Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Winter 2014 Hikes

(Note:  Posted 8/13/14 but pre-dated for chronology)
Middle and South Carter, Mt. Lethe, Carter Dome, Mt. Hight - 4/07/14
Route:   Rt. 16, Camp Dodge bushwhack, Imp Trail (South), North Carter Trail, Carter-Moriah Trail, Carter Dome Trail, 19 Mile Brook Trail
Equipment: Microspikes (just on North Carter Trail), Snowshoes from Zeta Pass on out
Conditions:   Frozen hardpack with a slight glazing early on. Snow softening up as day warmed.

Parked at 19 MBT and headed north on Rt. 16. Was able to bareboot until Zeta Pass although wore Microspikes for a bit on North Carter Trail due to glazed surface. Beautiful morning - blue sky and sunny, clouding up after noon. Saw no one else all day but did encounter Carter Hut caretaker’s tracks on Carter Dome. Saw some fresh bear tracks between M and S Carter!!
Slide Peak, North Isolation, Mt. Isolation - 3/29/14
Route:  Glen Boulder Trail, Davis Path, Isolation Trail, bushwhack, Rocky Branch Trail
Equipment:  Snowshoes car to car
Conditions:  Lower Glen Boulder Trail had an old track to about the Boulder. Then unbroken heavy, dense snow until just before Mt. Isolation. Well broken out to Rocky Branch trailhead.

After spotting a car at Rocky Branch Trailhead, we (Al, Bob, Deb and I) parked on Rt. 16 at the wide pull-off just south of the unplowed Glen Boulder/Glen Ellis Falls Trailhead. (AMC info person at Pinkham Notch said this was okay.) Trail was unbroken until Direttissima junction, where an old track was then evident. Track disappeared around treeline. Above the Boulder and back in the trees, snow was very deep and branches were waist and chest level. We had four strong trail breakers but were happy to get back above treeline where the going was easier and we didn‘t have to walk hunched over. Gorgeous views of Boott Spur, Mts. Monroe and Eisenhower and ridiculously mild temps and winds.

Heading back to treeline, Davis Path wasn’t too hard to find initially, but we were challenged to stay on the trail until almost Mt. Isolation. (After Glen Boulder Trail, I do not think we saw any blazes for the rest of the day.) Fortunately the woods are not too thick so we headed in the general direction of North Isolation. GPS was somewhat helpful in staying on/near the official trail. The snow was deep and heavy, and there were a few minor spruce trap incidents.

Once we hit the broken out route of the Rocky Branchers, it was pretty smooth sailing to Mt. Isolation and back to the car. Thanks to the nine folks ahead of us who consolidated the trail on their way in. As others have stated, the current bushwhack is incredibly beautiful, with birch glade after birch glade after birch glade… the nicest I’ve seen. We must have gone through a dozen separate little glades. It was quite enjoyable.

The Rocky Branch Trail seemed to get sloppier the lower we got, and we were all happy to reach the parking lot! A great day in the mountains with a fun little group.

Sunday Mtn. and Mt. Cube - 3/26/14
Route: Cross Rivendell Trail - Norris Road to Mt. Cube
Equipment: Snowshoes
Conditions: Mostly unbroken snow - 6 miles worth. Remaining 4 miles (up and down Mt. Cube) was broken but still rather unconsolidated.

The Cross Rivendell Trail is a 36-mile point-to-point trail straddling the Connecticut River in the Upper Valley of VT/NH that traverses from Flagpole Hill in Vershire, VT, to Mt.Cube in Orford, NH. As the map states, “the trail passes over several bald summits and through spectacular forests and bucolic fields, much of the trail on private land.”

This day I decided on the Sunday Mountain to Mt. Cube section, Norris Road to Mt. Cube and back to Baker/Quinttown Road. From the start, the trail was completely unbroken so I donned snowshoes and proceeded to break through a thin crust, sinking in anywhere from 4-8 inches most of the day. There was one stretch early on where the trail was broken for about 1/3 mile. There are many interconnecting old woods roads and other trails that are apparently used by locals. I saw some old ski tracks here and there as well. The climb up and over Sunday Mountain was a beautiful traverse of open hardwoods with many, many critter tracks. I saw six deer just before hitting Dame Hill Road.

The section from Dame Hill Road to Baker Road was, likewise, completely unbroken except for the local wildlife and also passed through lovely hardwoods. The trail was very well marked with plenty of paint; however, being untravelled by humans in open hardwoods, diligence was required in connecting the blue blazes at times.

Chris joined me for the ascent of Mt. Cube. Although the steeper sections have been rerouted with nice, gradual switchbacks, this trail section was the original Appalachian Trail up Mt. Cube before the major ATC/DOC relocation project of the 1980s and 90s. From Baker Road to the summit the trail was finally broken out (yay - my legs were getting a tad bit weary after 6 miles of solo trail breaking), although some folks went just to the fantastic lookout about ¾ of the way up. We could see Killington, Mt. Ascutney, Smarts Mtn., Holts Ledge, and Moose Mtn. among others. The open summit area was pretty nippy since the wind had picked up quite a bit over the course of the day; we didn’t linger. The AT North looked to be broken out from the summit, but the AT South appeared untouched by human traffic recently.

