Sunday, March 18, 2012

Last "Winter" hike of 2012 - Carters 3-18-12

Sunday I woke up at Joe Dodge Lodge ready for one more trek in the "winter" wonderland. With temps forecast to be near 50 on the rockpile and in the 70-degree range in the valleys, it was going to be more like many summer hikes I've done. The nice part was I could dump some of the extra layers I've been carrying all winter, losing a couple pounds of pack weight. The bad news was that I was almost certain I would need the snowshoes for a good chunk of the day, in soft snow (ew!).

The plan was to do all 3 Carter plus Hight (since it was to be a clear sunny day and it was). I decided the night before to do Carter Dome first, then Hight, and so on until I hit the North Carter Trail where I would head down, grab the South Imp Loop until the old logging road to Camp Dodge, and a short road walk back to the 19-Mile Brook Trailhead.

I eventually got rolling on the trail near 8:30, not exactly looking forward to the descent at the end of the day with ice likely and only one treking pole...(see the Moosilaukee TR). But this was the plan and I was sticking to it if possible. The trip up the 1.9 miles to the Carter Dome Trail went fast, despite stopping often to look at the quickly-running brook. 40 minutes for this mileage (plus 950 feet gain)!

19-Mile Brook running solidly

I hit the Carter Dome Trail and headed upward. It felt slow at times, but I still hit the ridge in good time to continue the full time. I've had some good trail times this winter, I'm still not sure if that is due to the general lack of rocks and such or hiking most every week, I'll just go with both and leave it at that. It's allowed for some awesome longer hikes that I would never have tried before! (Such as this one).

I headed along the Carter Dome Trail to the Dome, putting on snowshoes just past Zeta Pass. I wasn't post-holing yet, but things were soft and it wasn't going to be long. I left them on until partway down the Imp Trail. The only other time I wore snowshoes for more than 2-3 miles this winter was the day on the Wildcats...

I made the summit of Carter Dome uneventfully at 11:30, took a few pictures at the overlook towards the Presis, then headed to Hight for a longer stop. This climb was easy, though I knew the descent would be interesting. The section of the Carter-Moriah Trail between Carter Dome and the split to Hight was post-hole-riddled. Luckily people today were all putting snow shoes on after a post-hole occurred. Drifts in spots were over 5 feet deep still, and even in snow shoes, step off the forming monorail and you're going to post-hole to your hip. Hight was awesome! Well worth the side trip and I spent my longest break of the day here.

The Northern Presidentials

Eventually I left, and headed to South Carter, and then the slow trip up to Middle Carter. I saw a total of 3 people along this stretch, 2 RUNNING Southward with 3 dogs, and one just below Middle Carter heading towards the North Carter Trail with a stove out cooking lunch.

On the way to the North Carter Trail I thought about taking a stab at the bushwhack to Lethe, as the summit is only about 150 feet off-trail according to the topo maps. There appeared to be a herd path heading to the summit from the height-of-land on the Carter-Moriah Trail, and it was well-packed. I dropped my pack, grabbing the map and compass and GPS and started out on it, but it petered out after about 20-30 feet in a nasty tangle of spruce branches. Must have been a popular pee trail... I was tired, and didn't want to deal with this even though I could see roughly where the summit was. Too much nasty stuff to push through at the end of the day so I bailed and headed down the trail to the road.

Heading down the Imp Trail I eventually removed the snowshoes and microspiked for a while, before the trail dried up of all snow (though not all mud of course...). When the trail bent away from Cowboy Brook I was looking all over for the old logging road toward Camp Dodge and finding nothing. I recalled that it was lower down the trail, just before the trail crosses a smaller stream. There was nothing here either that looked like a trail. The woods were open hardwoods with little snow and I could easily have headed through towards Camp Dodge but didn't want to bother. I was a little peeved figuring I missed the road and wondering how I missed what was supposed to be a pretty obvious path. I resigned myself to a long road walk, carefully crossed the stream (which was BARELY rock-hoppable as it was running deep), and was faced with a huge blowdown blocking the trail. Right before this blowdown was what I had been expecting earlier: an obvious logging road crossing the trail. There was still snow on it and there was lots of evidence of people on this path before, and off I went. It was pretty easily to follow...

