Sunday, January 27, 2013

The Mighty Carrigain 1/26/13

Working title: "Dear Snowshoes, you're lucky I don't just chuck you into the woods. Sincerely, Bill"

Peak: Mt. Carrigain

Trails: Sawyer River RR grade, Sawyer River Road, Signal Ridge Trail

Mileage/time: ~14 miles, ~3900 feet, book time of 8:55, actual time of 10:00

Where to even begin on this one? I'm definitely being pulled in many directions at once, so here goes nothing. In working on my Winter 48, I've been happy to visit peaks I may have only climbed once before, this was going to be one of them. The whole experience for me, was a study in contrasts, not only of my surroundings, but of myself, where I was when I was last there, and where I am now.

This would be another of Mike's Meetup hikes for Northeast Peakbaggers, and there would be a total of 5 of us. When I pulled into the winter lot at 5:10, Mike was already there, ever an overachiever. He then told me that Wayne might show up, I was into that, Wayne's a good guy, and I haven't hiked with him since our attempt on the Osceola's debacle. No sooner than it was mentioned, Wayne pulled in, then a couple other cars, carrying Jim, Rich, and Ian, a very cheeky British fellow. We saw that the temperature was 6 degrees, and the wind wasn't bad in the parking lot. Introductions made, gear on, and off we went up a packed trail behind the kiosk. I believe this was the old Sawyer River Railroad grade, and we followed the track to a point where it finally turned right, and climbed the slope up to the road, not far down from the house, and the ruins of Livermore.

Road walks are great, and monotonous (though a good warmup), and it was nice to turn a corner and have the trailhead right there. Signal Ridge Trail was in great shape, with a fast snowshoe track to follow. The sky steadily lightened, with blue skies overhead, and some cold breezes blew through the open woods. Soon, rays of golden, morning light started to pierce through.

After reaching the junction with Carrigain Notch Trail, I was in long foreign territory. The last time I hiked Carrigain was 9/3/10, it was my third NH 4000 footer, I'm slightly ashamed to say that I haven't been back since then. That day was particularly hot, temps in the low 80's, barely any wind, and humid as all get out. My friend Dave and I had a good hike that day, though we had pretty hazy views from the tower. What I do remember was Signal Ridge Trail. Above the junction was the section that kicked my ass the first time. It's a good mile long section that just goes straight, and side-hill up the flank of Signal Ridge, with little let up. Pretty brutal, and a definite leg burner. I remember it being rather rocky, and unrelenting. In contrast, it was now a well packed snowshoe track, though still brutal.

Temperatures were hovering the low single digits most of the day, and though protected, we felt some very cold breezes along the way. None too soon, we reached the first of the switchbacks, which would take us to the crest of the ridge. We took a break here for food, and hand/foot warmers, and started back up. Now just before breaking out of the trees, we met up with Wayne again. About halfway up the ridge he had taken off in front of the group, not being a part of the Meetup group, he wasn't obligated to stay with us. He had already summited, and told us about the wind we would soon encounter on Signal Ridge.

He wasn't lying, the winds were pretty gnarly, not so much the force, but the cold. I couldn't help but stop and take a few pictures.

Willey Range from Signal Ridge

The (you're a) Nancy Range, with Lowell large and in charge
I now moved quickly across the ridge to the safety of the trees, and my group which was ahead of me. Apparently while I was taking pictures, we were passed by Georg, Per, and his dog Cinnilla. When we ran into them just down from the summit, they said it was the fastest they've ever gone across Signal Ridge! Nice to meet you guys. Up the last steep pitch to the summit, and Mike found that Wayne had left chocolate for us in the snow just in front of the tower. What a guy! We all took off our snowshoes, and went up to the tower for some views and wind.



