Sunday, January 29, 2012

A Three-fer - Tom, Field, Willey - 1-29-12

I decided that night that instead of the Hancocks (unsure about the water crossings after all the melting and rain, plus not really wanting to do that steep climb the day after a steep climb), I'd go for Field and Willey, and then if time/energy/weather permitted, Tom. I was staying at the Highland Center like the weekend before, so these were right there. They were also probably pretty well broken out since a lot of guests at the center frequent these trails.

Sunday saw me wake up to a not-sore-anymore hip (yeay!) but a very sore achillies tendon...what the heck! I was able to stretch it out reasonably and decided to give my plan for the day a go. I could always just call it off if need be, and drive back home without anything, the mountains weren't going anywhere.

I actually started out decently. I stopped at Avalon on the way up and took in the limited views briefly (in and out of the clouds all day, and pretty breezy) and snaked. I then slowly chugged up to Field and actually reached the summit 2.5 hours from leaving the Depot, a lot better than I expected! I trudged over to Willey, where I finally had a snack again (boy did I need it too! I should have had something at Field but wanted to get out of the wind).

Mount Tom waiting for me

Carrigain Notch from between Field and Willey

Gray Jay visiting on Mount Willey

View down through Crawford Notch from Mount Willey

Ate at the overlook just below the summit with 5 other people and 2 very friendly gray jays that were literally eating out of the palm of your hand (even when not invited!). Up to this point I'd been in microspikes all day, and really they were perfect except for the section between Field and Willey where there was more drifting and someone the day before had punched a TON of holes in the track. I didn't add any holes on the way to Willey, but put the snowshoes on for the trip back to Field to smooth things out some. There were people behind us using shoes the whole way (some barebooters/spikers too though) so the trail should be better packed now.

I had decided at the start of the day that with a 3-hour drive home, I'd have to be back to Field by 1 in order to do Tom as well. It was 1:05 when I got back, and I was feeling OK so I went for it. I cruised over to the A-Z trail, up Tom (where I passed a couple guys and an Airedale I'd seen earlier on between Willey and Field), took some pictures on the windy cloudy summit, and hopped back down to the A-Z Trail. I had left Field a mere 55 minutes ago! I don't usually move that fast in summer!

This way to #3 for the day

Look back to Field from near Tom's summit

Carrigain Notch

Uneventful trip down to the depot, back at my car at 3, so a shade under 7 hours ET. Not bad considering I still don't have the endurance I used to, and the day before was a tough hike. Microspikes were fine all day, though as mentioned snowshoes were better in between Field and Willey. Everything else was packed down solid, and most of it really could be barebooted. Some icy spots on Avalon and A-Z trails though, making spikes helpful.

Route taken - South leg first


Saturday, January 28, 2012

A Trek over 10 Kitties - Wildcats A-E - 1-28-12

Alright, so only 2 count as 4K's, and a ton of PUDs...

The Presidentials from the Lost Pond Trailhead
The route

This was the Wildcats. Joined up with Sue and Earl from VFTT (do they really need an intro here?) for this one. The plan was to hike a traverse from Pinkham to 19-Mile Brook. In total there were 6 of us on this day, and a fast trip was NOT in the cards.

After the snow/rain/sleet from Thursday/Friday (the tail end of which I drove up through Friday night...), there was a "lovely" crust on top of crappy snow. Snowshoes went on almost immediately after leaving the road on Lost Pond Trail, and they stayed on until the lot at 19 Mile Brook. I had never been on this section of the Wildcat Ridge Trail, and let me say that it lives up to it's billing as one of the steepest trails in the Whites. It is rated at 1.9 miles and 2150ft, but what that doesn't tell you is that there is a fairly moderate section in between 2 VERY steep sections.

We bushwhacked around the first ledge, as it was narrow, had a nasty sheer drop-off next to it, snow drifted over it at a 50-60 degree angle, and likely an inch of ice under. Also nothing to hold onto. The bushwhack was a unanimous decision and took us 20 yards to the right of it up and around. No problems aside from being steep. The remaining ledges were okay, but took a lot of work.

