Saturday, November 26, 2011

2011.11.26 South Moat Mtn - Small Stature; Big Views

For late November, this was a stunning day.  Temps in our home town of Dover, NH hit 60 degrees and I estimate they got to the high 40's during this hike.

The "Moats" are a series of three mountains, North, South & Middle Moat.  We hiked North Moat this summer during a heat wave (North Moat Mtn).  Our plan today was to do South Moat and then if we felt up to it we would continue on to Middle Moat and back, an in and out trip.  On my last two trips I struggled with my asthma and though it was better today, it still wore me out getting to the top of South Moat so we canned the idea of Middle.  I think I may have done a week's worth of breathing in just a few hours.

South Moat is not tall in stature at only about 2,700 feet however, the views are wide open, 360 degrees and memorable.  According to my GPS the total elevation change, including some undulations, was 2.400 feet.  The trail conditions varied from hard packed snow, to slush, to sticky wet snow to barren trails.  We experienced it all.

I had read a post that someone had made after hiking this mountain yesterday and they claimed to have broken trail top to bottom and snowshoes were needed all the way.  It was very different today due to the warmer weather both yesterday afternoon and today.  No doubt someone had used snowshoes the day before because I could still see tracks from them in many places.  Based on that earlier post we decided to carry our snowshoes on this hike.  An unnecessary 3.5 lbs more that I was already carrying which was about 30 lbs.  You would not think you could feel that extra weight but you certainly can.  Though we did not use our snowshoes, we did need light traction (microspikes) in several locations and they were especially helpful on the initial descent.

Another interesting gear story:  After a 1 3/4 hour drive to the trailhead I found that I had forgotten my hiking socks!  Pretty hard to hike in bare feet (though I did have sock liners).  Luckily, one of the things I learned in our recent winter hiking class (Winter Hiking Class) was that we should carry an extra pair of hiking socks and sock liners in our pack.  These are a bit of insurance in case your socks get wet during a water crossing or other event.  Nothing worse than cold wet feet in the winter!  So, I simply took out my spare pair of socks (thank you Bob Humphrey!).

Let's look at some photos:

The first mile or so had more snow but most of the trail looked like this.  At the summit I did hit a spot in a snow drift where I went crotch deep into the snow.  The ultimate post holing experience. 

This was really cute.  Someone just ahead of us had constructed a mini-snowperson (trying not to be sexist here).

A snowy rocky ledge.

She's at the summit, the wind is blowing, she has 3+ layers on but she's smiling!

This and the next few photos are views from the summit.  That is Cranmore ski area in the distance.

South Moat makes for a great winter hike.  I would recommend it and may return to do it again when there is deeper snow.


Saturday, November 12, 2011

2011.11.12 South Hancock - A Hike Cut Short

This was day two of our Veteran's Day hiking weekend.  Yesterday we hiked Cannon Mountain and if you read that post you'll note I mentioned a some difficulty with my seasonal allergies/asthma (Cannon Mountain).  Though I did make the summit of South Hancock today, Sue and I scrapped our original plan to do the full North Hancock/South Hancock loop.  I was 'a breath'n heavy' and it was plum wearing me out.  We were again hiking with Scott and Leslie so we split up at the North/South fork with their going to North Hancock and crossing the ridge to South Hancock.  Sue and I simply headed up to the South Hancock summit, had a longer than normal lunch and then headed back down.  Our hiking partners were still able to catch up with Mr. and Mrs. Slowsky before we finished. 

The amazing golden retriever Benny joined us again today.  That makes three four thousand footers in two days that Benny accomplished!  He seemed as happy at the end of the hike today as he was at the start of our first hike yesterday, though I'm betting he took a long nap on the drive home.

Even without finishing the full loop, the trek to the summit of South Hancock (elev. 4,319') was still an 8.2 mile hike (the full loop adds another 1.6 miles).  This trail was much  different than our hike yesterday, which almost immediately and continually ascended aggressively, in that there is a long and gradual start that seems to go on and on.  In fact, in the first 3.6 miles the elevation changes only 1,266'.  Over the next .5 mile it then climbs 885'.

This is a beautiful shot taken by Leslie from the trail head before we departed in the morning (we began our hike at 7:00 am).  The parking lot for this trail is located at one of the scenic outlooks on the Kancamagus Highway.

There was no sign at the actual trail head so at the first signed intersection we took our requisite trail head photo.

An interesting ice formation.

Here we are at the summit of South Hancock.  I found it ironic that we were trying to text Scott and Leslie (note the cell phone) from this remote summit to let them know we had arrived.  It is interesting how you can sometimes catch a sporadic cell signal on some of our hikes.  Not so from this particular summit though.  With no cell signal we reverted to using a stick to write a welcome message to Scott, Leslie & Benny on the face of the stone you see protruding in this photo.  Sure enough they later found it!

Ice forming on a branch (I assume it was being splashed upon by the stream).

One last shot from the trail head parking area as we ended our hike.