The "bushwhack" to Camp Dodge

Being in Camp Dodge when it was shut down was eerie-feeling. Lots of skeleton tent frames and the like. There were also a bunch of old trail signs on one of the bunkhouses. Guess we know where some of the retired signs that don't get auctioned go...

Don't think Mt. Pemi is that close...

I was back at the car at 4:30, and tired. 3.5 hour drive home now. But up to 27 winter 4Ks! A beautiful day to cap off the winter, even it felt more like spring or summer.


Saturday, March 17, 2012

St. Patty's, the Moose, and a Broken Limb

I'll get to the broken limb later. Let's start with the good:

I had some fun finding the Glencliff Trailhead (High Street is NOT signed, and Glencliff is not on any maps...follow the signs to the Sanatorium!) I also pulled into the gated road for Townline Trail (it's on the left, but I'm directionally dyslexic some days and thought that left was right...) at first and was worried I might get stuck in the mud while trying to get out - I lucked out here! Eventually I got going. Left the car (only the second in the lot) at 8:30 under cloudy skies. Reports from the OBS in the morning indicated that this MIGHT be an undercast, and I was hoping for it to stay, but be below 4000 feet so I could get my first undercast views. Ultimately I was satisfied. I took the dirt farm road behind the gate at the lot instead of walking down the road. It intersects with the main trail pretty quick (the guidebook mentions this road as an option). I chugged away up the trail in bare boots at first, as there was NO snow or ice to be seen.

The bottom part of the trail was very muddy, with occasional little patches of ice easily avoided. Around 2400', right before the first stream crossing on planks, I put the spikes on as the ice was omnipresent now, only along the trail of course.

Beginnings of the monorail

I kept heading up, soon passing a solo hiker who owned the truck I had seen in the lot. She was using this hike as a re-tune up after being sick for a while with various ailments including just getting over pneumonia! I kept moving.

After a while the misty day ended and I broke into blue skies with an undercast!

Undercast to the West

Still I headed up, still in spikes as the trail was still solid under me at this elevation and early hour. I slowed down on the steep approach to the ridge, but still somehow covered that first 3 miles and 3000 feet of climbing in 2 hours! Not sure where that came from! I passed on South peak planning to grab it on the way down, I wanted to hopefully get some undercast views from the 360-view summit of the Moose.

The ridge was still (just) solid enough to support me, though snowshoes might still have been a good choice now. I saw lots of previous postholes, but avoided adding any of my own (on-trail ones that is) until near the base of the summit cone in a drifted area, where I caused a couple. I would have put the snow shoes on except I could see the trail to the summit was either bare or just some light ice not 100 feet past this point...I hate rock-hopping in clown shoes.

 I summitted at 11 on the nose, a ridiculous time of 2.5 hours from the trailhead for the 3.8 miles and 3300 feet (3.5 is book time...). I was alone on the summit, with clear skies above a partial undercast (Northward was thinning out, but still solid to the South), along with mild winds, the lowest I've ever felt on this usually-windy summit! It was also warm, somewhere in the high 40s I'd say.

The Presidentials far behind the Bonds and Liberty/Flume

I put on a light jacket and figured I'd hang for a while. JustJoe, BobC, and Salty from Hike-NH were expected at some point and I was in no hurry. I enjoyed watching the undercast slowly pull away to the south revealing more peaks. I spoke with one gentleman who came up from Kinsman Notch with his dog, he lives in N. Woodstock. Must be nice! He had finished a SSW48 by early February... After a while more people filtered up and I was still just hanging. Somewhere around noon I saw some guys coming up, and I recognized the long-haired Salty pretty fast. JustJoe and BobC were soon behind, and I later found out that their companion was the one New Hampshire, err, Brian.

