Thursday, April 5, 2018

The Grid: Cabot

Saturday March 24, 2018
Miles: 14.93
New England Hundred Highest: North Weeks (attempt)
The Grid: Cabot
Elevation gained: 4086'

I arrived at the trail head around 9:30am and was on trail by 9:45am. Before I left the parking lot, I looked around and tried to find where the Unknown Pond Trail exits, but couldn't locate it. I started up the Bunnell Notch Trail; at the intersection with the York Pond Trail, I saw that there was some mild packing down of that trail. I decided to go for it and try to get to North Weeks and South Weeks.

After 0.7 miles, the tracks left the trail. I headed upward, breaking trail in 2-3 feet of snow. It took me an hour and a half to snowshoe 1.5 miles to get to the trail intersection with the Kilkenny Ridge Trail. 

Once there, I was exhausted. Nothing else had been touched; at my pace, I would have been out past dark if I went for the mountains. I decided to turn back and go up Cabot as a consolation prize.

I could have tried the 3.0 mile trail over Terrace Mountain to get to Cabot, but it wasn't broken out and would probably take ~3 hours. I went back down to where the tracks left off, and followed them, hoping they'd connect to the other trail. They didn't. So I turned around and went back to the original trail intersection, 0.2 miles from the parking lot after hiking for 3 hours+.

I turned and followed the Bunnell Notch Trail back up to the Kilkenny Ridge Trail and up to Mt Cabot and the Mt Cabot Cabin.

By the time I got to the cabin, I was completely exhausted; I was almost out of water and hasn't been eating enough. I sat down in the cabin for a while, drinking the last of my peppermint tea water and devouring a Steve's Original Whoopy Pie. I then headed the last few tenths to the summit of Cabot.

I was frustrated to find that it looked like the Kilkenny Ridge Trail towards Unknown Pond, the Horn, and the Bulge was broken out. However, I only had a few hours of daylight left, and I wasn't confident that the trail was broken all the way back to the cars. I knew that I didn't have the time or energy to turn around and go back uphill if I needed to backtrack. So I scampered back the way I came, arriving at my car an hour and a half later.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

NE Hundred Highest: NE Cannonball

Friday March 23, 2018
Miles: 5.75
New England Hundred Highest: NE Cannonball
The Grid: Cannon Mtn
Elevation gained: 2487'

I got to the parking area at the trailhead around 4pm. Due to unclear signage, I ended up driving part way into the summer parking lot/winter snowmobile trail. 

After I realized my mistake and started to back up, just a car's length from the dry, paved road, my driver's side front tire fell off the edge of the packed snow. My car ended up stuck in snow up to the front axle, in the middle of the snowmobile trail.

Some nice folks tried to help me shovel and then push it out, but that just wasn't happening. Just as I was dialing AAA for a tow, a hiker walking past offered up a tow with a strap and his car. I eagerly agreed. We got the strap set up and wrapped around my rear axle. And with a few good heaves from a four-door Volkswagen Jetta, my Ford Fiesta was free of the snow and on dry ground again. All of that took maybe 20 minutes but it was a hell of a start to my hike.

From there, I packed up my backpack, put on my snowshoes, and hiked out on the Lonesome Lake Trail. 

The snow was well packed down all the way up to the intersection with the Cascade Brook Trail and the Dodge Cutoff. From there, the most packed trail went across the lake towards the hut. 

From here forward, I was very glad for my snowshoes. While the trail was packed, some people wearing only boots had put holes in the snow, making the terrain more challenging.

I continued along the Lonesome Lake Trail until the intersection with the Kinsman Ridge Trail. 

From there, I went left to ascend the northeast Cannonball. I ran into three guys setting up a snow camp at the peak. 

After taking some pictures, I headed back down to the trail intersection and then ascended Cannon by the Kinsman Ridge Trail. The bottom half-mile was steep and my snowshoes had some slipping but once I got to the second half, the going smoothed out. 

I summitted Cannon, scampering up the viewing tower for some pictures of Franconia Ridge and the Cannonballs.

Then I headed back down, taking the left at the trail intersection with Hi-Cannon and descending by that trail. 

The sun set as I headed down, giving me beautiful views of Lonesome Lake and the hut.

