Monday, January 20, 2014

Mt. Field and Mt. Tom (WINTER 4K 5/48) January 19, 2014

Mt. Field  (4,327') and Mt. Tom (4,052') via Avalon, A-Z, Willey Range and Mt. Tom Spur trails, 1/19/14.

Mileage:  7.8 miles RT

Elevation gain:  2,960'
Trailhead:  Trail starts behind 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. Parking lot at the Depot is maintained in winter.  Overflow parking is across from Webster-Jackson trailhead. 

Lesson learned: Crampons rock in icy conditions!

Hiked with Rich today.  January thaw had come to New Hampshire and heavy rain drenched the Whites.  Throw in a week of warmer days and cold nights and you have slushy, icy trail conditions. The mountains had become one big ice flow.  
It snowed the last two days and trails in Crawford Notch were receiving favorable reports.  So we decided to hike Mts. Field and Tom (which was supposed to be Mts. Field and Willey but as winter hiking has taught me, things don't always work that way.)  

We stayed at the Profile Deluxe Motel to get an early start in the morning.  Still, we wound up running late and didn't arrive at the trailhead until 9 a.m.

We certainly weren't alone on this holiday weekend; the trails were buzzing with activity (if you wanted solitude it wasn't going to be here).  It was snowing and had been since the night before with no sign of letting up.

Snowy going on packed out trails.

Anticipating a 9 mile hike we packed extra clothes, food and water -  making our packs heavier than usual.  We followed a large group up to the Avalon/A-Z junction.  Just up from that junction is a steep gully and the spot I got stuck on (with snowshoes) during last year's hike to Mt. Tom (see previous report).  It was no problem in Microspikes, though the descent into the gully was a bit icy (heavy traffic had scraped off the recent snowfall).

Once again, we underestimated the steepness of this trail as we climbed the snowy, sometimes very narrow path.  After crossing another small brook the trail steepens. At times our Microspikes slipped and some icy spots required careful steps.

At the Willey Range trail junction we saw the large group heading up to Mt. Tom's summit.  Two others stayed behind to put on their crampons which made me wonder just how icy the Mt. Tom spur trail was.  

Glad to be headed over to Mt. Field.

The Willey Range trail wasn't quite as broken out and our surroundings quieted.   We could hear the snow falling like sugar through the branches.

Heavy trees.

The trees were heavy with white.  An occasional "whomp" was heard when the branches gave way, snow landing in a heap.  This was a pleasant walk in the woods, not much ascending. Soon we were at the Avalon trail junction. 

"Mt. Field 100 yards"
We pushed up the short steep knob to the summit of Mt. Field.  For a viewless peak in the middle of January, it sure was crowded.  We took our packs off and changed into warmer clothing, gulping down a sandwich.  Three guys from Philadelphia were lounging around, wearing crampons....talking about crampons.... convincing us to put on our crampons. 

Mt. Field summit shot. Still snowing like crazy.

Not much of a view at the Mt. Field overlook.
We'd never used our crampons; I'm not sure what we were saving our them for.  I've heard people say they never use then, rarely use them, hate having to use them.  We'd practiced walking on snow and ice with them but never really used them.  About half of the people we'd met on this hike were wearing them.  So, on a snowy summit with no wind and not-quite-frozen fingers, Rich and I put our Microspikes away and donned our crampons: his, Hillsounds Pro; mine, Black Diamond Contacts. 

Rich was pretty spent from the hike up and didn't want to continue to Mt. Willey so we started back.  Down the summit knob we went, the crampons grabbing the hill with each step. 

We flew down the trail back to the junction, feeling renewed.  When we got to the Mt. Tom spur we decided to try our crampons on an ascent - up Mt. Tom.

The crampons bit into every steep, making for easy work up the spur.  We were at the Mt. Tom cairn in no time (last trip we could not find the cairn).

Rich chatting at the summit cairn.

A very beautiful summit that I find disorienting.
The hike down was uneventful for the most part. The crampons provided stability on those steep icy sections. 

Steep and a bit icy here.

