Keeping the theme of hiking the northern New Hampshire 4000 Footers, I drove to Jefferson, New Hampshire on an early Sunday morning in late November to climb Mount Waumbek. The previous weekend I had climbed its neighboring 4000 footer Mount Cabot and figured I should round off the northern White Mountain ranges.
I found the trail parking for the Starr King Trail off of Route 2 and arrived at 8:00 am. There were two other cars in the parking lot and the weather was cool, mostly cloudy with a slight breeze. The trail started off easy, following an old logging road next to a brook. I passed a moss-covered stone well that was close to six feet in diameter. Soon the trail left the brook and started to climb more steeply toward Mount Starr King. The trail leveled off as it left hardwood forest and skirted the summit of Starr King to the west to make its approach from the north.
After diving into denser pine forest, the trail climbed more steeply again. I hit the cloud line and it started to spit snow and freezing rain.
I got to the summit of Starr King at 9:15 am, wandered the small network of paths between the stunted trees and tried to imagine the views I might have if not for the clouds. I found the iconic stone chimney near the summit and stopped to have a snack.
The trail from there to Mount Waumbek was easy. It descended gently into the woods and then climbed moderately to the wooded peak of Waumbek. I got to the pile of stones that marked the summit at 9:50 am and contemplated whether to continue on to South Weeks, a New England Hundred Highest peak to the northeast. Since I hadn’t been hiking for two hours yet and most of the hike to South Weeks was following the nearly level ridge, I decided to continue on.
As expected the trail to the east was flat, but the narrow trail was plagued by old blowdowns. The weather continued to sleet off and on, but the hike was pleasant due to the change in surroundings. The trail was obviously less traveled than the Starr King Trail and a side effect of that was the amount and variety of different mosses.
I passed one other hiker while trudging through the dense forest. He was wearing a large pack and had probably camped somewhere nearby, possibly Cabot Cabin. I found the short spur path to South Weeks 10:40 am and stopped for another snack.
I had another decision to make, whether to continue on to Middle Weeks. Middle Weeks was not on any list, but it was about the midpoint on the Kilkenney Ridge Trail between Mount Waumbek and Terrace Mountain. At some point I would be returning to trace the Kilkenney Ridge Trail and hike Mount Weeks, another New England Hundred Highest and the mountain between Terrace Mountain and Middle Weeks. When I did hike Mount Weeks, I could bop down to Middle Weeks to complete the stretch of Kilkenney Ridge Trail. I figured what the heck and continued on.
The trail between South Weeks and Middle Weeks was a bit rougher with more sleet on the ground and many more blowdowns. I got to Middle Weeks at 11:20 am, enjoyed the silence of the remote wooded peak for a minute and started backtracking my steps to the car.
I returned to Mount Waumbek at 12:45 pm and found two people on summit. I stopped and talked with them a bit, or rather they stopped me and talked. They wanted to make sure that they were indeed on the summit as there was no sign telling them so. I pointed to the large cairn and let them know that it was. Waumbek was their second 4000 Footer, the previous weekend they had done Mount Tecumseh and were hooked.
I saw three more people on way to Starr King and returned there at 1:15 pm. The clouds were starting to clear, so I stopped for a snack. I was visited by some photogenic Whiskey Jacks.
I continued down the mountain to my car, passing a couple of the way and got back to the parking lot at 2:10 pm. I felt pretty beat by then and later realized that my little jaunt to Middle Weeks turned one of the easier 4000 Footer hikes into a +14 mile/+4000′ in elevation hike.
Mount Waumbek was one of the more accessible 4000 Footers and a good place to start if you want to see if you the meddle to climb the high peaks in New England. Since there are so few views, it’s also a good one to save for a cloudy day, as I did.
Come Fairies, take me out of this dull world, for I would ride with you upon the wind and dance upon the mountains like a flame!
—William Butler Yates
Date Hiked: 22 November 2015
Trail Conditions: mud, black ice
Weather: mostly cloudy, freezing rain
Wind: NW 10 mph
Highest Elevation: 4006′
Elevation Gain: 4400′
Distance: 14.2 miles
Book Time: 9:20
Actual Time: 6:10
Tracing White Mountains Trails:
Starr King Trail