We chatted for a while, and eventually I decided it was time to head down. It was 1 PM and I had been on the summit for 2 hours! I've never spent that long on a summit EVER (even in summer) and it was awesome! A nice relaxing day. I bid my goodbyes, strapped on the snowshoes and headed to South Peak. I had previously been on this knob on an overcast day (not sure why I bothered since we couldn't see 200 yards that day...) and it was far better on this day. Still, the views were not great today since this spot has views into Tunnel Brook but the undercast was still there. Still, I'm not complaining any.

I snowshoed steadily down the trail, crossing the major ice bulge at 3000 feet that had water running over it. This thing is at least 300 feet long (or at least it WAS) and pretty thick, it gave my spikes a test on the way up on a step section, but overall it is fairly flat and light traction was sufficient. The snowshoes did far better with it on the way down, probably helped by it being a bit softer, but these MSR LAs also have some impressive crampons!

The giant ice bulge...over a foot thick for much of its length!

Below the bridged crossing I removed the snow shoes and bare-booted the rest of the way. Somewhere between here and the fields I slipped in the mud and went down HARD. Here's where the broken limb came in. I was scraped up in a few spots, but overall I was OK aside from being angry at myself and the mud, but my left treking pole didn't fare quite so well...


These poles saw me through 12 years of on-and-off hiking, most of the initial 4Ks, the Grand Canyon, and my grandfather even used them at Machu Picchu! Oh well, guess I know what's on the top of my shopping list this spring! I can manage with one pole, but really like having 2 for descents as they really help out my knees (plus having 4 feet is better than 3).

All in all a great day, aside from the end. Good to meet Joe, Bob, Mike, and Brian (the singing really should have tipped me off as to who it was...). Awesome undercasts, super-warm temps, and the mid-point of my winter 4Ks!!! 24 down in my first 2 months of winter hiking ever, wow! In early January I still swore I would never hike in winter, now 2.5 months later I'm half-way to the Winter 48 patch...good grief! I drove to Pinkham Notch to stay at Joe Dodge for the night and enjoyed seeing all the crazy spring skiers leaving for the day. Hard to call this a winter hike as I was in short sleeves all day and it was near 50 on the summit, but who cares!


Monday, March 12, 2012

A Weekend Blitzkrieg of the Presidentials - 3-10-12 to 3-12-12

Saturday 3-10-2012
Peaks: Jefferson, Washington, Monroe
Miles: ~13.7mi (estimated due to trail re-locations of Jewell plus the higher up the road start)
Elevation: ~5550ft

The plan was a Washington->Pierce traverse. I drove north from MA, leaving around 3:45 AM and driving through near-whiteout conditions in central NH. I was worried about the plan for the day, but the skies were clear and sunny from Lincoln on north. Kelly and Pete picked me up at the Highland Center and we went to the lower Cog lot where they were starting on their final winter 48 hike. Got going at 7:40. They went up Jewell to Jefferson, then to Washington and Monroe for the finish. I also planned to go up Jewell and possibly scramble up to Clay before heading South, but the skies were pretty clear and the winds were non-existent at treeline, so I decided now was a good time to tag Jefferson. In fact, things were so nice above treeline we joked about putting on t-shirts. Despite it only being about +5F (sun was nice and warm!)

The skies clouded up and the winds picked up by the time we got to Jefferson (low-30s mph, not a huge deal, but it was cold too so ~-20F wind chills), visibility was 100-200 yards at best. It lifted a bit (not great, but enough) for the rest of the day thankfully, after leaving Jefferson. Otherwise I might have bailed back down Jewell and walked back to my car. The climb to Washington was slow (and my hands were slow and painful to warm, I didn't go to warmer gloves fast enough...). I just wasn't feeling it at this point, might have had something to do with the really early morning and the tough drive up.

We ran into Sue and Earl (from Views From The Top) doing a Wash/Jeff hike near the Clay/Washington Col. After hitting Washington and eventually Monroe, I called it a day, which I knew was likely after heading for Jefferson (I had held out hope for making good time and doing a Jeff-Pierce traverse!). No regrets, I considered Jefferson to be one of the hardest peaks to get, though I do plan a revisit on a better weather day. Back at the car at 5:25, so total ET of 9hr 45 min, not bad imo.

