Saturday, May 11, 2013

Views Double-Hit-and-Run - Mounts Willard and Pemigewasset - April 28, 2013

Waking up the day after HossInNH's 4000-Footer finish in the Northern Presidentials, I was pretty spent. I was due to lead a Meetup hike to the Kinsmans this day, but the day before saw the couple of attendees bail, so I was off the hook. It was still a really nice day, too nice to waste, and I hate driving all the way to the White Mountains for a single hike, so I changed tacks. How about a double-hit-and-run (2 separate hikes requiring a drive between trailheads)? Yes, I just said I was beat, and more specifically my legs were shot. But the 2 I had in mind (prompted by a comment made to me by a volunteer at the Highland Center at breakfast) had a combined elevation gain of less than 2500 feet and only 8-9 miles in total. I figured I'd take my time as needed and enjoy the beautiful weather.

Part I: Mount Willard

Mount Willard has been on my to-do list for over a year now. People always rave about the great views to be had from it, and how it is a fairly easy hike (that sounded good about now!). It is right in Crawford Notch where I am near very frequently, but I've never made the time for it as it is a mere 3.4-mile round trip. I kept saying "one day..." to myself. Well, one day was today.

The Mount Willard Trail begins 1/10 mile down the Avalon Trail from its start at the Crawford Depot Station. Down low here, the woods were dry and sunny, and the snowshoes were in the car, not on my back (woo hoo!). The trail very quickly crosses a stream, where there were herd paths diverging all over the place to alternate crossing spots, and no blazes marking things. I figured it out easily enough though, and that was the only real drama (aside from the views) to this hike. A couple tenths of a mile in the monorail appeared and on went the microspikes. Shortly thereafter there is a signed pool alongside the trail, which looks like it would be a great little water hole to soak in during the summer.

Centennial Pool, trailside on the Mount Willard Trail

Still looks a bit chilly for a dip!

Minor monorail most of the length of the Mount Willard Trail
The monorail was solid in the cool morning and continued all the way to the ledges near the summit. I poked around in the woods a little and tagged what may have been the high point (I didn't look too hard) and also followed the trail past the main ledges until it petered out a couple tenths of a mile later. It passed a couple of smaller but nice overlooks along the way, but none were really better than the main ledges, so don't bother unless you are red-lining or its really crowded up there. Returning to the main ledges, I took a short nap, snacked, enjoyed the views, and overall just enjoyed myself for the better part of a half hour, with no other people around. The microspikes were perfect for the descent, and I made great time back to the car, with no slipping or sliding. There were a couple dozen people in small groups throughout working their way up, not a one with traction, but I was much happier with the microspikes!

Awesome trip, well worth MANY revisits as well. Being morning, and the ledges facing Eastward, most of the pictures were shot into the sun and aren't all that great as a result, sorry. 52 With-a-View, Check!

Looking down from Mount Willard

Willey from Willard

Jackson and Webster

Down Crawford Notch towards Tremont, Chocorua off in the background

Bemis and Nancy peeking out behind Willey

Rt. 302 and the Scenic Railroad heading down Crawford Notch

Wonder where they stopped the paving project last year???

Mount Washington just barely peeking out behind Eisenhower

Hey George!

Right-hand loop near the trailhead is the actual trail; The view ledges are just to the right of where the little spur towards the summit is marked

Part II: Mount Pemigewasset

With it being still mid-morning, there was definitely time to drag myself up another short hike. Mount Pemigewasset was another of those short ones that I drive by a lot and never bothered to explore, so today was the day. It was even on the way home! In the interest of red-lining, I parked at the Flume Gorge Parking lot on Route 3 and walked the 1.25 miles downhill on Route 3 to the trailhead for the Indian Head Trail.

The Indian Head Trail passes through mostly hardwood forests, and so now I was getting BAKED by the late-morning sun since there are no leaves out yet. No snow to deal with though! The trail here is not well-marked (very few blazes), but I was able to follow it with care. Grade-wise it was steady but not awful, but my legs were definitely not happy with me at this point. It was hot, and I was tired, but slowly and surely I made my way up past the base of the cliffs that adorn the summit (where I could hear people taking a couple hundred feet straight above, pretty cool!). After passing the base of the cliff, the Indian Head Trail steeply climbs for a short distance to a minor col just West of the summit, where it meets the Mt. Pemigewasset Trail. The upper stretches of this section was in the conifers and thus had a little, but avoidable, snow and ice. The spur to the summit ledges was also snowy, but I was stubborn and managed without the traction.

What another wonderful view! I tell you, while I keep drifting back to the 4K's, these smaller 52-With-a-View peaks are pretty awesome, it is definitely a list that needs completion! The views from the main ledge encompasses the Western end of the Kancamagus Highway, and the Southern end of the Kinsman Ridge from South Kinsman through Mount Wolf and the bogs on the Eastern side of the ridge. From the actual summit, a few dozen yards further up-trail (the trail's end is marked as you will see in a picture in a moment), there is a limited but nice view of Franconia Ridge.

