Sunday, January 11, 2015

The Baldface Circle - Nov. 15, 2014

One hiking friend I have shared more than a few miles with over the last year or so recently announced that he was moving to Portland (Oregon, not Maine!). Needless to say, those of us that know him were bummed, but almost immediately talk turned to a weekend hiking get-together to send him off in style! And thus was born a plan to rent a cabin near the NH-ME border for a weekend, do some hiking, and hang out together. I was originally going to join them for the first day of hiking on Friday to Goose Eye Mountain, a New England 100 Highest peak just over the border into Maine, but a hand injury earlier in the week caused me to change plans and head up in the afternoon to meet the gang for dinner at the cabin instead. But the next morning we were slated to do a hike that has been on my to-do list for far too long: the Baldfaces! There are a total of 4 peaks on the 52-With-a-View list on the Baldface Range, headed by South and North Baldface.

We decided that we would keep it "simple" and hike the entirety of the Baldface Circle Trail, which loops over both main peaks of Baldface, with miles of mostly above-treeline ledge walking along the NH-ME border. The first stretch of trail to the Circle Junction is flat and was an easy warm-up. At the junction, a side spur leads a short way to Emerald Pool, a worth while diversion.

Emerald Pool matches the jacket!

Inlet to Emerald Pool

Circle Junction
From the Circle Junction we headed up towards South Baldface first, which is the recommended direction to do this loop due to a very steep stretch of ledges ascending this peak. Up to the Baldface Shelter is a fairly easy hike, but right behind the shelter is where the climbing begins. Here we put on the microspikes since there was a lot of mixed ice, and they ended up staying on a good portion of the day until we were off the initial descent off of North Baldface.

Ascending the South Baldface Ledges
Looking NorthEast into Maine - Royces on the left, Speckled Mountain on the right

West (L) and East (R) Royce - the Maine-NH border runs between them.

North Baldface and Bicknell Ridge
North Baldface

South Baldface

Flintstone Furniture approaching South Baldfcae

Baldface Knob Trail Junction
The guidebook mentions steep ledges and some scrambles above the shelter and it isn't kidding! Especially with the mixed ice and rock it was a tricky ascent, one in which we all took our time and watched our footing. The views, however, are amazing and we took ample opportunity to enjoy them. From the junction with the Baldface Knob Trail the grade eases and was more reasonable for the final ascent to South Baldface, where we took in the sweeping 360-degree views.

North Baldface dead ahead.

Mount Washington towering over the end of the Wildcat Range

Sable Mountain, a trail-less peak near South Baldface.

North Baldface with the Moriahs behind

The Carter Range behind North Baldface.

Leaving for North Baldface
Looking ahead to North Baldface from the main col on the ridge.
The ridge over to North Baldface ducks into the scrub now and then, but has good views for most of its stretch, with some minor extra ups and downs and a few tiny scrambles. We made good time to North Baldface where we again enjoyed terrific 360-degree views on this chilly but fairly wind-less day. Being right on the border between New Hampshire and Maine with great views into both was very cool, there was a lot of new (to me) stuff to see, along with unique angles on some familiar stuff. I really need to explore the Evans Notch area some more in the future, it is really cool in there!

Looking back towards South Baldface from the main col.
South Baldface
North Baldface!
More views: across the Wild River Wilderness towards the Carters and Presidentials.
The Royces and Speckled Mountain

Old Speck Mountain (a Maine 4000-footer)
The Moriahs
Carter Dome (L) and Mount Hight (R)
Where's George?
South Baldface from North Baldface

After dropping off North Baldface and continuing along the ridge for a while, we began the descent down, which was initially fairly steep (though nowhere near as steep as the ascent to the ridge had been), and then eased up. The rest of the descent was uneventful aside from seeming to never end, and shortly before sunset we were back at the cars.

Time to head down.

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