Thus I ended up not needing the car spot. Thanks anyways Kelly and Pete, it was an honor to be present for your finish and I was glad to be able to take the pictures on Monroe as no one else was around! Great to meet you two. Sorry I was such a slug after hitting Jefferson, hope I didn't slow you guys down too much.


Sunday 3-11-2012
Peaks: Pierce, Eisenhower
Miles: 9.6mi
Elevation: 3200ft

The night before, I decided I would do the Osceolas on the way back to MA. But I woke feeling poor (sore, beaten, tired, etc) and decided I didn't want a steep climb. With forecasts for winds in the 60mph range on George but nice clear skies all day, I decided to take a crack at the peaks I skipped the day before: Pierce and Eisenhower. I figured I would turn around if it was too windy on Pierce, as it is protected most of the way to the summit. I was staying at the Highland Center so I didn't even have to move my car from where I left it the morning before! The climb went decently after I got moving for a while, this is not an uncommon thing for me the second hike day, and I had been counting on it. Started at 9, hit the summit of Pierce at 11:25. I was greeted with bluebird skies and noticeable but not crazy winds, I figure in the high-20s range. Good enough to go for Eisenhower for sure.

Kelly the day before had mentioned a horror story of spruce traps and a hard-to-follow trail between the peaks, but with the lack of snow and warm temps (it was near 35F and sunny) this was not a problem. I had worn microspikes all the way to this point, they were great on the hard-pack before Pierce, but things were soft between the peaks and I got some balling under the spikes. Now I know what that feels/looks like, not pleasant at all. There was also some minor drifting in here, but alternated with bare rock so I stuck with the spikes. I had brought my Hillsound Pros instead of the full crampons (which were overkill the day before due to thin snow/ice coverage) for the ledges up Eisenhower on the loop trail, but there was only a few small spots of ice and I stuck with the spikes. Not problems. The summit was nearly bare of any snow.

The massive carin on the summit of Eisenhower.

Here the winds were higher but still tolerable long enough for some pictures. I figured low-30s which agreed with a couple guys with wind gages. I reversed direction and headed down as I needed a rest. Also, I had seen in the morning that the MWOBS was calling for diminished winds and more sun the next day. I was thinking about staying for one more night. The descent was uneventful, though I ditched the microspikes at the Webster Cliff junction and bare-booted down. The snow-balling was making the 'spikes useless anyway. I met a bunch of people on this day near both summits, and more coming up to Pierce as I descended. All were in 'spikes or Hillsounds (the spike version). A couple people did put full crampons on at the Eisenhower Loop for that ascent, but only because they didn't have other traction (bare-booted up). Spikes were sufficient for the ledges. I got to have both summits to myself until after I left them (~10-15 min at each). Despite stopping to talk to several groups of people for several minutes each, I was back to the road in under 6 hours total time (just before 3PM). Awesome considering how I felt when I had gotten up in the morning!


Monday 3-12-2012
Peaks: Madison, Adams
Miles: 10.5mi
Elevation: 5050ft

On Sunday when I got back to the Highland Lodge I requested the NOAA graphs at the front desk. The MWOBS was calling for 40-50mph winds early, decreasing to 15-30 (or something like that) but I wanted to know WHEN the decrease would occur. It turned out that NOAA agreed on the wind values with the OBS and had the winds dropping under 30 around noon. With the forecasts all also calling for ample sun and temps near 40, it was an easy decision to stay another night, as I had the flexibility at work. I had already planned on taking one more vacation day this calendar winter (either a Friday or a Monday; I was planning on St. Patty's weekend though since Monday was supposed to be very windy all day) and had been told at work that it could be last minute if it was for a great weather day. This qualified for sure!

