Winter Hike: North Crocker

Trail Report

In my plan to hike all of the New England 4000 Footers I still had a bunch of peaks to do in the Carrabassett Valley area of Maine. So, in late January I decided to tackle a few from Route 27 just north of Sugarloaf Ski Resort. The plan was to hike the Appalachian Trail from the road to North Crocker Mountain and South Crocker Mountain, and if the bushwhack was broken out to Redington Mountain (and I felt up to it) do it as well. I chose to do the Crockers from the north because they were accessible from a major road that I knew would be open. I could find very little information on trail conditions and road closures online.

I left home at 4:30 am for the two and a half hour drive north. As I approached Carrabassett Valley the full moon was setting just above the ridge line of Mount Abraham. I looked for a good place to stop to take a photo of it from Route 27, but failed to find one and didn’t want to take the time to explore side roads for a better vista.

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Winter Hike: Mount Chocorua Sunrise

Trail Report

For my son’s 9th birthday we spent the weekend in North Conway, New Hampshire at the Red Jacket Resort. The resort had an indoor water park with water slides and a wave pool that the boys could play in all day. Early Sunday morning I got up to make the short drive to Mount Chocorua to hike it for sunrise.

Mount Chocorua, one of the more difficult peaks in the White Mountains for me to pronounce, was named after a Sokosis Chief.  Legend had it that the mountain’s namesake leaped from the summit to his death while cursing the surrounding land rather than being killed by the white man who was pursuing him. It is that beautifully rocky, shark-fin peak you see peaking between trees when driving from Maine toward the Kancamagus Highway.

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Winter Bushwhack: Owl’s Head

Trail Report

A couple of friends and I took advantage of mild winter conditions to bag one of the more difficult winter 4000 Footers, a bushwhack to the Peak above Owls Head. The Peak above Owls Head is considered one of the more difficult hikes for several reasons: it is one of the more isolated peaks, by trail it is a 19 mile round-trip hike, there is no official trail to the summit of the peak and there are many water crossings which can be dangerous when the waters are high. To top this off, the best way to get to the peak in the winter is to do two bushwhacks known as the Black Pond Bushwhack and the Brutus Bushwhack.

Three of us drove up to the mountains Friday evening after work and camped at Hancock Campground, which was open year-round and across the street from the start of the hike. On the drive over Kancamagus Pass we pulled over to watch a moose munching leaves on the side of the road. Once at the campsite and after some food by the fire we turned in for an early morning start.

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Winter Hike: Flume/Liberty

Trail Report

For the first hike of the new year a friend of mine and I took the opportunity that some mild weather provided to grab a couple winter 4000 Footers. We considered different peaks for a while and landed on doing a traverse over Mount Flume and Mount Liberty from Lincoln Woods Visitor Center to Liberty Spring Trail. We considered the idea of doing Lincoln and Lafayette as well, but the forecast had some weather threatening in the afternoon and that was not a place we wanted to be stuck in bad weather.

After planting my car at Liberty Spring parking lot we shot back to Lincoln Woods and arrived at 8:00 am. It was overcast and there were light flurries, but the temperature was in the 20s and there was no wind at ground level. We headed up one of my least favorite trails, Lincoln Woods Trail, with microspikes in our pack. The trail reports were looking good with a nice solid pack on most trails. We considered whether or not to carry snowshoes as the conditions of Osseo Trail were unknown, but it had been long enough since the last snowfall that someone had probably already broken out the trail.

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Winter Hike: Willey Range

Trail Report

I’d been wanting to do a snowshoe of the Willey Range for quite some time. It seemed like the perfect place for a day-long snowshoe: it’s on the eastern side of the range (the weather infamously comes from the northwest in the winter), it’s almost entirely protected by forest, it includes three 4000 Footers and it affords some great views of the Presidential Range and down into Crawford Notch. Two friends and I attempted the Willey Traverse back in March but when one of us became sick we bailed after Mount Tom.

So on the morning of Christmas Eve I headed up to the mountains. My plan was to get an early start so that I could be back home in early afternoon to spend Christmas Eve with the family. I got up at 4:00 am, brewed some coffee and packed up the car. I’ve done the drive from Gorham, Maine to North Conway, New Hampshire about a hundred times, so it didn’t matter that it was pitch dark. I could have driven it with my eyes closed.

