Friday, April 18, 2014

Mount Monadnock - April 6, 2014

Date: 6-April-2014
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
Icicle tree

Red Spot/Pumpelly Trail junction
The views up top were terrific on this day, and there weren't even that many people given the popularity of this mountain. I saw less than 2-dozen people the entire day! While breezy (I'd say the winds were in the teens mph, with some gusts into maybe the low 20s - not bad, but enough that you want to take shelter). I stayed up top for a little while (maybe 15 minutes, I had things to do back home in the evening), and took a lot of pictures. The skies had cleared a bit since the morning, as with some careful looking I was able to just barely make out Mount Washington to the North, which is 105 miles away! There were also some cool ice formations on the summit to check out, though there was some really slippery glare ice at the base of some of them, and after slipping once I decided to stop that and head down instead.
The Pumpelly Ridge - awesome trail!

I made the descent, this time using the light traction and doing my best to stay on the above-treeline ice this time (though I had to burn up the spikes a bit on bare rock nonetheless). Up and down the numerous small PUDs I went, sloshing through the soft snow, which was down to bare rock in many places, but also 1-2 feet deep in the shaded areas. Below treeline the snow was soft, but supportive under the top couple of inches as long as I stayed right on the trail. A speedy descent later, and I was back at the car, and soon thereafter heading home after a great hike in the mountains (though one that strangely beat me up more than it should have. Guess I need to get out more!).
Hikers heading to the State Park HQ

Standing Watch
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!

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful photos! Monadnock will always hold a special place in my heart as one of the first mountains I ever hiked.

    Looks like a nice day!