Coming Up: Preparing For Winter

This weekend's weather will be a big determinant in the 'plan', but as long as nobody destroys one of my cars this week I'm good to go. After all that static w/ the PM about hiking in Vermont, it got me yearning to head back to the Green Mountains. Unless somebody pipes up, it'll be a Green Mountain trek for sure.

[Update 12/2/07, 4pm] Green Mountains for sure ... that is, unless it's in the Whites, which it was. I was encouraged by the Mt. Washington forecast: clear air, cloud deck around 7-8k ft, winds hovering around 10-20mph, temps around 0-10°F. The proverbial 'calm before the storm' (6-14" forecast for Danville). Franconia Ridge Ahoy! Because I'm always the first to put on crampons and the last to take them off, I figured I'd bare-boot it all day. The trail was well packed, so except for a few icy spots it's wasn't a bad choice. Because of the low wind I hiked in my black top w/ light patagonia for layer=1. That, a beanie and wind gloves was it for the entire hike. Just before ascending to Lafayette's summit, in the little col with short trees, I put on my precip jacket in case the wind was roaring and in anticipation of the extensive exposure descending the Bridal Path. As it turned out, I wore the precip jacket for about 20 min total. Other discoveries:

* I went almost to my knees in water twice. The water crossings on Falling Waters were treacherous, especially w/ no traction. No snow, just ice and high water. I discovered that my standard outfit is waterproof.

* On the ascent of Falling Waters, at the big upper falls, there's a big step up - a big rock with a crack in it on the left hand side and a big tree trunk laying across the slab. The rock forms a step of about 4-5ft, and in summer we normally go up the crack on the left. w/out crampons it posed a challenge. I had my left toe in the crack and had just reached out w/ my right hand for some root of the exposed fallen trunk. My right leg was up on the rock. Suddenly my left toe levered out of the rock and my pack almost flipped me on my back. I held on w/ my right hand as my body swung around, and even though my feet ended up dangling only about a foot or so above the ground, I had painfully rolled on my upper thigh (over the edge of the rock) and couldn't see what was below my feet. That was awkward. I couldn't get my feet to stick anywhere so I let go and landed okay... a little slippy, but nothing remarkable happened. It took a while to get over that icy step.

* Other than one guy who I passed on Falling Waters, I didn't see a single person - even from a distance on the ridge. Finally on the way down the Bridal Path there were 8 pairs of hikers.
From Lafayette I could see 47 of the 4k-ers. I could clearly see Waumbek and probably Cabot but I wasn't sure. I could make out all the ski slopes on Mansfield with ease and *all* the summit detail on Washington. Everything was looming large, like through a magnifying glass (a common effect of a high pressure system). At one point I thought I was looking at Greenleaf Hut, but it looked all wrong. When I had a clear view I could see it was the summit structures on Cannon. If there had been somebody there reading a newspaper, I could probably have been able to tell which paper.

* Bad News: my camera is hosed. I got a few shots early on, then the motor refused to open the shutter. Crap.

A great day. 5hrs exactly.


Thanksgiving Slosh

Friday or Saturday is a good bet for more solid footing on the summits... maybe solid ice. If that's the case, crampons and gaiters will be the gear du jour. Westy may join us (see pics from Galehead/Twins for glossies) - although I forgot to ask him how he's set up for winter gear. What are our options? Saturday, roughly speaking, appears to be the break between fronts. Friday's freeze should make everything really icy. What I'm not into is banging around on rocks with crampons all day so it may take a little creative thinking to come up with a great plan.

Here are one or two ideas:

  • Chocorua. I know The PM and g-$$$ just tried it this week, but we could make another attack at that bad little boy. Just a suggestion.
  • Sandwich Dome & Black Mtn via Drakes Brook and the Algonquin Trail. Ever since g-$$$ brought up the idea of Sandwich Dome I keep staring at it on the map.
  • The Tripyramids. What? How dumb is that!?! Well, admittedly it's more fun when loaded with snow, but there's something appealing about the north slide when it's coated with ice. I'll bring two axes.
  • ... add ideas to the comments section. I have to go carry a new toilet upstairs.
[Update 11/22] I'm so full. I can't move. I went upstairs and felt my belly wiggle back and forth. I have a headache. I have to lie down. Based on the PM's proximity here in VT, our likely targets on Saturday will be:
  • Mt. Mansfield
  • Camel's Hump
  • Mt. Hunger
It's been raining nonstop and the cold front comes through tonight. This is going to make a mess of things.

[Update 11/23, 11am]: Blustery weather ahead. It's already damned chilly out here in Danville. In spite of all the rain, the ground is freezing up hard and the drizzle has changed to flurries. The MWO has posted a wind chill advisory for tonight and tomorrow: -30 to -40°F. Whatever we do on Mansfield/Camel's Hump the weather should be exciting and bitter cold. I'm all for it. My votes (I'm split):
  • Mansfield: Hell Brook Trail up to the Chin, descend via LT.
  • Camel's Hump: Ascend via Monroe, to Dean, to LT north to Hump. Descend via LT North to either Monroe or continue on LT to "Alpine Trail" (bad weather cutoff), and loop back to Monroe. Click schematic Hump Trails map on right to zoom.
My guess for the trail conditions above 2,500ft: 2-6 inches of crunchy and hard-pack & ice with 0-4inches of dusty powder on top (drifts near summit could be knee deep, but rare). Barebooting possible though crampons will be handy on the steepest surfaces. Snowshoes won't be missed. Footing will be varied, consistent w/ early winter conditions. Krummholz will be iced up and dusted with powder.


In Da Shit

The weather is looking kind of mixed up for the next week. Rain, snow, wind, calm, more snow, clouds, etc. At this point (Wed, 11/14) it's not clear what the forecast is for next Sat/Sun, but I'm kind of interested in some full-winter training and wouldn't mind taking an excursion into the shit. To be honest, it might be better at high elevation and might guarantee staying out of the rain. We'll have to see how the forecast develops.

Adams? Jefferson again over the Castles? Tecumseh? Hmmmmmmm.

[Update 11/14, 11pm]
As of this writing, the forecast for the next 24 hours includes heavy rains and flood watches all over Carol and Coos counties in NH (and beyond). Rain and floods. It looks like all the snow will fall between the 'Dacks and the Connecticut River valley and points north.

[Update 11/18, noon]
We got 4 inches of snow in Danville.... but nothing going on this weekend after all. I took some time off and baked bread, made a gallon of soy milk, did some chores and will go for a run. I went to bed at 8pm last night (actually just crashed after getting out of the hot tub) and got up at 4am to get my gear together. Then I made a cup of coffee, read The New Yorker, had breakfast, did some laundry, ... and the rest is history. Ahhhh.... not every day is a record breaker. Gooooooood coooofffffeeeeeeee.....

And if you haven't seen it yet, check out tMail's Picasa pics of his Kevari Half Marathon. 1:44! Rocket on, tMail.

By the way, Spanky and I did get out for a run in the snow (her first snow adventure). Good Dog. Of course all the pics of her and Jake during our run are here.


Rocky Branch/Isolation Loop Elevation vs. Time Profile

I've corrected for barometric shifts & calibration errors. What would really be informative is to compare profiles for several different hikes. Maybe sometime next week. In the meantime, here it is (click image to zoom):


Rocky Branch/Isolation/Davis Path Loop

Out of control! tMail, I know you need Isolation and I'll go back with you, but I was passing by it so no point in pretending I didn't stop and say 'hi'.

From the Jericho Rd Trailhead to Isolation Summit: 9.6mi, 5hr. (1.9 mi/hr)
From Isolation Summit back to Jericho Rd (via Davis Path/Stairs Col): 10.5mi, 3.5hr (3 mi/hr)

Why the big difference if the first 6 miles or so of the Rocky Branch trail is so damned flat? It's not because of ascent vs. descent. It's those brook crossings I was warned about in The Book; holy crap. The rocks were all iced over and even if they weren't, finding a crossing meant wandering up and down the banks looking for a place. I avoided two of them by taking the most ferocious bushwack ever. Not sure which was worse.

I will say that I didn't see another person until about 2 hrs before getting back to the car (a group of 4 through-hikers coming from Stairs Mtn on the Davis Path). Until I saw them, I didn't even see a human footprint!

The weather was great and it was fun to be in the snow. Pics are posted here.