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Hike: Cabot Loop

Trail Report

I got up early on a Sunday morning in November in order to hike Mount Cabot in the northern White Mountain National Forest. I normally like to leave home early enough to arrive at the trailhead at sunrise. But the trailheads for Mount Cabot were located beyond the Berlin Fish Hatchery, which had a gate. I found information about the gate’s hours but most of it was a few years old. Not wanting to risk sitting around waiting for the gate to be opened, I left so I would arrive at 8:00 am, when the gate was supposed to open.

I got to the hatchery at 8:00 am as planned and the gate was open. I drove around York Pond and parked at the lot for the Unknown Pond Trail. There was one other car in the lot, and the weather was cold and breezy. Although the sky was mostly clear, there were clouds sitting on top of Mount Cabot. I hiked down the road to the start of the York Pond Trail. York Pond Trail and Bunnell Notch Trail were very flat for a while but with some mud, ice and water crossings over the Ammonoosuc Brook. As the trail started to climb beside the brook, I stopped to put on my microspikes.

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How-to: Pitch a Tent in Snow

The first time I pitched my tent in snow was January 2014 when I experimented with winter camping in my three-season gear. Things went well and I made it through the night in temperatures in the single digits without freezing. I’ve learned a little bit since then and I had the chance to put my learnings to practice this March the night before I hiked Mount Tom. I wanted to share the experience here to help anyone else interested in camping in the snow.

Disclaimer: I’m no expert, use your own judgement when camping in potentially dangerous temperatures and weather.

Though I lived through my first winter camping experience, I woke up quite cold and I partially attribute that to not being able to pitch my tent properly. I love my L.L.Bean Microlight FS tent, I’ve slept in it under juniper trees on a Texas ranch and just below tree-line in the northern Presidentials. The inner mesh wall is freestanding, but the fly requires staking out the tent. That meant the fly was hanging loose on that first winter night, allowing cold air to blow in under the fly.

Winter camping in 2014, fly hanging loose

Winter camping in 2014, fly hanging loose

I have since learned about making a deadman and realized that I could apply that technique to pitching my tent. Here’s what I did:

First I chose my tent site and prepared it for the tent. I chose a spot near the trees and beside a snow bank created from plowing the campsite. This gave me nearly 180 degrees worth of protection from wind before I even started. Then using my snowshoes I packed a path to my tent site from the kitchen (a picnic table and the fire pit that I dug out with the shovel I keep in my car) and packed down an area I deemed large enough for my tent.

Prep tent area

Prep tent area

When I was clearing out the kitchen I snowshoed through the surrounding trees collecting twigs and branches to start a fire. The thickest of those I reserved to make my deadmen and broke into 5 sticks of about 8 inches in length. When I set up my tent I placed it in the location I wanted it and marked the placement of the deadmen sticks. I moved my tent aside and let the packed snow set for a while so it would refreeze packed and flat before actually securing my tent. While I waited I prepped another tent site for my friend who would be joining me that evening.

Mark snow anchor holes with sticks

Mark deadman holes with sticks

Once enough time had passed for my site to refreeze, I started preparing the guylines I would need to affix my tent to the deadmen. I cut 5 pieces of 505 cord a few feet long and tied a bowline on one end.

Tie a bowline on one end

Tie a bowline on one end

Next I dug each of the holes for my deadmen. I dug the holes perpendicular to the angle the guyline would run to the corners of the tent. Once the hole was dug I roughly measured the depth of the hole and tied the guyline to the deadman with a clove hitch. This would place the bowline closer to the deadman than the tent, giving me plenty of room to adjust the tautness of each guyline.

Clove hitch on stick at depth of hole

Clove hitch on the deadman at depth of hole

I placed the deadman in the hole and buried it, leaving both ends of the guyline sticking out of the snow. I made sure to pack down the snow so that the deadman would properly secure the guyline once it refroze.

Snow anchor set

Deadman set

After setting all the deadmen I placed the tent back in the site and began anchoring it with the guylines. I went around in the same order I dug them, diagonally from corner to corner and the fly entrance loop last, making sure each deadman had a few minutes to refreeze before I put tension on them. To tie down, I used my typical tarp tie-down approach. I put the end of the guyline through the loop in the tent and then fed it through the bowline on the other end of the guyline. After drawing some tension on the guyline I tied a slippery half hitch to secure it. Once I secured my tent to each deadman I went back around to put a good amount of tension on each guyline making the fly taut.