This was a perfect way to spend a special day: my 20th anniversary of starting a thru-hike of the AT. I look forward to completing the rest of the Cross Rivendell Trail soon!
Monroe, Eisenhower, Pierce - 3/19/14
Route: Ammonoosuc Ravine, Crawford Path, Monroe and Eisenhower Loops, Webster Cliff Trail to Pierce
Equipment: Snowshoes
Conditions:   Mt. Washington Observatory report of 5 mph winds on summit at 8 am quickly escalated to 25-40 by the time I reached treeline. All trails well packed out.

Chris dropped me off at the Cog Railway. Made it to Gem Pool in ½ hour. Televators rocked on the steeps of ART. Winds picked up as I climbed - grr…! Passed one guy just below the hut. Made a beeline for Monroe as others had before me. Winds were very strong on the north sides of all peaks today (Monroe, Franklin, Eisenhower). Decided they weren’t strong enough to turn back so kept going. Strongest winds were going over Franklin and Eisenhower - not really pushing me around too much but had to concentrate to stay upright.  Fortunately, temps weren’t too cold. Finally able to text Chris in the scrub south of Eisenhower and met him right at the junction of Crawford and Webster Cliff Trails. He had come up Crawford Path. Fun descent w/C knocking snow balls off trees.  Wind was really whipping in Crawford Notch. Last full day of winter hike. Storm coming tonight...
Adams 4, Sam Adams, Adams, Madison - 3/18/14
Route: Lowes Path, cross country, Israel Ridge, Air Line, Osgood, Valley Way
Equipment: Snowshoes, crampons, sunglasses, and sunscreen
Conditions: All trails nicely packed out. No real ice to speak of. Gorgeous sunny day w/slight winds. Class 1 Day.

Chris dropped me off at Lowes and headed over to Appalachia. He went up Valley Way. Wore snowshoes from Rt. 2. Met one guy descending from Gray Knob. Switched to crampons about 1/3 mile above Gray Knob. Route was boney but not too bad. Saw fresh fox tracks near Adams 4. Headed cross country to tag Sam Adams (‘cuz I like that summit), then over to main peak. No one in sight. Descended to Madison Hut, where I met 8 or 9 hikers hanging out in the sun. Waited until 1:30 for Chris, then headed up to Madison. When I got back to the hut, Chris was there.  Was such a beautiful day I didn’t want to leave above treeline. Descended VW together.
Garfield - 3/16/14
Route: Mt. Garfield Trail, Garfield Ridge
Equipment: Snowshoes
Conditions: Fresh snow of 3/12-13 was packed out nicely. Very cold, brisk day.

w/Al, Percy, MEB, Brett, and Chris did the first part. Fast-paced hike - about 5 hours. Lots of others out. Saw Peter Crane at jct. Didn’t stay on top long - it was very cold!
Cannon Mtn. - 3/11/14
Route: Kinsman Ridge Trail, Rim Trail
Equipment: Snowshoes all the way
Conditions: 2-4” new snow over smooth, solid base

Got a civilized start at 1:15 pm. Wore snowshoes from the bottom due to new snow and for traction and televation. At 40F degrees, snow was very sticky for the first quarter mile or so, then much less so thankfully. Conditions were perfect for climbing in snowshoes. Went to the Outlook for a peek. Upper section of KRT was windblown with deep snowdrifts. No evidence at all of weekend’s foot traffic.  Kind of socked in w/flat light on summit area. Tried to shortcut to the summit from Rim Trail and sank into a deep spruce trap. Stopped trying for a shortcut. Didn’t stay on top for long and did not go inside tram station.

Descent was fast and fun. Did some butt sliding. Met one hiker coming up with a 5-month-old spaniel named Annie. She was adorable and came popping out of a little spruce trap, very playful. 2.5 hours car to car.
N. Lafayette, Lafayette, Truman, Lincoln, Little Haystack, Liberty, Flume, Liberty - 3/10/14
Route: Skookumchuck, Garfield Ridge, Franconia Ridge, Liberty Spring, bushwhack, Franconia Notch Bike Path
Equipment: I wore snowshoes most of the day
Conditions: Everything broken out

Today was supposed to be Owls Head, but when I got to the Franconia exits, I didn’t feel like driving any farther. Skookumchuck and Franconia Ridge it would be.

All trails were broken out nicely. Upon hitting treeline and Garfield Ridge Trail, visibility was about “three cairns.” Winds were slight and the temps were moderate, so I decided the Ridge was a go. There was enough snow up there that I just kept my snowshoes on for the entire ridge. Things did get boney at times, but it was the right choice for me. On Lafayette visibility went down to “two cairns,” but route finding was never in question.