The climb was SLOW. The trail was not broken out at all, and was pretty crumbly so even with good kick steps, you tended to slide backwards a lot. There were some very nice views from the ledges going up, however, and we took our time to get safely up to E peak. We were at the chairlift between E and D at 12:20, roughly 4 hours after leaving the Pinkham Visitor Center. 

South from one of the ledges

Mount Washington

The traverse along the ridge went better as there was some broken out sections, but snowshoes were still very much needed. Some barebooters were punching a LOT of holes along the trail... We eventually reached A peak, took some pictures and looked into the notch, then cruised down to the 19 Mile Brook Trail. Sue set an aggressive pace out (especially after the trip we'd had so far...) and we reached the cars right around 5PM. 

View nearly straight down 1000 feet to Carter Notch Hut from the summit overlook at Wildcat A

Carter Dome across Carter Notch from Wildcat A

This was the first real test of my Lightning Ascent snowshoes, and boy were they terrific. Their grip is just amazing! In fact, 3 of the 6 in our group had LA shoes, and 2 of the remaining 3 had MSR's as well. I got to learn kick-stepping...very helpful getting up those snow-covered steep sections!

Note the pitches in the first 2 miles...

Thanks to Sue and Earl for letting me come along, and to Mike, Fitz, and Dave (I think I got those names right) too. It was a fun day, but not one I'm looking to repeat immediately Very Happy It was a good challenge though, and while I'm glad it is over, I'm glad I did it! I was battling a sore right hip most of the day, not sure what that was about...


Sunday, January 22, 2012

A Second Winter Hike - Jackson and Webster - 1-22-12


View of Mount Tom from the trailhead

Second winter hike ever for I was staying at the Highland Center, Webster-Jackson was near the top of my list, and with clear weather expected all day, and high-teens summit temps, this was a go. The winds which were supposed to be in the 30mph range never materialized again, not that I'm complaining! Maybe on Washington they were blowing, but not on the clear summits to the South! (And I was later told they weren't blowing much higher up either).

Nothing unusual here, I did the Webster-Jackson Trail, doing Jackson first, then along the Webster Cliff Trail to Webster, and down the Webster fork. Microspikes were perfect for this. There were numerous icy ledges along the Webster-Jackson Trail, especially the portion below the fork and the Jackson Branch. Bare boots would have been fine between the summits, but I left the spikes on.

Not too many people seen today either, I might have gotten out before the crowds. Saw 2 people as I returned from the cliff overlook 0.6 miles from the road, they were heading to Washington for the day...that's a decent walk! Ran into 2 guys coming down about 3/4 mile from the Jackson summit (kpmmbm and CrazyBob from Views From the Top).

Almost to the summit of Jackson!

I was climbing at a better overall rate today, and actually summited right around book time (2.5 hrs) One couple caught up to me shortly after this and we leap-frogged to the summit. They headed right down after taking a few pictures (football game?) So I had the summit MOSTLY to myself for 45 minutes while I hung out by the summit carin and snacked. 3 gray jays were all over me during this looking for was even taking food from my hand as I went to eat it!

Gray Jay looking for handouts

FANTASTIC views today! The only other time I was on Jackson it was overcast and cloudy, and so visibility wasn't great. Today was a perfect day, 120 mile visibility no problem. Temps were around 15-20F on the summit (at 11AM) and as I mentioned, just a very light intermittent breeze, and abundant sunshine. A true Presi day as the term goes. I took a ton of pictures, identifying what I could off-hand in Carrigain/Vose Spur, Field/Tom/Willey, all the Southern Presidentials, Isolation, Wildcats and even some Carters, Chocoura, Franconia Ridge peeking out behind the Willey range, and I think I even saw the Bonds. Very nice.

Mount Washington and the Southern Presidentials

Mount Washington

Mount Carrigain

Summit carin on Jackson

Mount Washington and it's South-Eastern Leg

Washington and the Southern Presidentials

After a while I started packing up to go, and 2 other couples summited right then. I left the gray jays to beg from them and headed to Webster. From here on I saw no one until the road.

The trail between Webster and Jackson I have never been on, but it was pretty steep in a number of spots, and butt-sliding was very helpful on a lot of ledges. The trail was well-broken and easy enough to follow, though the trail was overgrown in a number of spots. Heavy brushing will be needed come spring, though some of it will ease once the snow melts off the limbs that were only in the trail because of snow. Hit the trail junction just below Webster, popped up to the summit for a little to take some pictures into Crawford Notch. Headed down at 12:40, and was back at the car right at 2PM (left the car at 8:20).

