Peaks: Mount Monadnock (3233', 52WAV)
Route: Pumpelly Trail, Cascade Link, Red Spot (up), Pumpelly Trail (down)
Mileage: 9.3 miles
Elevation Gain: 2400ft
Sunday was supposed to be a superb day to go hiking, one of those dream Spring days (well, it was supposed to be a little windy, but otherwise...). After 3 weeks of no hiking except for up and down the steps to my apartment, I was chomping at the bit to get out. Well, aside from when I woke up to the alarm Sunday morning. Originally there were a few people that were going to come along, but they had to bail for various reasons, and being solo makes it a lot harder to get going some mornings. But I knew if I got out and on the trail, I'd be really glad to be out there, so I forced myself to get up, and off I went.
The target was what has become my single-day-trip-but-I-still-want-a-full-hike destination: Mount Monadnock, aka Grand Monadnock, aka the most hiked mountain in the US (and aside from Mount Fuji, allegedly the most hiked mountain in the world). There are a lot of trails on this mountain, I've heard as many as 100 if you count the abandoned ones, but whatever the number there are a lot! Each time I try to hike a new set of trails, and with so many intersecting trails, loops are easy to manage. This time around I went for the longest single trail on the mountain, the 4.5-mile (one-way) Pumpelly Trail, and to spice it up (and for some shameless red-lining I guess), I dropped down on the Cascade Link to the Red Spot Trail for my ascent route. The descent was going to be the Pumpelly Trail the whole way.
Parking on the side of the road at the trailhead (there is no parking lot, so you just get off to the side of the road as best you can), I set off with light traction (the Hillsound Trail Crampons which really aren't even remotely a crampon) on my feet, and snowshoes on my back. I had no idea how much snow to expect on the mountain, and knowing how mushy and soft afternoon spring snow can get, I had the snowshoes just in case. Ultimately I found that the snow pack was too thin overall to make them worth the bother anymore, though there were a few spots where they could have come in handy. But they stayed on the pack all day.
|Views from the lower Pumpelly Trail ledges|
|Still some steep icy spots in the shade|
|People on the summit|
The first portion of the Pumpelly Trail was fairly level and a great warm-up, and then the climbing began. At the top of the steepest section are the first views. I could just see Mount Moosilauke to the North, and a bunch of other Southern NH peaks including Pack Monadnock. I think I even saw Mount Ascutney in Southern Vermont. Continuing the climb, I eventually made it to the Cascade Link, which dropped about 600 feet of the elevation that I had gained, down to its junction with the Red Spot Trail. This trail passed under some impressive cliffs.
|Cliffs along the Cascade Link|
|An old wood block marker along the Red Spot trail|
The Red Spot Trail turned out to be the most tedious part of the ascent, as the trail passed through wide-open South-Eastern-facing hardwoods, and so the snow was extremely soft and mushy from the morning sun. There was a fair bit of water heard running underneath the trail in numerous places as well, so this could become an interesting challenge of post-holing into streams in the coming days. For me, I was able to keep my feet dry, more or less. Reaching the junction with the Pumpelly Trail a couple tenths of a mile below the summit, I opted to take off the traction and I was able to bare-boot to the summit, using the large amount of ice-free rocks, even if I was off-trail in places. There was a lot of ice between the ledges though, and I figured I'd be using traction coming down.
|Full-on Spring on the Red Spot Trail - mushy snow, sun, oh and mushy snow!|
|The summit cone from the upper Red Spot Trail|
|Red Spot/Pumpelly Trail junction|
|The Pumpelly Ridge - awesome trail!|
|Hikers heading to the State Park HQ|
|If you look REALLY closely, on the right-center of this picture, you can see a white blotch that is the snow-capped summit of Mount Washington - 105 miles away!|