Anchor down tent

Anchor down tent

My last order of business outside the tent was to pile snow around it to make sure wind wouldn’t blow under the fly. I did this on four sides of the tent. The fifth side of the tent was the fly entrance and since it wasn’t stationary I had a fleece blanket rolled up to block the underside of the tarp from within.

Crude snow walls to block wind

Crude snow walls to block wind

Inside, to make sure I would be warm, I had many, many layers. I placed my closed-cell foam (CCF) pad on the floor. On top of it I had a fleece blanket, then my air pad, then fleece bag, then 20 degree down bag and finally a quilt.

Many, many layers

Many, many layers

My final defense against the cold was two water bottles filled with hot water, which I placed in my down bag about an hour before hitting the sack (needless to say, I made sure they didn’t leak). When I crawled into my bag at 11pm it was toasty warm. I slept with one water bottle between my feet and the other in the space between my abdomen and legs (I’m a fetal-position, side-sleeper).

The temperature dropped to 10 degrees and once again I made it through a winter night in three-season gear. This time was a little easier as I was car camping and could carry two bags and extra blankets. Regardless, I think I would have been fine without those extra layers. I even slept with my head outside of my mummy bag’s hood all night.

What went well:

  • There was a noticeable difference in temperature within the tent from properly securing the fly and building snow walls around the tent
  • Hot water bottles in the sleeping bag were very cozy, especially near my feet where I don’t generate much heat
  • Blanket covering my sleeping bag was encrusted with frost in the morning which would have otherwise been covering my bag and likely reducing my overall temperature

What I would change:

  • Clove hitches on the deadmen were a mistake as I was unable to dig up my deadmen in the morning and retrieve my 505 cord
  • Dig deadmen further from tent to allow me more room to adjust fly tautness and to keep slippery half hitch further from snow so my fingers don’t freeze when untying
  • Dig a mudroom inside the entrance of my fly to make it easier to get dressed and in and out of the tent as well as work as a cold trench (holding the colder air inside the tent below my level and bringing up the temperature where I was sleeping)

I highly encourage everyone to experiment with their gear and refine their hiking and camping practices. I’ve acquired priceless knowledge from my experiments and reading up on related subjects. I now have a better understanding of my limits and my gear’s limits which gives me greater confidence when I wander into the mountains and better prepares me for emergencies. I would suggest starting in your backyard and reading any of the books referenced below, especially Andrew Skurka’s The Ultimate HIker’s Gear Guide (no affiliation, just one of my favorite reads on gear). Or, hit me up with questions.

I’ve learned that my ability to enjoy—and to succeed in—an ambitious hike is a function of…my knowledge of the gear, supplies and skills needed for the trip.
—Andrew Skurka

References:
Appalachian Mountain Club. AMC Guide to Winter Hiking and Camping: Everything You Need to Plan Your Next Cold-Weather Adventure. Boston: Appalachian Mountain Club Books, 2009. Print.
Canterbury, Dave. Bushcraft 101: A Field Guide to the Art of Wilderness Survival. Avon, Massachusetts: Adams Media, 2014. Print.
How To.” andrewskurka.com. Andrew Skurka. Web. 21 March 2014.
Microlight FS 1-Person Tent“. llbean.com. L.L.Bean Inc. Web. 21 March 2014.
Skurka, Andrew. The Ultimate Hiker’s Gear Guide: Tools & Techniques to Hit the Trail. Washington D.C.: National Geographic Society, 2012. Print.

Winter Hike: Mount Tom

Date Hiked: 8 March 2015

Winter was almost over and 2 months had passed since my previous hike when an opportunity to hike arouse. The temperature on a Saturday night was supposed to stay in the low 20s or high teens and the following Sunday looked to be sunny in the midday with little wind. I made plans with a few friends from work to traverse the Willey Range in Crawford State Park, New Hampshire. One of my friends and I would camp out overnight at Barnes Field Campground and then meet the other at Crawford Depot, the starting point of our hike.

Friday night I could barely sleep due to my excitement. I left the island early in the morning thinking I could set up camp and possibly take a short hike before evening and my fellow winter camper arrived. I had a few things to pick up in Portland before heading north, including a pair of shoes. My feet were starting to sweat in my boots and I didn’t want them damp for the hike on Sunday. Sandals were the cheapest option (it was March afterall), so I went with those.

