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:

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