Franconia Ridge, Owl's Head, Bondcliff, Garfield, and West Bond

Chocorua and Signal Ridge

Hancocks, Scar Ridge, Loon, and Moosilauke
Our stay on the tower was very short, and after putting on snowshoes again, Jim and I chatted for a bit in the sun at the base of the tower, while the rest of the group was back in the woods a bit. Now it was time to recross Signal Ridge, and get down. We had seen a group coming across the ridge, and we ran into them just before the summit, I think I counted 8 French-Canadian folks, some with snowshoes, some without. As we worked our way down, we noticed significant drops in temperature along the way, especially on the lower portion of Signal Ridge getting closer to the road, with Ian's thermometer reading about 9 degrees at last check.

Soon enough, we were out on the road, and one of the group behind us, had come down and passed us just before. She went off into the woods, and retrieved cross country skis, she had the right idea! We also ran into many snowmobiles along the way. At one point, Ian convinced one of them to let him ride on the back for a short stretch, an unfortunate missed photo opportunity. I'm sure he won't soon hear the end of that one.

We arrived back at the trailhead in daylight, what a novel thing to have happen! The temperature had effectively doubled since we left, at 12 degrees, though it didn't feel like it. Thanks to Mike for leading the hike, and very nice to hike with Rich, Ian, and Jim. Good to see Wayne as well, even if he was only with us part way. Nice to meet everyone else out on the trail too!

I've looked at my Grid, and there are only 6 peaks that I haven't hiked at least twice, Owl's Head, Garfield, the Wildcats, Hale, and Monroe. If I get those before the end of winter, I'll be a happy camper, though let's be honest, there's a lot more winter left... and there's still 19 peaks left on my Winter 48.

Here's hoping for warmer temperatures, and some snow!

Friday, January 18, 2013

Franconia Ridge Traverse 1/17/13

Working title: I'm not dying today

Peaks: Mt. Lafayette, North Lincoln (Truman), Mt. Lincoln, Little Haystack, Mt. Liberty, Mt. Flume

Trails: Greenleaf Trail, Franconia Ridge Trail, Osseo Trail, Lincoln Woods Trail

Mileage/time: 14.3 miles, 5000 feet of gain, book time of 9:37, actual time of 10:55

This was going to be one of three "epic" hikes Mike and I have planned for this winter, the others being a Presidential Traverse (by moonlight if we can make it happen), and the Bonds. Weather forecasts being what they are, made this day especially interesting. The forecast, when I looked Wednesday night, was mixed. One site called for clear skies, 40 mph winds, and dropping temps, the other called for clouds, and similar winds and temps. Let's go for it!

The skies were mostly clear on my drive up, but of course, coming across the Kanc, I ran into cloud cover. I pulled into Lincoln Woods, where Mike was already waiting... and I wasn't even late! He hopped in, and we made our way to the Cannon Tramway lot, where we'd be starting off. I got out of the car to relieve myself, and fell, my foot got caught in a storm drain... that's one. I laced up my "Troublemakers", which has become the nickname for my boots due to the problems I've been experiencing with them, and we set off down the road, walking under I-93 and up the on-ramp until we found the trailhead. On with the snowshoes it was, and it was here that I took my second fall, trying to get across the drainage to the actual trail... alright, I'm allowed one more.

Finally on the trail, we started up. It was warm too, the temperature at the car showed 27, and I thought about de-layering. There was a good 3 inches of fresh snow, over a packed down, but very thin base. Rocks snagged our snowshoes, and we were accompanied by the sound of metal on rock, and traffic on the highway, the joys of hiking in Franconia Notch. The sky lightened as we climbed, mostly by switchbacks, and we soon reached Eagle Pass, a stunning little cleft between Eagle Cliff to the north, and Lafayette's Agony Ridge to the south.

Early morning light to the south of the notch
We then made our way up to the closed up Greenleaf Hut, and from here, the wind became more of a factor. Good thing we hadn't de-layered, because here is where we would have put them back on, and maybe then some. We made our way down past Eagle Lake, and started the 1000 foot climb up to Lafayette. Oh, it also started snowing, so much for forecasts! There was some drifting to deal with in the trees, but once we finally broke out of the trees for good, it was mostly bare rock, with some ice, and some wind packed snow... but we left our snowshoes on until we could assess conditions on the ridge itself. The summit of Lafayette was as I remember it from my first ascent (it was my first NH 4000 footer), in the clouds, and windy.