Mount Willey from Webster

Mounts Field and Tom from Mount Webster

I was a shade over 5.5 hours for the whole loop with a long stop on Jackson, not too bad.

A great hike, thanks a ton to those that suggested it!

Winter 4K #2....


Saturday, January 21, 2012

My First Winter Hike - Mount Hale 1-21-12

And it was essentially solo. Saw the first people of the day about 2 minutes down from the summit, then a group on the Zealand Road heading to the hut. Otherwise, just me, the lightly falling snow, and the woodpeckers (a bunch of them!)...

A quiet parking lot in the falling snow

Overall a great first hike. I was a bit worried about the -30 or lower wind chills predicted for the summits. Ended up with hardly any wind all day, even on the summit it was calm.

Parked at the winter Zealand Road parking on Rt. 302, walked up the road to Hale Brook, summited, and retraced steps. The road was well-packed with a spider-web of fresh and not-so-fresh ski tracks, and filled in footprints (about 1" fell overnight). I was obviously the first one up this way on this day, aside from maybe a skiier or two. Bare-booted up to Hale Brook, no problem.

At the start of (closed) Zealand Road

Gated entrance to Zealand Road

Trailhead Kiosk for Hale Brook Trail

I microspiked up Hale Brook. A fairly-well packed trail, with the same ~1" of powder on top, and I probably could have bare-booted the whole thing without trouble honestly. Summitted eventually (I was slow, about 30 minutes over book time from car to summit) I am rather not in shape...climbing was slow, perhaps I need to learn to slow my pace instead of the spurt-stop-spurt-stop deal that I did...this was also my first solo hike ever.

I hung around at the completely untouched summit for 30-45 minutes. Lend-a-Hand was not cleared out since Thursday night's snow it appeared, although it might have only been the 2" that had fallen since Friday night, I didn't go far enough to look. Not knowing exactly where the Fire Warden's Trail (which is officially closed, but a very popular approach, especially in winter) comes in (I didn't feel like pulling my map out...), I couldn't check that, but there was no obvious path so I'd say it too hadn't been touched in a day or so. No views thanks to the clouds, a brief glimpse of either Zealand or the Twins (too quick to orient myself) was it. Not that Hale has much of a view anyway without standing on the carin with arms stretched high with a camera... There were several inches of fresh powder on the summit, looked to be a solid 6" plus, so I put my snowshoes on and tramped around a little to get used to them. Switched back to microspikes after a little bit.

Summit carin atop Mount Hale

The summit area of Mount Hale - you can just see the old foundation spikes poking through the snow.

Taken while standing on the carin with arm stretched up overhead - you can see some stuff on a better day, but it isn't much!

This way to Zealand Hut

Ate some food, headed down. Still in microspikes, but shortly after passing the previously mentioned couple, I put the snowshoes on. I was post-holing slightly with the harder landings from descending. No problems shoeing down, and since the couple was shoeing up, there should be a nice track again now. Descent was pretty solid, right around 1 hour. Put the snowshoes back on the pack at the trailhead, barebooted out. Drove back to Highland Center where I was staying in the bunkhouse and had a nice view of the Southern Presidential along Rt. 302 as the clouds had cleared...figures!

Totals: ~9.8 miles round-trip (figure ~0.2 roadwalk to get to Zealand Road from the parking lot, 2.5 miles up the road, and 2.2 up Hale Brook, then turn around and do the reverse), 7.5 hours taken total.

Side Note: Oddly, while the AMC book and the sign at the Zealand road end of Hale Brook all say 2.2 miles from trailhead to summit, the sign at the summit of Hale says 2.3 miles back to Zealand Road...

I enjoyed the hike overall, although the 2.5 mile road-walk at the end wasn't all that great...having the trails to myself with the light snow all day was actually very nice. Plenty warm enough, most of my layers stayed in the pack (except at the summit) despite the single-digit-F temps. Time for more winter hiking!

At the Hale Brook Trailhead on Zealand Road...

At the summit of Hale...

All Pictures: