Thursday's Great Adventure

tMail and I have started the warmup to Spungie Day (Jan 3/4). We're heading out on Thursday, January 1st and are contemplating some routes. The primary candidate is to revisit that hell they tMail In The Mist
call Edmands Col. The route is probably up over the Castles, hit Jefferson, navigate the Col, tag Adams (or not) and descend via The Gray Knob.

For historical reference, this was the ill-fated trek where tMail and I turned around just north of the Col and headed back down the Castles while the PM and g-$$$ did the same thing from the Madison side of the range.

Picture Gallery from that trek is here.


Hell Brook: It Never Fails To Deliver

Mad Dog and I braved Hell Brook today. As the title of this post states unequivocally, Hell Brook never fails to deliver. We started out at 9am, and 1.5 miles and over 5 hours later topped out on the ridge. We hammered another 1/2hr or more and turned back not 100 yards from "The Adams Apple" of Mt. Mansfield. I'll attempt to describe just how gnarly this trek was, but the bottom line was we wished you guys were here. This hike so kicked ass in so many ways it was just plain fun fun fun fun. For the PM, who's been up there in the shizzle, this was no better or worse ... just different for reasons I'll get into in a sec. While I'm typing this my pics and videos are uploading from my camera. I'll get to those later and post to picasa or youtube. In the meantime...

Mutha's Trip Report: At the cars, we seriously considered taking our snowshoes (which we both brought). Just like the last time w/ the PM, maddog and I decided NOT to bring them - but I promised that this time, due to my bronchitis I was not going to run back to the car to fetch them. No snowshoes. Great idea.
  1. We didn't need snowshoes, praise Allah... for the first 1000 vertical feet. Then we needed snowshoes. The snow varied between 1 and 8ft deep in long drifts that filled in the ravines in unpredictable ways. We broke trail the whole way up, moving so slowly that at times it seemed like we were never going to make forward progress again. Hours passed, while the conversation kept going, and going, and going. The pace slowed to a nearly glacial rate. We had crampons on, but each step could result in a plunge to crotch depth. Each pole plant could result in the pole dropping down, plunging an arm to elbow depth. It was agonizingly slow.
  2. We developed a technique we call "The Hell Brook Crawl" or "The Hell Brook Swim". It's a method to get up steep snowfields that aren't strong enough to support your weight. The technique is like crawling on all fours, using your knee-to-foot surface (shin) for flotation and plunging your fingers/fists into the crusty snow. In really weak snow you can belly crawl, but UP a VERY steep incline. I can't estimate the slope, but it's pretty damned steep. All told there was more than an hour of this crawling, so my shoulders are shot.
  3. As MadDog phrased it, thankfully we have crotches. In many cases this was the only thing keeping us from dropping deeper. We had many instances of standing delicately, bellybutton deep, and suddenly one foot starts to drop. We freeze, holding balance, drop again... then again...start swimming.... minutes pass and no progress has been made but we didn't smother.
  4. After topping out on the ridge, we made an attempt at "The Adams Apple". This final ascent was through krumholz filled with drifts. The decision to turn around came at this point: I was leading, breaking trail. MadDog followed, also breaking trail because things were so unstable that my progress barely helped. The grade was very steeply pitched and I was using the little tree-tops for support when the snowpack began to collapse under me. I ended up on my back (it's hard to explain why) with both cramponed feet jammed into treetrunks, my pack resting on the remaining snow, my hands holding little tree tops. I was on my back, spread-eagle over a collapsing crater. The cavity under me wasn't any more than 5ft deep, but to drop into it meant only being able to continue back downhill. I made the decision to turn back - it was already about 3pm (6 hours into the trek, a little over 1.5 miles from the trail head.).
  5. The trek down was a different world from our trek up. There was another couple on the trail (more on that later, or from MadDog) so the trail was well packed in and could almost be walked casually. I don't recall the time, but I don't think it took more than an hour to get down - and that was walking, not glissading!
  6. Great conversation and great companionship. It was adventure of the highest quality.
MadDog's Trip Report: Once again we were beaten up (badly) by that trail they call Hell Brook. How bad you ask? Well, it was post holing for just about the whole day, and so deep that I relied on an improvised crotch-stop technique most of the time to prevent me from going completely under the spine of the Greens. It was just another absurdly hard HB hike. Like the last we (PM, MZ) bushwhacked it, but different. today it took us about 5+ hrs to travel something like ~1.5 miles. We were just shy of crossing over to the LT before calling it quits. The decision came when Mutha was suspended above the snake pits, spread eagled, with nowhere else to go. Another way to envision the day is - if you can imagine this, it was like being armed with spears, then getting locked in a UFC cage and being pitted against 5 fast moving midgets, in a fight to the death, all the while, the fight producer is pulling levers on secret trap doors causing you to fall and thrash. I'm not much of a fighter, but we managed to pull on trees, stomp holes, swim, and crawl our way up that thing today. Kudos to Mutha for being the lead plow. We also met up with a nice couple (Bob, Jess and Ramble) at the tail end near the turn for the LT and then later on the return...we have some beer drinking rain checks to cash in at some point. And finally, on the return back to the bungalow, I met up with the Morton's Fisherman and returned his suit. I told him I wouldn't need it any longer. He asked, why? I said four Xmas great and generous Xmas elves had upgraded me. THANK YOU, Xmas elves!!!!!
Pics Posted Here.


Vermont Weekend 12/27

The PM is doing it. mutha's doing it. tMail's doing it. g-$$$? maddog? And just MadDog on HellBrook
what is that we're doing? on Saturday, 12/27, we're doing the Bamforth Ridge trail to Camel's Hump... or the Hell Brook trail up Mt. Mansfield.

