Saturday, September 10, 2011

2011.09.10 - Mt Willey on a Whim

If you follow my blog you'll recall that a long weekend of hiking was interrupted a few weeks ago (Darn Irene).  This trip was to be our 'makeup' weekend.  We traveled to the Whites on Friday afternoon, hiked Saturday and Sunday and had a leisurely day and return trip on Monday.  Originally we had hoped to hike for 3-4 days but work life cut our trip to a mere two days of hiking.  Just as well.  By Monday morning I was spent.  Watch for my next post coming soon covering our Sunday hike of South Twin.

So why the title of this blog - Mt Willey on a Whim.

Well...our original plan was to hike North Twin on Saturday and South Twin via the Galehead hut on Sunday.  We hit the North Twin trailhead at about 8:30 AM and began our trek shortly thereafter.  About .5 miles in we hit our first of three crossings of the "Little River" -- odd name for a wide and raging river.  The Little River was swelled from the after effects of tropical storm Irene as well as additional rains this past week.  We spent 45-minutes going up and down the riverbank looking for a suitable crossing.  We even did a little bushwacking trying to find a reasonable place to cross.  It was not to be.

Several hikers were in the same boat (odd way to put it as a boat would certainly have been handy).  We eventually watched two individual hikers cross in the vicinity of the trail but some long jumps across rocks and some boot soaking was necessary.  One of the two stumbled and nearly fell twice.  By this point we had psyched ourselves out with several attempts to cross where the waters were really raging hard.  To make matters worse we knew the trail crossed this river 2-3 additional times (x2 for the return) and we finally gave up.  That was a first for us.  We have never given up on a trail.  With our heads hung low we hiked back to the car.

Once at the car, we dug out our White Mountain trail map and assessed where we might find an alternate hike.  Route 302 through Crawford Notch was closed due to washouts, we wanted to hike something we had not done before and we had now lost a few hours of daylight so our alternate hike needed to be close by; all of those constraints made it challenging to find something.  So, therein comes the title of this blog post - Mt Willey on a Whim.

Before we move on to our Mt Willey hike, I do have two photos from the Little River to share.

Some of the rushing waters on the Little River of the North Twin Trail.  Here is a perfect example of one section where if we could only get past this raging section we could rock hop the rest of the river.  The photo does not do justice to just how hard the water was running through this opening.

An interesting boulder perched in an odd location.  I assume it came to rest here during the recent floods caused by tropical storm Irene.

We hit the trailhead of our second hike attempt of the day.  We did not arrive here until after 11:00 AM.

This was to be our route.  We learned an important lesson on this trip -- always bring your White Mountain hiking guidebook(s).  We use two of these books to select and plan many of our hikes.  When our plan was disrupted today, we had no alternates selected and having those guidebooks in hand would have been helpful.  Instead our guidebooks were sitting in Sue's office at home.

We had no idea what we were in for when we selected Mt Willey as our alternate hike.  Looking back, I did wonder why we had hiked so many other trails all around Mt Willey but had never chosen to do Mt Willey itself.  I now know why I had apparently been avoiding this hike.

This route is only 2.7 miles one-way but it climbs 3,130 feet over that distance.  To make matters worse, the last 1.1 miles has an elevation change of 1,620 feet.  That is pretty darn steep.

A shot from the Kedron Flume trailhead across Route 302 to the mountains on the other side of Crawford Notch.

We reach the Kedron Flume in about 1.3 miles.  This shot is again looking across the notch.  The river here makes a precipitous drop over the edge.

This shot looks up the Kedron Flume.  There is water cascading down as far as the eye can see and it is really beautiful.

A short distance later we reach the intersection of the Ethan Pond Trail which is a part of the Appalachian Trail.

Just down the road a piece we reach the Willey Range Trail and we have 1.1 miles remaining to the summit.  A tough 1.1 miles...

Your eyes are not failing you.  Those are staircases, or more properly called ladders.  This section is so step and full of ledge that these very well built ladders were necessary.  There are actually 10-sets of these nearly one after the other.

Time for this week's vegetation shot, an interesting looking mushroom.

Okay, how about mushroom #2/vegetation shot #2.  This mushroom had a perfectly round shape and a unique color so I couldn't resist the urge to take a photo.  I tried to brush away the bits of dirt and pine needles from the top before taking this photo but the cap was sticky and none of this debris could be brushed away because they were stuck to the cap.

2.7 arduous miles and 3,125 feet of elevation change later and this is it.  Yes, this was the summit.  Luckily, there was more to see a short distance away as reaching this summit without any view would have been a bit depressing.  There in fact were two restricted but beautiful viewpoints just off the summit.  One was just after the summit looking west and the other was just before the summit looking east.

View looking west-southwest.

That's the "big one" in the distance - Mt Washington (looking east-northeast).

Looking south along Crawford Notch.  In nearly 18-months of hiking the Whites I have never hiked on such a clear day.  We could see further and more clearly than ever before.

We think that way, way in the distance in this photo we could see Mt Chocorua.

Sue was feeding some friendly birds as we sat and enjoyed a late lunch.  These birds would take bits of bread right out of her hands.

All in all this was a wonderful hike but reasonably tough.  It would make a great fall trek when the daylight hours are cut short as it took just over 6-hours to make the round trip.


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