I headed out to Appalachia and hit the trail at 7:55. The plan was up and down Valley Way, teeing at Madison Hut to Adams first via Gulfside and Airline, then Madison via Osgood (of course). I planned on a 4-hour climb to the hut knowing how long my weekend had been already, but I was shocked to reach the hut at 11! I saw one person about half-way (~10 AM) up who was coming down, he had already hit Madison and Adams, starting at 5AM and getting the sunrise on Madison. Must have been a nice one! I also was leap-frogging with 3 guys from 0.9 miles in all the way to the hut. They were carrying full packs and were planning a full traverse, with an overnight at either Spinx Col or near Lakes depending on how the day went. Hope it went well guys! They dropped packs at the hut and went for Madison while I started for Adams.

I remembered the climb to Adams being rocky and fairly steep in spots and wasn't disappointed. With the warm temps and sun the last couple days, there was little snow left in the snow fields even. I had put on Hillsound Pro's at the hut (microspikes were balling up for the second half of the climb to the hut) and kept them on until back at the road; they worked awesome! There were spots where snow shoes would have worked better, but there was too much rock on the summit cone to keep them on. Eventually I summitted, after picking my way up somewhat along the Airline Trail. It was 12:10. I had the summit to myself with terrific views everywhere.

Washington, Clay, and the Great Gulf from Mount Adams

I was greeted with moderate winds, maybe low-20s at worst. Nothing at all to worry about with the bright sun and warm temps (nearing 40F!). After a bunch of pictures and a few minutes of just enjoying the views I headed down. I would have stayed a while but I had a 3+-hour drive home at the end of the day, and another 5000-foot peak yet to go. I picked my way down and met a solo hiker about halfway back to the Gulfside who had come up the Airline from Appalachia. I would see him again when I was half-way down Madison. Interestingly he was only wearing instep crampons. There was considerable ice between the rocks on the summit cone for which I was glad to have the Hillsound Pros (full crampons would have definitely been overkill though and there was a lot of rock-hopping involved). Microspikes likely would have been okay though. He was unconcerned though, and was doing fine when I saw him later, so to each his own I suppose.

Back at the hut I dropped my pack near the shed (pump house?) and after a snack break scooted up to the summit. There I ran into one more solo hiker on his way down, he had reached the hut just before my return, he was off to Adams (I later saw that he finished his Single-Season Winter 48 for this winter on Adams this day! Congratulations!!!). Once again I had a summit to myself. There was no snow at all on the upper 100 feet of the summit (except in a few spots) and so I had to rock-hop a lot in the Hillsounds...glad I didn't bring the full crampons! Microspikes would have been fine for this peak, and indeed the guy I had run into coming down (plus the 3 from the morning) all summitted using 'spikes. Great views despite the horizon haze and again I spent a little while enjoying the views and snapping pictures. After a little I headed down. 4 more people at the hut having just come up Valley Way. I headed down. Near the bottom of Valley Way I decided to take the Fallsway loops and got some nice peeks of the thawing cascades (pictures came out meh though). Back at the car at 3:40 and drove home.


Weekend Recap

Like nearly everyone else, I had been looking for a Presi Day before winter's end (calendar winter that is, regular winter seems to have abandoned ship, at least for now). Unlike seemingly everyone else, I was just looking to get one in before winter's end to have one under my belt, versus wanting one to finish a winter list. I didn't have to have one to finish the list as I'm not finishing this year. I was hoping for one though just for the experience. I ended up with 3 consecutive tolerable days (well, 1 marginally tolerable, 1 tolerable off the higher summits, and 1 awesome day), with Saturday being the worst day (cold and limited views after the morning though the views on Monroe were interesting) and Monday easily being the best. Sunday was great too though. Honestly, all 3 days were great in their own ways, I don't regret any of them. I didn't expect to have all of the Presis done this year, but I now sit at 23/48 winter peaks and all of the Presis now done. That said, I plan re-visits to all of them, especially Washington and Jefferson.

What an amazing weekend!

That said, 33.8 miles and 13,800 feet of gain in 3 days...I'm sore and tired!

I'm considering calling it a season and not hiking this weekend. What a way to finish! Still, I think I might head to the Carters this weekend anyway. Depends on what trails sound guess is mush...