Four hours of hard XC skiing today, mostly along the LVRT (Lamoille Valley Rail Trail).   Ice Falls on LVRT

The rail bed is being converted to 4-season recreation use. The rails/ties were pulled up and the surface is still rough but in winter it is used by snowmobiles and x-c skiers.

I followed it for a few miles in the fresh snow and then headed off into the hills and fields. Caledonia County is characterized by rolling hills and valleys with forest and fields. There are numerous farm roads and access roads for sugaring, as well as almost impenetrable woods. In classic northern style, the woods include birch, balsam, red & white pine, ash, maple and more. It's a great area to ski on marked trails and roads, but also to take off across fields and head into woods. The entire trip was four hours, and I was trashed.

Unfortunately I came back to a snow-filled driveway, and to clear and prepare for the coming snow tomorrow, it took 2 hours of snowblowing and shoveling. Now I'm really trashed. Also, while clearing the driveway, the cold front came through with intense winds and (of course) blowing snow.

Skiing on a rail-bed is pretty easy when the snow is fresh and deep - the only work is breaking the trail. When snowmobiles come through, it becomes a little more challenging due to the irregular patterns they carve. Regardless, I had a chance to   Rolling Hills of Danville

pack food, water, some light gear and set out for a half-day of snowy, winter fun.

Included in this post are a few pics from the trip. Of course I'll be posting all of them in a gallery as I usually do, but the day was so beautiful with snow showers and deep snow that I figured I'd post one or two here on the blog.

In a few minutes Sue and I are heading out for some final groceries for tonight. I'm sure I'll be asleep well before midnight.

Click on a picture to zoom to a larger view.


Mt. Carrigain on Monday, 12/31

The forecast for tonight and monday is for snow. 2-5 inches by monday night in the valley (North Conway forecast). That means we'll be hiking while it's snowing. The mount washington observatory is forecasting low winds with snow accumulating until evening when it starts blowing around like crazy and visibility drops to zero. Most of the snow is supposed to be falling during the night tonight and the first part of the day tomorrow during our ascent. SPUNGIE & MADDOG ON FRANCONIA RIDGE

I don't mind hiking in the falling snow, but (just to state the obvious) it means having to

1 - park and prep while it's snowing
2 - hike in clothes that are relatively good at shedding snow (rarely breathable enough to permit a fast pace)
3 - follow the ridgeline in poor visibility (but good communications conditions)
4 - unpack/change/depart/drive home in snowy conditions

Because this is not a high-wind event during the day, just steady falling snow, it sounds like a lovely hike to be honest (even the slog up the sawyer river road).

One other consideration: The unplowed road represents a high entry-fee to many hikers which suggests that the trail could be poorly tracked (although the road itself could be packed from xc-skiers and snowmobilers). The last VFTT entry mentioning Carrigain was 11/22 when the road was still driveable. I'll be wearing snowshoes.

[Major Update 12/30]: Plan Aborted Due To Weather
All agents are advised to report to command headquarters for further orders.


Mt. Hale

I'm cooking my cereal now, getting ready to tackle Mt. Hale w/ tMail: 2.5 mile slog to the Hale Brook trail, 2.2 up to the summit. The fresh snow is pretty heavy, and we'll be breaking trail through it... maybe 5 inches in Danville. Crampons? Ropes? Harness? Helicopter? How big is that damned summit? Anybody know what's going on? Hello? Bueller?


[Update 12/28]
Hale is down, 8 more to go on tMail's list. The long slog in to the trail wasn't bad. Good company, good weather and a good opportunity for tMail to transition from Bangalore to The Whites. More pics later.

We're forecasted for another 6 inches tonight in Danville. At this rate, we won't see dirt until July. Sweet Jebus. When tMail pics up his xc skis we'll have to schedule a serious weekend of that fun thang.

Oh yeh, and I got a 'talking to' by the guy who owns the Trading Post in Twin Mountain, NH. Apparently I parked my car in a bad spot. Ooops.

[Update 12/29]
Mutha's (and some of tMail's) Pics posted here
tMail's Picasa photo gallery of the trip is here


Franconia Ridge

 Southeast View
I was concerned about cloud cover in Vermont today, so I headed to Franconia Notch to do the usual Falling Waters -> Bridal Path loop. The day did not disappoint.