The tree’d portions of Franconia Ridge could use a trimming. I went to Flume, then back to Liberty and down Liberty Spring Trail. Saw some fresh bootprints but didn’t see another soul all day.

At the left turn just below the junction with Flume Slide Trail, I followed a broken out track straight to the bike path and from there to the northbound Basin parking. (This saved over a mile of bike path.) Took a nice break there before beginning the schlep back up the bike path all the way to Skookumchuck trailhead. It’s a good thing I like to walk because it was a long freaking way. The dozen or so snowmobilers I met and the goofy signs on the bike path provided entertaining diversion.
Glad I did this hike but probably won’t do it again anytime soon!
Traverse of the Mighty Hale - 3/06/14
Route: Zealand Road, Hale Brook Trail, Firewardens Trail, North Twin Trail, herd path
Equipment: We wore snowshoes for most of the hike. Sunglasses.
Conditions: Everything packed out nicely. Couple of inches of new fluff.

Al and I decided to take advantage of our two vehicles today and opted for a traverse of Hale. We got the Zealand road walk done first and headed up Hale Brook Trail, yakking incessantly. It was an amazing day--bright blue sky, intense sun, and slight winds--one which we really should have spent rock hopping above treeline. OTOH, goofing off in the woods is never a bad way to spend a day.

About halfway up HBT I put on snowshoes to smooth the trail out (and get them off my back) and wore them most of the way down Firewardens. Conditions were so appealing today that a long leisurely break was possible on the summit without freezing to death.

Lend a Hand looked broken out, with those couple of inches of new snow on top.  The trip down Firewardens and out was fast and fun. GREAT view of the Presies at the one viewpoint a ways down from the summit. This was a nice way to do Mt. Hale.
Cabot Trifecta (Horn, Bulge, Cabot) - 3/05/14
Route: Unknown Pond, Kilkenny Ridge, Bunnell Notch, York Pond Trails
Equipment: Snowshoes car to car
Conditions: Ranged from completely unbroken/unconsolidated to well-packed superhighway. No icy sections.

A beautiful day for the three peaks of Cabot. Parked at plowed Unknown Pond Trail parking lot off York Pond Road. First ~1.5 mile of Unknown Pond Trail was broken out nicely. At that point there was what looked to be a campsite and no further snowshoe tracks. From there I followed faint ski tracks which eventually petered out until it was just me and the moose brigade. Lots of tracks and bedding areas up there. Upper part of Unknown Pond and Kilkenny Ridge Trails to Mt. Cabot were completely unbroken. Trail breaking was enjoyable and not too difficult. I got a good workout, sinking in 4-8 inches.

Having done all but a small portion of Kilkenny Ridge Trail in winter, I knew that staying on the trail would be a challenge. If you need blazes every 50 feet, this is not the hike for you. If you attempt this loop in the snow season, be prepared to bushwhack at some point. Unknown Pond Trail was especially lacking in paint. By a combination of intuition and luck, I did a good job of staying on the trail, losing it just a couple of times.

I took the spur to The Horn today. With all the snow, the summit rock is easier to get onto than in summer. A bunny even made it - tracks went all the way to the top.  Looked like no human traffic in quite some time.

I found the section between The Bulge and Cabot to have the most tricky route finding, mostly due to open woods. Every time I thought I’d lost the trail, I’d go a few more steps, turn around, and there’d be a yellow blaze on a tree just behind me. Lost the trail just below the summit of Cabot but knew it was close so just made a beeline for the top.

The rest of the way down - Kilkenny, Bunnell Notch, York Pond Trails - was well traveled and is well documented elsewhere.
Mts. Wonalancet, Hibbard, Nanamocomuck, Passaconaway, and Whiteface - 3/03/14
Route: Old Mast Road, Wonalancet Range, Walden, Dicey’s Mill, Rollins, and Blueberry Ledge Trails
Equipment: Microspikes to Mt. Wonalancet, then snowshoes the rest of the way
Conditions: Broken out to Mt. Wonalancet, much less so to Hibbard Mtn. Then completely unbroken until final push up Mt. Passaconaway. Dicey’s, Rollins, and Blueberry Ledge Trails were well packed.

The most challenging part of today’s hike was negotiating the incredible frost heaves on Rts. 113 and 113A. Holy Moly!

Wonalancet Range Trail was broken out nicely to its namesake summit, including the Shortcut (which I did not do). I switched to snowshoes just before the summit because the track became much less consolidated. Someone had continued on to Hibbard Mtn., but the human tracks stopped there. However, there was an incredible array of critter tracks in this area! Although a bit crusty--and consequently very noisy with MSRs (I did not sneak up on any animals today)--the trail breaking was not difficult.

