Friday, July 15, 2011

#34 Mt. Jefferson (5,712') May 31, 2010

#34 Mt. Jefferson (5,712') via Castle, Jefferson Loop, Gulfside and Jewel Trails (Traverse) May 31, 2010.  

Mileage: 10.5 miles traverse

Elevation gain: 4,200'
Trailhead: Start at Bowman trailhead (4.2 miles east of the junction of Rt 2 and 115 and one mile west of Lowe's Store in Randolph ,NH).  You will end up at the Jewell trailhead (the Ammonoosuc Ravine trailhead just before the Cog Railway parking).
Lesson learned: Hiking in Colorado the week before is great for stamina in the Whites!

The Castle trail hike is listed on the Terrifying 25 (a list I am not working on but you may be!). This hike was offered by AMC and led by Karen and Leon. My friend Norm was going, as was our friend Paul.  The group consisted of Karen (leader), Leon (co-leader), Norm, Paul, Dapreek, Abbus, and Janice.  

I had just returned from hiking the Flatirons in Boulder, CO and also hiking in Colorado Springs. Since I had been spending a lot of time at 8,000' elevation, I knew I would do well on this hike (it is very early in the season and I was still feeling the disappointment of losing the trail on Wildcat Ridge a few weeks before, my only failed 4k hike). 

The Castellated Ridge is a challenging series of ups and downs that will eventually lead you to the summit cone of Mt. Jefferson. I was ready for a challenge (note: Rich was not with me on this hike.  I was not sure if he was ready for such a long, strenuous hike so early in the season, and I wasn't sure how well he would take the exposure on the Ridge).  

It was late when we got to the Bowman trailhead and on the trail (after 9:30). The group started off at a good pace but within the hour, Paul was in distress. The group discussed turning back but it was decided by the leaders that Paul would lead the group, and thereby we would all be hiking at his pace.  This worked very well actually and Paul was encouraged (later Paul would confess that he was trying a new protein powder and had been working out hard all week, which may have been the root of the problem).

A rope at one of the bumps in the ridge which is frankly, no help at all.
Additionally, several in our group had just hiked a 4k the day before and their legs were tired (some had been hiking all week).  Even with Paul leading we were experiencing the slinky affect (faster hikers stop to rest, the rest of the group catches up only to have the faster hikers take off again).  

As we ascended we were treated to wonderful 360° views on this rocky and at times tedious trail. The weather was clear with a little haze in distance (probably from the Quebec forest fires). 

A handsome group at the junction of the Jefferson Loop.
 We had lunch at the summit, which was craggy with no place to sit down.  Fortunately there was very little wind and some sun (and amazing views).  And, no bugs.   Paul was feeling much better.  I spent some time getting to know the people in the group.

Not much for places to sit at the summit.
It was late when we started down the Gulfside and then Jewell trails. Karen usually offers the group a quick trip to Mt. Clay but there was no time. Norm was scheduled for dinner at the Highland Center at 6 p.m. and it looked like he wouldn't make it.

The Jewell trail is a hateful series punishing glacial rock in every different angle. Ankle twisters. I remember it from my Mt. Washington climb and I was about as fond of it then as I was on this day.   As we descended the trail the terrain became more forgiving though and after what seemed like many miles of woods, we were at the Ammonoosuc Ravine trailhead and back at the cars.

Although it is fun to meet new people, group hikes such as this one are always a gamble. We were very fortunate to reach our destination and get back to the cars without too much drama.  Many hike leaders screen those who sign up for hikes to be certain they are fit enough to complete the hike. The general rule is when one person drops out, the entire group has to turn back.  Also, if one tired hiker injures him or herself, that also requires a turn around or worse, rescue.  Be prepared to turn around if a member of the group cannot complete the hike.

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