Sunday, October 23, 2011

2011.10.23 Middle Tripyramid via Sabbaday Falls - A Sad Day

Well this week's post will be a short one as our hike was a short.

Yesterday we attended a training course on winter hiking (Winter Hiking Series) and then spent the night in Glen. The plan today was to knock off our 20th 4,000 footer in the last 14 months (my first 4k was August 2010) by hiking Middle Tripyramid via the Sabbaday Falls trail.  Alas, it was not to be.

After a good nights rest we went to a local breakfast establishment and we were the first customers at their 7:00 AM opening time.  A couple of omelets later we were on our way.  We traversed from Glen to the Kanc (Kancamagus Highway for those who don't know the slang) via the Bear Notch Road.  A beautiful morning drive!  We left the trailhead at 8:15 AM for what was planned to be a 9-mile trip.  The temp was 45 degrees - balmy for a late October morning in the Whites.

By 9:45 AM we were back at the car.  Either we have vastly quickened our hiking pace or something went wrong.

The obligatory trailhead photo to start.  Look closely.  Sue looks a little peaked.  There was a reason.

Sue has celiac disease and though we did not know it at the time of this photo, apparently she had something at breakfast that was about to make her ill, very ill.  We only made it a little over .8 of a mile into this hike before it abruptly ended.  Sue had an allergic reaction to something consumed at breakfast and she was cramping badly.  We tried to press on but she became light-headed and dizzy and needed to sit.  It was now clear she could not go on.  We decided to head back to the car and then home.

There was one consolation.  Though we had already made one difficult water crossing, we were standing at another that was going to be even more challenging when Sue had to stop and we made the decision to head back.  C'est la vie.  At least I didn't get wet doing this second crossing. 

Sue was diagnosed with celiac disease nearly 25-years ago and in all that time I have seen little she has eaten make her a sick as she was today.  At least it has been a long, long time since I've seen her this bad.  Though I was sad we had to cancel this hike, I was much more hurt by watching her suffer.

We did at least get to see the Sabbaday Falls which are really beautiful.  Sabbaday Falls is a tourist attraction in the summer and can be reached with a short 1/4 mile walk on a nice gravel path eventually leading to the stairs shown in the photo below.

We will take a shot at this hike again next year.  I think we will write it off for this season.


Saturday, October 22, 2011

Training for Winter Hiking

This fall there has been a significant debate in our family about the concept of winter hiking.  As much as we love to hike, we have never hiked in the snow and we have only been exposed to very limited trail icing conditions (late last fall). 

I am enamored with the thought of winter hiking.  I long for the cool, clear, crisp air with long distance views that replaces the hazy summer air that restricts visibility on most days.  I am intrigued by the thought of additional yet unseen views (at least unseen by us) because all the leaves are down and therefore no longer restrict the line of sight.  I want to learn to hike in microspikes, crampons and snowshoes; I am looking forward to the challenge.  And, most of all, if I can learn to winter hike there need not be a seasonal break in this sport I have so fallen in love with.

Sue my hiking partner, spouse and super-friend does not share my enthusiasm for the concept of winter hiking.  Let me restate that.  Not only does she not share my enthusiasm, the thought of winter hiking is absolutely bone chilling to her (pun intended).

After much debate and consternation I convinced Sue to attend a winter hiking training session put on by Bob Humphrey and his team of assistant instructors.  This was an all day classroom session held today at the Joe Dodge Lodge adjacent to the Pinkham Notch Visitors Center.  If you are considering winter hiking but have little to no experience I urge you to take this class; though it is only held once per year.  The class is actually called the Winter Hiking Series.  "Series" is used in the name because the class includes 10 or so group hikes that the attendees take together (one each week starting the day after the class).

Bob very closely screens those wishing to attend his series to ensure that they have significant hiking experience, that they are physically able to withstand above treeline winter hazards and that they can hike any trail at book time (ideally faster).  Being relative newbies to hiking we were uncertain about our ability to keep up with the group, in particular as it relates to speed.  If you read my blog you know I call Sue and I Mr. & Mrs. Slowsky.  Actually, I am Mr. Slowsky and that moniker is only placed on Sue because she is married to me.  :-)  With that in mind Bob was kind enough to let us attend the class without having to join the group hikes.

