Today was a stunning fall day with temps about 70 even at the summit. Our original intent was to hike just Mt Hancock, which we missed when we tried to hike this loop trail in 2011 with some friends. On that 2011 attempt my wife and I bailed and we only made it to the South summit while our friends completed the loop. See my blog post of that 2011 hike for more details.
The hike up Mt Hancock is, shall we say, a heart pumper. The section from the junction to the summit climbs over 1,000' in just 7/10 of a mile. That 7/10 however, first starts with a descent (that's the wrong direction) into a small valley and the real climb only begins about 2/10 from the junction. Hold on, let me do the math. That means the 1,000' gain now comes in about a half-mile. For me, whenever you have an elevation change at 1,000' or more per mile, its a challenge. That said, Mr. & Mrs. Slowsky took their time and we survived the climb. In fact, we felt pretty good and the weather was great so we decided to hike the 1.4 mile ridge over to South Hancock. The entire loop is about 9.8 miles and we finished in about 7 hours. It was a day to remember!
If you hike in the White Mountains and have not yet stumbled upon the AMC's White Mountain Guide Online you must check it out! It is the best hike planning tool out there and it only costs $12/year ($15 if you are not an AMC member which of course you should be). We plan almost every trip in the Whites with this tool. You can manually select your routes and it will provide everything from trail descriptions to maps (like the one above) with distances and elevation changes listed. GPS coordinates of trail heads can be downloaded and more. Honestly, I would pay three times that amount for it (shh...don't tell the AMC).
Now this is a great picture of a Gray Jay plucking a pretzel from my hand and as he flies away the rays of the sun create a stunning look. We actually sent this photo to our local newspaper and they published it (twice, but that is another story).