Open hardwoods on the Indian Head Trail

Persistent tree that insisted on thriving

Mount Wolf from Mount Pemigewasset, Moosilaukee is visible to the left in the distance

Loon Mountain

End of the trail

Liberty (L) and Flume (R) from the end of the Mount Pemigewasset Trail

Small peek at the main Franconia Ridge

Liberty (C) and Flume (R)

A spur of South Kinsman

Pano from Mount Pemigewasset
After a break at the summit ledges (where the people that were there when I arrived soon left leaving me alone with the views for a little while) I headed down the Mount Pemigewasset Trail. Snow cover persisted for the upper couple tenths of a mile of the trail, but soon it disappeared, so the traction never came out. More and more people were heading up (it was still early afternoon after all!) and it was clear this is the more popular route to this peak (which the White Mountain Guide says anyway). The trail was well-blazed (one could say over blazed in a few spots) and easy to follow, passing through more hardwoods. Before long, the trail passed underneath I-93 and Route 3, and swung onto the Franconia Notch Bike Path for a short distance before ending at the parking lot and my car.

It was shortly after 2PM and I was on my way home after a shorter, but great day of hiking in the White Mountains. 2 More 52 With-a-View peaks (bringing my total to 12 though I've yet to get good views off of Starr King), and 3 more trails red-lined!

Trails: Avalon Trail, Mount Willard Trail (Hike 1); Roadwalk, Indian Head Trail, Mount Pemigewasset Trail (Hike 2)
Peaks: Mount Willard (2865', 52WAV), Mount Pemigewasset (2557', 52WAV)
Mileage: 3.2 miles (Willard), 5 miles (Pemigewasset) -> Total 8.2 miles
Elevation gain: 950' (Willard), 1600' (Pemigewasset) -> total 2550'
Book Time: 2hrs 5min (Willard), 3hrs 20min (Pemigewasset) -> real time was 6hrs with driving

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Jefferson - Adams - Madison Traverse - April 27, 2013

This hike was the final for my often-time hiking pal HossInNH's New Hampshire 4000-Footer list. How he managed to leave 3 such awesome peaks (4 actually, #45 was Carrigain) for last is beyond me, but an epic traverse of these 3 rugged peaks was on the agenda for this day. With a fairly warm day, mostly sunny skies, and winds barely topping 20 mph (top gust on Mount Washington this day was 24mph!), it was perfect weather for this hike. His cousin, nearing the end of her 4000-footer list too (3 or 4 to go now), came along on this traverse with her hiking hound, Maggie May (aka Maggie Mayhem).

Meeting in the morning at a mostly-empty Appalachia parking lot (where most of the trails to Madison and Adams from the North start), we left a car and headed over to the Cog Railroad parking lot, just up the road from the Jewell Trailhead (still gated and closed for winter - during winter, you can park at the lower Cog Railroad parking lot and take a spur trail from the cog station to either the Jewell or Ammonusuc Ravine Trails).

Old Peppersass
Crossing the tracks after passing Peppersass, we began up the spur route to the Jewell Trail which meats that trail roughly 1 mile up from its trailhead, cutting off a good 1/2 mile or so of the trail. Soon after hitting the Jewell Trail, we encountered a monorail of snow (in the spring, the center of the trails where the snow had been compressed all winter by foot traffic melts slower than the sides of the trail, and so you are left with a narrow "rail" of snow/ice), and switched to microspikes, which worked great right up to treeline. Maggie Mayhem was demonstrating where her nickname comes from by constantly picking up sticks (more like logs a few times...) and running up ahead of us from behind with said sticks, almost knocking us over a few times. What a crazy dog!

Mount Monroe from the Jewell Trail

Pano from treeline on the Jewell Trail, looking West

Southern Presidentials from treeline on the Jewell Trail
After reaching treeline on the Jewell Trail, we retired the microspikes as there was little snow or ice left lingering above treeline, and it was largely avoidable. In fact, we did not put the spikes back on until we were leaving Madison Hut later in the day.

Climbing up to the Gulfside, the Jewell Trail heads Southward near the end, paralleling the Gulfside Trail so we rockhopped a short distance (stay off all of the vegetation when doing this!), cutting off the last 1/10 mile of the Jewell Trail. Swinging along the side of Mount Clay, we headed down into Sphinx Col, enjoying the wonderful day to this point.

Jefferson from the Gulfside on the side of Clay

The upper stretched of the Auto Road up Mount Washington past Nelson Crag

Mount Eisenhower peeking out behind Sphinx Col

The Great Gulf

The Carters and Moriah (L) from Sphinx Col

Carters behind a long shoulder of Mount Washington
Slowly climbing out of Sphinx Col, we eventually reached Monticello Lawn, a grassy flatland a few tenths of a mile below the summit of Jefferson. This is a very cool area, unique in the Northern Presidentials. From here the Gulfside (and with it the Appalahcian Trail) swings away, roughly maintaining elevation, while the Jefferson Loop ascends up to the summit, and meets the Gulfside on the other side of the summit cone.