The amount of knowledge and information Bob and his team share in a mere eight hours is amazing.  A bit overwhelming actually.  I really wish that we had been able to hike with the group because we will be missing the hands-on training yet to come on using the myriad of winter hiking equipment required for safe winter hiking.  Safe....hmm.

That was another strong, and I mean strong lesson from this class.  We were not taking the thought of hiking in the winter lightly before the class but afterwards we are decidedly even more cautious.  Listening to Bob tell of having lost a family friend who died atop the ridge between Haystack and Lafayette - a hike we did this past summer, really hit home.  During the class we read a newspaper article about the hike and the sad outcome, which includes another hiker who lost a leg, some fingers and more, and only then did Bob tell us it was someone he had hiked with during warmer months.  Add to that Norm, an associate instructor, telling the story of how he had spent a very cold day and night in white out conditions very near to the summit of Mount Washington.  They had hiked up the day before, spent the night at the observatory and began their trip down the next morning at 8:00 AM.  Before long they were caught in a blizzared and it was the next day before they could be rescued.  Had they not had the survival skills and proper equipment they would not be with us today.

Holy cow, what am I getting us into?

Certainly hiking below treeline is vastly less dangerous than venturing above treeline however, it is not without its perils.  On the other hand, driving a car every day has its perils, eating processed foods has it perils, thinking too much about all of the perils in life has its perils.  The calming peace that comes with enjoying the views from the top of a mountain and the physical exertion required to get there has benefits that far exceed the perils.  Far exceed... 

After the class Sue may be even less enthusiastic about winter hiking.  At least now however we know what we are up against and we have gained a wealth of knowledge of the equipment we will need and the precautions to take.  We don't expect to do any above treeline winter hikes this year, maybe never.  We will take this endeavor one step at a time, we will use a progressive approach taking baby steps in our learning, the distances we hike and the elevations we attempt to do.  We might start just by snowshoeing from my backyard to my front yard.  That is, if we can afford to.  I may need to hold a bean supper at our home to raise funds for this investment.  To do this right we each need the following gear:

Dana Wet Rib
Crampons w/anti bots
Pack Boots
Insulated Water Bottle Holder
Winter Gaiters
Snow Baskets for our Trekking Poles
Two Wool Hats
Liner Gloves
Over Mittens
Full Side-zip Wind Pants
Layers and Layers of Clothing
Two Balaclavas or a Neck Gaiter
Liner Socks
Heavy Wool Socks (ideally boiled or Himalayan Wool)
Sleeping Bag
Emergency Tube Tent
Emergency Stove
Closed Cell Foam Pad
A Very Compressible Down Jacket for Emergencies
+ A ton of small items like duct tape, wire ties, trail saw, voltives and more....

This is above and beyond all the gear we carry have now:  headlamps, w/extra batteries, water filter, hat, gloves, rain jacket, sweatshirt, first aid kit, backpack cover, plastic bags, knife, compass, map, GPS w/extra batteries, camera, binoculars, benadryl, immodium, ibuprofen - I could keep going.

And, to store and carry all of that I will likely need an even larger backpack, much larger.

In fact, I'm wondering how I am going to pull an entire 40' long trailer from a tractor-trailer rig up a mountain.  I may need that much space for all of this stuff!

We ran out Saturday after class to the Conway EMS store and began working down our shopping list.  EMS was offering the course attendees 20% off, a much appreciated 20% off.  We only chipped away at a few items on the list and then we simply burned out.  It was a long day but one which was incredibly worthwhile.

As Bob Humphrey would say, "Let the snow dance begin!"


Sunday, October 16, 2011

2011.10.16 Mt Hight & Carter Dome - A Pleasant Surprise

This has been on the list of hikes we wanted to do for a few weeks and things finally fell together perfectly.  This 10.3 mile hike included a short jaunt to the AMC's Carter Notch hut.  The elevation at the trail head was 1,575' and at the highest point we were at 4,873' for an elevation gain of about 3,300'.  As we are now losing daylight each day, it was important for us to get an early start so the alarm went off at 4:45 AM.  Are you serious?  I really wanted to sleep in!  We left the house at 6:00 AM sharp and began our hike at 8:15.  We returned to the car very near to 5:30 PM.  All in all just over nine hours for a hike that has a book time of eight hours.  Mr. & Mrs. Slowsky were at it again!

