Fun in the December Sun, Ike and Pierce, 12.3.11

Saturday’s Winter Hiking Series hike was to Eisenhower and Pierce.  While the weather was nice and sunny, we quickly found out that the conditions were not as much winter-like as we’d hoped for, except for some sections of ice we encountered on Edmands Path.

Early morning light on the clouds, taken on the way to Crawford Notch.

We started out bright and early as usual with the plan to make a loop over both summits via the Edmands Path and Crawford Path.  Up the Edmands Path we went, enjoying the cold but not really encountering too much snow or ice.  From hiking the trail before a couple of summers ago, I knew there would be a few spots that would require some careful hiking:  one, the area with the small streams that flow over the ledges and two, the talus slope.  Once we got to those small streams, we finally saw something that was more winter like and decided that the traction we had put on earlier was  not merely a good idea, but necessary for safety.  Here is the ice:

The streams along the upper portion of Edmands path have frozen.

Now here is the same ice with me in the corner of the photo:

Same ice, with a little more perspective. Photo courtesy of Sean McCarthy.

The second photo really shows the scale of part of the icy section.  After playing the delicate game of balance and judgment the worst part of the ice was soon past and we were headed towards the talus slope section of the trail.  Fortunately, it was easy to cross with only a frosty coating of rime ice.  Within these two sections of trail, the trees start to shrink and the views start to open up.  The views out to Washington, Jefferson and the Ammonoosuc Ravine were great and kept getting better as the vegetation slowly shrank away as we ascended above treeline.

View over to Washington from the upper portion of Edmands Path.

Only a light coating of rime ice on the talus slope today.

After crossing the talus slope, we quickly arrived at the trail junction and headed up the Eisenhower Loop to the summit.  The summit was beautiful, with bright sunshine and very little wind – truly a rare December day on the Southern Presidentials.  We spent quite a bit of time on the summit enjoying the scenery and snacks waiting for the arrival of the second group.  Once the second group joined us and we had the requisite group photos taken, those of us in the first group headed to Pierce via the remainder of the Eisenhower Loop and Crawford Path.

Edmands Path and Eisenhower Loop junction.

Washington and other Presidentials from the summit of Eisenhower.

The trip to Pierce was interesting from my perspective.  I have only been on that portion of the Crawford Path between Eisenhower and Pierce once in March with a full snow pack.  In March, it looked like all the trees were only one to three feet tall, nothing more than shrubs, really.  All of the sudden on this hike, I found myself on a trail down in trees that are 6 to 10 feet tall!  I had to laugh at myself – I had no idea that the trees really were that tall or what the actually trail looked like.  It was amazing to imagine the amount of snow that fills in the trail and all the trees!

The Crawford Path between Eisenhower and Pierce, *without* the snow pack.

The traverse was short and easy and we quickly arrived at the junction of the Crawford Path and Webster Cliff trails, ready for the quick, short .1 mile hike to the summit of Pierce.  Once again, we were treated to sunshine with beautiful clear, views and rime iced trees.

The Crawford Path and Webster Cliff junction, almost to the summit of Pierce.

The moon was already out, visible above the rime iced trees at the Pierce summit.

From the summit of Pierce, we made the descent down to Crawford Connector and on to the parking area with just a little daylight to spare.  While not exactly winter conditions, it was a great day to be out and rare one weather-wise.


2 thoughts on “Fun in the December Sun, Ike and Pierce, 12.3.11

  1. Nice report and photos, as always, Summerset!

    And regarding your commentary about the height of the trees now as compared to mid winter, although I’ve experienced this contrast many times, it still never fails to amaze me! Equally fascinating to me is how there are certain views that you only get during the winter when you’re elevated above the treetops by the snowpack.


  2. Thanks, John – isn’t that the fun of hiking the same trail in different seasons? I’m hoping to get a few of those better snowpack views, although it seems we’re getting a slow start to the winter season.

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