Narrow path skirts a steep mountainside.
We were loving the added traction of our crampons, being careful in our steps.   The real challenge would come at the gully.

Steep yes, and icy with most of the snow worn off, that gully looked mighty scary. My tired legs were able to get half way down it but frankly the slope got too steep for me. And I lacked skill and experience in the crampons. So off they came, down I sat for the last 20 feet of the slope.  Glissading would have been fun if not for a steep drop off just to the right of the slope.

Rich trying his hand at getting down the icy slope.
The hike up the gully was uneventful and from there the trail mellows to a gentle descent.  We were back at the car in no time.  It was a glorious day and a good workout.  We hit Margarita Grill for food and a beer. 

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Middle and Peaked Mountains, January 12, 2014

Middle Mountain (1,857') and Peaked Mountain (1,739') via Middle Mountain, Peaked Mountain and Middle Connector trails, 1/12/14.

Mileage:  5.4 miles (lollipop) 

Elevation gain:  1,800'

Trailhead: Thompson Road, North Conway. From Rt. 16 N in N. Conway, turn right onto Artist's Falls Road; go .3 miles bearing right on Thompson Road.  Park at Pudding Pond trail parking area, .4 miles on Thompson Road.

Hiked with Sandy today. We'd planned to hike Wildcat but when we reached Pinkham Notch, the wind was horrific and trails scraped bare of snow (with thick ice flows). So we opted for a lower peak closer to town.

I've wanted to hike Peaked Mountain for a while.  Sandy often spends weekends in North Conway and at a brief 3.4 miles round trip, Peaked is her favorite area short hike. I wanted to see what it was all about. 

Limited parking but maintained.

We added Middle Mountain - which increased our total mileage and elevation gain - so we would at least feel like we hiked the good hike.  These mountains, along with Black Cap and Cranmore, are part of the Green Hills Preserve.   Snowshoes were our traction of choice but microspikes would have also worked nicely.  

Left and then a quick left.  

The path is a road, crossing power lines. We started with two lefts which put us on a wide trail. We crossed over a small brook that'd gotten quite full of itself since the heavy rains.

The trick is to account for your snowshoe's heel drop!

When we reached a split in the trail (the beginning of the loop), we went right.

Trail splits.

You can get to Peaked either way.
The trail starts to ascend gradually.

And narrows.  We're skirting the side of the mountain.

Good signage here.  

We headed up to Middle Mountain. The rains washed most of the snow away.  

Ice replaces snow on many of the steeper areas.

Nice views on top!

Hang on Peaked Mountain, we'll be right over!
As we headed down from Middle, we saw the sign for Peaked.
More ice.

At Peaked
Well, we DID have snow under our feet a few minutes ago!
After the lovely windy path with wonderful views, we reached another kiosk.

The sign indicates Thompson Road is to the left - don't go left!

Several skiers passed us before we reach the kiosk and sign.  The trail to the left of the sign will take you back to Thompson Road but NOT to the parking lot. Take the path directly in front of this sign to get back to your car.

You'll complete the circle and head right back to the parking lot.

We were down after a few hours and really felt we'd had a workout. Best part about this hike is the path is sheltered from the wind and there was a relatively small amount of ice on the path, considering the recent weather.  

Monday, January 6, 2014

Mt. Roberts in Winter! (Moultonborough, NH), 1/5/14

Mt. Roberts (2,582') via Mt. Roberts Trail January 5, 2014.

Mileage:  5.2 miles (RT) 

Elevation gain:  1,300'

Trailhead:  Trailhead parking is located on Ossipee Park Road, Moultonborough (a mile past the Castle in the Clouds entrance).  Parking is near the Castle Springs bottling plant. Lot is maintained in winter. 

Hiked with Rich.  The forecast called for warm temps and cloudy skies and since we planned to hike on Sunday, we were hoping someone else would break trail on Saturday so we wouldn't have to.  

The drive to Moultonborough is almost an hour less than the drive to the White Mountains. And, since this hike is just 5 miles, we took our time getting ready that morning. 

Parking lot is large and well maintained.

