Thursday, October 23, 2014

Redlining, Jefferson, and Sam Adams - October 11, 2014

Route: Caps Ridge Trail, Six Husbands Trail, Edmands Col Cutoff, Gulfside, rockhop, Spur Trail, Amphibrach, The Link
Peaks: Jefferson (5716', NH4K), Sam Adams (5585', TW72)
Mileage: 10.1 miles
Elevation Gain: 3750ft
Book Time: 6hr 55min (actual: leisurely 9hr 25min)

OK, so I am not so clever with titles. This hike was just that, a redlining extravaganza in the Northern Presidentials, which have a massive spiderweb of inter-twined trails all over the place. My main goal on this hike was to have a relatively easy day, but bag Mount Jefferson (#45 of the NH 4000-footers for me in 2014). I added on Mount Sam Adams, a trail-less pile of rocks near Thunderstorm Junction, and on the Trailwrights 72 4000-footer list, just for the heck of it (while I am not directly working on that list, I am now at 61/72). I actually posted this hike and led it for the Northeast Peakbaggers Meetup group, a group I occasionally lead for, and 3 fun other hikers joined me for this one on an initially cloudy, but otherwise nice fall Saturday.

Leaving a car at the huge Appalachia parking lot, which was already almost full by 8AM on this holiday weekend, we all piled into another car and headed off down the Jefferson Notch Road to the Caps Ridge Trailhead. This trailhead is the highest of any publicly-accessible trail in all of the White Mountains, at just over 3000ft. That is a nice thing when you are still climbing to over 5700ft, and also when you want a relatively light day on the climbing front. Still, Caps Ridge Trail is no joke, as in a mile it reaches treeline, and then a series of scrambles take you up and over several features known as "The Caps". The first cap was probably the trickiest, but with dry rock, none of these posed an issue to our group, but I do know that some people (and plenty of dogs) have had issues on this trail. Know your comfort level.

First cog of the day heading up Mt. Washington

Glacial potholes near treeline on the Caps Ridge Trail

Mt. Jefferson

The caps begin

Scrambling up a cap. The first I believe

Atop one cap, looking at another

The Kilkenny Range (Starr King, Waumbek, the Weeks, with Cabot and co. in the far background)

Looking back at a cap

Once over the caps, there is still a little ways to go, as you pass the junction with The Cornice, and rock-hop your way up to the summit of Mount Jefferson. Still, for the Northern Presis, I found the footing on this upper part of the trail to be fairly decent, and in a leisurely 3 hours we reached the icy summit of Mount Jefferson. Rime ice coated all of the plants and Mount Washington a few miles away looked exceptionally icy, I guess it is time to start carrying the microspikes again (there was no need for them on this hike luckily, just a little crunchy snow here and there on the rocks).

Nearing the top

Mount Washington

Rime spruce

Rime grass

Lots of rimed-up grass

Some fairly long rime feathers

Across the Great Gulf towards Mount Washington

Some old brick on the summit of Mount Jefferson. Not sure why, possibly from the old Edmands Col shelter?

We took a nice break just below the summit of Jefferson (which was a fairly popular spot on this busy weekend of course), before heading off for some more redlines. I wanted to redline the Edmands Col Cutoff, which meant a descent down the relatively steep Six Husbands Trail for a ways, but luckily the tricky ladders portion of this trail was well below where we turned off of it. Then we took the Edmands Col Cutoff, which runs fairly level though with several minor ups and downs over to Edmands Col. The footing was very rough on this trail, especially as it crossed several scree fields, but the views across and down into the trail-less Jefferson Ravine were outstanding. Still, I know we were all happy to be done with that trail when we finally reached Edmands Col.

Mount Adams (Sam Adams is the bump on the left)

The Carters/Moriahs

Across Jefferson Ravine to Mount Adams

A bog at the bottom of the trail-less Jefferson Ravine

The Gulfside follows this ridge towards Mount Adams (right)

Looking out Jefferson Ravine from near Edmands Col

Looks like a party on Mount Adams

Finally, Edmands col!
 Now we were on familiar trails for a while, as we gradually ascended up the Gulfside Trail towards Thunderstorm Junction. Shortly below Thunderstorm Junction we declared it time for a second lunch (the first having been on Jefferson), and we enjoyed more food with a great view back towards Mount Washington.

Leaving Edmands col, with Jefferson in the background

The gliders were having fun on this day!

Lunch with a view

Thunderstorm Junction. Hey look, the sun is coming out!
 After reaching Thunderstorm Junction, which is a major trail junction a short ways below the insanely rocky cone of Mount Adams and marked by a huge cairn, 3 of us headed off for Sam Adams, which is easily within sight of the junction, though trail-less, while the fourth member opted to stay behind and enjoy another snack and relax. The rock-hop over was fairly straight-forward, as we took care to try to stay off of any plants and only on the many rocks. The summit of Mount Sam Adams is marked by a small cairn and has one of the Washburn survey pins that adorn pretty much all of the major peaks in the Presidential Range.

