Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Field, Willey, and Tom - Feb. 16, 2014

For day 2 of a 3-day hiking weekend (thanks to President's Day being a rare day off from work for me), I was off to a hike I knew was at least mostly broken out (knowing a potentially hard day was in store for the following day). The Willey Range is always broken out pretty fast after a storm, as are most of the trails at the top of Crawford Notch thanks in part to the AMC's Highland Center being next door. An unplowed parking lot at the Crawford Depot Station (which didn't appear to have been plowed all winter, though I've parked there in winter before) and another lack of motivation morning meant another somewhat late start (9ish). But off I went, on a beautiful snowshoe trough.

What all trails should look like in winter: a perfect snowshoe trough!
It took me a bit to get going, but interestingly I picked up the pace after starting the steep climb following the Avalon/A-Z Trail junction. With the sun only occasionally peeking out, and having been there several times before on nicer days, I passed on the short side spur to Mount Avalon and continued up at a good pace to Mount Field, reaching the summit in about 2 hours, a good time for me. It looked like only one or two people were ahead of me at this point, and the trail was only barely broken out to Willey, so I assume no one had ventured out that way the day before.

Just above the spur to Mount Avalon the sun came out

A brief opening in the clouds to peek back at the rocky summit of Mount Avalon, which offers a great view into Crawford Notch.

Mount Field up ahead
Making my way across the Willey Range Trail towards Willey, I eventually ran into a pair of hikers and their friendly Golden Retriever Pemi. I believe this is the same Pemi I've run into a couple other times in the last year or two. Pemi had a good time swimming in the deep snow while we chatted briefly. They were on their way to Tom, I thanked them for breaking out the trail, and we went our separate ways. Eventually reaching the summit of Mount Willey (which is after several other little bumps that seem like the summit, but it is just before a great viewpoint into Crawford Notch). With another break in the clouds, I made sure to check out the view before u-turning for Field.

Near the Field-Willey col

A Gray Jay was hanging out in the Field-Willey col, the first I've seen this winter in fact.

He liked posing for me.

Yet another pose by the Gray Jay. A friendly fellow who didn't seem too interested in begging for food, a rarity for these birds!

Mount Webster from Mount Willey. The Presis are all in the clouds behind.

A look down Crawford Notch from Mount Willey. A little too cloudy today but you can get an idea of how great this view can be!
The return to Field was easy now, with the trail well-broken out now. There were a few spots that were already drifted in some, but that is typical of this trail in winter in several spots. I also met a friendly couple on my way back who were heading to Willey too, so the last 3/4-mile to Field was really easy! Back at Field it was clear that the clouds were now winning out over the sun, and the trail was only lightly broken towards Mount Tom it seemed. Within a few hundred feet though, the trail became much more consolidated and it was an easy, gentle cruise down to the junction with the A-Z Trail. A large amount of traffic apparently went through here en-route to Zealand Hut the day before, which surprised me, as I've never seen that segment well-broken in winter.

The Mount Tom Spur is moderate, and the one steep ledge that tends to become icy in winter had the usual winter bypass well-established through the woods. Unfortunately, the summit was almost entirely socked in. There are some great views from the summit cairn area into the Pemi Wilderness, but not today. The only view was a short peek to Mount Field, so I made a quick exit hike.

No view today from Mount Tom :(

Rimed spruce

A short peek to Mount Field, just barely visible a mile away.
The descent on the A-Z Trail to the junction with the Avalon Trail is a little steep at the start, but not terrible overall, and aside from a few bare-booter postholes in the last 1/4-mile to the junction causing some tricky footing, it was a fast and easy descent. From there it was an easy cruise on a well-packed trail back out to the windy fields by the trailhead where I needed to head upwind to the Highland Center parking lot where I was parked. A relaxing afternoon was now in order, with 3 more 4000-footers with some friends on tap for the following day!

Route: Avalon Trail, Willey Range Trail (all the way to Willey and back towards Tom), Mount Tom Spur, A-Z Trail
Peaks: Field (4340', NH4K), Willey (4285', NH4K), Tom (4051', NH4K)
Mileage: 10 miles
Elevation Gain: 3500ft
Book Time: 6hr 45min (actual 6hr)

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