The drive north was euphoric. I blasted the Barefoot Beach Chill playlist on Songza and enjoyed the fact that I was driving toward the mountains and free from the stresses of the normal work week. Along the way I stopped at Moat Mountain Smokehouse and Brewery as well as stopping for some sightseeing at the vista of Mount Washington in Intervale and at the bottom of the Mount Washington Auto Road.

When I got to the empty campground I leisurely dug out the fire pit and set up camp in my new sandals while drinking a beer. The only sound was the far off drone of snow mobiles.

Sandal weather in New Hampshire

Sandal weather in New Hampshire

The snow mobiles sounded like they were coming from the Pinkham B Road, where I was planning on snowshoeing and checking out Pine Mountain. So instead I drank another beer and took photos of setting my tent up in the snow for a future post.

By 7:30pm my friend showed up with some much needed firewood (I had just about burned through the two bundles I bought) and beer. We cooked up some dinner, drank some more beer and retired to our tents by 11pm. The plan was to get up at 6am to meet the third hiker at 8am. Unfortunately the temperature dropped to around 10°, my phone (and alarm) shutdown and I woke with sunrise at 6:30am (because of daylight savings that morning).

After planting my car at Willey Station Road (the southern terminus of our planned hike) we met up with our friend at 8:45am at AMC Highland. By 9am we had set off for our first destination, Mount Tom.

Mount Field and Avalon looming over Crawford Depot

Mount Field and Avalon looming over Crawford Depot

It was a beautiful morning in the valley, the sun was shining bright and the wind just a whisper. It looked like clouds were sitting on the higher summits, but we were hoping for some views anyway.

Crawford Depot, Mount Jackson and a sundog

Crawford Depot, Mount Jackson and a sundog

We hiked toward Mount Tom via the Avalon Trail and the A-Z Trail in our microspikes. There were quite a few people on the trail (the AMC Highland parking lot was nearly full) and the trail was nicely packed and stable. The hike up to the saddle between Tom and Field was a rugged one and we were soon stopping to peel off layers and catch our breath.

Soon after hitting the A-Z Trail one of my friends needed to stop because he was seriously winded and not feeling well. We pushed on at his pace for a while but a half mile below the Mount Tom Spur he decided to head back to the car. We discussed the situation for a while, not wanting to split up our small group. It was finally agreed by all that two of us would finish the hike up to Tom, ditch the rest of the Willey Traverse and descending back down the way we came. It was a pleasant day and there were plenty of people on the trail and we would be following not far behind him.

I know that he felt bad, like he was ruining our hike, but we were just glad to be on the trail. Honestly, we were concerned about him the short amount we were apart and would not have wanted to complete the traverse regardless.

We soon hit the Mount Tom Spur trail and were surprised to see a creature sneaking behind trees near us. It was rust-brown color with a pale face and around 2 feet long. It darted from tree to tree, peek-a-booing around them before scurrying to the next tree. We knew it was a member of the weasel family, but unsure which one. I caught some video of it scavenging someone’s discarded banana peel. I also took out my Nikon and snapped some photos of it. It was pretty curious of us and at one point barked at me. When we headed up Mount Tom Spur it followed for a moment and then investigated the ground where we had been standing, disappointed that we didn’t leave any scraps for it. Later, with some Google investigation I concluded that it was a marten.

Marten near Mount Tom Spur

Marten near Mount Tom Spur

video-icon Video of a marten near Mount Tom

The trail up to Tom was gradual until near the summit where it steepened. We came out above the trees to find a light snow falling around us. The trail was less established there with many sub-trails exploring the potentials views. I quickly found myself up to my hip in a spruce trap and decided that the view was good enough from where I was.

Mount Tom summit looking toward Crawford Notch

Mount Tom summit looking toward Crawford Notch

We followed one of the more packed trail to the vista to the west where we stopped for a snack until the cold got to our hands. We headed down the trail at a brisk pace and were back to the parking lot in just a little over an hour. We found our friend enjoying some soup and a new book from AMC Highland, surprised that we were back so soon.

The hike was cut short for us, but we were all safe at the end of the day. I have no regret about our decision. It was the second New England 4000 Footer that I’d climbed in the winter and although we would have bagged another two if we had completed the traverse, we would have been concerned about our friend the whole time. In the end we would not have enjoyed the hike. The mountains will be there waiting when we return.