Sue and I will need to return again to bag the North Hancock peak which we missed today.


Friday, November 11, 2011

2011.11.11 Cannon Mountain - Nary a Soul

This was Veteran's Day 11-11-11 (is my keyboard stuck?) and this would be the first of two days of hiking in the Whites.  Though the weather report did not call for great conditions, rain in the am and questionable the rest of the day, I still expected that this being a holiday there would be numerous other hikers.  It was not to be.  On this entire trek of just over 5.5 hours we saw no one else.  No humans, no critters, nada.

Our hike today involved going basically straight up Cannon Mountain using the Kinsman Trail.  The trail parallels the major ski trails of Cannon and for a short time actually follows one of its glade ski trails.  Though I am an avid downhill skier, glade skiing is not in my repertoire and this particular glade trail is definitely beyond my skill level.

My GPS data indicates that this was a short 4.4 mile trip but; the majority of it was at a constant 31-32% grade.  That is pretty challenging for a 'big guy' like me.  That challenge was worsened by the fact that I was having some trouble with my asthma this weekend, not unheard of for me in the October/November timeframe.  Here is a screenshot of the descent data from my GPS:

We were lucky enough to be invited on this hike by some friends.  Mr. and Mrs. Slowsky (that's us) most certainly slowed the pace of our hosts but we had a great time nonetheless.  We also had the pleasure of hiking with their dog Benny.  Benny is a fantastic hiking partner and though most Golden Retriever's are good natured, Benny is particularly so.

Moving on to some pictures...

Our friends Scott & Leslie at the trailhead.

Mr. and Mrs. Slowsky at the trailhead.

A light covering of snow on the trees as we ascended.  It was beautiful.

Literally within seconds the views would open and then become cloud covered again.  It was ever changing.

Is it water or is it vodka?
The benefit of vodka is that it doesn't freeze but, it does make getting safely down the trail a challenge so, we had to settle for water.

An American flag left on the trail by someone who had hiked this trail on another day.

The snow covered trees at the summit were even more stunning than they were on the way up.

This photo was taken from the fire tower atop the summit (thus the support cables).  We only climbed the tower a flight or so because the winds were very strong and it was cold!

Here is clear evidence of how cold it was on the fire tower atop the summit!

The top of the tramway at the summit.

Benny finally makes it into a photo!

My vegetation shot for this hike.
The white dots in this close up are actually hail/snow that we experienced on our decent.


Monday, November 7, 2011

2011.11.07 Mt. Sandwich - Anyone Have a Step Ladder?

Let's start with a discussion of the summit.  Once we arrived at the summit of Sandwich Dome (a.k.a. Mt. Sandwich) I spent some time looking for a step ladder.  Needed an 8' one.  Try as I may, I could not find any step ladders let alone an 8' version.  I guess I should have carried one up myself.

You see, this mountain has an official elevation of 3,993 feet; a mere 7-feet shy of being a 4,000 footer.  An 8' step ladder would have solved that problem for me.

Moving on...

The weather was expected to be fantastic today, in particular considering it was November 7.  The temps in the White Mountains were forecast to reach the upper 40's to low 50's so we took a day off from work and headed to the mountains.  With the time change this past weekend daylight becomes a concern so it was a very early morning.

The alarm went off at 3:50 am and after a 10-minute snooze we were up and getting ready.  We left at 5:00 am sharp and were on the trail at 7:00 am.  It was a 'balmy' 27 degrees at the start of our hike.  Luckily, things warmed up quickly and the weather ended up meeting and maybe even exceeding the forecast temps.

After the warm weather this past week I really did not expect to see much snow on the trail but, there were on again, off again snow covered conditions.  We would put our microspikes on, then take them off, then put them on.  It went on like that for much of the day.  We found the Drakes Brook Trail on the way down particularly snow covered (as compared to the Sandwich Mountain Trail we took on the way up).

Speaking of the Sandwich Mountain Trail, you'll get warmed up quickly when taking this route.  It is uphill right from the start (after a short drop to cross the brook).  It was not overly difficult but it was reasonably relentless.  We got to enjoy three major outlooks (including the summit) so that made for a nice hike.  Let's look at some photos:

 This pine tree was 'bleeding' white blood.

 The first outlook is called Noon Peak and it had a stunning view of Mt Washington.

 Some of the snow covered trail on the way up.

 Another view of Mt. Washington, this time from the summit of Mt. Sandwich.

The slopes of Waterville Valley ski area.

 We've now reached the third of our outlooks and this one is called Jennings Peak.  This was about 1.3 miles down from the summit (which you can see directly ahead).

 To make a loop we returned on the Drakes Brook Trail.  At this intersection we have 3.2 miles to go. This trail descends very gradually which is good for the knees but it did drag on a bit.

 The late afternoon sun was shining through the trees and it was intense on the white snow.

All in all this was a great hike with a total distance covered of 8.7 miles with a total elevation gain of about 2,800 feet.  We finished this hike in eight hours.