I took a light pack and no snowshoes. I used crampons on the ascent, barebooted the ridge and put on crampons again on the descent.

Temps on the ridge were barely below freezing - maybe 25°F. By the time I got back to the car around 1pm it was surely in the high 30's in the valley. Winds were around 20mph on Lafayette but things were so calm and sunny I was only in my base layer with the sleeves rolled up and no hat from just below the summit until the car. It was actually a leisurely hike (5.25 hrs) with lots of time for photos and sitting around looking off into the distance.

Photos posted here.

I didn't encounter another hiker until Lafayette and had lunch on the Pemi side of the summit, under blue skies, in the sun (tMail, it was the exact same spot we ate the last time we were up there). Today was NOT a good test of winter gear. It was similar to a warm day in late April and had all the promise of spring.


Upcoming Plans

[Updated 12/25, 8pm. Edits are in this color]
With vacations and such, there is ample opportunity for adventure in the coming weeks. If you haven't checked it out yet, the avi risks are LOW in Tuckerman's and the Lion's Head Winter Route is open already. conditions on the mountains are pretty icy after all the rain and freezing, so crampons and axes will be more important than ever regardless of where we roam.

MD and I have a tentative plan for xc skiing next Saturday (12/29) up in Craftsbury, Vermont. All are welcome.

The weather forecast looks a little unsettled for the next week, but no major storms. We are in a pretty short-daylight situation, but so what. tMail, what else is on your list other than Adams, Cabot and Waumbek? I've been on every freakin' peak with you it seems. Tripyramids? Didn't we do those? Or was it the Hancocks. This would be a GREAT time for steep terrain. Let's do the Tri's on Friday.

Possible adventures (with special emphasis on tMail getting his 48):

  • Adams (that little fucker). Let's do Castle Ridge, Jefferson and Adams and Edmands Col! That would rock to do those again.
  • Hillman's/Dodge's Drop (sorry tMail, not a 48 but a rare opportunity this time of year)
  • Bamforth Ridge (sorry again tMail, not a 48 but should be fast in icy conditions)
  • Tripyramids??
  • Hale
  • Carrigain (not bad, but I think more fun in the summer)
  • Bonds/Bondcliff (nahhh, save for summer)
Whatever we do, I think our crampon blades will be singing in the hard crust/ice. Post ideas in the comments and I'll add them to the list. I'm vaguely adding to my "Winter 48" list, but I don't care if it takes me 10 years.

Adams, Carrigain or Hale would be good. Hale requires that we walk up the Zealand road (unplowed). I had a fantasy about doing a loop this summer of: Hale, Zealand, The Bonds, return via the Thoreau Falls trail and Ethan Pond Trail. It's maybe 30 miles or so. It would be a great day hike in mid-summer.

From what I recall others saying about their schedules, it'll just be me and tMail on Friday. tMail, we should do a warmup winter hike to get you back into the winter gear mode. Adams is a huge drive for you, but at some point I want to do the Edmands Col thing. Carrigain (via Signal Ridge, round trip) sounds fun and has nice exposure near the top. You've got the farthest to drive so you pick it. I'd even do Liberty/Lafayette again.

The current forecast for Friday is for shitty weather to come through at the end of the day so we can expect limited visibility on the summits and the need to get off the mountain.


New Mutha Z logo

As you may have noticed, the title-bar banner on this blog has changed. The panorama is obviously from Sandwich Dome looking north, but what is that image? It's a mashup of a drawing from Vesalius, a 16th cent. anatomist. The image to the right is a variation on the logo image that I'm working on. Note the left index finger pointing to a secret code. Click image to zoom. If I can't make myself a logo, then, as they say on the intertubes, "whiskey tango foxtrot!".

The original image can be viewed here.

I needed more mountains in the background and had to remove the reference numbers to make it less like an anotomical drawing. I also added the "48" to make it personal. This site has most of the images available.


Hell Brook: Promises And Delivers

The hike up Hell Brook was an amazing success. A tiring, seeming unending struggle that only took three hours. Trip reports and pics will follow. The pics included in this post (click them to zoom) are

  • A Google Earth view of the route
  • Mad Dog in the krumholz in Eagle Pass, in the clouds w/ filtered sun. Google Earth View of The Route
  • Mad Dog & The Puppet Master as seen from my position just above in the main gulley of Hell Brook on the waterfalls.
  • The Puppet Master on the cascades of hell Brook.
Update 12/23 8:45am: Pics are now online. Amazing.