While taking the picture of the summit signs, I noticed a strange icon in my camera viewfinder. Some of you may have noticed the purple hues of my photos from last week, well I figured out what the problem was, just below the summit of Lafayette. Somehow my ham hands must have hit some buttons and messed with the white balance setting, so that's all fixed, and the remaining pictures came out as they should have. Here's where we took off our snowshoes, and put on spikes.

The trek across to Little Haystack was a blur. It was a fight for footing, as there was a lot of bare rock, some ice, and some calf deep drifts in spots. It was a fight against the wind, and blowing snow. Mike joked about having a rhythm section in his right earphone, but it was just the snow, blowing sideways, pelting our jackets. I somehow managed to keep my glasses from fogging up completely, and kept my head at such an angle, that they weren't snow covered either. Over North Lincoln (Truman), and Lincoln we went, the clouds overhead getting brighter one moment, and then darkening an instant later.

It was a relief to see the sign at the junction of Falling Waters Trail, as that meant we'd be getting into the trees, and out of the wind. We didn't hesitate, and started down, soon reaching cover. Debating snowshoes, we continued on in spikes, generally able to keep on the packed area of the trail. There's a steep drop to the col between Haystack and Liberty, but we made it happen, and soon had easy walking. There's one area about halfway to Liberty Spring Trail where the corridor was definitely brushy, though it could have just been drifted snow pushing us up into the lower branches of the trees. Just after this, we put snowshoes back on, as we started to posthole a bit. I'll get to more on postholes later.

The AT between Haystack and Liberty, this is the trail
On the climb out of the col, the sun briefly came out, and we started to see patches of blue sky. Also, of note, the temperature had started to drop. We reached the junction with Liberty Spring Trail, and were greeted with a disappointing sight, even with a few inches of fresh snow, there were postholes galore from the warmth last week. Looking up Franconia Ridge and down Liberty Spring was like looking at a pockmarked battlefield, this would be trying most of the rest of the day. We tried to smooth things out as best we could with our snowshoes, but another good foot of snow is needed to get a fresh start on the treadway. Not to mention that postholes and snowshoes don't really get along well, lots of ankle twisting and cursing was the name of the game.

We made quick work out of the climb to Liberty and were greeted with clearing skies and some views!

Liberty summit rocks
Hard to believe we started to the north of Cannon Cliff

Bonds and Owl's Head from Liberty

Battling further postholes, we descended to the Liberty/Flume col, and started up the other side. The skies continued to clear overhead, and the temperature continued to drop. After a slow climb to Flume, we came out on the summit, with gusty winds and full sunshine.

We were there this morning!




Moosilauke, what's your problem?
We didn't stick around long, as the wind was biting, and pushing us (me at least) around a bit. We worked our way along the summit ridge, which skirts the tops of the many slides on the west face of Flume, and made our way down to the Flume Slide Trail junction.

It's a long way down!
We continued down Osseo Trail, to a flat-ish spot, and took a break. I got chilled pretty quickly, as the temperature was still dropping, so we didn't take an exceptionally long break. Osseo Trail wasn't bad, though both of us commented that it wasn't really anything special. Reaching the outlook, we took in spectacular views of Owl's Head, the Twins, Bonds, Carrigain, Hancocks, and the Sandwich Range.



Owl's Head and Twins

Sandwich Range
Now, I've heard about these "ladders" on Osseo Trail, and they were kind of a pain. Just barely covered in snow, having to work around them in snowshoes, and having it be just plain steep, made for slow going. The trail switchbacks several times to get down this steep section, then it gets increasingly gradual, as it makes its way down to Lincoln Woods, following an old road in the lower portion. We saw the first tracks of the day on Lincoln Woods Trail, but they were cross country ski tracks, not hiker tracks. The skiers came out just after we did, and they were the only others we saw all day.