The Walden Trail looked to not have been traveled all winter. The descent to the col before Nanamocomuck was fun albeit slower than I would’ve liked due to the crusty top layer. In the col itself route finding was tricky, but I consulted the excellent WODC map which states “Trail turns left at the col and briefly follows an unreliable stream downhill.” Then, 0.3 miles later, “Trail bears right away from stream, then climbs steeply.” They weren’t kidding. The last time I was on this trail was over 20 years ago, and it was summertime so I did not get full appreciation for this trail’s workout. The very steep section was only 0.4 miles, but it was very steep, and the snow was crusty on top with loose granular underneath. There were probably a half dozen scrambles where I would ask myself HOW I was going to get up THAT. Each time a branch, small tree, or nub would appear enabling me to hoist myself up and over. I would not necessarily recommend this route but would not dissuade its use either: It Was Wicked Fun!!

The Square Ledge Trail was not broken out, but the final climb up Passaconaway was… by what looked to be a batallion of moose and a snowshoer or two. From the summit of Passaconaway, down Dicey’s, and across Rollins was very well packed out. I met a total of 7 Microspikers, but I opted to leave snowshoes on. Careful deliberation was exercised on the descent of Blueberry Ledge. I am always surprised at the dicey-ness of this trail. My intention was to try to descend the Tom Wiggins Trail, but there either was no sign, a buried sign, or I completely missed it. Probably for the better.

Beautiful, sunny blue sky day. A bit cold but never felt too bad. Took the Kanc back to 93. Compared to 113, it was smooth sailing. I love this area of the White Mtns., just wish it wasn’t such a far drive for me.
Camel’s Hump - 3/02/14
Route: Burrows Trail
Equipment: Barebooted (and forgot poles in car)

Well broken out “highway” all the way. 1.5 hours up, 45 minutes down, including some jogging.
Mt. Moriah - 2/28/14
Route: Rattle River, Kenduskeag, Carter-Moriah, Stony Brook Trails
Equipment: Snowshoes (car to car)
Conditions: Nicely hardpacked snowshoe track to Rattle River Shelter. Less consolidated but still broken out for the next mile. The upper ~1.5 miles of Rattle River Trail and 1.4 mile distance of Kenduskeag Trail to Mt. Moriah showed evidence of one or two lone snowshoe prints descending, but they were mostly drifted over. From Mt. Moriah to the car via Carter-Moriah and Stony Brook Trails was well packed. No icy areas.

I’ve always enjoyed the longer but relatively mellow jaunt up Mt. Moriah that the Rattle River-Kenduskeag route provides. However, compared to Carter-Moriah and Stony Brook Trails out of Gorham, this route is much less commonly used in winter, so we were prepared for a long morning of trail breaking. We discovered the lower portion of Rattle River Trail to be very well packed out (could easily bareboot this section), and it appeared that Rattle River Shelter was the site of a recent igloo-building class. Some impressive construction there.

Only one of Rattle River’s inviting pools was open (unfrozen) today, all others completely frozen over as were all the crossings and cascades. We did not stop to soak our feet this day.

The track was drifted and less broken out to the Kenduskeag Trail junction, but it appeared that at least one person had used this trail as a descent route from Moriah, probably last weekend. Following their indentations saved us from searching for the trail in a couple of confusing spots on the Kenduskeag. The trail breaking was not difficult and was welcome this cold, blustery day as it helped keep us warmer. The Kenduskeag Trail toward Shelburne Moriah was unbroken. Only 1.3 miles away, this lovely summit was tempting, but we stuck with the plan…

Upon reaching the Carter-Moriah Trail we discovered fresh snowshoe tracks coming in from the south. The CMT going toward Gorham looked drifted in, at least the little bit we could see before the summit of Moriah. From our vantage point at 4049 feet, the Presies looked downright brutal today with angry looking clouds hovering over Washington and the other high peaks. As usual, Moriah’s south ledges were fantastic, and we gazed longingly into the vast Wild River Valley. (Next winter, Moriah Brook Trail or bust.)

On our way down Stony Brook, we encountered the owner of the fresh snowshoe tracks and enjoyed her company on the final couple of miles out. Thanks to Dee we saved a bit of mileage as we opted to take her route straight to Stony Brook Estates. Thanks Dee! Also thanks to Chris, Al and Percy for ‘a pleasant walk’ in the woods today.
Willey, Field and Tom - 2/25/14
Route: Kedron Flume, Ethan Pond, Willey Range, Mt. Tom Spur, A-Z, Avalon Trails
Equipment: Snowshoes (the whole way), Poles, Ice axe

Kedron Flume Trail was well packed out to just above the flume (which, being completely frozen over, was neither seen nor heard this day). From there to Ethan Pond Trail I broke through a hard, crusty layer covering older granular but sunk in only 4-5 inches. Ethan Pond Trail was well broken out as was, surprisingly, Willey Range Trail all the way up to Mt. Willey. Seems folks have been utilizing the lesser travelled route up Willey this winter. Ethan Pond Trail looked to be packed beyond the junction with Willey Range Trail.