We were expecting temps in the mid-50's with partly cloudy skies.  Nice weather for a fall hike but, things in the Whites can be different than expected.  It was in the low-40's when began our hike and until we started descending from Carter Dome it did not get much warmer.  Though the temps were likely rising at the trail head as the day worn on, that was more than offset by our increasing elevation.  The strong winds made the temps feel much colder.  On our way up to Mt. Hight it even sputtered snow for a few minutes.

There were times during the ascent and at the summit that even while wearing every layer I had brought I was still cold.  Lessen learned - don't be fooled by the October dates, it's already winter in the Whites when at higher elevations.  There was some nice relief from the cold when we began descending from Carter Dome into the Carter Notch either because we were blocked from the winds or because they stopped (I could not tell which) but it certainly got warmer.  From about 2:00 PM on we enjoyed those warmer temps and calm winds so we began removing layers.  First the hat, then the outer jacket, then the gloves.  We kept stopping to remove more items - this was a good thing!  There were times it was downright warm and I finally started to thaw out.

Let's move on to some photos and more commentary:

Another lollipop trail.  Sue loves taking hikes that have a loop as opposed to a straight in and out.

Two important comments about this hike.  If you are looking to bag your first 4,000 footer this may be the hike for you.  The ascent up to Mt. Hight and then on to Carter Dome (the latter being the only 'official' 4k even though Mt. Hight exceeds 4k) is a nice long slow grade that is extremely consistent (see left side of elevation plot above).  Should this be your first 4,000 footer, you might want to return on the same route.  If you look closely on the marked section of the elevation plot you can see that the grades coming down the other side of Carter Dome to the Carter Notch Hut are about 45%.  That is pretty darn steep if you are not accustomed to hiking, in fact, its steep even if you accustomed to hiking.  Second, do not take the shortcut to Carter Dome thereby avoiding Mt. Hight.  The 360 degree views from Mt. Hight are stunning yet the views from Carter Dome are very limited so, don't miss Mt. Hight!  It will be the Hight-light of your trip. Okay, I admit, that was corny.

About a mile before the trail head we stopped at the Mt. Washington Auto Road offices
 to use the facilities before beginning our hike.  Sue snapped this photo of Mt. Washington with, yes, snow on the upper elevations.  Hmm....

The two photos above are of course our mandatory trail head photos.

I keep a list of hikes that I would like to repeat.  This hike is definitely on that list, somewhere near the top.  I enjoy listening to the rush of water when I hike and on this trek you get to listen to water for hours (literally).  The river flow was loud, raging actually.  I could have stopped every 250 yards to take another photo.  The river was more picturesque for a longer period of time than most hikes, if not all hikes, I have been on.

So here we are a mile or so in the woods and there is a dam on the river.  Say what?  Was this used years ago to power a saw mill or ??

At this point we have accomplished nearly two miles of our hike.  Only 8.4 miles left to go.  We will now leave the 19 Mile Brook Trail and head to Mt. Hight.  We will then follow the Carter-Moriah Trail across the ridge to Carter Dome.  Continuing on that same trail we will descend to the Carter Notch Hut later returning to this junction again on the 19 Mile Brook trail.

Sitting on the ground at the trail intersection was a piece of steel that is clearly a runner from an old sled.  How old I wonder?  Why is it here I wonder?  Did the sled crash, was it merely abandoned.  We'll probably never know.

This photo and the next several are from the summit of Mt. Hight.  Though the 360 degree views were beautiful, the winds were a'howlin so we pressed on pretty quickly.

Does this pine tree need Head & Shoulders shampoo?  Is that pine dandruff?  No!  It is snow.  Now I'm really cold.

Interestingly enough, the geological survey marker at the summit of Carter Dome had no elevation noted.  It frankly appears that it was never there.  My GPS however tells me we were at 4,873' above sea level.

