Friday, November 9, 2012

The Hancocks 11/9/12

Peaks: North Hancock (4420 ft.) and South Hancock (4319 ft.)

Trails: Hancock Notch Trail, Cedar Brook Trail, Hancock Loop

Mileage/time: 9.8 miles, 2940 ft. of gain, book time of 6:21, actual time of ~6:00

Today, I'd be hiking with Mike (NH Tramper on VFTT), whom I last hiked with back in September. It wasn't for lack of trying, weather and being skittish, among other things, have conspired against us. Plan A for the day was the Tripyramid North Slide, and I think we both thought about doing it on our respective drives, but better to go for Plan B (see: safer), the Hancocks!

It's been a long time, at least it seems that way, since I've been up these peaks, 1/6/11 to be exact... long overdue for a return! This definitely isn't a view hike, though there are several nice viewpoints along the way. It's a really peaceful hike, the woods are beautiful this time of year, snow and ice start filling in the trails, and winter just begins to take hold. If you talked to me three years ago, and asked me if I would consider hiking in the winter, I would probably have scoffed and told you to go fuck yourself. Now it's my favorite season to hike in, right up there with fall, but it's also the most challenging and in my mind, rewarding.

I met Mike at the hairpin turn on the Kanc, I was early due to unforeseen issues and my being woken up at 2am by a rowdy bunch bursting into my apartment... chaos. He was shortly ready to go, and we set out down the path, across the road, and onto the trail. Hancock Notch Trail climbs gently along old railroad grades and logging roads, alongside the North Fork of the Hancock Branch of the Pemigewasset River (could you have a more convoluted name please?), crossing several feeder streams along the way. We made good time, stopping to make gear adjustments here and there, and we encountered a light coating of snow and some ice.

Keeping up the brisk pace, we turned onto Cedar Brook Trail, and ran into slightly more snow and ice, though all stream crossings were fine. Seems to me there were some relocations since my last time here, as I thought the trail crossed in several spots where it now doesn't. There were some blowdowns on this section, but they're all easily dealt with. Before long, we reached the junction, and started up the Hancock Loop. Here we ran into the only other soul we'd see today, a nice guy named Wayne.

Some nice open woods, can't recall which trail this was on...
After chatting with Wayne a bit, we parted ways, he was headed out to go down the road a piece and hit the Osceolas. He was probably done before we were! The trail steepened, as it approached the loop split, and we got some views up to Arrow Slide on North Hancock.

Arrow Slide
The desire to climb the slide upon seeing it was palpable, but even from a distance you could see ice bulges, thanks but no thanks. My desire to live trumps my desire to do foolish things... probably. Either way, we dropped into the drainage and followed the trail, ever upward. It's a pretty relentless climb, but there are rock steps in spots, which I never even knew existed, since they were completely covered the last time. We were paid a visit by some Gray Jays, landing on branches, giving us sideways looks, they're such cute, opportunistic little bastards. Soon, the grade eased and we crested the summit and walked out to the viewpoint.

South Hancock

Don't you cock your head at me!


We didn't stick around long, but the clouds were doing some awesome things, shrouding the surrounding landscape. We weren't really feeling the winds, though as we crossed the ridge, they became more evident. Nothing bad, just some gusts here and there, this route is nicely sheltered. Mt. Washington had gusts into the 80's today, but we never felt much more than a stiff breeze at times. The ridge between the peaks is something I was looking forward to, as I recalled it being pretty awesome the last time. It didn't disappoint, I recognized several areas along the way, though there used to be a somewhat obstructed view towards Carrigain, and I couldn't find it this time around. We cruised over the bump that is Middle Hancock and soon arrived on South, where we dropped down to the viewpoint and had lunch.

North Hancock

Franconia Ridge and Owls Head

Mt. Tremont from South Hancock

Looking across the Sawyer River Valley from South Hancock
After soaking in the views, becoming chilled, and donning microspikes (just in case), we descended quickly off of South Hancock. The rest of the hike went by in a flash, as we hoofed it back to the cars, chatting the whole way. We stopped in the sun at one of the open stream crossings, and just let it warm us up... until it decided to go back behind a cloud, fickle winter sun.

Upon returning to the cars, we drove into Lincoln and stopped for coffee and pastries at Half Baked and Fully Brewed... delicious! Then the long drive home commenced. Next week, more NEHH peaks perhaps?

1 comment:

  1. Great hiking with you today, Bill. Sure was awesome out there and up there.