Saturday, June 6, 2015

Monorail Season Arrives on Cabot - May 2, 2015

Route: York Pond Trail, Bunnell Notch Trail, Kilkenny Ridge Trail
Peaks: Mount Cabot (4170', NH4K)
Mileage: 9.6 miles
Elevation Gain: 2900ft
Book Time: 6hr 15min (actual 6hr 5min)

Spring seems to be finally arriving, and that means mixed snow conditions, often lousy ones. I expected to run into a little of that when I scheduled a hike to Mount Cabot, the Northern-most New Hampshire 4000-footer, for early May, but I wanted to get out. May is my weakest month in terms of grid peaks, with only 5 done entering 2015, and I intended to correct that course this year. I also have aspirations of attempting to finish the season grid, with 16 left in Spring, 1 in summer, and 19 in fall going into this hike. Cabot was one of those I needed for Spring (and fall too...).

Only one other hiker from the Northeast Peakbaggers ended up joining this one, a fellow named John who I'd actually met at the Highland Center the night before doing Carrigain a couple weeks before. Funny how that works. We started off with bare ground, and had an interesting stream crossing early on the Bunnell Notch Trail. Snow started, but thinly, only a few tenths of a mile into the hike, so we carried on in bare boots, with snowshoes strapped to the pack. It was a nice warm Spring morning, and we enjoyed a fairly quick hike until roughly halfway to the height-of-land in Bunnell Notch, where the snow got deeper and mushier. Once it finally got to the point where it was consistently present, we switched to snowshoes. This worked reasonably well to the notch, then down the short descent to the start of the climb up to Cabot.

Mushy snow conditions down low.

Monorail season is here! Thankfully this one was relatively solid and wide enough to balance on.

At the start of the climb to Cabot on the Kilkenny Ridge Trail

Beginning the climb to Cabot
Once on the Kilkenny Ridge Trail, conditions quickly improved, and we enjoyed good snowshoeing conditions all the way up to the cabin, and eventually the summit. With a nice day for once, I actually got to see the full view from the Bunnell Rock viewpoint shortly up from the notch, and the limited view from the cabin. There is also a pair of directional but decent views from the old fire tower site just past the cabin (which so many people mistake for the summit - it isn't, you need to go another 4/10 of a mile and climb nearly 200 more feet!). We made a quick visit to the summit after a nice break at the cabin, and on the way down basically just hiked. When the snow began to run out (at basically the same spot we changed in the morning), we switched back to bare boots and hiked it out.

Terrace Mountain from Bunnell Rock

View towards Franconia Ridge from Bunnell Rock

Pano from Bunnell Rock. Terrace Mountain dominates the view.

Franconia Ridge from partway up Mount Cabot.

Cannon Mountain ski area.

A view just below Cabot Cabin, only available thanks to the deep snow still up here!

Decent snowshoeing conditions up high, and deep!

The view from Cabot Cabin's front porch.
Booze and Catfood left in Cabot Cabin. Sounds like an interesting night.

Inside Cabot Cabin.

Snow still blocks part of the rear window (the "emergency exit").

Southern view from the old fire tower site

Northernish view from the old fire tower site

The stick sign used to be mounted here (see the screw in the center?). Someone took it down last fall for unknown reasons.

No traffic North on the Kilkenny Ridge Trail in a while.

Nice new sign up here.
This was one of my fastest, but nicest visits to Mount Cabot yet, #5 now. I've only had clear skies from the top just this one time, and I would have loved to have visited The Horn too, but it wasn't broken out, and with rotten snow conditions down low, that would have been a nasty slog out on the Unknown Pond Trail. So maybe next time! With Spring hiking you have to take what you get, and while the conditions on the final mile to Bunnell Notch were rather trying, the ascent and drop from the ridge was in better shape than expected. We also ran into a grid finisher on our way up who was on his way out. In his late 60s or early 70s and flying down the trail, what an inspiration!

Balance beam crossing on the lower Bunnell Notch Trail, a few yards upstream of the trail crossing.

Cabot, The Bulge, and The Horn (left to right) from the lower Bunnell Notch Trail.

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