Saturday, September 24, 2016

Mt. Webster via the Webster-Jackson Trail, September 23, 2016

Mt. Webster (3,910') via the Webster-Jackson Trail, September 23, 2016.

Distance: 5 miles (RT)

Elevation gain: 2,100'

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. There is a small parking area across the street.

This peak is on the 52 with a View list (a list I am not working on but you may be!). Sadly, we saw no views - it rained off and on all day and the wind was fierce.  Mt. Webster's elevation is just 90' short of 4000', and today the summit appeared to be bitter about the slight, punishing us with cruel weather.

This is my third attempt to summit Mt. Webster.  The first time I took a left at the Webster Cliff trail junction (rookie mistake, I should have read the sign and gone right).  I thought we would cross the summit on our way to Jackson (see previous report) - we didn't.  The second attempt came during an afternoon break from volunteering at the Highland Center.  It was winter, the trail was beautiful but not broken out and we ran out of time just before the Webster Cliff trail junction. 

Today, however, I was determined to finally get this peak! 

The hike didn't disappoint.  It's five miles of White Mountain hiking bliss. 

We arrived at the trailhead just after 9 a.m. and returned to the car around 1:00 pm. Actual time spent on the summit was quite short due to weather conditions.  

It had been raining all morning, with a promise of "occasional showers" and "clearing in the afternoon." We got the occasional showers which at times became rain (and sleet at the summit) without the "clearing" part.

The trail to Mt. Webster is rugged all the way, though there are short sections of path that are fairly flat -  enough to catch your breath.  Parts of the trail are quite steep but none require scrambling.   On a wet day like today though, descending can be a little slippery - watch out for roots and mossy slabs.

At first the trail ascends gradually but steepens quickly. We passed the trail signs to Elephant Head (a great 20 minute hike) and Bugle Cliff (a nice 40 minute hike).

Trailhead is across the street from the parking lot.

First half mile of the trail.

It felt like it took too long to reach the junction as is often the case when it's been a while since I've hiked in the Whites. This junction splits the trail, with left heading to Mt. Jackson.  The woods were moist and drops from saturated trees were hitting us.  I had the rain cover on my pack and was wearing my new OR rain jacket - this was its chance to prove its worth to me!

Left goes to Jackson; right goes to Webster.
We went right where immediately the trail dips sharply to a water crossing, with a small waterfall and pool. The rocks were slippery today.

Dips down steeply.
It's quite steep beyond the water crossing.  In winter we yanked ourselves up this portion by grabbing roots and trees but didn't have to do that today. It's just a short burst of steep but worth noting.
The trail was wet and socked in.

The trail continues to be steep and rocky all the way to the Webster Cliff trail junction, which also seemed to take forever to reach!  When we got there it was clear that the summit of Mt. Webster was in the opposite direction of the trail to Mt. Jackson. I just had to read the sign to see that. We stepped on to the Webster Cliff trail, which is part of the Appalachian Trail.
Left goes to Jackson; right to Mt. Webster (yes, I see that now!)

The mostly flat trail to the summit.

Oh, wow, the wind howled and we knew we were close! It's just .1 mile to the summit and soon we were out in the wind, mist/rain....and sleet!  It was so nasty we stayed just long enough to quickly take a few photos before heading back into the shelter of the woods. No views, no lingering - in fact taking pictures was tough as the camera lens continually got wet with the rain/sleet.  Lovely!

Summit. Shades of things to come as we head into the shoulder season.

We got under the trees and put on our gloves and hats - yep the icy cold weather is here!  

After a quick bite we headed back down to the car, gingerly negotiating the steep, wet slabs.   We were grateful to be in slightly better weather as we descended.

Well I finally did get this peak after the third try. But I will admit I am disappointed I didn't see a view.  The roar of the weather, however, is awe inspiring!

The views on this peak in clear weather are amazing.  To see photos of the view from this peak visit 1HappyHiker's blog.