The steep ladder sections required care, but the snow was like Styrofoam and grippy, so my MSRs did fine. However, I did bring an ice axe and did use it on this section. The uppermost ladder I bypassed around to the left as others before me had also done. (Were I to descend this trail given the current conditions, I would probably switch to crampons.)

I shared some gluten-free chocolate chip cookie crumbs with the Chris Christie of gray jays on the summit of Willey.

From Willey to Field there was some drifting, mostly on the Willey side. A-Z looked to be broken out going toward Zealand Falls Hut. From Field to Tom and out to Crawford Depot was a well broken out highway. Probably could’ve barebooted but opted to keep snowshoes on all the way.
N and S Hancock - 2/23/14
Route: Regular way
Equipment: Barebooted most but snowshoed between the peaks and most of the way out

Well broken out, packed trail. Met a dozen overnighters from a Meetup group coming out. Also met 2 ultra runner guys from Massachusetts coming down N. Peak as I was going up. Otherwise uneventful hike. Briefly considered whacking out to “Juno Peak” (South South Peak) and back, but after 50 or so feet in, encountered thick and potentially dangerous spruce traps so turned around.
Mt. Waumbek (without Starr King) via Priscilla Brook BW - 2/04/14
Route: Priscilla Brook Trail. Bushwhack.
Equipment: Snowshoes (car to car). Sunglasses.
Conditions: 3-10” powder in beautiful open woods.

This was a nice route up Waumbek. First thing I had to do was shovel out a spot for my car at the old Priscilla Brook Trailhead before I could begin making my way up the abandoned trail. My last time in this area was in the early 90s, when I was working on the NH 100 Highest and did Mt. Pliny with my buddy Creston.

This time I followed the PBT for less than a mile before bushwhacking west to hit an old logging road which runs generally north-south and which brings one up to the ridge running south from Mt. Waumbek. The woods were mostly open hardwoods, and there were many, many critter tracks. The snowshoeing was perfect.  I kept waiting for it to get thick and nasty. Finally it did get a bit thick, but this lasted a whopping 2 minutes. Shortly thereafter, I found myself on the heavily trodden Starr King Trail about 100 feet west of the summit of Waumbek.

I followed some moose tracks - but no humans - a little farther east of the summit so as to catch the views of the Presidentials this fine day while enjoying some goodies. What a gorgeous day - the calm before the storm.

I contemplated continuing on the Kilkenny Ridge Trail for a bit, then dropping down to get Pliny. Then I came to my senses. With no aspirations of the NH 100 Highest in Winter list and because the route up was so good, I followed my footprints back out.

2 ½ hours up, 1 ½ back, maybe 6’ish miles? I will do this one again!
S, M, N Tripyramid from Livermore - 2/03/14
Route: Livermore Road, Mt. Tripyramid Loop (up South Slide), Pine Bend Brook Trail, Scaur Ridge Trail, Livermore Road
Equipment: Snowshoes, Crampons, Ice axe
Conditions: First (and last) part of Livermore Road is a groomed XC ski trail, so smooth sailing. Mt. Tripyramid Loop up to South Peak had 4-6” new snow over older boot prints. From South to Middle had a few new inches over a packed out base. From Middle to North and onto the Scaur Ridge Trail jct. was a beaten out highway. Scaur Ridge Trail was completely unbroken.

This loop was a lot of fun.  I started off in MSR snowshoes so as to not ding up the beautifully groomed ski trail that is lower Livermore Road… and because I’d rather wear them than carry them. Once I turned on to the South fork of the Mt. Tripyramid Loop, there was 4-6” of new snow over somebody’s older bareboot prints but no real postholing. I did what I could to smooth out the base. Once on the South Slide, I switched to full crampons for the steeps. Oddly, there seemed to be very little ice under the new snow. That made me very happy. I picked my way up carefully, mostly staying to the left as opposed to going right up the middle. Views were fantastic, and for much of the way I followed descending fox prints which was pretty cool - was trying to imagine seeing a fox going down the South Slide.

Once on South Peak, there was a beaten out track with 4-6” of new snow on top. I switched back to snowshoes. On Middle Peak the track was a very firmly packed down super highway all the way to the Scaur Ridge Trail junction. There were a couple of icy sections to navigate.

Scaur Ridge Trail - yippee ki yi yippee yay - was completely unbroken. Although there was about 6-8” of sinkage, the descent was still fast and, aaaah… dreamy-cushy on snowshoes. (Take that, Pine Bend Brook Trail.)  From SRT, there are some wicked impressive views of the North Slide this time of year as there are no leaves to block the view. It looked pretty freaking scary.  All too soon it was back on Livermore Road. On the way out, I met about 10 skiers who were all very friendly; I made sure to stay to the far edge of the groomed trail.
Moosilauke via Benton Trail - 2/01/14
Route: Tunnel Brook Road, Benton Trail, Beaver Brook Trail
Equipment: Snowshoes, Microspikes
Conditions: 2-4” snow on Tunnel Brook Road and lower Benton Trail progressing to up to a foot of trail breaking higher up. Some hidden ice.

