Archive for March, 2011

Pierce and Eisenhower, An Amazing Winter Day, 3.15.11

For about a week or so, my husband had been thinking of taking a day off to go hiking.  We had been watching the weather, and Tuesday looked to be the best day.  Since I was his hiking partner for the day, I worked out some changes carpool schedule for the children and we were off for another hiking adventure.  I say, “adventure”, because we both weren’t sure what the day was going to bring. The last two times we hiked together really ended up being adventures:  a hike to Zealand hut in the pouring rain of hurricane Earl and arriving to dinner like a pair of drowned rats in October and having to pick our way very carefully down a solid, wavy river of ice that was the trail as we descended South Hancock in December.  These things don’t happen when we hike solo or with other people.  Although it really isn’t funny, we couldn’t help but wonder what strange thing would happen on this hike.

We chose, or rather I chose, Mt. Pierce with a possible trip to Mt. Eisenhower.  I chose this hike for several reasons.  One, the weather was predicted to be absolutely beautiful.  After last summer’s trip to Pierce which was totally socked in with no views, I had made up my mind that I would not go back up there unless I had a good day for the views!  Two, my husband had not hiked either of the these two mountains yet, and I hadn’t hiked them in winter.  Three, the hike was not too long and if we weren’t doing so well, or the weather was too fickle we could easily hike right back down the Crawford Path to the car and wait to hike Eisenhower on better day.

This hike turned out to be an unforgettable day.  For good reasons.  We arrived at the Mt. Clinton road parking area, and although Mt. Clinton Rd. itself is gated off and not plowed, you just have to follow what is plowed to the parking lot.  Once geared up, we started off on the Crawford Connector around 9am.  Quickly we came to the little bridge and turned onto the Crawford Path at the junction.  We could see patches of bright sunshine in spots through the trees, and blue sky overhead, all promising good views.  The trail was very well packed, almost sidewalk like, so we decided not to use traction.

At the Mizpah Cutoff junction, we caught up to two hikers who started on the trail as we arrived at the parking lot and had a nice chat, they were headed to Pierce, too.  After the Mizpah Cutoff, the views started to open up on the left, which was exciting because we could see the views were going to be good!  Soon enough we were at the junction of the Crawford Path and the Webster Cliff Trail.  Here we put on traction, I chose snowshoes and my husband chose the crampons.  My snowshoes have better traction than his, so he felt more comfortable with the crampons than his snowshoes.

The junction of the Crawford Path and Webster Cliff Trails

We quickly covered the last little bit of trail to the summit, arriving at 11:15a.  The 360 degree views were stunning!   We could see mountains in every direction!  What was even more amazing was that there was little to no wind!  We spent some time taking photos, videos, eating snacks and chatting with the other two hikers who we had seen before.

 

Looking north towards Mt. Washington from the summit of Mt. Pierce

My husband on Mt. Pierce, with Carrigain behind him.

Both of us with the snow-capped Franconias rising above the other ranges.

Both of us again, this time with Mt. Washington in the background.

We checked the time and decided then to head over to Eisenhower.  We figured it would take about an hour and a half, arriving there by 1:00p, with plenty of time to enjoy the summit and get back to the car.  The path to Eisenhower was broken out and easy to follow, although there were a few spruce traps to carefully step around.  We arrived at the junction of the Eisenhower loop and Crawford path and started the switch-backed climb up to the summit.  There was a mix of snow, ice and rock, for which traction is needed.  While I felt totally secure in the snowshoes and never felt that I was going to slip or have poor traction, my husband did have the advantage in being able to maneuver a little bit easier since he didn’t have to deal with the platform of the snowshoes.  We arrived at the summit at 12:45p, to breathtaking views, little to no wind, and no other hikers, seeing no one on the way to Eisenhower.  We spent about a half an hour just enjoying the summit by ourselves, taking pictures and then eating snacks, and readjusting gear and clothing layers for the trip back.

Summit cairn on Mt. Eisenhower

The view to Mt. Washington from Eisenhower, I have a similar picture in the post from last summer's trip to Eisenhower.

