|Osceolas (L) and Scar Ridge from the Hancock Parking Lot - nice day on tap?|
I put the snowshoes on right after crossing the road to the trailhead. Things looked pretty well-packed and I probably could have gotten away with microspikes (which my sore legs would have welcomed!) without causing damage to the track, but I opted for the snowshoes in case things changed quickly. Ultimately it was yet another car-to-car snowshoe, 5/5 on the winter (versus only 1 all last winter!), though I would have been fine in the 'spikes on all but the ridge.
Taking the Hancock Notch Trail to the Cedar Brook Trail up to the Hancock Loop Trail (have I lost you yet?) I ran into the first people just a few yards from the Hancock Notch/Cedar Brook junction, on their way OUT already (it was 9AM)! I hit the latter junction exactly 1 hour into the hike (2.5 miles and several hundred feet of elevation gain later). Not bad I thought! The numerous water crossings were in various states of open, decently-bridged, partially bridged, and weak-looking bridged, but none were difficult with the low water, even with the clown shoes (snowshoes) on. It was a wonderful snowshoe to this point, but I knew the climbing would start to pick up now, before the STEEP climb up to North Hancock.
|Arrow Slide on North Hancock - the trail goes up next to this!|
Though I was slowing down, I made my way to the split in the Hancock Loop Trail, watching as the sky had started to cloud up quickly. A quick stop at the split, and I dropped the 100 feet of elevation to the old stream bed and began the climb as it began to snow. From this bottoming-out point, the trail climbs roughly 1100 feet in merely 0.6 miles, paralleling a major rock slide (Arrow Slide) most of the way.
The trail here was crusty ice with no real snow on top of it, likely blown off by the winds and butt-sliders descending. But the trusty MSR Lightning Ascent snowshoes worked great on this, with nary a slip or slide all the way up (plus the televators - heel lifts - were wonderful!) I had brought my Hillsound Pro baby crampons for this just in case, but they really weren't necessary with the good snowshoe crampons. As I got higher the winds picked up and the snow did likewise, to the point where I could no longer see South Hancock, less than 1 mile away, through the trees. Slowly and steadily I made my way up to the summit of North Hancock, topping out a little under 1 hour from leaving the junction. With the winds blowing strong and no views to be had, I snapped a picture of the sign and moved on, not bothering to visit the view ledge nearby.
|North Hancock - no view to be had right now|
The ridge hike went quickly, as it is 1.4 miles, but the col to South Hancock is barely the 200 feet minimum to count on the 4000-Footer List (well, actually, it misses by at least 1 foot, but that's another story for another day...). Again, it was blowing hard and snowing a little during this stretch, though the snow did seem to taper off towards the end. However, the wind was whipping it up all over, and so I actually put the goggles on shortly after leaving North Hancock until I was off the ridge, as the snow was stinging my eyes. With no views still to be had, I didn't check out the South Hancock view point either.
|South Hancock - #37 on my Winter 48 List!|
With little pause, I plowed right on by the trail junction and headed for Cedar Brook. Partway down the 1 mile to the Cedar Brook Trail, I noticed there was some blue in the sky now...though within 30 minutes it was snowing again (lightly this time) so I didn't kick myself too hard. A slightly later start might have netted some views, but that's OK, I imagine I'll be back some day! I passed many groups of people on the Hancock Loop Trail, all heading up to the Hancocks, and all in snowshoes even! With the trail in good shape already, I imagine it was immaculately-packed by the end of the day.
With little need to pause, I merely focused on keeping my sore legs moving forward, and enjoying the snowy woods, and before I knew it I was back to the parking lot, exactly 5 hours after leaving. Not bad, especially for day 2! And now I was down to 11 peaks left on my winter list (and 7 hikes, as most are singles). There was also a decent view at the parking lot again... In planning the weekend I had originally thought I could add Tecumseh on my way home and there was indeed time, but the day before I had determined this was crazy, and with the sore legs I fought early in this day and on every ascent, I just drove home and was home by 4PM, the earliest ever for me on a hiking Sunday!
Peaks: Mount (North) Hancock (4420', NH4K), South Hancock (4319', NH4K)
Trails: Hancock Notch Trail, Cedar Brook Trail, Hancock Loop Trail
Mileage: 9.8 miles
Elevation Gain: 2700 feet
Book Time: 6.25 hours (5 hours taken)