Update 12/23 8:48am: PM Trip Report:
Holy hell. The Eagle is back... we will need that rhino dart!

G$, Life IS crap! Thanks for the insight on life and on buying skis.

MD and MZ,
* Up Hell Brook, or whatever trail it was we followed, was incredible. Steep may be the preferred description of the route but with the snow and endless amounts of effort it took to go 10ft at times, I'd say "relentless" may be a better description!
* Glad that MZ lent me his poles and that MD was able to enjoy mine. How MZ went up with only an ice axe that looked like it belonged to a 6yr old is still baffling me!
* How MD comes off the couch, and hammers up a route like Hell Brook also baffles me! You animal...
* Wish I took more pics but when you have to concentrate on where your 15th plant will be to go the next 12 inches, the camera is the last thing in the mind!
* It was a near perfect day in regards to temp, wind, and the like. Visibility was what it needed to be. It was REALLY cool on top of the ridge where the snow blowing and the tree top snowmen were dancing in the wind and sun.
* Burgers and beer at the Shed were a fine end to a day of hard work.
* Thanks for the great adventure. I'll be thinking about you guys from the relative warmth of GA over the next week. Have fun and be safe if you get out and up.
Update 12/23, 10:30am: Mutha's Trip Report:
* The Hell Brook Trail stays to climber's right of the brook, rarely in view of it. We stayed to the left, and slogged up along the hillside, working our way through the woods and hitting the brook after half of the elevation gain. There were no hiker tracks because the trail is mainly used by skiers/snowboarders descending the steep ravine... in fact it looked like nobody had hiked up there all winter.
* We tried barebooting it, but within 100ft, gave up entirely. I retrieved snowshoes for me and MD from the car (the PM had wisely brought his) and before long were on our way... slowly ... ever slower ... even stopped dead in our tracks. The snow was soft everywhere, and ever deeper as we got higher. A common problem was the difficulty in packing down a 'step' that would hold weight - and the frequent plunging of arms, poles, axes, etc. into the snow. It gave a weird look that we were periodically groping for a lost watch or hunting for clams or something.
* How MD managed to get off the operating table and slog up that monster is beyond me. But he did. And the PM is running in a 5k today? Holy crap. These guys are ANIMALS.
* The Eagle Pass traverse was otherworldly (see photo above/right and pics in gallery). As the PM says, it was perfect. I took the time to put on a facemask and goggles, but they were off within 5 minutes as the conditions were quite bearable and extremely stylin'.
* 3 hours up, but it didn't take us long to descend - maybe an hour. Great hike, great company, and great food/beer afterwards.
Update 12/23, 2pm: Mad Dog's Trip Report:
* Yep, another fine group outing...my baskets were nowhere to be found so PM unselfishly lent me his poles at the start. I'm grateful because without it, I would have been toast and not able to do the route. Lots of amazing stuff...it was three hours of a total body workout. Until we finally the reached the actual trail, it was taking anywhere from 6 to 12 front kick/plants to move 1 leg. Really awesome, as PM said, was Mutha pounding a path for us all the way up - essentially all leg strength with the occasional aid of his axe.
* A couple of notables...while waiting for Mutha to return with the shoes, with our backs turned some a-hole skier threaded a very fine needle between PM and me. While the ski skills for the guy are to be acknowledged, he clearly demonstrated a lack of brains and common sense. The second notable was that in any context, with this crowd, one should never the use phrase "Don't worry I'll get you off." I paid dearly for letting that slip out :-)

Thanks for a great time!!!


Hell Brook: I'm Not Kidding

Depending on who's available, I'm heading up to Hell Brook. I keep saying that, but this time I mean it. Last Saturday's trek up Sandwich Dome reminded me I need to get in snowshoe shape for ... uh ... Hell Brook, I guess. How better to train! If the snowboarders and skiers have packed out trails then it can be done in crampons but we won't know until we get there.

School's out this week, so I have 3 weeks where I can do stuff mid-week, which will include skiing where there are lifts. I don't mind hiking up with my skis, but climbing 1,800ft and skiing down is pretty much it. I may do some backcountry exploring on skis if anyone is interested, but bear in mind I keep it pretty low-key.

