Friday, January 23, 2015

White Face & Passaconaway 1-23-15

White Face & Passaconaway Friday 1-23-15:

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Trip Report:  I had planned to do this hike on Saturday (1/24) but the last minute snow forecast made me push it up a day.  The hike turned out to be  ~12 miles with 4200 ft total elevation gain.  Longest hike by far since I did the bonds last March. And just like the last two, the steeper sections really kicked my butt. I've got to get back into better shape if I'm to do some of the longer hikes I want to do this winter. This was  a relatively warm hike with temps in the high 20s and low 30's, I believe, and clear skies - perfect winter hiking conditions.

 The most eventful part of the hike was tackling a section of  icy ledges on Blueberry Ledge Trail. I had read a trail report that recommended crampons and Ice axes for this section.
I don't carry Ice axes. I did have crampons hanging off my pack (and snowshoes) but did the entire hike with micro-spikes. The trail was hard frozen so that there was no chance of post holing on the broken out trail. I had been doing pretty good coming up some of the easier ledges with my micro-spikes and in lieu of ice axes, collapsing my telescoping poles and grabbing them just above the baskets to use the points like ice picks to help pull me up. So, rather than taking the time to swap to full crampons I continued up the steeper ledge this way. It worked okay half way up where  I had some small trees on the side that I could use for added footholds,  but then it got steeper with only the ice and several inches of frozen snow to work with.  If I had the crampons on I think I could have easily worked my way latterly across the face  but I didn't have the confidence to try it with micro-spikes  since it would be a long slide down if I lost hold. So, I continued straight up jabbing and walking the points of my poles several inches at a time and digging my spikes into the ice as best as I could. The problem with the spikes is that they don't have the forward point barbs that crampons do that are needed for kicking in a good foot hold. I almost got to the top where the slope starts leveling off but ran out of strength and wind and finally lost my grip and slid 15 feet back down being stopped by a tree that I caught with my foot. Its amazing how fast you can get up to in 15 feet on solid near vertical ice. Aiming for the tree with my foot I really thought there was a good chance of breaking my leg if I hit it wrong, but it stopped me okay with no injury.  I rested in that position a good 10 minutes trying to get my breath back and deciding if I should work my way all the way down and changed to crampons. Doing that might  be a bit more dangerous because beyond the single small tree I was resting on there wasn't much else to stop me. Finally I decided to give it another try but to go much slower pulling myself up with one pole at a time resting  a minute between jabs then reposition my feet trying to dig into the ice the best I could.  It was slow work but eventually I got to the crest of the ledge and was able to pull myself up hand over hand digging into the snow and ice with the pole tips. This obstacle wasn't really anything that was that  technically difficult but the fact that I am out of shape and and alone on the mountain made it enough of a challenge that I felt pretty good about overcoming it

Click Here for Trail condition posted to Views From The Top (VFTT).


 Start is from a large hikers lot on Ferncroft Road .5 miles off NH113A. Started at ~ 7am. (Ifinally fixed the date stamp on my camera). I wanted to start earlier but lost almost an hour driving through iced dirt roads that turned out to  be winter dead ends.  I really should get a better gps for my truck. this is like the third time this has happened.
 started out on Blueberry Ledge Cut-off.  not much snow here, but the trail is well broken out by boot traffic
 birch field
 frozen slush on trail from warmer weather at the beginning of the week
 large opening where the Cut-Off meets lueberry Ledge Trail
 though you are in the trees most of the time there are many opening, ledges and cliffs that offer great views going up to Whiteface.
 first site of Whiteface (actually its a false peak just before Whiteface.
 Some icy sections to maneuver. This small one wasn't bad, but the actual ledges up further were difficult - but I didn't think to take any pictures of them.
 some good southern views toward the lakes regions from the ledges

 just to the left of the trail here is a steep drop off. a bad slip here would be it.
 looking toward Passaconaway with "the bowl" in between the two mountains
 large ice covererd boulder at the viewing area on the south summit
 views to the southeast from the South Summit
 Just before the actual summit Kate Sleeper trail breaks off to the sleeper mountains. I was considering bagging East Sleeper today (one of my NEHH peaks) if the trail was broken out, but as you can see it wasn't. The snow was hard and I had snowshoes but didn't have a good gps track. Also another hiker had said that it was in bad shape with many blow-downs across it. So I passed and will save her for a summer hike.
 the actual Whiteface summit is view-less, just a board screwed to a tree to mark the spot.
 before decending along the ridge to the deep cole between Whiteface and Passaconaway are a few good views of Passaconaway and the Bowl below her.

 Passaconaway viewed from an opening cleared by Hurricane Sandy in 2013. I was here several weeks after Sandy and described it as the Argonne forest after being pelted by German artillery (Band of Brothers). The trail has been completely cleared now.
I'm assuming the ski trails are Watervile Valley (Tecumseh) , and the peaks in the foreground are the Tripyramids.

 Not exactly sure what peaks these are.  Can't recall what direction I was aiming.
 Clearing just off Rollins trail just before the short spur to the Passaconaway "peak"

 This picture could have been taken anywhere, but I am at my best guess of the peak of Passaconaway.  Its not very distict or marked with anything.
 I had dropped my pack and had a bite to eat, and hydrated at the junction of Rollins and Dicey's Mill trail and went up the Rollins trail with just my belly pack to Mt Passaconaway .7 mile 575' elevation gain.  Here I have returned to my pack to start the easy but long (3 hr.) hike back to Ferncroft Road along Dicey's mill trail.  The trail is all downhill and gentle or level so you can make some good time. The problem was that it had dozens of frozen post holes (3' deep boot tracks made when the snow was softer) that you could break an ankle in.  Down low there was hardly any snow and the trail was a combination of frozen boot tracks and rocks above the ice. - hard on the ankles.
 The only significant water crossing has a 2' diameter birch log that you can balance across. But - there are also plenty of rock hopping routes.