The Benton was another lightly used winter route on my to-do list. Stars were aligned, as a good friend Lloyd also had it in his sights. We were able to drive to the (new, post-Irene) summer trailhead on Tunnel Brook Road about 1 ½ miles in from Route 112, so this hike turned out to be only a little over 10 miles.  Tunnel Brook Road had some impressive washouts. Can see why the feds don’t want to spend any $$$ fixing this particular road.

Once on the Benton Trail, the stream crossing 0.2 miles in was frozen over completely and easily crossed. We barebooted until about 2800 feet (?) at which point snowshoes proved to be the most efficient mode of travel. This trail is nicely graded and perfect for snowshoeing. Much to our delight, the trail was completely un-traveled and unbroken. Some serious trail breaking was had for a solid mile before meeting the highly traveled Beaver Brook Trail. There was just enough snow on the summit area that we opted to keep our snowshoes on. Wonderful and far reaching views today, the wind just a tad chilly.

We returned via the same route, switching to Microspikes for the downhill icy sections. We saw zero people until the summit area and zero people after the summit area but about 15 people on/near the summit and a couple of exhausted looking dogs.  (Boo)

This is a great route that I would highly recommend for a change of pace over the usual routes.
Wildcats E,D,C,B,A,B,C,D - 1/30/14
Route: Lost Pond Trail, Wildcat Ridge Trail, Polecat
Equipment: Crampons, Ice axe, Snowshoes, Poles, Sunscreen & Sunglasses

Parked at Pinkham. Lost Pond Trail/AT was barebooted by many, including me. Lost Pond looks to have excellent ice skating right now.

Wildcat Ridge Trail/AT to D Peak had a few inches of snow over ice and is extremely steep. I followed a couple of sets of cramponed boot prints that looked only a day old. Wore full crampons and used my ice axe with frequency. Would not attempt this section with anything less than full crampons right now. There are quite a few rather steep, exposed ledges that require extreme care. The one particular section that I consider the crux of this route is about ½ mile up - a narrow, downsloping, icy ledge with a pretty good dropoff to the left and not much to hang onto to the right. Would not recommend this route to those with poor balance or dislike of exposed areas.

Poor neglected Wildcat E (which used to be on the 4k list instead of D) got some love today. Stupendous views across the road from D’s summit platform. Skies were sunny and bright blue. It was a Rudy P and sunscreen day. Was actually able to take a nice, decent break up there without freezing my hands while switching from crampons to snowshoes.

From D to A and back was the usual, except that going up - and later, down - C was pretty icy. I did okay in my MSRs, but crampons would not be overkill. There is a nice snowshoe track between D and A right now.

At A Peak, I decided to return to D and descend Polecat. Had thought about a full WRT traverse w/19 MB but didn’t want to deal with the roadwalk or hitching. I like Wildcat Ridge between the peaks a lot anyway. (And there is no way I would descend the WRT from E Peak this day!!)

Back at D, I popped into the first aid hut (just as they were leaving to sled somebody out) and asked a very nice guy up there, Michael, about purchasing a trail pass. I did not get one earlier because I was unsure which route I would take down/out. He said no problem, just buy one when I get to the bottom… which I did. The woman working the register thanked me for paying the $10.

From there it was a short road walk back to my car at Pinkham. Saw no other hikers out there today.
Kinsmans from the South - 1/27/14
Route: Reel Brook Trail, Kinsman Ridge Trail/AT, Mt. Kinsman Trail, Route 116
Equipment: MSR snowshoes. Poles. Brought crampons - didn’t need. Brought ice axe - didn’t use but probably should have in a couple of spots.
Conditions: We have snow.  The 0.6 mile approach road to Reel Brook Trailhead had been driven but looked a bit sketchy, so I parked just off the road on 116 without any problems. Reel Brook Trail did not look to have been traveled in some time and had about 4-6” of new snow, more with elevation. Kinsman Ridge Trail had about 6-10” of new, unbroken snow. Mt. Kinsman Trail had 6-8” new snow higher up, diminishing to about an inch at the trailhead. Route 116 is paved, frost heave-y and 3 miles long.

This was a great hike.  It snowed on and off all morning, and all the fresh snow provided for a veritable Winter Wonderland above ~2000’. Barebooted to just before the first powerline crossing, about a mile in from the trailhead. At that point there was enough snow to warrant snowshoes which I gladly strapped to my boots since I love snowshoeing. All stream crossings were completely frozen over. The wind was howling pretty fiercely early on but let up as I neared the ridge. Just before reaching the KRT/AT, I got some help in breaking trail: a moose had been through very recently. I followed its tracks until almost Eliza Brook Shelter expecting to meet her around the next bend but no such luck.

