Monday, March 11, 2013

Mt. Jackson (WINTER 4K 4/48) via Webster-Jackson trail March 10, 2013

Mt. Jackson (4,052') via Webster-Jackson trail March 10, 2013

Mileage:  5.2 miles RT

Elevation gain:  2,150'

Trailhead:  Trail starts across from Crawford Depot on Route 302, about 8.5 miles east of the junction of Rt. 3 and Rt. 302 (Twin Mountain), 0.1 mile after the Highland Center. 

Lesson learned:  Third time's a charm.

Finally - a pleasant hike up Mt. Jackson!  Hiked with Rich and Sandy today. This would be my last winter 4k for the season and what a day it was.  Temps were in the 50s and the sky bright blue with just a few wispy clouds.  

My first hike up Jackson was years ago on a cold, icy November day - not fun (click here for that posting).  

Hoping for a better Jackson experience, I hiked it last fall and tagged the summit in dense fog, fighting the wind (click here for that posting).  

Was I ever going to have a nice day on this peak?  

Trail was seriously broken out (seriously).

The three of us started up the trail around 10:40. We wore our microspikes (a recent trip report recommended snowshoes so we brought them along).

Smith and Dickerman describe Jackson's summit cone as tricky in winter; "may require crampons." I'd brought mine just in case.  

Three small steep areas before the Webster trail junction were worn icy by the many hikers taking advantage of the weather on this glorious weekend.  These were the only trouble spots.  

This short hike had us breathing hard and we switched to snowshoes as we neared tree line (a good move as the snow softened).

Jackson's summit peeking out above the trees. Not a lick of wind.

Hiking at treeline can be surreal (photo above).  I remember this stretch of path that cold gray day in November.  The trail was a sheet of ice, a steep half-pipe up the rock slabs.  The wind whipped, the skies darkened and I felt so vulnerable - like my body's warmth could be snatched away from me, leaving me hypothermic.  

But not today. Today I walked in sunshine on a carpet of soft snow doing the Queen's wave to the Sugarloafs and other peaks below.  

I barely noticed when I got to the slabs, though I could see the final push and the summit just ahead.  The snowshoes grabbed where the microspikes may have fallen short.  I kicked my crampon into the snow and shot up to the top.  

Going down was tricky but the snow was sticky!
To my left Mt. Washington glistened.  A group of hikers were resting in the warm sun; several feet of packed snow raised them above the spruce.  I watched them when they left to see how they descended the steep summit cone, then went back to enjoy the views.

The last time I visited this summit I could barely see the trail junction sign!

We took photos, we had our photos taken. The gray jays flew by and landed on our fingers.  We rested, had lunch, posted to Facebook while sitting on the summit - I couldn't imagine doing any of this during my last three hikes (too cold and windy). This was the winter hiking I was hoping for. I'd sign up for more of these!

Mt. Washington stately in the distance.

It was a little hairy going down the steep summit cone but that was because I kept planting my poles at an angle.  When I put weight on them they'd fly out of the snow pitching me forward.  Eventually I manned up, stood up and got down the steep stuff.

Going down went fast; we stopped a few times to enjoy our surroundings.  Then off to the Moat for a beer.

I'm glad to have hiked this peak in the good weather.  It offers minimal distance and elevation gain for maximum views.