Back at my truck at 1730 (total hike ~ 11:15) 

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Moosilauke: #26/48 WNH4K 01-14-2014

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Mooselauke via Glencliff and Moosilauke Carriage Road trails              Wednesday Jan 14 2014

Trails: Glencliff and Moosilauke Carriage Road trails,  7.8 miles.
Elevation 4800’,  Elevation gain 3,384, Book time 5.5 hrs, My time 8:15 (0700 – 1530)

I haven’t hiked since a failed attempt of Baldpate Mt Maine in November.  This is my first official winter peak this season.   Being out of shape I wanted a single peak hike.  Mooselauke was actually my second all-season hike in November of 2011The trails I used then would have required extra miles of road hike due to the road to Ravine Lodge being closed in the winter.  The weather was colder than this fair-weather-hiker prefers. It was at least 5 below at the trailhead but got up to a comfortable 20 degrees by mid-morning - but very windy and cold on the last ½ mile open alpine area. It took me five hours to get to the peak, mainly due to my lack of being in shape on the steeper sections (which weren’t really that steep compared to most of my other hikes).  I saw no one going up, but just after summiting, two hikers  who had started 2 hours earlier than me had caught. Coming down I crossed 3 sets of two hikers coming up. Pretty crowded for a cold winter midweek day. Mooselauke is actually a very popular peak and is the favorite of the New Hampshire 4,000 ft peaks for many hikers. Great views at the top with no real scrabbles; but she is infamous for being very windy at the top. 

 My trail condition report from Views From The Top (VFTT):

Parking: Trailhead lot was plowed & was being sanded just after I arrived at 7am. Room for maybe a dozen cars, but empty when I arrived

Trail Conditions: Glencliff: Well traveled, no deep snow, mostly boot traffic. All crossings bridged or easy step–overs. A few iced sections but soft enough to traverse with light traction. No trees across trails all the way to the top. Only a few inches of snow on the side of trail at the bottom and only about a foot near the top.
Mooselauke Carriage Road from Glencliff: Well packed snowboard/snow shoe track up to the tree line. It looks like the snowboard tracks continue down the Carriage Rd trail. Above the tree line hard wind packed snow and solid,but horizontal ice. Most of the path through the cairns was solid ice between the two rows of stones.

Special Equipment Required: Light traction would work all the way to Carriage Rd but crampons would not be over-kill for the steeper sections. I’d recommend snowshoes on carriage road if only so as to not disrupt the snow board track, but light traction would work. Ice above tree line would require some kind of traction.

Comments: Very cold and windy above the tree line. I couldn’t figure out what the tracks on the Carriage Road were at first. Too smooth and a bit narrow for snowshoes. Too wide for skis. Then coming down I saw a snow boarder hiking up toward the summit then turning around 100 yards short of the summit and snowboarding down. The track I saw turned out to be two parallel tracks from separate snowboard runs.

I was told later that the Mooselauke Carriage Road trail is a popular trail for skiers and snowboarders to hike up and ski down.  That’s  five mile hike up with over 3000’ of elevation gain for one run. Impressive!

I also found out later that the Carriage Road route may have been a better trail for me.  Slightly longer than Glencliff but less steep.  

Though uncomfortably short of breath on the steeper sections, I did manage the cold weather pretty good on this hike, particularly for my hands which usually give me a problem when I have to take gloves off for changing between micro-spikes and snowshoes. I’m now using various combination of two sets of glove liners,  gloves and mitts.

Thermometer I left in the back of the truck confirmed the -5 degrees reported for the trailhead
Note my camera time stamp is about an hour off. I started at 0700 not 0800

Not much snow down low -less than 6". Trail well broken out with boot traffic. I used micro-spikes
all the way up Glencliff trail to Carriage Rd.

 Snow near the top of Glencliff trail was a little deeper, about 1 ft. Not very deep for this time of year. The last section of Glencliff has some fairley steep sections but still is not a scramble.
 Reached the junction with Mooselauke Carriage Road. There was once a hotel on top of Mooselauke and this was the access road. I changed to snow shoes here and left them on for half the way down.
  Glencliff and the section of Carriage Rd up to the peak are part of the AT (Appalachian Trail). This is only about .9 miles from the peak. The rest of the track to the top is a very easy grade. The first half is drifted wind packed snow path cut through the drifts by snowboarders. ...
The second second half is a path is a treeless path of solid ice between two rows of stones following large cairns to the top. the rows of stones are intended to keep hikers from walking on the fragile alpine vegetation in the summer.

  Mt Mooselauke peak at the site of the old hotel. Following is a few pictures I took from the top. Though very cold and windy at the top, the sky was fairly  clear with great views.

 I was just about to take a selfie for a peak picture when two other hikers came up behind me. I had one of them take this picture.  They had started at 9am - two hours after me.
 Franconia Ridge and the Presidents .

 Back on the Glencliff trail.  On the way up I hadn't realized there were some good views behind me.
  The beginning of Glencliff trail is actually a road passing between some fields.

    Back at the trailhead (~1530 not 16:12) trailhead is well marked, off of Highland rd off  NH25
Temperature had warmed up to 25 at the trailhead by the time I finished.