The forecast for Sunday is freezing rain so I'd like to get out Saturday. Thursday (12/19) we're forecast for 3-8in around here, up to 10 or more in central NH.

[Update 12/21: Final Plan]
We're heading up Hell Brook on Saturday (12/22) and coming down the LT. So far, it's MD, the PM and me. Conditions: unknown. Equipment: unknown. Likelihood of failure: unknown.


Sandwich Dome Video

The unofficial video of the Sandwich Dome hike has been posted to YouTube. It's only 1:17 so don't be cheap. [Link]


Sandwich Dome

Lovely day out. Pics to be published tomorrow (Sunday) [Update 12/16: Pics are now posted]. A day w/out MadDog and tMail - heartbreaking - but we muddled through. The above panorama is a 2048x518 low-res version I made this morning from 4 hi-res images. The view (click pic to zoom) is from Sandwich Dome centered almost due north and spans from Franconia Ridge on the left to Mt. Washington on the right. It includes Tecumseh in the left foreground, most of the summits of the Pemi (the southern border is easier to make out with the Hancocks & Carrigain). One day I'll make a labeled version. An intriguing artifact of the panorama stitching process is that the two foreground trees on the left are actually the same tree. I took the Franconia Ridge photo before the other three on the right and moved around. This morning I noticed that I could tack on the Franconia Ridge image to make a wider view but the shift in perspective would double that tree. Another annoying problems was that I didn't notice the exposure difference on the Mt. Washington section until after I built the pano. Oh well. Curious.

From The PM (click pic of the lovely couple to zoom - hi res version available):

Too bad nobody got a pic of the G$ driving school demonstration!
Great day out. Cold, not so windy, and it was nice to have some sunshine.
New/fairly new gear analysis...
  • Softshell rocked
  • LL Bean pack rocked
  • Mountain Rescue hat... rocked, despite not having to svae any of the MTI Outing Club!

That coffee afterwards hit the spot!
2 beers and a burger - time to veg!
Next adventure targeted for Dec 21 or 22 in VT.
From g-$$$:
Thanks all for sharing your trail. Glad the M-Z got to exercise the 10.1 , PM didn't have to do any Mountain Rescue, and Treadmill was able to make the summit even though I forgot to bring her crampons.

Sorry....I don't get the driving school reference. You'll have to explain that one to me.
From mutha:
A terrific day (I got to use my tow strap). The temperature was around 0°F and the air was calm. Invigorating and great company. [N.B.: The coffee aftewards was from the Mad River cafe, located just off the Waterville Valley exit off rte 93. It's between the Mobil and Citgo stations.]


Praise Allah: My Camera Arrived

Oh baby. My new camera arrived today. a 10.1 Mp Casio Exilim. Papa's got a new toy. Let's hope this sucker performs in the cold weather. Click on pic to zoom to see the fantastic detail... and this is a downgraded image I uploaded. In the original, you can count my blood vessels in my eyeball.

In other gear news, Sue got ahold of a Patagonia Synchilla vest for me. It's a women's XL, which means it fits beautifully. I've been wearing it over my light yellow windbreaker and have tested it down to 8°F in over an hour of x-c skiing. I love it. Above 15-20° and it'll be too warm if I'm working hard in the snow, but no biggie - I'm taking it with me everywhere I go from now on.

[Update 12/14] The votes are in: Sandwich Dome and possibly Black Mtn. Decision on ascent route to be made in parking lot at trailhead. Up one and down the other?

Meeting Place: Coffee Shop between Mobil and Citgo at Waterville Valley exit off 93.
Meeting Time: 8:30am

Weather Note: In addition to the point made by the PM in the comments, the wind is howling already here in Danville (elev. 1,400') but the temps haven't started to plummet yet. Winds are up to 80 steady on the Bad Boy. I'm bringin' my winter shell and goggles. May do the snowshoe thing (heavy duty Tubbs, not MSR) instead of crampons.


An Additional 6-12 Inches Coming

More snow! By this weekend, at least in Danville, we'll be knee deep in the stuff. As it is, the x-c skiing is terrific. Jay Peak has been dumped on with a base that is between 2 and 4ft deep. Whatever happens this weekend, it'll involve snow! Bamforth anyone? Hell Brook? All those great snowy routes that are avi-stable are aching to be trekked.

