Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Waumbek for New Year's Eve (12-31-12)

Day 2 of my 3-day weekend in the Whites was originally scheduled to join with a couple of Hike-NH and Views from the Top hikers to traverse over the two Twins and Galehead Mountain. However, after the day before, I was unsure if I would be up to an even longer day on snowshoes (got to get used to them again!) and the weather was supposed to be cold and windy as well (and low on views). But during the day while I was on the Tripyramids, everyone planning to go dropped out one-by-one anyway, so my decision was made easier. I opted to use up one of my remaining sheltered and easier hikes and visit Waumbek.

The summer lot for the Starr King Trail is not plowed in winter, and the road leading to it is signed for no parking (the road is fairly narrow and there are numerous houses along it, so politeness alone should dictate you don't park there). Thus, after seeing this, I went in search of a lot to park in; I had a vague recollection that the White Mountain Guide said a lot for winter use was available along the main road (Route 2). I soon found a large, well-plowed lot about 1/10 mile East down the road from the Starr King road, with only 2 cars in it, and nothing stating it was off-limits. Easy enough! (Note that I later was informed that there is a closer lot, and even signed for hiker parking...somehow I missed it!).

Boots on trail-err, road- at about 9 AM, snowshoes strapped to the pack. After the quick walk to Starr King Road, and then a short walk up the road to the trailhead, I strapped the snowshoes onto the feet and off I went. Right from the parking lot there is an old road corridor of some sort which the trail meets a tenth or two of a mile up the main trail way. Both this and the main trail were broken out with a nice snowshoe trench, but I opted for the trail itself, and took the old road on the way down. Both ways were perfectly fine, but I saw no real advantage of one over the other (the old road is probably a very small amount shorter in length).

Another group just ahead of me at the well

Old well alongside the trail not too far from the trailhead
Early on I passed a group of what appeared to be 2 dads with their kids (total group size of 5), all happily snowshoeing up the trail. I saw no one else until I was part-way between Starr King and Waumbek. As I climbed, I could hear but not really feel, the wind whipping in the trees, and it was fairly cold as well, so I was thankful for the protected hike. Slowly, but steadily, I made my way up the 2.6 miles to Mount Starr King, which allegedly has some nice views by the old fireplace near its summit (this day was like my 2 previous visits to these mountains in that I had no views to speak of - in fact, this one was a total view-less day).

Winter Wonderland on the Starr King Trail
At this point I was only a few minutes ahead of book time, which I am usually a reasonable amount under, so I was definitely glad I had not gone to the Twins today (plus no views!). The fireplace area, exposed to the South, was fairly sheltered and I stopped for a snack before heading the last mile and couple hundred feet over to Waumbek.

No views off Starr King today - can barely see the trees on the other side of the clearing!
The ridge between these 2 peaks is pretty tame, with only a short drop off Starr King and a slightly longer ascent to Waumbek. It was in this stretch where I ran into 2 hikers on their way back. The ridge was drifted in and a bit windy, but nothing bad, and I easily made my way to the un-inspiring summit of Waumbek (no pictures as once again my camera rebelled at the cold temperatures...). Just for kicks I continued past to the blowdown patch a few yards past the summit, where the broken trail ended (it did not look like the Kilkenny Ridge Trail past Waumbek had been touched since the snow started falling). As with Starr King, no views today...

A quick u-turn and I was on my way back, where I met another pair of hikers on their way to Waumbek, and near Starr King I saw the group from earlier in the day. Another short break, and I cruised down the trail to the car.

About 1 mile from the trailhead is when the crowds began. I ran into easily 20 other people in a short span, starting with a couple of guys skiing UP the trail (must have been a great descent though!). Then there were the hordes of bare-booters and microspikers (seriously, there was ZERO ice, and the trail was getting really chopped up by all the non-flotation being used...). I smoothed out things on my way down, but I'm sure they chewed it up again on their descent (a few had sleds or skis with them for the descent at least). Back at the trailhead, I shook my head at the 3 or 4 cars parked right in front of people's driveways (and obvious NO PARKING) signs. I hope for the sake of the people that lived there that they could get in and out if they needed too. It looked like it would be tough...

Back to my car just under 5 hours from when I left (hey, descents in the soft snow on snowshoes is FAST! - 45 minutes to come down from Starr King), I packed up and hit the road to relax for the rest of the afternoon, knowing the hardest day of the weekend was looming tomorrow...

Peaks: Mount Starr King (3914', 52WAV), Mount Waumbek (4006', NH4K)
Trails: Starr King Trail, plus a short roadwalk on Rt. 2 and Starr King Road
Mileage: ~7.8 miles (7.2 miles by trail)
Elevation Gain: 2800'
Book Time: 5 hours (from the trailhead)

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