Friday, March 16, 2012

# 9 & #10 Pierce(4310’), Eisenhower (4780’), March 16, 2012:
"The Spuce Trap Hike:
 03/16/2012 (Friday) ,  Up  Crawford Path down Edmonds Path plus 3 miles on Closed Clinton Rd.  El gain:  3411, max El change:  2871’,  Book time: 8:59 (includes 2 hrs for Clinton rd).    My time 9:50 hrs;  (0730 to 1630 – 0.5 on top),  ratio to book: near 1.0  (this can’t be right! I logged this 14 days later so some  times may not be right.

This logged 14 days later so may not be accurate. It was lightley snowing at the start with a heavy low fog.  I started from the parking lot at the Crawford Connection TH just off Clinton Rd , which is closed from that point.  Then onto Crawford Trail (CT).  Started with microspikes and kept them on just to where Webster Cliff Trail (WCT) meets CT.  Pierce is less than 500 ft back up WCT.  When I first broke out of the trees, both Ike and Mt Washington were visible but by the time I got my camera out, the overcast (undercast?, fog? , low clouds?)  had risen and obscured the views. I put my new “MS flash 25” snowshoes on before going up the short distance to Pierce and kept them on for most of the hike. The trail was well packed going up Pierce marked with many postholes on the sides of the track.  I think I only added 2  post holes to the trail.  Above the trees it was about 2-6 ft of snow but was in general wind packed but shoes were still needed above the tree line. The traverse over to Eisenhower was fairly easy.  Very little to no wind and 10-30 degrees.  I could find the trail by faint outlines of old post holes and by following rabbit tracks, they seem to like to traverse along the trail as well. The south side of Eisenhower was fairly bare of snow so I had to remove the snow shoes part way up.  I bare boot the remainder of the way up. I had read that Eisenhower is actually one of the easier mountains and the easiest presidential but it turns out that that’s on the north side which has many switchbacks.  This section was fairly steep. On top is the largest cairn I’ve come across yet (10 + ft ?) . There were great views from Ike because the “undercast” had settled down below most of the peaks making it seem like an ocean of islands rather than mountains. It reminded me of Vietnam during the monsoon season when the hills become islands.  At this point I was feeling pretty good about myself summiting two Presi’s in the winter in pretty good time and not exhausted.  This was about to change!

Walking down the North Side of Ike the snow was getting deeper but it was still fairly well packed on the trail. I was still bare booting because I couldn’t decide if I’d needed snow shows or could get along on spikes. Half way down between the summit of Ike and the ridge  I stepped a bit off the trail and went in deep up almost to my waist with both feet.  Looking around and seeing just the top tips of spruce trees poking out of the snow nearby I realized that I had falling into what are called “spruce traps”.  This is where the snow keeps accumulating around and on top of the smaller alpine spruce tree but can’t accumulate below the tree so that you get large air pocket underneath its limbs. The unsuspecting hiker walking over or too close then falls into the unpacked snow and branches with nothing to support his weight except the light limbs of the trees.  I tried to pull myself back up on the packed snow but it just kept collapsing in on me so that I had nothing to support myself and one of my boots was stuck in the branches.  Finally by pulling off my pack and using it and my poles (crossed and horizontal) I managed to pull one leg up and more or less support it above the hole and tried to use it to brace myself and free the other leg.  I was also trying to loosen up the snow above my stuck foot with my poles, but no matter what I did I couldn’t free my other foot.   I started envisioning being permanently stuck there and subject to exposure when the sun set or the weather changed.  Did I mention that I hadn’t seen even one other hike on either mountain so the chance of someone coming by to help was nil.  Eventually I was able to dig out the snow down to the top of my boot and loosen the lace and the gator so that I could free my foot from my boot.  Now at least if I had to I could get down with just one boot (possibly fashion a shoe out of a windbreaker and duct tape ).  The gator was luckily still tied to the boot so I used that to hold onto it so that the boot didn’t fall further down into the tree. I still couldn’t pull out the boot and the gator was starting to tear. I think what was going on was that the crampon ridge on the back of the boot was stuck under a strong spruce branch. I was finally able to dig out the boot while lying on my stomach and shoveling out the snow with my hands.   This all only took about 20 minutes but seemed like forever for me and was sapping away a lot of strength.
The remainder of the hike down Edmonds was also tough with me postholing with snowshoes many times until I was well under the foliage.  The problem is that Clinton road is closed in the winter so that Edmonds path does not get a lot of use and was not broken out.  The highlight of the hike down was a lot moosetracks along the path, but I still never saw a moose.

Pictures :

blow down

Just breaking out into the Alpine area below Pierce

Only set of tracks are mine

Washington trying to breakthrough

On top of Pierce (Clinton)
forgot to take a pic at the top so I had to backtrack a bit.
I think that's Washington near my head.

Eisenhower - now you don't see her...

Now you do - 5 minutes later.

clouds rolling back in.

Eisenhower from the South side
Islands poking through the clouds.

Beathtaking views.

half way up south side of Ike.

Huge Cairn on top of Eisenhower in sight.

Following are a few pictures from the top:

#10 Eisenhower

trail heading down N. side of Ike
- before I got stuck in the spruce trap

Rainbow in the valley, photo didnt catch it that good.

Now they tell me!! came across this sign on the way down.

Many moose tracks on the trail down.