The shelter was rebuilt in 2010 and looks awesome, with no graffiti or carvings. Eliza Brook was barely heard today, and all crossings and feeders were completely frozen over. From the shelter to Harrington Pond to South Kinsman the snow got (seemed?) progressively deeper over the 2000‘ climb. With probably 10” of fresh powder, it seemed like much more when the grade got really steep. And the grade got Really Steep: It was a Televator day. To give indication of the challenge, the 2.5 miles between the shelter and S. Kinsman took 2.5 hours. A good workout. The crux-y move of the day was the last little steep section before S. Kinsman which involved some big rocks with gaping holes and some interesting acrobatic maneuvers and tree grabbing.

Finally atop South Kinsman, the KRT appeared surprisingly untraveled to North Kinsman and on down the Mt. Kinsman Trail. I still had to break trail (!) but thankfully the grade was a lot less extreme than the approach. At the Bald Peak turnoff I finally removed my snowshoes and barebooted down to the highway. Some interesting views of the Kinsmans opened up. An hour later I was back at the car.

Met only two other hikers today, both on the Mt. Kinsman Trail, an interesting contrast to the 28 humans and 3 dogs on Mt. Carrigain’s Signal Ridge Trail this past Saturday.

This was my second time doing this route in winter. The first time was in February of 1992, on a hike organized by Steve Smith, who at the time was working on the first edition of his book Ponds and Lakes of the White Mountains. Other than the peaks, another goal of the day was to check out desolate little Harrington Pond. Creston Ruiter and Roger Doucette rounded out our merry contingent. I wore Sherpa snowshoes with little “potato scraper” crampons and was wondering today exactly how I managed that…??
Carrigain via Signal Ridge - 1/25/14
Route: Sawyer River Road, Signal Ridge Trail
Equipment: Snowshoes (only I wore). Microspikes/Hillsounds (Chris and Sue). Bareboot (Al and Percy)
Companions: Chris, Al, Percy (dog), Sue P.
Conditions: Mostly nicely packed road and trail

This was Chris’s last 4000 footer!! He did great.  Also Percy the dog’s first 4k’er. He wore a jacket and 2 booties for part. We started about ½ hour before Al and Sue. They caught us just after the pain in the ass river crossing. Al took the old trail; Sue the new relo as did we. It was pretty chilly. No long rest breaks. Pretty wintry up on Signal Ridge.  We were first of the day, but on the way down we met 24 people and 2 dogs.  One large Meetup group - ugh. Also ran across Dr. Wu and his wife and 2 other women. Pretty funny. Made it out well before dark.
Osceolas from Tripoli Road - 1/15/14
Route: Tripoli Road and Mt. Osceola Trail, out and back
Equipment: Microspikes, full crampons, MSR Denali snowshoes
Conditions: Tripoli Road groomed by WV Nordic Center (skiing looked pretty gnarly-icy). Mt. Osceola Trail looked to have not been traveled in quite awhile - a lot of ice covered by 1-6” of fresh snow from yesterday’s precip event.

Another route on my winter to-do list and a gorgeous springlike day to be outside.  Parked at Livermore Trailhead and barebooted the 2.7 miles to Mt. Osceola Trailhead. Tripoli Road was hardpacked by the groomers and quite icy, but it was a “sticky ice.” Microspiked to summit of Main Peak. Could have put snowshoes on higher up but kept plugging away in the Microspikes. There is one brook crossing that is frozen over but has some amazing ice bulges. Traction definitely needed here since the trail crossing is above (and below) a small waterfall, hence the cool ice formations. Farther up there is a huge boulder that has to be negotiated with care - dropoff to the left - but has some nice roots on which to step and grab. Followed some bunny and fox tracks for awhile.

The views from Main Peak were stunning today with a bright blue, sunny sky and warm temps. It was a sunglasses day. I switched over to full crampons for the journey to East Peak and back and was glad I‘d brought ‘em. On the summit ridge the fresh snow wasn’t as deep, maybe 3-4”, just enough to hide all the ice. Some of the descents required extreme care. On the Chimney, I took the “bypass of the bypass” for the first time ever (bushwhacked through the woods to the north - AKA the dog route), on both the outbound and the inbound. It just looked too sketchy to be doing solo today.

Switched to snowshoes back on the Main Peak and kept them on for almost 2 miles, trying to smooth out my postholes a bit (not that many people come this way in winter). When the trail got too bony, I switched back to Microspikes and wore them all the way back to the car.