Back into Lincoln, where we stopped at Black Mountain Burger Co. Their burgers weren't bad, but not really anything to write home about. Mike dropped me at my car, and then I made my way home. It was a long, exhausting day, but totally worth it!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Moosilauke and Tecumseh 1/12/13

Working title: Sometimes, a less than stellar forecast, can turn out for the best

Here's another of Mike and I's "double hit and run" hikes, the more exhausting of the two if you ask me. But here's to two more off the winter list, and hiking in beautiful weather!

Hike #1:

Peaks: Mt. Moosilauke - South Peak, Mt. Moosilauke

Trails: Glencliff Trail, South Peak Spur, Moosilauke Carriage Road

Mileage/time: 8.2 miles, 3500 feet of gain, book time of 5:49, actual time of 5:55

This day was supposed to involve a Meetup hike, and a second, non-Meetup hike afterwards. While the hikes worked out, the whole Meetup portion did not. I awoke at the crack of it's way too early, readied myself, and rolled out, expecting close to a 3 hour drive. Road conditions dictated that it would be just about 3 hours, as I got a bit sideways on 25 not far out of Portland, thanks to roads that had iced up. I made it in one piece to the Glencliff trailhead at about 5:40, where three other vehicles were parked, and began my wait. Mike showed up, and we started to get ready. This Meetup had dwindled from full to just four the last time I had checked it, and meet time for the group was 6:30, so we waited until 6:45. At 6:50, we took off up the trail, in just base layers, under a veil of clouds and mist.

Glencliff was nice down low, following an old road, across a couple fields, which were shrouded in mist. Where the Hurricane Trail diverges right, Glencliff crosses a stream and starts climbing. It's never crazy steep, just consistent and relentless (much like our hike for later in the day, but I'm getting ahead of myself). There wasn't much to see on the way up, and after a while, it became warm enough that snow and ice started melting out of the trees, and then it began falling from the sky.

We donned rain shells, and Mike put on his pack cover. In my tired state, I had forgotten to grab my regular shell, which is good and bad. Good, because I didn't need the insulating properties of it, and bad because, well, I forgot it! I would have just de-layered and put it on, if I had it. From here on, it was a damp slog up to the junction with the Carriage Road, though as we ascended, it kept getting lighter, and lighter. We ended up taking the spur to South Peak (for my redlining addiction), and were greeted by an ice encased summit cairn, and no views.

Oh well, this hike would have been awesome without any views, though they are the primary motivation for hiking, right? Back down to the junction for a snack, then onward, up through the mist to the summit. As we climbed higher, it continued to get lighter, and we saw the sun trying to poke through the clouds. The clouds parted for instants, allowing short-lived views down to our surroundings, but they were just a taste of what was to come. Upon cresting the summit, we were greeted by passing undercast views in nearly all directions, warm temperatures, and light winds.

We hung out for a while, watching the spectacle, as the clouds moved around on the winds. Eventually, we descended back into the clouds, and started to run into people! We saw at least a dozen on the way up. Those we talked to included Leslie and Sandra, Trish, Hugh, Alex, and Sage Herr, their friend Samantha, and Steve. Very nice to meet all of you! We had a really fast snowshoe descent, Mike running in spots, and me doing my best to run and not fall on my face. I'll say it again, running in 30 inch snowshoes is interesting! We made good time down to the lot, and now set our sights on lunch and another peak.


We drove back towards Plymouth, the easiest way we could figure to get to Waterville Valley, and stopped for lunch at the Plain Jane Diner on 25. The food was good (lots of comfort food!), as was the service. After devouring our meals, we headed back out on the road for Tecumseh.

Hike #2:

Peak: Mt. Tecumseh

Trails: Mt. Tecumseh Trail, Sosman Trail

Mileage/time: 5 miles, 2300 feet of gain, book time of 3:38, actual time of 3:45

There will not be, I repeat, NOT be, any pictures for this one, since we started at 3pm, and it was almost fully dark by the time we reached the summit. Since this was our fourth hit and run peak in the last few days, we were super slow on the ascent. We were again, in base layers for the whole hike. The Mt. Tecumseh Trail was in good shape the whole way. We ran into Rolling Rock (from VFTT) on the lower portion of the trail, nice to meet you! Slowly, with much stopping, we made our way up to the ridge. The last time I'd been here, I cursed this trail, and my aching back, since I was carrying skis that time. This time, I cursed it because I was tired, and it was torturous.

