “receives its name from the circumstance of a slide having, on one side, laid bare the rock, which has a grayish white appearance” (Carson 17). Though there is no record confirming this, historians surmise that surveyor Steven Thorn was the first to summit this peak in 1804. The first recorded ascent occurred on September 20th, 1836 by Emmons and fellow members of the New York Geological Survey.
Whiteface maintains its reputation as the most well known high peak for a number of reasons. Its proximity to Lake Placid and its Olympic legacy make it a popular destination for tourists. Aided by the Veterans’ Memorial Highway that allows visitors to drive to the top, Whiteface allows for easy accessibility of its stunning views. The mountain also boasts the most tourism infrastructure out of any high peak. Home to a ski resort, gondola rides, guided nature walks, a disc golf course, mountain biking trails, a free fall chamber, a cafe at 4,610 feet, weddings, and other events, visitor crowd the peak year round.
“Whiteface Mountain.” Whiteface Mountain | Lake Placid, Adirondacks, Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism, www.lakeplacid.com/do/activities/whiteface-mountain.