Sam Adams from Thunderstorm Junction

Mount Adams from Sam Adams

Mount Washington from Sam Adams
Returning to Thunderstorm Junction, we decided to pass on the very busy and very rough (though short) climb to Mount Adams in the interest of time, and headed off down the next red-lining target: The Spur Trail. This trail leads up past Crag Camp and up to near Thunderstorm Junction. The portion above treeline has some nice views as would be expected, and there is a nice lookout at the Knight's Castle overlooking King Ravine (and you can see Crag Camp perched on the side of the ridge from there too). Below Crag Camp (an RMC Cabin that is open for self-service year-round), the Spur Trail is fairly steep and very rocky, and was a bit of a tedious ascent. While descending it was OK, I would much prefer to ascend this trail if I were to take it again.

Mount Madison

Madison and J.Q. Adams from the Spur Trail

View from Knight's Castle. Crag Camp is visible on the left.

Pano from Knight's Castle
Once finally off of the Spur Trail, we took the Amphibrach, which I had heard wonderful things of. Every one of them was true. This trail passed through some nice woods (the pictures don't do it justice), had very few rocks (a shocker for any White Mountain Trail, but especially one in the Northern Presidentials), and was very gentle in grade. I insisted on visiting all of the several marked short side trails to the various waterfalls, which were all very nice, but the best was the one at the bottom, just before the trail ends at The Link. From there, it was a short and easy cruise out on The Link to Appalachia; for the first quarter mile on this trail we passed along and under an extensive network of tubes that were clearly a maple sugaring setup that they must be getting ready for the spring sap season.

Chandler Fall

Crossing of Spur Brook on the Amphibrach

Coldspur Ledges

A typical section of the Amphibrach - nice, easy footing and grades, beautiful fall woods

Cold Brook Fall

Cold Brook Fall

Memorial Bridge
Back at Appalachia with still some time before sunset, we all parted ways (well, I took Jim over to his car at the Caps Ridge Trailhead first). This hike was a great one, and the best part for me was all of the new trails I got to play on. Less than 1.5 miles of this hike was on trails I had been on before, and it was a blast of a day with some great folks! After dropping Jim off at his car, I headed off to Gorham to grab a quick bite and then over to a campground nearby to meet up with Theresa where we pitched our tents, enjoyed an evening fire, and then bundled up in our sleeping bags for a chilly night before an epic day in the Presidentials the next morning!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Liberty and Flume - October 5, 2014

My friend Pam and I had been talking about a Franconia Ridge traverse for several weeks, and with a good weather forecast we decided to give it a shot. This time, though, we would be going South to North, and hopefully up Flume Slide. But with all the rain that fell overnight, we opted to play it safe and head up the Liberty Springs Trail instead. This would mean an out-and-back to Flume from Liberty, which has never been a favorite of mine, and then the long ascent up to Little Haystack and the rest of Franconia Ridge. We spotted the car as planned, and decided to just see how the day would go, especially given we got a late start.

Starting off from The Basin, we headed South on the bike path, looking for the start of the shortcut to the Liberty Springs Trail. I had a GPS track of when I'd done it in winter a few years back, but of course in winter some routes are viable that aren't as pleasant without frozen ground. After a couple of false starts, we headed in at a likely-looking spot, which soon petered out. Luckily, the woods are fairly open in this area, and we just cut in the direction of the trail, soon intersecting the old road that the shortcut follows. A short while later, and we were on the Liberty Springs Trail at the hairpin turn about a half-mile from its start. From here, it was a relentless, steady climb to the Liberty Springs Tentsite and then the junction on the ridge with the Franconia Ridge Trail.

A random arrow in the woods as we bushwhacked to the herd path shortcut

Franconia Ridge in the clouds

The summit crags of Mount Liberty

Some nice color in the Pemi valley still

Taking the right turn to Liberty, we were soon at the summit, just as the clouds were breaking up for the day, and the winds were dying off. We took a short break here, but with a lot of miles and climbing still in front of us, we soon headed off on the drop to the col between Liberty and Flume, where we ran into our friend Keith, who was doing Liberty and Flume today. It was great to see Keith, it had been a long time, and after we all chatted for a while, we climbed the steady climb up to Mount Flume. Once again, our stay was brief.

A valley of gold below Mount Flume

Mount Liberty from Mount Flume

The summit cliffs of Mount Flume

Mount Moosilauke

Liberty from Flume

The Bonds
As we headed back to Liberty, a check of the time made me realize this was going to be a very late night getting home if we were to go all the way to Lafayette. Truthfully, I was also a bit tired from pushing so hard the day before. So, I talked the others into relaxing for an hour or so on Liberty instead and then grabbing a bite before we headed South for work in the morning. With a beautiful afternoon, it was awesome to just relax on a summit for a long time and enjoy the day.

Franconia Ridge

Mount Garfield

Pano over the Pemi

The Owl's Head slide

Cannon and the Cannonballs

Nancy, Anderson, Vose Spur, and Carrigain (L->R)

Stairs Mountain, Kersarge North, and Mount Resolution (L->R)

Owl's Head, with the Twins and Bonds in the back

A crowd on Lincoln (and Lafayette - background)

Mount Garfield
We made quick work of the descent back to The Basin, retrieved the car, and headed into Lincoln for dinner, just managing to find a table before the big crowds started. With a great weekend in the books, I was even able to get home at a somewhat-reasonable hour for once.