Tuesday, June 9, 2015

South Baldface via Baldface Circle, Baldface Knob and Slippery Brook Trails, June 6, 2015

South Baldface (3,547') via Baldface Circle, Baldface Knob and Slippery Brook Trails, 6/6/15.

Mileage: 8.4 (lollipop loop)

Elevation gain: 3,194'

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.

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!).

Hiked with Norm, Becky, Mark, Sandy, Joe and Rich.  I do this hike every few years (see previous reports) and when I feel I need a crash course in slab confidence.  The scrambles up the exfoliating granite "face" of South Baldface mountain are good practice for negotiationg iffy ledges and steeply angled slabs.  

This year I opted to tag the summit of South Baldface and head back via Baldface Knob and Slippery Brook trails, making for a shorter hike with less elevation gain - in consideration of my healing knee. I had reservations about doing this hike at all given the demands of the ledge scrambles but opted to go for it (and yes, my knee was sore for a few days afterwards).

Heights and exposure make me uneasy, which is why I invited several friends to join me. Heights are also out of my husband Rich's comfort zone and I'm very glad he decided to do this hike.

The morning was cool and clouds were starting to dissipate from the summits as we pulled into the parking lot (this lot can fill up fast). It would be a clear day, perfect for those 360° ridge views.

We crossed the street and walked about 50 yards (north) to the trailhead.  

The wide path has easy grades.  When we came to the lower end of Slippery Brook trail I made a mental note of the area.
From here the Circle trail steepens.

Junction of Slippery Brook trail. We would come out here.

We took a break at the Baldface shelter, put our poles away and headed up the steep slabs, which turn into a series of rock scrambles.

The shelter.

Slabs start out steep but quite doable.

Friends assisting with the scrambles
That very nasty angled slab wasn't so hard this year!

Negotiating the "face" takes about an hour.  The adrenaline rush and uneasiness subsided as I tackled each scramble  - and I looked forward to the next challenge.  

A "hole" in the rocks (where you can climb over or duck in and up through) marks the end of the scrambling. 

Took my pack off and crawled through the "hole" and up to the ledge.

After the scrambles I found walking up steep slabs no big deal. We march up toward the trail junction which is marked by a cairn (and is by no means the summit of South Baldface).

With the scrambling over we enjoyed the view as we caught our breaths.

A new challenge faced us: wind.  With our poles in our packs (along with our jackets), and without the protection of the ledges we had a full force wind to deal with.  Twice I was knocked to my knees (one knee was already unhappy with the scrambling). Making our way crouched - sometimes stopping that way until it subsided  - we got to the junction, hiding behind the cairn for protection.  

Making their way through the wind to the trail junction.

The group layered up, ate lunch and headed over to South Baldface. 
Some of the trail is in the trees and out of the wind. 

But mostly in the wind.

View of the trail to South Baldface from the junction cairn.

We didn't linger on South Baldface, just took a few photos and said our goodbyes.  Here is where Mark, Norm and I turned around and headed toward Baldface Knob and Slippery Brook trails. 

Sandy, Becky, Joe and Rich continued on the Circle trail.

Summit of South Baldface.
The guys on the summit.

We backtracked to the junction and took Baldface Knob trail, which dipped down out of the wind.

On our way back from South Baldface.
Headed to the Slippery Brook trail via Baldface Knob trail.
Following an overgrown, scrubby path, we briefly ducked into the trees. Soon we popped out onto Baldface Knob, which has a small wind shelter. We continued on further to get completely out of the wind before we stopped to finish our lunch.  

The summit of Bald Knob. Nice views.

Down we went - a steep trail (for a short time) that mellowed into a peaceful green wood.   This path is an easy and quick walk to the junction of Slippery Brook trail.

Bald Knob/Slippery Brook trail junction.

One sweet, mellow trail!

We took our time going down this trail (that never got very steep).  It was wide and clean - it was great.  We met a trail crew sawing a fallen tree.

Things changed as we closed in on the end of the Slippery Brook trail, however.  It's muddy and messy, with the occasional old road or path and downed tree. We got confused in a few areas, not sure if the tree lying in the path was down, or placed there so we wouldn't go that way.  

Thankfully there are a lot of blazes in this area. The trail turns right and then makes a series of turns. All blazes are bright yellow and frequent, and double blazes alert to these turns. Soon we were back at the junction of the Circle trail, making our way to the car and the Moat for a beer.

The others completed the circle and instead headed to Ebenezers to sample the large selection of brews.
Stopped off for a beer....