This was an awesome route to the Osceolas in winter. It is a safer route than coming from the Kanc but almost twice as long at almost 14 miles. Of course, 5.4 of those miles are on easy Tripoli Road. The grade is never steep, and the trail maintainers are taking very good care of this trail (Thank you). Saw no one else out there today.
3 Peaks of Webster Cliff Trail - 1/13/14
(Webster, Jackson, and Pierce)
Route: Webster Cliff Trail/Appalachian Trail up/over, Crawford Path out
Equipment: Full crampons. An ice axe would've come on handy in some spots. Snowshoes stayed on the pack.
Conditions: Ice. Packed snow. More ice.

Beautiful morning and warm temps today. Parked at the AT crossing of Rt. 302 in Crawford Notch and headed up the Webster Cliff Trail, barebooting for the first 3/4 mile or so until the ice became too much to maneuver sans traction. When getting my stuff together last night, I decided to not even dink around with the Microspikes or Hillsound Pros and go straight for the full crampons. That was definitely the right choice for today - I would not have done Rt. 302 to Mt. Webster in anything less than full crampons. There was ice, a lot of ice, and a lot of kind of steepish ice. Used the frontpoints a dozen or so different times, sometimes when going up, sometimes down. Stayed on the trail except for one very steep section about 1/2 mile from Webster's summit that was mixed ice and exposed rock - there I whacked through the trees on the north side of the trail. This was all much fun, but I decided not to descend this trail.

Making my way over to Jackson, there was more packed snow than ice but still some impressive ice bulges and flows, likewise to Mizpah Hut, onto Pierce and down the Crawford Path. Maybe okay with just mini-crampons on these sections. Trails were packed out very firmly; did not posthole. The gray jays were out on Jackson as were the snowfleas. Snowfleas in January?!

My stars were aligned today. Ken and Darlene, who were just finishing their hike of Mt. Willard, kindly gave me a ride back to my car, thus saving me a yucky 4-mile roadwalk. Was nice to do this route in winter again.

Tecumseh Loop via Tripoli Road and Mt. Tecumseh Trail -  1 /09/14
Route: Bushwhack, Tripoli Road, Mt. Tecumseh Trail (the whole thing)
Equipment: Hillsounds & snowshoes
Conditions: Bushwhack (ski parking to Tripoli Road): unbroken crusty snow - 4-6" sinkage
Tripoli Road: Groomed by nordic center to gate at Thornton Gap/Mt. Osceola Trail, then by snowmobiles .  Mt. Tecumseh Trail to main peak: Unbroken crusty snow w/sections of fresh powder here and there.  Mt. Tecumseh Trail to ski parking: Well-packed "highway" w/lots of icy spots

Tecumseh from Tripoli Road in winter had been on my to-do list for some time. Am sorry it took so long to actually do it because it is a great loop with a nice snowshoe grade on the northern/western end of the MTT. I parked at the usual WV skier lot for MTT and immediately after crossing the first stream, hung a right off the trail and headed north, then northwest so as to not lose elevation on the way to Tripoli Road. The 'whack was pretty short and sweet - about 25 minutes to Tripoli Road but I was dawdling, stopping to examine the many, many critter tracks.

Tripoli Road was freshly groomed by the nordic center. The surface was very hardpacked corduroy but not icy at all and I barely left footprints. (The skiing conditions looked to be great.) Still, I stayed to the side of the trail. Never saw any skiers, but it was early and was pretty nippy with the wind. The coldest part of today's hike was topping out at Thornton Gap before dropping down to the MTT. Brrr... At the Mt. Osceola Trail/Thornton Gap there is a gate, and that is where the nordic center stops grooming; however, the snowmobiles ride the western side of the road from this gate. A few had been through. Still no ice - yay.

The Mt. Tecumseh Trail was just as I'd hoped: completely unbroken. The two little stream crossings at the beginning were frozen and not a problem at all. Because my boots were sinking 4-6", I opted for snowshoes and would not have been a happy camper without them higher up. They stayed on my feet until the main summit. The trail was not unbroken for long: I seem to have found the Route 128 for Moose today and followed their prints and postholes (and other "evidence") for a mile or so, to about 3200'. Hadn't seen that degree of moose activity since Frodo and I did the Davis Path to Mt. Davis many winters ago... Some of the tracks were very fresh, and I stopped a few times hoping to hear them crashing through the trees. No such luck.

West Tecumseh used to be a New England 100 Highest peak but was removed from the list in the mid 80s after it was found to be about 24 feet too short. This was before my time, though, so I'd never done it in winter. Was nice to finally pay my respects to a forgotten NE100 peak. There is a bit of a drop between West and Main Peaks, and quite a little eye-opening steep pitch on the way up to 4003 but nothing too crazy. This is Tecumseh after all.

From the Main Peak down was like a well-trodden highway with many icy sections hidden under a thin coating of snow. Ugh. I much preferred breaking trail on the north side of the mountain!

This was a great loop that I highly recommend. It's somewhere in the 9-10 mile range. It certainly makes for a more adventurous day of Tecumseh.