We were a little sad to leave because it was a really magical experience, with the perfect weather, the peace and quiet, and the beauty of the mountains cloaked in winter snow and ice.  Reality, of course, is that you can’t stay, especially with the weather changing overnight.  We met a group of younger guys on our way back, as they were headed over to Eisenhower.  They had camped at Nauman tentsite the previous night and were now enjoying their day on the peaks.  The trip back to the car was pretty quick and by 3:30p we were back at the car, getting ready to head home.  On the 302 headed toward Twin Mountain, we were treated to a great view of Mt. Washington and the surrounding peaks, plus the moon was visible, too!  We turned around to go back to the scenic view area in front of the Mt. Washington hotel to take a few last photos.

Part of the Presidentials from Bretton Woods

Mt. Washington and the moon

We couldn’t have asked for a better day in the mountains and it was certainly a hike neither of us will forget!  For good reasons!

Mt. Cabot, #33 3.5.11

I haven’t been out hiking since New Year’s Day, which was quite a while ago at this point! One of the main reasons is that I don’t have a winter hiking partner. My son is a bit young and I’m not as experienced as I’d like to be as I would be responsible for the both of us coming home safely. Although it is late in the season, I decided that I should try a group hike with the AMC and see how that worked out. The benefits being that you’ve got experienced leaders with you and you’re within a larger group.

I’d never hiked with a group before, I’ve only hiked solo or with one or two other people, so it was a new experience. I was a little nervous about that, but it turned out to be a nice experience. There was a variety of ages and fitness levels, but the leaders took care to see that everyone moved at a comfortable pace and that we reached the summit safely.

Once being accepted in the group hike, I got an email with a gear list and a place to meet. Saturday morning found me driving toward Gorham to meet the group at 7:15a. We carpooled over to the York Pond Fish Hatchery, where the trailhead is for the York Pond Trail which would lead us to the Bunnell Notch Trail and ultimately to the Kilkenny Ridge and Mt. Cabot Trails leading to the summit.

We were all geared up and on the trail around 8:45a, with snowshoes being the footwear of choice for the entire day. The weather reports were not the most promising with around 50% chance of rain or sleet or even snow, so we suited up appropriately in the waterproof wear department, too. We first passed through a fairly easy section where we encountered the only real bit of precipitation for the day, a little rain and then a little ice which lasted for a very short time, maybe 45 minutes, probably less. After turning onto the Bunnell Notch Trail, we then hiked over a rolling sort of section where we started to gain altitude. After turning onto the Kilkenny Ridge Trail, the hiking got steeper, ascending by switchbacks. At the end of the switch backs is Mt. Cabot Cabin, which is very close to the summit.

There was plenty of snow; all the signs had snow this deep around them.

Thankfully, the cabin was open and we were all able to squeeze inside to eat a quick bite before going to back out and heading for the summit. The hike to the summit was a very quick little hike, which was made even easier by leaving our packs at the cabin, and soon we were at the summit, complete with sign and photos.

Mt. Cabot Cabin

At the summit; the snow was so deep that I had to crouch down beside the sign. Normally, this sign would be one to two feet above my head.

Unfortunately, we didn’t have a view at the summit or even in the surrounding area due to the cloud we were in, partly because the summit is wooded and party because we entered a cloud during the hike to the cabin. On the way back down, we were still able to get a few views and photos as we dropped down below the cloud. We stopped at little side path marked, “View” which is Bunnell Rock and has a nice view over Bunnell Notch to the next ridge, which is part of Terrace Mtn.

View sign to Bunnell Rock, which has nice views to the next ridge and beyond.

A view from Bunnell Rock; you can see the cloud that we hiked into and out of at the top of the photo.

Another view from Bunnell Rock, out to the valley.

We did a decent job moving along on the descent and the group ended up back at the parking lot at 4:30p. For such a large group (there were 10 or so altogether), with a variety of hiking speeds, I think that was a very reasonable pace.

As far as the entire hiking experience, I thought it was a good day. think that this was a good way to get some winter hiking in without the worry of going solo and not having enough experience and then getting into trouble. In the future, if I don’t have a hiking partner, I will try to take advantage of these trips. It was also a good day because I got one more peak bagged, which leaves me 15 to go!

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