I’ve always hated the danger part of climbing, and it’s great to come down again because it’s safe.
—Sir Edmund Hillary

Map of Hike

Map of Hike (interactive map)

Stats:
Highest Elevation: 4051′
Elevation Gain: 2150′
Distance: 5.8 miles
Book Time: 4:00
Actual Time: 3:30
Temperature: 20°s
Weather: sunny, snowy at high altitude
Wind: W 5mph

Completed Red-Lining Trails:
Mount Tom Spur

References:
Martes americana.” fs.fed.us. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service. Web. 14 March 2015.
Songzasongza.com. Songza Media, Inc. Web. 14 Month 2015.

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Backyard Adventure: Do You Want to Build a Quinzee?

Since last winter I’ve tried to build an igloo in my backyard so I could experience sleeping encapsulated in snow. Though Maine has been pounded with snow in the last couple of weeks it hasn’t passed the snow ball test (is the snow sticky enough to hold a snow ball shape?), which is required in order to form the blocks for the igloo. Fortunately, the AMC’s blog recently posted an article on building a quinzee, and I tried it out.

I started by shoveling as much snow as I could manage into a pile in my backyard. This took about 2 hours and I ended up with a pile of snow that was roughly 7 feet high, 12 feet long and 6 feet wide. Next I climbed on top of the pile in order to pack it down as much as possible. When I was done the pile was about 5 feet high.

Quinzee pile

Quinzee pile

At that point I went inside to make lunch and let the pile refreeze. When the snow was piled up, the snow flakes’ arms broke which caused some melting at the point of the break. By waiting at least an hour this allowed the snowflakes to refreeze, making the snow pile more stable.

After Lunch I returned to the pile with a short-handled spade shovel and metal mixing bowl. I started carving into the pile about a half a foot above ground level. I would have preferred to start a foot above ground (as you should have at least a foot of packed snow to insulate you from the frozen ground), but I wanted to make sure I had enough head room to sit up inside and have walls at least a foot thick for stability.

Tools used to dig Quinzee

Tools used to dig Quinzee

Shortly after starting with the spade shovel I could no longer reach or get the right angle with the shovel and I started climbing into the hole and scraping the walls and ceiling with the mixing bowl. It worked wonders. I continued carving into the the pile as well as toward the ceiling and walls. Once I had a substantial amount of snow dug out I crawled out of the quinzee and drew the snow out behind me with the snow shovel.

I measured into the snow pile with the snow shovel to make sure I didn’t shovel too far in any direction. The AMC article suggested sticking foot-long sticks into the quinzee so that you knew when you were getting close to the walls, but I could tell as the walls would lighten from sunlight if I dug them too thin.

I repeated the digging/drawing snow out of the quinzee process until I was content with the shape and size of the interior. I sat cross-legged in the middle to make sure the ceiling was tall enough, and laid down on the floor to make sure I had enough leg room to sleep within.

From within, enough room to stretch

From within, enough room to stretch

I had plans to sleep inside the quinzee, so I got my air pad and fleece sleeping bag liner and placed them inside. I also placed the plastic container that I used to make igloo blocks inside as a table for my battery operated lantern. Just to decrease any concerns I had of the quinzee collapsing I climbed on top and bounced around on my knees (I’m sure I was quite the sight). My quinzee was complete and ready to become a winter shelter.

Completed Quinzee

Completed Quinzee, with beer holder

Unfortunately, the forecast for that night was temperatures around 0 degrees and it did not warm much above 10 degrees for the following couple of weeks. Since it was built the quinzee partially collapsed (I’m guessing due to a few warm and sunny days) and the ceiling which was over 3 feet tall is now less than 2 feet tall. I did not get to sleep in it, but it was a fun experience. Hopefully the weather will cooperate and I’ll be able to build another quinzee or an igloo and actually get to sleep in it.

References:
The Blizzard is Here! Don’t Just Shovel it-Build a Quinzee!equipped.outdoors.org. Appalachian Mountain Club. Web. 2 February 2015.

Winter Hike: Cannon Mountain

Date Hiked: 2 January 2015

It was barely 2015 and I was preparing for the first goal on my list of adventures for 2015: climbing my first New England 4000 Footer in the winter.

In the past I blogged about my three-season daypack, but this preparation took a bit more. I had to use my 65L Osprey Atmos pack (though it was no where near full) as I wanted to have enough room to carry any layers I would shed during the hike and have the space to strap on my snowshoes. Aside from the pack, the only other additional gear was the multitude of layers and traction.

