Sunday, December 30, 2012

Kinsmans 12/29/12

Working title: Winter hiking, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways. One, two...

Peaks: North Kinsman, South Kinsman

Trails: Mt. Kinsman Trail, Kinsman Ridge Trail, Kinsman Flume Spur

Mileage/time: 10.0 miles, 4000 feet of gain, book time of 7:00, actual time of 7:38

Well, here it is, the year is now at a close, and what a year its been. Disillusion, apathy, triumph, and joy have punctuated this year, and defined it. Only the latter two are allowed into 2013. I'm mending, and I'm feeling a lot less broken than I was even a few months ago, so here's to continued renewal, and good times to come.

The last couple of weeks have been a struggle as far as hiking goes. I awoke Wednesday the 19th with a sore throat, which stuck around until the 26th, though whatever it was never presented any respiratory issues, until I decided to go hiking. After planning a hike for 12/21 with Mike and Wayne, some communication issues on my part led to me waiting in the wrong spot (coincidentally right across the road from where they were waiting), and them going off and hiking the Hancocks. I started to feel ill while I was waiting, so I bailed and drove back home.

I worked the next four nights, right through Christmas (hooray, Christmas at work!), and started feeling better and ready to hike by the time Thursday rolled around. Big plans, an Osceolas/Tecumseh traverse was in the works. A big storm decided to wind up just in time, and Mike called me at 2am, while I was getting coffee, about to head north to meet him. He expressed some concerns, which I allayed to a certain extent, and we decided to still meet at Waterville Valley. The roads weren't great heading there, but with few people out, it was easier to negotiate the miles. We met up with Wayne, and headed to Greeley Ponds trailhead on the Kanc where we would start our day.

High winds and blowing snow immediately greeted us as we started up the trail, with 4-5 inches of fresh snow on top of a solid base. My new snowshoes immediately started to give me problems, that and the fact that I hadn't worn snowshoes in almost 2 years. We reached the junction with Mt. Osceola Trail and started up, the winds growing stronger, the snow drifting deeper, and my lungs burning. It was tough going, especially since I was lagging behind, but the unconsolidated snow became infinitely harder to make headway into, once Mike and Wayne had already been through. Just before the slide, I threw in the towel, my heart rate continued to be through the roof, and I couldn't properly catch my breath. I'm foolish, but I'm not stupid. It sucks to bail like that, and I feel bad about it, but its one thing to risk myself, its another to risk others.

Fast forward, it's Saturday, and I'm feeling much better. I hoped my lungs would cooperate, as Mike and myself would be with a large Meetup group. Meet time was 6, with a 6:30 start time. I was there stupid early at 5:20, and Mike wasn't far behind at about 5:30. The lot was not plowed, but our vehicles made it fine, John and Holly's cars, not so much. We pitched in and did some shoveling, and pushing, and got their cars situated. Warmed up before we even started! Of the original group of 10, we would instead have 6 today. On with the snowshoes, it's time to hike!

The Mt. Kinsman Trail had been broken out since the last snowfall, and we followed a nice snowshoe track through the woods. It was nice to be able to layer down, since it wasn't precipitating or windy, and I started with just a thin base layer and a fleece on top. It was a very comfortable slog up through the hardwoods, alternating the lead, so people wouldn't get too tired out, and we soon reached the Bald Peak Spur, which we decided we would hit on the way back in the afternoon.

The trail continued onward and upward, snow crunching under our snowshoes, then I hear an "uh oh" from up ahead. Whoever was kind enough to break out the trail, decided they had had enough, stopped, and turned around. That left about 400 feet of climbing and 0.5 miles of trail breaking to do. Mike was a champ and broke it out to the ridge, we all just followed along. Once on the ridge, we donned shells and pushed on to North Kinsman. I remember the views being better the last time I was here, then I remembered there was at least 4 to 5 more feet of snow here. The views from just below the summit didn't disappoint.

Lafayette and Lincoln

Sandwich Range

Cannon and the Cannonballs
We didn't linger here for long, as there was a pesky second summit 0.9 miles away that needed to be dealt with. Following a single set of snowshoe tracks, I led the way down off North Kinsman, skiing on the backs of my snowshoes at times, enjoying the soft footfalls in the snow. I relinquished the lead shortly after starting the climb to South Kinsman, and stuck to the middle of the pack up to the false summit. Unfortunately for the peakbagger before us (whose tracks we were following), they stopped at the false summit, and not the true summit. We then broke out the trail to the true summit, which was windblown, with a little snow and ice clinging to the rocks. The views continued to be good, but within minutes, snow began to fall, and the views had all but disappeared by the time we got back to the false summit.

Snow and ice armor on the trees!

North Kinsman from false summit of South Kinsman

Monochromatic Franconia Ridge from South Kinsman

North from South Kinsman
Now we had the lovely climb back to North Kinsman, something I know we all looked forward to. To be honest, it passed uneventfully, and just before the summit, we ran into the first people of the day, a solo dude headed over to South Kinsman, and a group of four. More people presented themselves on North Kinsman, and the descent to the trail junction, probably about 12 in all. It's always good to see other people out in the mountains in winter. Descending Mt. Kinsman Trail was great, my knees loved it, soft footing in the snow does wonders. Myself, John, and Holly were in front for the most part, and Mike, Bernie, and Jocelyn brought up the rear.

North Kinsman from Kinsman Ridge Trail
By the time we reached the Bald Peak Spur, no one was up for it, there would have limited to zero views from there as it was. In the interest of redlining, I insisted on going down the Kinsman Flume Spur, and the rest of the group said they would wait for me (which wasn't necessary, but I appreciated it). I bounded off down the trail, in 12+ inches of unbroken powder, so much fun! The flume was pretty unremarkable in the winter, however it was a 30 foot deep, 4 foot wide slot, with snow at the bottom (and some trees), and the sound of water rushing below. As I was edging closer to try and get a picture, I looked up to see John coming down the spur. What a pleasant surprise, thanks for sharing this spot with me! The trail ended pretty obviously, so we worked our way back up the pretty steep ~0.1 mile spur back to the group.

A terrible picture of Kinsman Flume

Winter wonderland on Mt. Kinsman Trail
Down, down, down we went. Mike and I joked about not making it out in daylight, as has been common with our hikes lately. Instead of needing headlamps, we popped out at the parking lot at 2:28, just shy of my predicted 2:30. Snow had continued to fall throughout our descent, and there was about an inch of fresh on the cars. We all said our goodbyes, and parted ways.

Mike and I decided to hit the Common Man in Lincoln for some vittles. However, the Common Man was full up at the time we arrived, and the dining room didn't open until 4:30, so we went searching elsewhere. Mexican it was, and some pretty good Mexican too, as I had some delicious Enchiladas, Mike had a bit of everything. So much for just wanting a bowl of chili and coffee!

Glad to finally get another winter peak under my belt, now up to 16. Time to get busy.

Happy New Year!

2012 Hiking Statistics:

Hikes: 35
Mileage: 381.02 (10.9 mile/hike)
Elevation Gain: 129,370 feet (3696 feet of gain/hike)

Here's to 2013!

Edit: My friend Keith informed me that the "false" summit on South Kinsman is actually the true highpoint according to the USGS, and that you get credit whether you hit that summit or the other one with the big cairn. Why the big cairn on "not the" summit then?!?

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