  • Temperatures were in the high 20's lower down, and in the teens up top - but the winds were never above 5mph. I put on my yellow wind-breaker on Isolation after most of the pics but before eating my sandwich. The sun helped.
  • Crossing the brook meant, in all cases, a full two-feet-landing jump over fast water. The pools were as much as 4 or 5 ft deep and the water between boulders was voluminous. The complication, once you found a route and ignored the rushing water, was that the rocks were iced over where the water splashed. Once tested with the pole tip, the risk was not slipping, it was landing on a rock and finding that the other side was iced so you can't get to the next rock and you can't get back because the landing site on the rock you launched from was iced. Amazingly, the only time I got a submerged boot was on a tributary crossing over 5inch deep water when a 'stable' rock flipped over.
  • The bushwack: oh my. Because of the rugged nature of the narrow valley, I didn't want to get trapped between cliff and brook, so I worked my way up. The gain in elevation was on a steep, eroded hillside that had exceeded it's angle of repose. It was also covered in thick balsam, prickers, saplings and downed trees from the collapsing earth. It was not a good place if you are either afraid of heights, claustrophobic (pulling you and your pack vertically up through branches that are dense enough to almost hold you in place while your feet feel like they're dangling in space) or generally disturbed by whole trunks giving way, slope collapsing under your feet and sending rocks, trees, branches and dirt down in showers of mini-slides. I'm really glad I did the loop 'clockwise'. Hitting those brooks/bushwack in the gloaming with plummeting temps would suck. Interestingly, the gain in elevation wasn't wasted effort. I only lost about 1/3 of it after joining up with the brook again.
  • Bear Print! Oh yeh. I got pics.
  • The lack of evidence of humans and the palpable feeling of remoteness lead to a profound sense of isolation. Somehow the transitions of the Rocky Branch trail - which starts as an actual, working, high-quality logging road and ends in snow-covered, confusing, narrow alpine terrain where it joins the Isolation Trail, enhances that experience. In spite of my multiple forays into the heart of the Pemi, this was in another league entirely. I don't think a summer loop would be anything like it.
  • The Stairs Col trail looks like it was just built and has never been used. No erosion, no signs of other feet, and completely undisturbed beds of leaves in the birch groves. I had the 'where the hell is everybody???' experience.
  • No Mount Davis. I never saw a sign or a side trail. Nothing.


The Torture Test

So, I doubt anybody would be up for this, but I'm kinda thinkin' of kicking up the Rocky Branch trail to Isolation and back down the Montalban Ridge to Stairs col. It's about 20 miles and includes what the book describes as 4 major brook crossings that result in 'wading' unless the water is low. The water isn't low. There are one or two bushwacks described to avoid water crossings. The Rocky Branch trail is rocky, overgrown and slow going (I hear). This would be a huge day out. Anyone? Hello? Bueller?


A Google Earth View of the Davis Path Hike

Last weekend's hike (Click on picture to zoom)


A New View North

One consequence of our trek yesterday was a damned interesting perspective from Mt. Crawford. It's a view I've never seen before. In one sweep you can see, from a little south of west to north: Carrigain, The Bonds (w/ Lafayette peeking over), The Twins, Crawford Notch, the southern Presi's to Washington, right up Oakes Gulf. The panorama I constructed here is from Crawford Notch to Mt. Washington. I didn't have enough overlap to stich the three pics well, but that's a minor technical problem. The view makes the point. Click the picture to zoom. (Resolution is the hump disappearing off the right edge, rising in front of Mt. Stairs ... I think).
[Update 11/5]: Pics are now posted. [Link]


Terrific Day on the Davis Path

No tMail, no Maddog, but we sucked it up and had a great day on the Davis Path. Mtns Crawford, Resolution & Stair are off the list. More will be posted later and when I get the PM's pics we'll get them all cranked up as usual. I have to shower and change for a party.

Some Notes:

  • It was beautiful weather. The rain never came and the front blew some beautiful chilly air in along with some fast clouds.
  • The Davis Path is very easy footing, although the initial ascent is steep.
  • The PM created a cairn made of the fermented remnants of Friday night's revelry. g-$$$ and I just stayed up-wind and pretended to ignore the screaming. But how can you ignore "Ahhhhrrrrg! Damn You IPA... aaaarrrhhhh, my colon!"
  • This hike opened up a number of possibilities for future treks, like the entire Montalban Ridge from 302 to The Bad Boy and then back down the Crawford Path to the AMC hut. Or for some new challenges, at Lake of the Clouds drop down into the Dry River Wilderness where tMail and I explored last summer.
  • Another terrific looking speed loop would be at the end of Jericho Road, taking the Rocky Branch Trail north to the Isolation Trail, then back down the Davis Path for the entire Montalban back to Stairs Mtn. Col, etc. Just under 20 miles including the side trail to Mt. Davis.