Preparing gear for my first winter 4000 Footer

Preparing gear for my first winter 4000 Footer

I took a vacation day from work (it hurts to do so on the second day of the year, but any day spent hiking is worth it) and my friend from work John met me in Portland. We drove to Franconia Ridge State Park and met my brother at the Cannon Mountain Aerial Tramway parking lot.

Both John and my brother brought their dogs for the hike. My brother had a male Black Lab named Clover and John a female Rottweiler named Roxy. After a few minutes of sniffing, testing each other and running around they were ready to get into the back of John’s vehicle with minimal encouragement. We drove through the snow to Lafayette Campground and found very little parking available.

As we bundled up for the cold weather (the higher summit forecasts and mountain-forecast.com were calling for a wind chill around -20°) snow was quickly filling the inside of John’s truck, and the dogs were romping through the snow and once again testing each other. My brother discovered that his water bladder had emptied itself yet the inside of his pack was dry, a mystery. There was no water to be found at the closed campground so we started up the Lonesome Lake Trail as through the falling snow.

Lonesome Lake Trailhead

Lonesome Lake Trailhead

When we came to the first water crossing we stopped so that my brother could fill his his water bladder. The Lonesome Lake Trail is pretty steep down near the trailhead and we soon found ourselves overheating and needing to take off layers.

The following is how I had my clothing layered:

Feet: Smart Wool socks, Timberland waterproof boots
Legs: Under Armor Cold Gear, Columbia hiking pants, Nike storm pants
Torso: Under Armor Cold Gear, synthetic t-shirt, Smart Wool sweater, Helly Hanson ski jacket
Hands: Dakine Scout Mitts (with included liner gloves)
Head: Under Armor Cold Gear tactical hood, Turtle Fur neck warmer, Sherpa wool hat
Packed: 2 pairs Smart Wool socks, Columbia Hot Dots full fleece jacket

I took off my sweater, neck warmer and tactical hood and at times I even carried my hat and only wore my glove liners. I pretty much stayed this way for the rest of the hike except for when we summitted I put on the tactical hood. I ended up with too many layers, but that is much better than being cold. I will most likely repeat this set up for all of my winter hikes going forward.

Once we all cooled off a little we continued the trek up to Lonesome Lake. It wasn’t long before the trail flattened off and the lake came into view. When we reached its edge we saw another group crossing the ice to Lonesome Lake Hut. Without much hesitation we followed.

The wind and snow picked up out on the ice but it was totally worth it for the experience. I absolutely love Lonesome Lake and to stand in the middle of it and take in the wilderness and towering mountains was amazing. To our right we could make out the bumps of The Cannon Balls and the ridge leading up to Cannon Mountain.

Panorama of Lonesome Lake from the center of the lake

Panorama of Lonesome Lake from the center of the lake

video-icon Video of crossing Lonesome Lake

We crossed Lonesome Lake in short order, though I did lag behind trying to take it all in. When we got to the hut there was a large group getting ready to hike down to Lafayette Campground. One of the guy’s hands were bothering him because his hand warmers weren’t working and two others were in cotton layers and jeans or sweatpants. I’m still shocked that people go hiking and treat it like they’re walking down the street to CVS.

We stopped by the hut, said hello to the croo member who was outside shoveling and tried to see if we could get a view overlooking the lake. The steps from the lake to the hut were a solid sheet of ice and I took that opportunity to try out my new Kahtoola MICROspikes. I’ve been wanting to replace my STABILicers for some time and I finally picked up a pair of MICROspikes with a gift certificate from Christmas. They worked like a charm. I expected some slippage but could feel the teeth bite into the blue ice without a problem. Throughout the day, every single person we saw hiking was also wearing a pair of Kahtoola MICROspikes.

Except for my brother. Who had traction woes.

We followed the Around Lonesome Lake Trail around the western side of Lonesome Lake trying not to posthole off the side of the planks that elevate the trail above swamp in the other three seasons. We hit the upper part of the Lonesome Lake Trail, a section of trail I hadn’t experience before. It climbed through the forest from the lake to the col between the tallest Cannon Ball and Cannon Mountain.

Partway up we were tiring so we stopped for food. I discovered that my water bladder tube was frozen despite running it down the neck of my jacket. I recently read that using a Nalgene inside of an insulated sock is the way to go. I will try that with my next hike. My brother took the rest as a chance to change from my worn STABILicers to crampons in anticipation for the steep climb up to Cannon.