There were a few parking spots left when we arrived.  After we got our snowshoes on, we headed past the kiosk through the gate and down the road toward Shannon Pond. We went left at the fork toward the horse barn and just kept following the signs which took us to the broken-out trail.

Follow the orange markers and blazes, and occasional cairn.

From the looks of it several snowshoers, two skiers (tracks), a postholer and one dog had hiked the trail the day before.  The recent storms left about two feet of snow on the trail; we were glad someone forged the way before us.

It was colder than predicted but there wasn't a cloud in the sky.  The trail skirts the paddock and then heads into the woods.  The ascent is gentle but it had been a while since we'd done any hiking and we were feeling it in our legs.  

Mellow trail, well broken out.
A little over a mile in we reached the lower rock slabs and stopped to enjoy the breathtaking views. 

The first view (of the lakes and the Belknap Range).  There would be others.

We wound back into the woods before popping out onto more snow covered slabs.  The wind had swept the snow from the rock, leaving a thin crust.  The trail became narrow and snowy, only one or two of yesterday's hikers had continued on toward the summit.

Higher up yields an even more beautiful view. Clouds are showing up!

Past the slabs we got into a more wintry, summit-like environment.  Snow clung to the trees making for lazy, heavy white branches, we ducked and weaved as we trudged through the snow.

Snowy entrance to the summit.
The summit area circles around and back onto the Mt. Roberts trail - with the High Ridge trail branching off toward Mt. Faraway.  No one had gone beyond the Mt. Roberts summit since the snow storms.  

Beautiful day (Mt. Washington in the distance).

We changed, had a bite to eat, took a few photos and headed back down the trail.  Down was considerably easier than up (isn't it always!).  We met several couples and their dogs heading up. The afternoon was high and as we shuffled down the air became warmer and the snow cake-like.

Sun was low, giving the snow a satin finish.

This is the perfect hike to take friends with different hiking abilities and experience. There are at least four viewpoints before the summit and many make those points their destination which allows those out in the sun to choose how long and how high they go. The trail is so well marked and well traveled there's little left to chance.  

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Blue Job, January 1, 2014

Blue Job (1,357') from various trails, January 1, 2014.

Mileage (broken down by trail):  
  • Yellow "short" trail (right at the kiosk): 1 mile RT
  • "Slab" trail (not on map): 1.4 miles RT
  • Orange "westerly" trail (also takes you to the second summit): 2.8 miles RT

Elevation gain:  Yellow and slab trail: 393'; Orange trail: 494'

Trailhead:  4.6 miles down First Crown Point Road, Strafford, NH.  Ample year-round parking is available; lot is maintained.  

Lesson learned:  Orange blazes mark all the trails listed above.

It was cold on New Years day and we weren't motivated to drive far so we visited a stubby little peak closer to home, to get some fresh air and to try out our winter gear.

The elevation gain may be small but trek up Blue Job a few times and you'll feel it in your legs.  We hiked up twice, making for a 3.1 mile hike with 900' gain.  This is a great year-round hike when pressed for time. 

Plenty of parking in a well maintained lot.

If you go right, you'll walk the yellow trail. We went straight, bearing left (orange trail).

This is the orange trail, the longer route.

As the map indicates, the orange trail makes a right turn as it heads up to the fire tower.  Postpone your right turn and go straight following a path and cairns to the second summit (Little Blue Job Mountain), a clearing with wonderful views.

Head toward the clearing for the second, smaller summit.

Taken from the second summit.  The fire tower is adjacent to this cell tower.

It's easy pick up the orange trail again and head toward the main summit. Just back track and look for the orange blazes (if all else fails, head toward the big cell tower).

The fire tower.  Big cell tower is out of photo to the left.

We chose to take the slab trail down, to the left of the fire tower.

When facing the sign on the fire tower, the "slab trail" is on your left. 

Back at the trailhead we checked our time and headed up again, this time on the yellow trail.

The yellow trail offers a snowy corridor before the ascent.

Back to the fire tower before you know it!

Close to home, this little peak is great for families with small children. Today we saw several groups walking their dogs.  It can get crowded in summer.