We reached the ridge, and the Sosman junction just before the last light was fading from the sky, and made the turn to the summit. We decided to take the Mt. Tecumseh Trail part of the loop, and it wasn't a bad choice, though it descends a fair amount before climbing steeply to the summit. It wasn't as well traveled, so there was a bit of unconsolidated snowshoe track to contend with, especially on the section just before the summit. Soon, we popped out on the summit, to no views. But with headlamps turned off, we could see weak light on the western horizon, and brilliant stars in the clear skies directly above us. There's something odd about being on a summit, in the dark, in January, wearing only base layers, and being incredibly comfortable. It just shouldn't be, but it was.

Now we turned to the descent, which I was dreading because my right foot had been bothering me all day. It went better than I expected, and we made it down from the summit in about an hour. Cross that one off the books!

Next, we went to check out this restaurant called Tell's on 49, because I'd seen it many times before and wanted to check it out. Turns out, it's fine dining, the humor of which was not lost on me, since we walked in wearing the same layers we had been hiking in. The food was excellent, as was the wine. I'll be making a return trip there for sure.

I finally got home at 10:45, such a long day, but worth it just for the views.

Totals for the day:

Mileage/time: 13.2 miles, 5800 feet of gain, book time of 9:30, actual time of 9:40

Friday, January 11, 2013

Waumbek and Cannon 1/10/13

Working title: A double hit and run? Don't mind if I do.

Mike and I had planned two hikes for the day, two of the shorter ones that we both needed for our respective winter lists. After last Saturdays hike to the Carters, I came up ill. It started as a hacking cough on Sunday morning, and worked itself into a full blown fever by Sunday night. I worked Sunday night through Tuesday night, and persevered through the sickness, though I'll be the first to admit, it wasn't fun. Only a lingering cough persisted through until the morning of the hike. After these hikes, I feel like I'm 100% again!

Hike #1:

Peaks: Starr King, Waumbek

Trails: Starr King Trail

Mileage/time: 7.2 miles, 2900 feet of gain, book time of 5:03, actual time of 4:10

Early, early, early. That's what time I get up these days for hikes. I exited my house to find that it had rained in Portland that night. Great, I would have left earlier had I known. The Portland area wasn't bad, but once I got a bit further inland, the roads became slick, until I reached Conway. I thought to myself, I'll just take the Kanc, it'll be faster, and more direct. More direct, yes, faster, no. Just as I made the turn, it started to snow lightly, then as the road climbed, it snowed harder, and harder. The slowdown, and getting stuck behind a plow, made me about 20 minutes late meeting Mike at the Cannon Tramway lot.

Piled in, and on the road. Along the way, it looked like someone (probably a big truck) hit a deer or some other large animal. The only sign that it happened, other than a few frozen chunks, was a big bloody swath of snow-covered road. The Starr King Trail summer lot isn't plowed, but there was enough room that I was able to back in, and not block the driveway to the house that's right there. We suited up, which didn't involve much since it was pretty mild, put on snowshoes, and started up the trail.

We soon worked up some internal heat, and were comfortable the whole way in base layers. It's been a long time since I went up this trail, and it's really very mellow, climbing through beautiful hardwoods to start. They almost looked like birch trees the way the snow had blown in, but I knew better. The wind was blowing across the slope from our left, and was biting at times, though as long as we were moving, we stayed warm. More quickly than expected, we hit the conifers, and continued up into the clouds, there would be no views from these peaks today. Here the trail became slightly drifted in places, but it was easily broken back out. Soon, we popped out into the clearing near Starr King summit, and took mandatory photos of the fireplace.

We proceeded quickly from here over to Waumbek, despite the trail being drifted over almost the entire way. Blazing on the trail was good, though most blazes were at chest or hip height, and this allowed us to follow the trail relatively well. Waumbek wasn't very impressive, and there would have been no point in trudging through the snow to the viewpoint, so we turned tail and got out of there.