I hiked by headlamp for the last 45 minutes or so. The hike down was somewhat steep but uneventful. I made it back to my car by 8:15pm.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

NH 48 4000 footer in winter: Tecumseh

Saturday, March 17th, 2018
New England 48 4000 footers in winter: Tecumseh
Miles: 4.7 miles (total, out and back hike)
Elevation gained: 2022'
MapMyHike recording

After yesterday's exhausting adventure, I decided to revamp my plans and go with a hike that was guaranteed to be packed out. I checked trail reports and found that Tecumseh's trail was fully packed down, so I packed up and headed out. I got to the trailhead parking right around 7:50am; I managed to snag the last parking spot in the row near the trailhead, as everyone arrived for Waterville Valley's 8am opening. I strapped on my microspikes and headed up the trail.

It was pleasantly packed down, and I made good time up the mountain, passing two people and arriving at the top after about 1.5 hours. It was a very windy day (gusts up to 60 MPH) so snow had been blown across the trail at different points, needing further packing down.

Based on footprints, I was the first person that day to summit. I took pictures and scampered down the mountain, passing ~25 people, and arrived at my car 50 minutes later.

NE Hundred Highest: Sandwich (attempt)

Friday, March 16th, 2018
New England Hundred Highest attempted: Sandwich Dome
Miles: 5.7 miles (total, loop hike)
Elevation gained: 1906'

I started out from the trailhead parking lot around 3:15pm. I ascended Noon Peak via the Sandwich Mountain Trail (~2.8mi). For the first mile or so, the trail was broken out and packed down. 

For the last 1.8 miles, the knee deep snow was untouched. Sandwich Mountain Trail has some sections that hit a 45% grade that were incredibly challenging to climb while breaking trail. It slowed me to less than a mile an hour. 

It took me almost three hours to get to the trail intersection with Drakes Brook Trail (3.2mi). I had an hour of daylight left and still had 1.3 miles of unbroken trail to get to Sandwich Dome. I was cold and utterly exhausted from breaking trail, so I decided to call it a day.

It took me another two hours to get back to my car. I descended to my car by way of Drakes Brook Trail, though I later thought that it might have been a better idea to descend back the way I'd come, since Drakes Brook Trail was not broken out either. Additionally, half a mile from the parking lot, Drakes Brook Trail crosses over the brook. This ~20 foot wide brook was still running strong in the middle, with no snow bridges of any kind. No one had crossed it since the snow storm dumped 2-3 feet of snow the week before. It was a very treacherous crossing, made that much worse because I had to navigate it after full dark with a headlight. The far bank was a good 2-3 feet higher than where I was coming from, meaning I had to climb up onto an unstable snow shelf over running water. As I was crossing, one of the spots I put my left foot collapsed as I was crossing, dunking the toe of my boot in the icy water (this almost immediately froze, making my toes that much more numb). 

After I got back to my car and drove the half an hour to The Notch Hostel where I was staying, I still couldn't feel the toes of my left foot. It took a few minutes in a hot shower for the feeling to fully come back to my left foot. There were no lasting effects, but it was disconcerting. The numbness and exhaustion from breaking trail made me reassess my hike for the next day, and change its location.     

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

NE Hundred Highest: Mendon peak (VT)

Sunday, March 12th, 2018
New England Hundred Highest climbed: Mendon Peak
Miles: ~10 miles (total, out and back hike)
Elevation gained:~1830'
MapMyRun recording (partial)

For this hike, I arrived at the trailhead on Wheelerville Rd in Mendon, VT around 1:15pm and was on trail by 1:30pm. I'd thought this was going to be an easier hike than it was. I'd seen estimates of ~7.5 miles for a there and back hike; my mileage ended up being ~10 miles and I didn't add much for the path that I chose.

To start, I followed the x-country ski/snowmobile path. The parking lot for the trailhead was full, but I didn't run into snowmobiles until the very end of my hike. The first half mile on this path was very quick moving. Everything was solidly packed down. Then the snowmobile path turned to the right and I continued straight, where there were only cross country ski tracks.

