Sunday, January 18, 2015

Mt. Cube 1/17/15

Mt. Cube (2,909') via Mt. Cube Trail (AT), January 17, 2015.

Mileage:  7 miles (RT)

Elevation gain: 2,300' ish

Trailhead: I-93N to exit 26. Left onto Route 3 and go 4 miles. At roundabout take the first exit to Route 25. Proceed 11 miles on Route 25 to Route 25A. Continue for 4.6 miles on Route 25A. Small parking area is on the left (just past the bridge).  Note: the Appalachian trail (AT) crosses the road here but the trail continues several hundred feet up the road.  You will see a hiker sign well before you get to the bridge near the parking area.  Mt. Cube trail is at the far end of the parking area. 

Hiked with Rich and members of the Boston Chapter of the AMC.  Ten of us braved the cold weather to hike this popular peak, which just so happens to be on the "52 with a View" list (a list I'm not working on but you may be!). 

According to The White Mountains: a Handbook for Travellers, Mt. Cube is so named to honor a hunting dog named "Cuba," killed while fighting a bear near the summit of the mountain. (In other words, the name has nothing to do with the shape of the mountain.)

We tried to climb Mt. Cube in the winter of 2013 during a particularly warm spell and had to turn back at the Brackett Brook water crossing. The swirling mess of ice and high water made crossing impossible.  We turned around and headed back to the car, driving to Baker Road to try to continue our hike via the Cross Rivendell trail. But ice covered the way and soon our hearts weren't into trying anymore. We headed home vowing one day we'd return. 

Mt. Cube through the trees (we're headed there). 

Two years later we're back on the Mt. Cube trail hoping Brackett Brook had a snow bridge (it did). 

Trailhead is at the far end of the parking lot. 
The trail starts out pretty flat with a collection of bumps up and slopes down. We crossed an unplowed road within the first mile.
The trail is across the road.
Equipment check.

Here the trail dips down to a wet (icy) area and then continues to meander in mellow character. There were about 6 inches of snow around us, just the beginning of the usual winter snow cover. The trail was packed down for the most part. 
Then, a steep descent and there it was - Brackett Brook, complete with a fine snow bridge!  
The brook is mostly frozen over.

A fine snow bridge over the brook.

The trail angles up from here with alternating steeps and flats. We went up at a steady pace to keep warm, keeping our breaks to a minimum. 


Plank bridge.

One of three blowdowns we encountered just below the summit.
In the summer, northbound AT hikers reach Mt. Cube on their way to the White Mountains (their next peak would be Mt. Moosilauke).  They know the serious climbing is ahead of them. As we hike this trail I think of all the excited, slightly nervous thru-hikers that have been this way, wide-eyed with anticipation of the ups and downs yet to come. 
Through the trees I could see what views we were in for as our ascent continued. Fortunately we were sheltered from the wind.  We passed through a beautiful fir grove and reached the summit trail junction.
Sweet grove of fir trees.

The trail forms a "T" at this point. The south summit is the true summit.

The group gets ready for the treeless summit.
We got our goggles out in preparation for the wind.  A short walk and one icy big step up and we arrived at the south summit. On top we were treated to plenty of sunshine and just a slight breeze (great news considering a forecasted wind chill of -10° to -30°). 

Though the sun warmed us, it was still very cold (around zero°).  We stayed just long enough to take of few photos and then headed back down the trail to hike to the north summit.
The north summit is further from the trail junction than the south summit and after a few ups and downs we were on top of the snow covered slabs of the second summit.
Heading over the slabs to the ledges of north peak.

The views are absolutely stunning. Between the two peaks we could see in all directions.  A few more photos and we headed down the trails to the cars.  After warming up, we drove to the Common Man for draft beer. 
This peak is so lovely it's no wonder it's such a popular destination. We were surprised to be the only ones on the trails today. Can't wait to check it out in summer!