The return to Starr King was uneventful, and we quickly made our way past it, and on down to the car. Mike started jogging on the way down, and I haphazardly tried to follow him. Running in 30 inch snowshoes feels weird, and must look funny as hell. Just as we reached the car, we saw the only person of the morning, a local resident (who has a super cool little house right by the trailhead), and chatted her up for a few minutes before departing. We made awesome time, and now hopped in the car to head back to Franconia, and get some lunch.

A limited view on the way down Starr King Trail

After returning to Mike's truck at Cannon, we went to Dutch Treat in Franconia for lunch. Mike had potato skins and I had a turkey bacon cheddar burger, all things were delicious. A cup of tea and a bunch of water with lunch helped get us ready for what was to come, another hike! I could get used to hike interludes like this, warm and with food!

Hike #2:

Peak: Cannon

Trails: Kinsman Ridge Trail, Rim Trail

Mileage/time: 4.4 miles, 2300 feet of gain, book time of 3:23, actual time of 4:20

We had no illusions that we'd be slow on this one, because let's face it, another few miles and another couple thousand feet of gain should be no problem. It really wasn't a problem, just a bit slower, with more stops. The same base layers were on (we never bothered changing), the snowshoes came back, and we took off up the trail. Let me put it this way, this trail doesn't fuck around. Right out of the lot, it charges upslope, and doesn't really let up until just before the summit. We ran into a solo hiker right at the base, and a couple in bareboots up higher.

Eagle Cliff from the trailhead

Kinsman Glade ski trail, looks like it would be fun with more snow!
The trail switchbacks (a novel idea in New England) up the mountain, crisscrossing the Kinsman Glade ski trail several times on the way up. With a couple more feet of snow, the trail looks like it would be a hell of a lot of fun. After the last crossing, we got into the flats before the summit, and took the view spur to some amazing views.

Shortly after the spur, we reached the Rim Trail, which had only been broken out to the south. No problem, we'll just make a loop out of it, and break out the other end on the way back. This was the first time all day we had to put on our shells, but we would be glad we did. Around the Rim Trail we went, it's fascinating being almost right at the level of the clouds, with views below you, and cloud above. We soon reached another junction, with Kinsman Ridge Trail continuing south, and signage pointing north to the summit. I checked out a little path I saw heading off to what looked to be a view, and almost immediately ended up in a spruce trap up to mid-thigh. Classy, though the views were worth it.

The back side of the Kinsman Ridge

West view from the viewpoint
Now it was on to the summit, a quick jaunt to the tower, underneath to hit the true highpoint, then up the stairs (tricky in snowshoes) to see if we could get some views. There were views to be had, but there was a fierce west wind to deal with too, this being the most exposed to the weather we'd been all day.

Rime on the tower

Mittersil peak from Cannon
We didn't stick around long, and made our way down to the top of the tram. The back door wasn't unlocked, so we went around and were able to get into the building on the north side. Unfortunately the guy inside informed us that he was closed up for the day, and that we couldn't get coffee. No big deal, we sat down, snacked, drank water, and chatted with some skiers who were finishing up their days. The guy running the place came over and chatted with us too. The big surprise to us, was when we were getting ready to head out, he came over with two cups of coffee for us! What a guy! Thank you so much.

Freshly caffeinated and warm, we ventured back out what had become the dim. Light fading, we made it down to near the view point, and becoming too warm with our shells, we took them off. The last rays of sunlight made their play on the mountains, and we were lucky enough to be able to capture some of them.

That's about all she wrote for this one. Quickly down, not needing headlamps, we popped back out to our waiting vehicles at 5 on the dot. Success! We drove into Lincoln hoping for Mexican food, but they were closed... Chinese it was. Then we parted ways, there's a Moosilauke and a Tecumseh to be climbed on Saturday.

The days final tally works out like this:

Mileage/time: 11.6 miles, 5200 feet of gain, total book time of 8:25, actual time of 8:30

I am now at 21 of 48 peaks in winter, and today marked Grid peaks #99 and #100!!!