Things have been slow around Thanksgiving, but I expect them to pick up around Christmas. I never put on a pair of snowshoes last winter, but if the current accumulation rate is any indication I'll be wearing them soon.

Just a reminder: The pic on the right is the TOP of MadDog's head coming up Hell Brook w/out snowshoes only 9.5 short months ago. He's not lying down, either. That is one BADASS trail (click on the pic to zoom). Other Hell Brook pics here (w/ maddog jan '07) and here (solo from march '05).

[Update 12/12] The cold front will be blowing through the north country tonight will drop temps into the low single digits and will be around for a few days. The weekend is looking like highs in the teens in the valleys, lows below 10°. Two days of this will keep the powder dry and firm up the ice on the stream crossings.

[Update 12/13] We now have a Nor'easter forecasted for Sunday. 6+ inches. It looks like Saturday will be the day to ramble. I'm hoping that in the lead-up to the storm we'll have broad isobars. This cold-cold weather doesn't lend itself to roaring winds. tMail & Mutha on Madison! Yeow! Just thinking about it makes me hold onto my chair. Between the snow down south today and the steady accumulations up north, this is promising to be a great winter.... until the January thaw of course...


12/8/07: The Best Laid Plans of Mice and Men

The PM has voiced an interest. Waiting for ideas... waiting...waiting...

[Update 12/7]
The PM has a stomach virus. I'm getting a christmas tree on saturday with the wife and kids and going solo on Sunday. I'll have to borrow a digital camera or (\\gasp!//) go without one. No plans yet.

Also, Spanky is getting spayed and will be unavailable for x-c skiing for a while. Poor Spanky.

[Update 12/8]
Spanky is home and a little wiped out. We got a nice 10ft tree from some folks in Danville down past Greenbank Hollow. I'll trim it down to about 8ft tomorrow evening. The field it was growing in wasn't too far from the car (about 75 yards) and of course I got to be the saw boy as well as the mule to drag it to the car while Sue and the kids drank hot chocolate and cheered me on and Jill hit me with a soft snowball. Luckily the snow wasn't too deep and the sun was still out before the squalls blew through - although hauling a tree through blinding snow would've been kind of fun.

It looks like the hike of choice is Mt. Chocorua. Yes indeedy. I've never been there, but I've seen it from Passaconaway and heard about several successful and failed attempts. (I believe the pic on the right taken by the PM from Passaconaway is Chocorua). It looks like tomorrow will be cold and windy. Full report to follow.

[Update 12/9]
Harrumph. Pulled a g-$$$ and slept until 8:30 (was up past midnight grading exams). Just went for 12mi run instead. Oh well.

Frozen Elephant

I'm posting this is to see how an embedded YouTube video looks on this blog scaled down to a postage stamp size. For those who haven't seen it, it's of Treadmill (Mrs. Puppet Master) being subjected to the equalizing forces of nature.

Update 12/7: It turns out that embedding the video in this page causes excessive bandwidth absorption. I've nuked the embedded video, but this [LINK] will take you there.


New Game: Flat Light

Spanky and I went out x-c skiing this afternoon. In the fresh powder (boot-deep, about 8" on top of a 4" more-or-less frozen, crusty base) we worked hard making new tracks even though the terrain is gently rolling in Danville. The snow in the woods was deep enough to cover sticks and roots (4-6") and in the meadows was deep enough to cover the grasses left over from summer's end. Lots of white. We waited for the forecasted lull, which came as scheduled, but it started snowing pretty hard towards the end of our trek. We got back around 3pm, drenched in sweat.

The sky was heavily overcast and it was snowing pretty hard, although there was no wind. Visibility was not bad, maybe 1/4 mile, but in the very flat grey twilight of the afternoon and with the snow falling steadily, open rolling meadows had no visual cues other than grey. The map at right is about 2mi square (click pic to zoom). On the way back (see the light green route) we had trouble seeing what was up and what was down, so we played a game I now call "Flat Light" - which downhill skiers are familiar with (skiing in flat-grey light where you can't see bumps or contours and everything is a surprise). We worked our way back and across the meadows sometimes being pulled downhill by gravity and other times climbing little knolls but really having no clue what was coming. It was a good time.

Before The Camera Died ...

I managed to get a photo and some brief footage (20sec YouTube clip). [Link]

Update 12/7: The embedded video was causing excessive bandwidth absorption and has been nuked. See link above.