Saturday, March 2, 2013

#43 - Cabot - February 23, 2013

Finally, I was getting to the weekend for the 2 Northern peaks I had left on my winter 4000-footer list: Cabot and Moriah. This weekend had originally been scheduled for February 9/10, but Winter Storm Nemo decided to dump over 2 feet of snow on Massachusetts and Southern New Hampshire Friday night into mid-day Saturday, so we postponed it to the next weekend that Pam had available (Pam was scheduling this hike through the Meetup group Random Group of Hikers). Yet we almost had a repeat cancellation as yet another winter storm set its sights on the Northeast for this weekend (Saturday night into Sunday), but ultimately we continued on.

A couple people dropped out due to concern over the drive home Saturday night (which sounded like it was a little hairy at times in fact), but we also gained a couple add-ons, Ian who I'd hiked with a couple times this winter already, and grid-finisher Joe Commuzi, who I'd hiked with on the AMC trip to the Osceolas earlier this month. This would be Joe's 19th time summiting Cabot! He also brought along his hiking hound Paprika for this one, and Paprika has 4 rounds of the 4000-footers to her credit as well! All told, we had a great group of 9 people and 1 dog, and it was a great hike.

Setting off from the lot on York Pond Road at 9AM, we took the York Pond Trail for a brief distance to where the Bunnell Notch Trail diverges to the right, and took that into the notch where we would pick up the Kilkenny Ridge Trail to the summit of Mount Cabot. For me, this was my first time approaching Cabot from this trailhead, so while the stretch from the Notch to Cabot's summit I had traveled back in the summer, there would be some new trail for me this time out, which is always a fun experience.

The hike to the height-of-land in Bunnell Notch is pretty gentle overall, gradually climbing on a series of logging roads with some minor ups-and-downs along the way. Early on we put the snowshoes on, and used them for the entirety of this hike, as we had anticipated. This portion of the hike went pretty quickly. Then there is a short descent to where the Kilkenny Ridge Trail climbs up to Cabot.

Gearing up to go

Most of the hike to Bunnell Notch looked like this.
 The climb from the notch to the Cabot Cabin is steady, but not overly steep. That said, it is a climb of roughly 1000 feet in about 1 mile. In the final push to the cabin, we ran into the first people we'd seen since leaving the trailhead, a solo hiker heading down who had just finished #47 on his 4000-footer list (non-winter) and a duo who came up behind us and were planning to loop out over The Bulge and The Horn after summiting Cabot. We took a short break at the cabin, then headed out for the summit, about 4/10 of a mile away.

Just past the cabin is a clearing where an old tower used to be, which has some limited views on a clear day (we were in the clouds, so no view to stop for). However, the broken-out track ended here. A major OOPS for the guy who thought he'd gotten #47, guess he forgot to read the White Mountain Guide which makes it pretty clear that the summit is 4/10 mile past this. This seems to happen every year though. For those approaching from this side, note that the cabin is nearly 200 feet lower in elevation than the summit (which has a sign by the way). Ian picked his way through the woods, which are a tad open in spots, finding bits of old tracks here and there and we reached the summit with no real trouble. The actual high point is a handful of yards to the Northeast, where there is a small "stick sign" nailed to the back of a tree, but most people just use the signed tree as the summit, it's close enough really.

Stick sign at the high point on Mount Cabot

Paprika looking for handouts while we stopped at the summit
After a short break, where the duo behind us started off for The Bulge, we headed down to the cabin for a break before the descent. Not long after we returned to the cabin, the duo came back, reporting they had lost any trace of where the trail went within the first 200 yards from the summit, so they decided to abort, especially with weather rolling in.

After a nice break, we began heading down, stopping near the bottom at the Bunnell Rock overlook, which we had missed on the way up. There was a little bit of a view towards Terrace Mountain on the other side of the notch.

Terrace Mountain from Bunnell Rock

The rest of the descent went smoothly, then it was just the 3-mile trek back to the parking lot, during which time it began to snow lightly. Back at the parking lot, everyone went their separate ways to get home, though I drove down to Pinkham Notch where I spent the night at Joe Dodge Lodge before my planned hike to Moriah on Sunday.

On a side note, we saw a TON of people hiking Cabot on this hike, more than the couple noted above. In fact, Ian commented that there were more people on this mountain today than in his previous 5 trips combined!

Peaks: Cabot (4170', NH4K)
Trails: York Pond Trail, Bunnell Notch Trail, Kilkenny Ridge Trail
Mileage: 9.6 miles
Elevation Gain: 2900'
Book Time: 6hr 15min

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