One notable thing about this hike is that it was wet, very wet.  In this particular section the trail was literally a small brook.

There is a ledge with a view part way down from Carter Dome.  Below you can see the Carter Notch Hut.  We stopped at this outlook for a late lunch and then we headed down to the hut.

This photo and the next are of the lake just adjacent to the Carter Notch Hut.

Another beautiful water venue on the way down.

Here the late afternoon sun shown through the trees.

It was nearing dusk so this photo might not totally capture the brilliances of these leaves.

A large section of this footbridge had been washed away during tropical storm Irene a couple of months ago.  If you look closely you can see some 2x12's underwater that allow us to cross.  I so appreciate the AMC and trail crews!

Sue captures me "walking the plank"...

It was a long day but I so appreciated this hike.  I would highly recommend it to anyone.


Monday, October 10, 2011

2011.10.10 Mt Roberts - A Beautiful Baby

At just under 2,600' in elevation, most hikers would consider Mt. Roberts a baby.  That may be true but I would argue it is a beautiful baby.  This hike has many rewards for such little effort.  There are several ledges that overlook Lake Winnipesaukee, each more beautiful than the last.  That all culminates with a summit that looks North to the Whites with Chocorua very evident in the distance.

Mt. Roberts is on the Castle in the Clouds property and is owned and managed by the Lakes Region Conservation Trust.  They have done an amazing job of marking and maintaining this trail.  I cannot wait to try some of the other trails in this conservation area.  It is very difficult to find information online about this trail system.  Before leaving the Castle in the Clouds complex we stopped at the gift shop to buy a map for future hikes (maps are probably a revenue producer for the trust but I absolutely support that).  Unfortunately, they had run out of them.  Next time...

We finished this 5-mile hike at just under 4-hours and that was at a very leisurely pace.  With other commitments requiring we be back home by 5:00 PM, this hike made sense.  It was closer to home than the White Mountains, which is where we typically hike, by nearly an hour and we knew it would be a reasonably short jaunt.  What we did not know was just how rewarding it would be for such little effort.  The views over Winnipesaukee are similar to Mt. Major without all of the hiker traffic.  I cannot imagine how busy Major was this weekend but Mt. Roberts was very peaceful.  A gem for sure. 

We met a lovely couple from Maryland who were taking a fall foliage vacation at their family summer home in Wolfeboro.  They had hiked Mt. Roberts in the past and they helped us with some details and features.  We leap frogged each other several times and had nice conversation each time.  They were taking a different and longer loop down but we needed to head back via the same trail.

We also met another young couple at the summit and we helped take photos for them.

Though it was Columbus Day in New England, the weather for this entire weekend was record setting (I believe Concord, NH set records on Saturday, Sunday and today, Monday).  It was a weekend to remember!

Let's move on to some photos with more commentary to follow.

A photo of the sign at the trail head.
We took the trail furthest to the left in this image (Mt. Roberts Trail).  As you can see there are a number of other trails and loops. 

Even the view from the parking lot is idyllic!
A field with a white fence, a small mountain in the background and fall foliage beginning to set in.  Who could ask for anything more?  Sometimes I am amazed had just how good life is. When I am hiking I often have that exact thought.  Clearly that is one of the things that attracts me to this past time.

The morning sun casting through the trees.
Much of the early part of this hike follows an old carriage road that is extremely smooth and wide.

The couple we met from Maryland took this photo and the next for us.

Lake Winnipesaukee in the background.

Fall foliage has just begun in this area.  Another week or so and the colors will peak.

This is not a photo of the bald guy.  We were trying to catch the color in the near background.  And what is that bandana thing he wears anyway?

For those that follow my blog you know that there must be a vegetation shot of the week.  This is it for this hike.  These red berries were beautiful with the sun shimmering off of them.

This photo and the next several are views northward from the summit.

On the descent Sue peers out over the lake.

Can you find the Castle in the Clouds mansion in this photo?

A shot from the back of the stables just before we return to the parking area.

Okay, I could not help myself.  I just needed to take another photo of this beautiful setting as we loaded up the car.