I passed by a cabin and not long after, came to an intersection in the trail. I was trying to follow a GPS track of someone who had done this previously, so I strapped on my snowshoes and took the left hand path going uphill, where no one had packed down the snow. This left me breaking trail for around a mile in snow up to my knees. Eventually, the unbroken path went back down and rejoined the ski track. I swore to never leave a beaten path again; I broke that vow about a mile later when I needed to head uphill towards Mendon rather than continue on the ski track coming from Killington.

I passed by two backcountry skiers just as I crossed the creek for the umpteenth time and started to climb out of the valley. They assumed I was heading to Killington and told me there was no way I'd make it back before sundown on snowshoes. I headed uphill on a 45% grade, and broke away from the ski track as I came within a mile of Mendon peak.

I bushwhacked my way uphill, through knee- to hip- deep snow, with no discernible path of least resistance. The trees were incredibly dense, particularly towards the peak. As I tried to follow the GPS track to get to the peak, I had no option other than pushing my way through groves of evergreens, getting soaking wet and covered in snow. I fell into some hidden dead tree wells in snow up to my armpits and had to backstroke and flail my way out. At this point, I was getting very worried about making it back to my car by dark, my phone's dropping battery (my GPS), and was very wet and cold. The degree of tree density at the top of the mountain coupled with hip deep snow everywhere made it impossible to find the tree with the canister on it, and I was totally fine with that. Based on my GPS estimates, I was within 500 feet of the canister and I think that's close enough! It wasn't from lack of trying, that's for sure.

At the peak, I put on my dry layers in my pack and started to head back. I decided to follow my footprints, as it wasn't worth finding a slightly shorter path when I'd have to pack down fresh snow. I ate a number of snacks and hoofed it for my car. I was very glad to get back on the ski track, and decided to follow it the entire way back. It was relatively flat and easy going, and for anyone trying this hike in the future, I'd advise you to follow the creek most of the way up to the base of the peak.

I arrived back at my car around 6:30pm, right after jumping into a snow drift to avoid a group of snowmobiles tearing through. I was very glad to be back at my car; my asthma was acting up and I desperately needed somewhere warm to breath and take my inhaler. I stopped to get hot tea and snacks, and blasted the heat as high as it went for my entire 2.5 hour drive home.

NE Hundred Highest: Dorset Mountain (VT)

Saturday, February 24th, 2018
New England Hundred Highest climbed: Dorset Mountain
Miles: 6.7 (total, out and back hike)
Elevation gained: 2350'
MapMyRun recording

It was a bit more than a 2 hour drive from my house, so I dragged myself out of bed early and hit the road. I arrived at the trailhead on Tower Rd in Dorset, VT around 9am, got my gear together (which included a GPS track from GaiaGPS), and headed up the herd path. 

I followed the single track that I think is supposed to be the remains of Tower Rd. There was another car at the trailhead and a set of footprints to follow, so I used that to help guide me. 

It was a beautiful day, in the mid 40s, with blue skies.
While I followed the single track for most of the hike up, I did lose it near this turn in the creek and ended up bushwhacking a bit. I can confirm from my return hike that the single track continues straight, following the dry creek bed.
After I was done with the bushwhacking, I emerged onto a clearing with the single track, near the old remains of a cabin.
From here, the track climbed and climbed, probably hitting ~35%-40% grade at a number of places. The pictures don't quite do it justice, but it was steep!
Part way up, there was some nice running water. Since it was above freezing, everything was melting.
As I continued up the mountain, every so often I'd see these silver diamonds nailed to trees. They weren't enough to guide me, but they did tell me I was on the right track. 
After climbing for what felt like forever, I made it to the first trail intersection, a T with the trail that goes to the peak and a trail that goes... somewhere else lol.
The trail I came up

Trail to the left, going somewhere

Trail to the right, going towards the peak
I took the trail to the right. Around here, snow accumulation became substantial (~12-16 inches), unlike it had at lower elevation. It was mostly packed down, between previous hikers and melt/refreeze, so I only broke through a few times. I followed the track onward; when there was a slip in the path, I took the right hand, uphill path. This lead me to the side trail for the south peak (and a fire tower). At the intersection, I met the person whose footprints I'd seen. He wasn't sure where to go, so following my GPS track, we walked to the peak of Dorset together. Once there, we signed the summit log, and I turned around and hoofed it back to my car, arriving by 12:10pm.