Thursday, April 2, 2015

South Baldface Touring 3/26/15

Working title: Steep potatoes

Peak: South Baldface (3547')

Trails: Baldface Circle Trail, Slippery Brook Trail, Baldface Knob Trail, bushwhack

Mileage/gain: ~8.4 miles, 3194' of gain

An early 2000's film shot of the Baldfaces from 113

For those who don't know my back-story (or haven't gone back and read my first post), I'll fill you in a bit about what's so special about this particular day.

From the age of 16 up through nearly my 29th birthday, I smoked cigarettes, between a pack to two packs a day. Granted, I quit for almost two years during that stretch, but the damage to my lungs was immense. I reached a point where I would wake up nightly, being unable to breathe, eventually finding a position that allowed me to go back to sleep. When I would wake up for the day, the first thing I would do was step outside and smoke. Enough was enough, and I quit cold turkey on March 26, 2010. In the five years since, I've accomplished more than I ever dreamed I was capable of, or had the capacity to do. I stand firm in the belief that none of it would have been possible if I still smoked. I'm grateful for every night that I sleep through, and every breath that passes unhindered through my lungs.

With my love for driving, I often wound my way through the Whites on long day cruises, and usually found myself rolling through Evans Notch. I remember stopping roadside many times and taking in the view of the Baldfaces, and taking pictures on my film camera. This trip wasn't planned by me, but it was somewhat ironic to be climbing and skiing on the snowfields of South Baldface, on this fifth anniversary of my quitting... or what I look at as the beginning of the rest of my life.

Introductions out of the way, on to the day at hand! Mike and I would be meeting up with Nate (a friend of Jake's) for a tour, and we had a short weather window to work with, before rain was forecast to move through the region. We had a good breakfast at Priscilla's, and jounced along up 113 along the Maine/New Hampshire border. I don't think I went faster than 35 the whole time, the frost heaves were THAT bad, and even 35 was too fast at times!

A brief respite from the bumpiness

Just before the trailhead we got a glimpse of the peak, and the cover on the east ledges looked thin. Sketchy. Nate assured us that there was a line off of them that was in, so we got our things together, and walked down the road a piece to the start of the trail. Skinning up (a bit of a misnomer) the flats to the split the cover was good, but the snow was covered with fir tips, and one large blowdown, all thanks to some recent winds. Hitting the junction, we started up and shortly turned onto Slippery Brook Trail, where some delayering needed to happen. The second day in a row of skinning in a t-shirt!





That would be the last time we'd see Nate for a while, but we followed the track up to the Eastman/South Baldface col, where we found the Eastman Mountain Trail and continuation of Slippery Brook Trail untracked. Turning up the Baldface Knob Trail, the skinning soon got steep, then became impossible. Off with the skis, we booted up the last steep pitch, and soon broke treeline on Baldface Knob. Considering the forecast, this was an unexpected and fortuitous surprise, barely a puff of wind and bright sunshine. My only wish is that I had brought my sunglasses!


The east face of South Baldface's summit cone

Sable Mountain and the Doubleheads

Oh my, the opportunities

Eastman

The Evans Notch peaks, the Royces, Caribou, and Speckled

We could see Nate ahead on the summit ridge, so we dropped briefly down and got up to the Baldface Circle junction, where we made visual and voice contact with him. He told us to meet him on the backside of the summit, so we got headed up. Even though cover looked thin (and in places was), there was more than adequate snow depth to support turns. That and the snow that was there was corning up nicely under the strength of the spring sun.

Once we hit the summit it was dead calm, though clouds had begun to filter in. We found Nate ready to roll down the snowfield on the south side of the peak, but Mike and I weren't ready to go just yet, so we told him we'd meet him down at the Baldface Knob junction. Nate commented about it being one of only two calm summits of South Baldface he'd had, and upon thinking about it, I can say this was the calmest it's been for me. It was good to spend some time relaxing on the summit, as I've spent more time on North Baldface whenever I've been up here.


Summit ahead

Filtering

The Mahoosucs over Meader Ridge


Pleasant Mountain off in the distance

Washington over the Wildcats, Carter Dome closest at hand

Kearsarge North, the Moats, and Sable

The Carter Range over the broad Wild River Valley

Once we'd finished our break, we de-skinned and clicked in for the turns. While the snowfield wasn't wide open, it was a hell of a lot of fun avoiding rocks and scrub as we descended toward the junction, the snow being eminently edgeable. Off the steeper upper section, it was a nice cruise down around the bare spot in the middle of the plateau. The clouds had darkened and lowered, and it started to lightly spit snow. I took the opportunity to take a rest on the stone bench that sits here, while Mike went up for another go at the lower section.

Some turns

Off he goes

Sign down! Sign down!

Nate came along from above, having been forced to climb most of the way back to the summit, due to getting cliffed out to his right. We regrouped and headed for the imposing east ledges. I can't say I skied it well, but I made it down in one piece, and without falling! The skiing was difficult (for me), not only because of the narrow ribbons of snow on the upper ledges, but the thick stuff down lower. I even managed to try and take a bite out of a tree branch, which just so happened to be at mouth level. Some cursing (from me) later, we all made it down to the shelter for a quick break.

Less dramatic than the picture might suggest

A great place to ski

Skiing down the trail proper back to the car was a lot of fun, and not nearly as difficult as I imagined it would be. This opens up a whole bunch of new terrain, though it will be a pick and choose kind of thing, which trails are able to be skied, and which cannot. The lower fir tip covered section was slow, though Mike and I never had to put skins back on. Nate made it back to the cars a couple minutes ahead of us, and we chatted a moment in the increasingly steady rain before parting ways.

Bumping back along 113, Mike and I took a respite at Stow Corner Store and had a huge "lunch", which was big enough to suffice for dinner! Love that place. Thanks to Nate for his forecasting prowess and suggesting this one in the first place, it was a fantastic day.

Here's to five more years of being tobacco free!