When we go to the top of the Lonesome Lake Trail it was 1:15pm and we decide not to do The Cannon Balls as it would result in some of our hike down Cannon Mountain happening after sunset. We started up the Kinsman Ridge Trail to the summit of Cannon Mountain.

I had climbed this section of the trail back in October and knew it would be a slog. John’s dog Roxy needed some help up the icy sections and my brother busted both of his crampons on the way up. First one broke and he put a STABILicer on the other foot and then the other crampon broke. We stopped so he could put on his alpine snowshoes, which survived the rest of the hike. On the plus side we had a few views to the west and south and it started to look like the weather would clear out.

Clearing skies over The Cannon Balls

Clearing skies over The Cannon Balls

At the top of the ridge the trail flattened out and we made fast time to the junction with the Rim Trail. We dropped our packs and hustled up the observation tower. It was bitter cold and the wind was gusting hard but we relished the moment anyway. Though it had stopped snowing, the peak of the mountain was mostly cloudy. The view was still magnificent with glimpses of Franconia Notch below, all of the snow mantled trees and the entire surface of the observation tower coated in rime frost.

Cannon Mountain Observation Deck

Cannon Mountain Observation Deck

Back at the junction we stopped for another food break and discovered that frozen Clif Bars were hard to eat. We took our time hiking past the views at the ledges below the observation tower.

Ledges from below Cannon Observation Tower

Ledges from below Cannon Observation Tower, photo credit: John Ellingsworth

Before heading down the mountain we followed to the trail to the aerial tramway. We stopped and watch skiers go by and watch a tram make its way to the building.

Cannon Mountain aerial tramway

Cannon Mountain aerial tramway

After the stop at the tram we took our hiking poles out for the two mile descent to my brother’s car. The Kinsman Ridge Trail between the summit and Cannon cliffs vista was an interesting, exposed hike with great views and a few short steep sections. It was definitely a section of trail that I look forward to hiking again in clearer weather.

Heading down Kinsman Ridge Trail

Heading down Kinsman Ridge Trail

We took the short spur trail to the Cannon cliff vista but with the hard-packed snow, ice and cloudy view it wasn’t worth getting too close to the edge. Soon after the Cannon cliffs the trail dropped into trees and we focused on descending. The views became more limited and the trail was a moderate decline. We were down to the car before sunset.

Kinsman Ridge Trailhead

Kinsman Ridge Trailhead

We drove to car at Lafayette Campground and then to the very crowded Woodstock Inn Station & Brewery. We enjoyed some beer samplers, hot food and our windburned faces. The restaurant was packed with people who had spent the day outdoors which created a cozy end to the day.

I’m pretty psyched to have completed my first 4000 Footer winter hike and look forward to the next. Things went pretty much perfect despite our clear forecast turning to snow and clouds the night before (welcome to the mountains). My water froze and my brother broke his crampons, but the dogs were safe and no one lost any digits to frostbite so I think it was a win.

Despite all I have seen and experienced, I still get the same simple thrill out of glimpsing a tiny patch of snow in a high mountain gully and feel the same urge to climb towards it.
—Edmund Hillary

Note:
I’m currently working through the backlog of my hiking posts to add a map of the hike. My hope is that the combination of the map and the stats will help you plan the hike for yourself. And of course, if you have any questions about the hike feel free to ask them in the comments. Wander on.

Map of Hike

Map of Hike

Stats:
Highest Elevation: 4100′
Elevation Gain: 2150′
Distance: 5.2 miles
Book Time: 3:45
Actual Time: 5:20
Temperature: 0-10°s
Weather: snowing, mostly cloudy
Wind: W 30mph

Completed Red-Lining Trails:
Lonesome Lake Trail

References:
Dakine Scout Mitt.” dakine.com. Dakine. Web. 8 January 2015.
Higher Summits Forecast.” mountwashington.org. Mount Washington Observatory. Web. 8 January 2015.
Hiking Cannon Mountain.” outdoors.org. Appalachian Mountain Club. Web. 7 January 2015.
Kahtoola MICROspikes.” kahtoola.com. Kahtoola, Inc. Web. 11 January 2015.
Mountain Weather Forecast.” mountain-forecast.com. Meteo365.com. Web. 8 January 2015.
Osprey Atmos 65 Pack.” rei.com. Recreation Equipment, Inc. Web. 7 January 2015.

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