Sunday, January 6, 2013

Mt. Tecumseh, WINTER 4K (2/48) - January 5, 2013

Mt. Tecumseh (4003') via Mt. Tecumseh Trail - January 5, 2013

Mileage:  5 miles (RT)

Elevation gain:  2,200'

Trailhead:  Trail starts at Waterville Valley Ski Area.  I-93, exit 28 and follow signs for the ski area.  The trailhead is located near the top of parking lot #1.

Lessons learned:  1. leave the Camelbak and sports bra at home 2. heaters work best when stuffed in your mitten before the hike 3. glove liners can help protect hands when mittens are off and 4. lunch belongs on your person, not in your pack.

Hiked with an AMC group today.  There were twelve of us, a big group. 

At 4,003' Mt. Tecumseh ranks 48th in height, the smallest mountain on the list of NH 4ks. Smith and Dickerman write that Tecumseh "may be the easiest of the 4000- footers in winter."  We were hoping this would be the case. The Mt. Tom trip the week before left me wondering if I would be able to hike distances and elevation gain comfortably in the cold temps. 

I'd hiked Tecumseh in September 2008 (see trip report).  Hiking it again, this time in winter was like unwrapping a Christmas present you bought yourself to find inside a completely different gift.  

My friend Norm was co-leader on this hike; he also teaches AMC's Winter Hiking series. If anyone can provide tips for successful winter hiking, it's Norm.  We needed his guidance.

Norm is the reason I love hiking so; he's been my guide and mentor on many of my hikes over the past 7 years.   I've trusted my life to Norm and would do so again. Co-leader Barb is also a very skilled winter hiker with a cheery personality and lots of enthusiasm.  

Group updates on weather were emailed prior to the hike.  There was a list of gear requirements, which made it clear my ski parka would not be welcome on this adventure. Since my neck was freezing on Mt. Tom, I bought a Smartwool "Next to Skin" base layer medium weight quarter zip shirt (which covers most of my neck).  I'd heard wool keeps you warm even when wet and knew I'd be sweating.  I planned to use my balaclava for a necky if I needed to.  

I stressed about what combination of layers I'd wear days before and still wasn't sure the morning of the hike.  I wound up wearing the Smartwool, a light "waffle" long sleeve shirt, fleece vest, and brought the shell of an old ski jacket (with my fleece pants and rain pants).  This combination worked well.

Because this is a short hike our start time was later than usual; later in the day meant warmer air temperature.  We arrived at the trailhead around 9:15 and unloaded our gear.  It was 10:00 before we started out though, as parking at the ski area took time; our cars inched up the access road with ski traffic.  We wound up parking on the other side of the complex.  

Waiting for those in our group who were parking cars.

Many in the group sported outside pouches, small waist packs and water bottle "parkas."  We felt under-equipped.  The group put on microspikes for this hike, fastening snowshoes to their packs (drifts near the summit were reported earlier in the week). There was a layer of fresh snow in the woods.

View of the Tripyramids from the parking lot.

I started out wearing the two shirts and fleece vest, hooking the shell to my pack.  The first water crossing was no problem and the two larger ones were easy rock hops, though a little icy on the rocks.

Small water crossing at the beginning. 

Throughout the hike Norm talked of core temperature control and tips for staying warm, fed, dry and hydrated. We listened closely.

Norm addressing the group during a break.

We adopted a slow pace up the trail, a colorful "caterpillar" of hikers tramping on the white snowscape.  At the viewpoint (one of Waterville Valley's ski runs) we stopped and took a break.  

This takes you left for a hundred feet and out on to a ski run.  

I walked out to get some photos.

Peaks hide behind the blowing snow.  
The view up the run.

As Norm reached into one of his outside pouches (his wetrib) he stressed the importance of having your food and water easy to reach.  I took a sip of water from my Camelback (mouthpiece in my vest to keep it from freezing), blew out the tube and didn't bother having a snack (too hard to reach in my pack).  I put on my shell, thankful I'd put heaters in my mittens prior to the hike.

At the viewpoint we turned right and up a noticeably steeper trail. 

A snow laden, cozy scene. 

We continued our comfortable pace with our microspikes still holding on the steeper sections.  I was wet from sweat but the Smartwool shirt was keeping its part of the bargain (though my sports bra continued to chill me throughout the trip). I grabbed a handful of gorp out of Rich's coat pocket to keep me going.

The chatty group quieted through the steeper section until we reached the junction of the Sosman trail where the trail plateaued, which renewed our excitement - we were almost there!

A narrower path brought us to the summit.  I was amazed at the view and the two cairns on the summit (I don't remember either from my 2008 trip).  The group quickly layered up and proceeded to eat their lunch.  

Beautiful clear day's view from the summit.

I changed my shirt and put my vest and shell back on. The heaters in my mittens were waning and immediately my hands became so cold they were hurting.  I needed help putting new heat packets in my mittens and because my hands were so cold, I bagged the idea of trying to eat my lunch.  I grabbed some chocolate, drank some water (my tube was starting to freeze up) and got ready to head down.

Halfway down the trail my Camelbak tube froze and I had to borrow a drink from Norm. The rest of the hike was uneventful and back at the car Rich and I reassessed our winter hiking needs.  We agreed the wetrib and water bottle parka would help on future winter hikes.  

The group was very friendly and funny which made the hike fly by and boosted my enthusiasm for future winter hikes.  We headed out of the ski area in search for draft beer.