Tuesday, February 16, 2016

South Moat Mountain, February 15, 2016

South Moat Mountain (2,770) via Moat Mountain Trail, 2/15/16.

Mileage:  5.4 miles (RT)

Elevation gain: 2,200'

Trailhead:  Route 16 north to Conway, take a left onto Washington Street and bear left onto West Side Road. Take a left onto Passaconaway Road and drive for 3.2 miles to trailhead parking (on right, maintained in winter).  Note: Passaconaway Road (aka Dugway Road) from the Kancamagus Highway (Route 112) may be closed in winter- it wasn't today.

South Moat Mountain is on the 52 with a View list (a list I'm not working on but you may be!)

Hiked with Rich.  After a frigid weekend which sapped our enthusiasm for adventures outdoors, we felt like we really should get out and hike but didn't want to commit to an all day event.  

So we chose South Moat Mountain.

I'd hiked South Moat in June of 2011, as a traverse which included Middle and North Moats (see trip report).  It was raining that day and the summit was viewless. I was hoping I'd see more than fog on the summit today.

It was 12° when we got to the trailhead; cold, but about 20° warmer than the day before. There were five cars in the lot.  USFS signs indicate active logging in the area and hikers are to follow the orange flagging to the trailhead.  

We didn't see this sign, crossed the field instead.

We of course didn't see the signs or the flagging and marched past the gate and through the clearing, heading left to the trail - indicated by an right arrow on a tree.  (We did notice the signs and flagging on the way back and took the little path back to the car). 

The well blazed trail cruises for about a mile, with some ups, some downs. Portions of the trail were bare, in need of a healthy snow storm.

Small water crossing.

Mild trail the first mile, some ups and downs.

Water was gurgling LOUDLY under the ice.

Huge ice flow to our left, glad it wasn't on the trail!

At 1.2 miles there's a left turn and the path steepens.  Weeks of warm temps, rain and little snow have left area trails icy.  A serious ice flow covered slabs to the left of us and we were glad we didn't have to negotiate up that.  

Further up, ice flows had spilled over onto the trail but there are walk-arounds (good for us, not so good for the vegetation that hugs the trail).

Icy between the rocks.

At 1.9 miles we managed our way around a sizable ice flow, slick, hard and angled, and proceeded to head straight up, following the footsteps of others.  (We should have veered left.)  Up until this time we were on a well blazed trail.

Up we went, unaware we were no longer on the trail, until we topped out on a small ridge (at about 2050').
It was here that we realized we had taken a wrong turn, and so went left and descended through the scrub until we finally found the trail, a long run of ice, with cairns peeking out through the snow.  

Back on the icy trail - small cairns poking through.

It was a relief to be back on the trail (winter conditions can be disorienting). 
Since there wasn't much snow we could see the yellow blazes on the rocks. We followed the trail up, enjoying several viewpoints along the way. 

The trail was rough and icy with just enough room around the flows to keep our footing. The slabs were a challenge for microspikes but they stayed on (we kept the crampons in our packs). 

View peeking through.

More views the higher we got.

We passed in and out of the trees, up slabs and through scrub as we closed in on the summit.

The summit is an outcrop of rock, raw and random.  

Although I'm not a fan of the colors of winter mountains, the views here today are striking.  

Mt. Washington

Mt. Chocorua

We stayed at the summit longer than usual, changing clothes, chatting with other hikers.  When the wind picked up we headed down; the clouds were rolling in.

Rich taking one last look at the view.

Descending wasn't as bad as expected.  Since this trail is well traveled, we could easily see where others had stepped and followed suit, although there may have been a butt slide or two on the really steep parts!

When we got to the car, the air had warmed to 22°.

This hike offered major reward for not so much effort, the perfect choice for two hibernating hikers wanting to keep their legs in shape!