Monday, June 24, 2013

The Baldfaces June 9, 2013

South Baldface (3547’) and North Baldface (3,606') via Baldface Circle and Bicknell Ridge Trails, June 9, 2013.

Mileage:  10 miles (loop)

Elevation gain: 3,600'

Trailhead: From Conway NH, head east on 302/113 to Fryeburg ME, where 113 North takes a sharp left. Take route 113 north about twenty miles. The small parking lot  - plowed in winter- is on the right shortly after a huge brown sign. The trail is a short distance further north on the opposite side of the road.

Lesson learned:  The best way to improve is to challenge your weaknesses!

Hiked with Norm, Charlie, Becky and Mark. This hike is on the 52 with a View list and is listed on the Terrifying 25 (lists I am not working on but you may be!). It was important to me that Norm be on this hike; I knew he'd help me on the ledges and I needed to get over my squeamishness on exposed rocks.  Affectionately called "goat boy" by his friends Norm seems to defy gravity by standing on very angled ledges without effort or the slightest bit of worry. 

I chose this hike today to help me:

    1.  be more confident on scrambles and angled, slippery rock slabs; and
    2.  be certain that my new hiking boots were keepers (I am so picky).

We planned this particular hike as a good prep for next month's Katahdin trip. Norm led the Mountain Mommas up the Baldfaces in 2006 in prep for that group's Katahdin trip. I remember then looking at the cliffs, looking at Norm and saying, "I can't do this." But I did do it and it prepared me for the Hunt trail's boulders and cliffs. I wondered if I'd feel as intimidated this time around. 

Rain delayed the hike until Sunday; scrambling up wet rock was out of the question.  We met at Hannaford's in Conway and carpooled another 35+ minutes to the trailhead in Maine. 

Trailhead  parking is across the street.
My legs felt heavy from the first step and it seemed to take forever to get to the shelter (just two miles) but once there we all looked forward to the challenge of the ledges. 

A break at the shelter helped to renew our energy and enthusiasm.
The slabs start just above the shelter, still wet in places.

At first I was very cautious.  Had to get my "c" (cliff) legs!

The real fun started just above the slabs and rock "stacks."  Going got very slow from this point as we picked our route.   Expect to climb the ledges for at least an hour.  Oh, and the top of the ledges is not the summit of South Baldface, just the trail junction (still a welcome sight though).

Up we went.

Becky's photo gives you an idea of the steeps.

The frame in my pack pressed against my neck, hindering my ability to look directly up for hand holds (so annoying) so Norm loosened my straps, lowering my pack.  Several times Mark helped me and my short legs up to the next rock. Sometimes I found my three points of contact, other times that third point was out of my reach.  I welcomed his lift.

Mark sat above and helped the short ones up!
There are about five areas of steep rock that took extra time to negotiate.  This incredibly angled slab with no hand-holds shown below was the most daunting for me.  A slip would send me off a cliff with a significant drop.  Norm walked it with me.  My boots were great (my old boots would not have given me that level of confidence).

Me on that slab; scarier than it looks I promise! No trees to keep
you from falling off the cliff should you lose your footing.
The steepness eased and we walked on angled slabs to the trail junction. A gray cloud loomed directly above us though we saw blue skies beyond the peaks.  We ate half our lunch at the junction then headed up to the summit of South Baldface. 

Quite the view on the way up!

Trail junction.
We were tired when we hit the junction and rough terrain still lay ahead of us.  Scrambling up the ledges gave me confidence though and I breezed up and down angled slab where normally I would have stepped cautiously.

Looking back at the trail junction. 
The views were breathtaking as we walked the top.  This hike is exposed for the most part though you're never far from the woods if a storm pops up.

Mark enjoying the shelter of the woods.

The North Baldface's rocky summit loomed ahead of us, getting just a leetle closer after each scramble.  Reaching this summit took longer than we thought and we needed food so we picked a spot on the open ridge and ate the rest of our lunch.

Finally, the North Baldface summit- that gray cloud still following us. 

It was windy on the top of North Baldface and we didn't linger (hey, we'd already eaten). We were so over scrambling but still had more to go.  From the summit of North Baldface the trail leads off to the right (behind) the cairn; dropping steeply down and into the woods. 

Where we were. The ledges are waaay left!

It took another 30 minutes of in-and-out of the woods and on-and-off slabs before we reached the last "knob" just before Eagle Crag.  We didn't want to go to Eagle Crag and decided to head down Bicknell Ridge trail. We'd never done Bicknell Ridge trail and knew nothing about it but a hiker we met on the knob assured us it was a mellow trail. 

It was.  Soon we were walking on roots and dirt on a trail that very much resembled our first two miles.  We welcomed the pleasant terrain and Becky and I picked up the pace, making tracks toward the car (leaving the guys in the dust).

Becky (cliffs we'd done hours before are in background).

We left that gray cloud on the summits (it never rained).  Before reaching the trailhead we took a detour to see the Emerald Pool, a lovely, sparkling body of water - bright green (if you take this detour, keep walking the little path - pool is not right off the trail [you'll know it when you see it]).

I highly recommend this hike to anyone looking for beautiful views and a bit of a workout. The Baldfaces are on the "52 with a view" list, btw (a list I am not working on but you may be). 

I love my new hiking boots  - they've proven to be sticky at the right times (they're La Sportivas).  I feel ready for next month's hiking challenges.