Monticello Lawn and the summit of Jefferson

Gulfside Trail carins swinging around the summit cone of Jefferson

Climbing up from Monticello Lawn, with Mount Washington looming behind
Reaching Jefferson, we tagged up, got the customary summit shots, and returned to the large carin just below the summit for a lunch break. With practically no wind, this was the calmest I've ever experienced on this summit of Jefferson (once in each of the 4 seasons now). Lingering was awesome.

Washington and the Southern Presidentials from Jefferson

The Kilkennys - Starr King, Waumbek, and the Weeks in front, Cabot, The Bulge, and The Horn behind

The impressive bulk of Mount Adams from Mount Jefferson

Just below the summit of Mount Jefferson - break time!

Washington and the Southern Presidentials

Bretton Woods Ski Resort, snow-capped Franconia Ridge behind

Towards Jefferson, NH

Slightly zoomed view of Mount Moosilaukee (L) and Franconia Ridge behind Bretton Woods Ski Resort
While we would have loved to have sat in the sun longer, we had a long ways to go yet and it was after 1, so we tore ourselves away on continued North. The descent into Edmands Col is steep, and the North side of Jefferson had a fair amount of snow on it. This was not surprising as this area tends to hold snow for a long time. In fact, my first trip in the Northern Presidentials in late June 12 years ago had a snowfield alongside the trail in this area. Today, the upper snowfield was fully covering everything below it, and so once determining that it was safe to do so, we butt-slid down this upper snowfield.

Leaving Jefferson

Butt-sledding down Jefferson's upper snowfield

Adams looming from the bottom of the upper Jefferson snowfield

In Edmands Col
The lower snowfield above Edmands Col required some care to traverse, but with soft snow, we were able to make our way across a no-fall zone without a problem. Now began the seemingly longest part of the day: the long climb to Mount Adams. At this point all the rock-hopping was wearing us out, so the climb was slow. We did take a break during the ascent near the rocky peak of Adams 5, which Hoss and I scrambled over too as, well, it was there (and only about 50 feet away and a dozen feet above us at that). Shortly after leaving here, we encountered the largest snowfield of the day, on a shoulder of Mount Adams. The snow must have been really deep here this winter for this South-facing shoulder to still have complete snow coverage! After leaving this snowfield near Thunderstorm Junction, it was back to tricky rock-hopping to the summit of Mount Adams, #47 for HossInNH.

Jefferson snowfields from partway up to Adams - note the butt-sledding on the upper field! (There was a nice shoulder at the bottom, no danger of sliding off)

Castle Ridge heading up Jefferson - Mount Martha/Cherry Mountain behind

These guys were headed up to Mount Sam Adams - then realized we were on the trail so headed down

Faster way down - sledding!

Lenticular Clouds forming in the afternoon

Adams still seems too far away! - from Adams's snowfield

Summit of Mount Adams

Left to right: Moriah, Carters, Wildcats

Looking down/ahead to Mount Madison
Rock-hopping down the Airline Trail back to the Gulfside was tough as always, but we made good time to Madison Hut, where we took a short break, dropped our packs, and grabbed what we wanted for the summit.

Durand Ridge - Airline Trail climbs this

As close as I felt like getting to the top of King Ravine

Kilkennys to the North

Durand Ridge

The sharp peak of Madison from the Gulfside Trail near the Airline Trail

Maggie Mayhem poses at Madison Hut

Madison Hut still closed for now
Scrambling up Madison without a pack is much easier than with a pack, and we got to the top without much trouble. Letting HossInNH go ahead to tag the summit first, we then had a small celebration up top, where Hoss cracked a celebratory Guinness.

Woo-hoo, #48!!!

Cheers! Congrats dude!

Washington from Madison

Kilkenny Ridge from Madison

Wildcat Ski Area

Carters, and the ridge the Osgood Trail follow to Madison's summit

Madison Gulf

Moriah and Shelburne Moriah

Moriahs and North/Middle/South Carter

The whole Carter Range

Returning to the hut, we opted to descend via Valley Way Trail (versus Airline as originally planned) for an easier descent. We put on the microspikes almost immediately after leaving the hut, and had to tiptoe carefully on a narrow monorail with a several foot drop to one side in the upper reaches of the Valley Way Trail, until the sidehill section ended. Here it was monorail gradually thinning to mixed snow and ice, and finally we retired the traction around 2500ft and soon after that it was dry trail to the trailhead. We reached the car just before dark, around 8PM. Arriving back at the Cog lot to get my car, the car's headlights lit up a fox exploring a woodpile alongside the road. He hung around long enough for Hoss to get a couple pictures from his phone, then took off, and we all parted ways.

What an awesome day for sure! Light winds, sunny skies, just a perfect day above treeline. A great day for HossInNH to complete his (first ;) ) round of the New Hampshire 4000-Footers, and he did them all in less than one calendar year! Huge congrats again to him! On to the next list, we all know you aren't done!

Trails: Jewell Trail, Gulfside Trail, Jefferson Loop, Israel Ridge Path, Airline, Osgood Trail, Valley Way
Peaks: Jefferson (5716', NH4K), Adams 5 (5274', TW72), Adams (5799', NH4K), Madison (5366', NH4K)
Mileage: 13.3 miles
Elevation Gain: 5500ft
Book Time: 9hr 25min (actual ~11hr 35min)