Be there or be square.

The PM will be in Vermont from 12/24 onward, so we have a week's worth of festivities (on and off).

[Update Christmas Day, 2008] Okay, it looks like a weekend of rain. I'm guessing this whole idea is shot to hell. To salvage what's left, there's always tomorrow (Friday). It ought to be a nice day: a night of wind and rain and warm temperatures on top of several feet of soft, cold snow. What the heck is this all about?

[Update Christmas Day, 2008: Snowpack Analysis - Danville, Vermont]

Conditions prior to rain:
exceptionally dry, low density snow - roughly two feet of it - maybe three in filled-in hollows. it was pretty fresh and what little water vapor was available in the ground was locked down by a layer of ice from before the snow and the cold temps prevented much more from filtering up. There was some blowing around, but not enough to make a significant wind crust.

Then came the rain:
Steady and copious quantities of rain and warm weather yesterday, along with high winds. The winds didn't pick up until after the rain had thoroughly saturated the snow so nothing really moved around at all. Temperatures will be plummeting tonight but as of 3pm the snow hadn't firmed up at all even with air temperatures below freezing (and ground/snow temperatures colder still). While the snow seems to have consolidated a bit, it doesn't look like it'll freeze up hard enough to come a supporting crust although we won't know until morning. I tried walking in the snow with no snowshoes and sank right to the bottom. Even the dog avoided going off trail because it hadn't lost that much depth.

Tomorrow in the Greens:
Not sure what the ramifications are, but I expect to see deep snow that probably requires snowshoes to stay afloat. Crampons may be necessary ice falls, but except for a few ice walls it's probably all covered in snow. I can't wait to see.

Spungie Day II (2nd Annual)

Spungie Day I
Prepare ye the way of the Spunge. There'll be hell to pay for what were going to do. It'll involve snow, wind... Spungie. Who knows, there might even be ice.

Prepare ye.


Winter Weather

Maddog, this is for you and me (from the National Weather Service):


and then there's:
"655 AM EST SUN DEC 21 2008




Fri/Sat/Sun (12/19, 12/20, 12/21)

The PM and tMail are planning a big shindig for Friday. My last day of classes is Friday so it'll be either Sat or Sun for MD and me. g-$$$ might be able to make any of the three, so we'll leave this post out here for ideas/plans/etc. and see how things evolve over the next day or two.

We've got a winter weather advisory posted for tomorrow. It's only 3-5 inches in Danville, but apparently it'll all come down between 10:00am and 10:15am.

[Update 12/20, 1pm] Well, it was just too much to get out this morning. tMail would've crawled to NH if he had to. MD and mutha were just too beat to manage it. We have a day of rest and shoveling the white powerdy yum-yum and now tMail is starting the drumbeat for going hiking tomorrow in the middle of a winter storm. Hmmm, sounds somehow appealing....

Stay tuned.

[Update 12/20, 5pm] It's just not gonna happen. We've got so much snow in the forecast for Sunday that tMail and I called it off until next weekend. We're available Fri/Sat/Sun and hope to take advantage of these enormously snowy conditions on one of those days. This should be great fun.


The Winds of Thor

Mt. Washington. That is such a bad-ass mountain. tMail and I took the Lion's Head (Summer) route up and down - 6 hours on the dot. The weather was terrific. The MWO reported winds between 60 and 70mph, but the summit was nowhere near as impressive as the trek from the Lion's Head outcrop to the Alpine Garden trailhead. Last winter's BadBoy was probably worse, but only because it was a steady freight train wind. tMail and I got HAMMERED. We had time to play around in it and both had the experience of leaning forward and having our full weight held. After leaping around and nearly getting thrown off the mountain I had the unfortunate experience of getting shoved by a strong gust and held in place standing for about 5 seconds. What the hell!

Mutha's Trip Report (pics): We had a few bad omens on the way up:
1 - The winds were howling in the woods
2 - The first guy down was an ice climber who had played in Huntington Ravine and commented that he had a horrific time on Lion's head in the wind.
3 - Next, a solo hiker on the way down claimed he didn't dare summit because of the blowing snow and horrific winds.
4 - Then, in the shelter of the Lion's Head boulders (the lower ones) a group of four french Canadians were clearly spent, and the woman near mental and physical exhaustion, claiming the winds were 'terrible' and that with the coming storm, it was foolish to continue on.

Bunch of amateurs. tMail and I had the greatest hike. It was warm (hovering around 15-20°F), really windy, but extraordinarily beautiful. Pics will be posted later tonight or tomorrow, along w/ some video. Taking picks while being knocked around by wind isn't easy, but we had to bring back evidence.

Transcript of brief conversation on bridge, on way down, while staring at Cutler River:
tMail: Let's check the itinerary and see if we did everything.
Mutha: Go for it.
tMail: The Winds of Thor were blowing cold.
Mutha: Check.
tMail: The Dogs of Doom were howling.
Mutha: Check.

For some great fun, click on the lovely, serene photo at the right and enjoy the beauty and tranquility of the White Mountains. Really stare hard at it and enjoy the serenity. I mean REALLY enjoy the serenity.

Then check out this 11sec YouTube video of the same scene, taken a moment later.

[Update 9pm] Mutha's Pics are posted. tMail's Pics are posted.

tMail's Trip Report: First off Bad Boy and I have a very special relationship one that sides on the side of caution. I was telling MZ like no other mountain I am more reserved on Bad Boy. I don't know what it is about the mountain but MZ and I did numerous check on time, weather, ability to spot the trail behind us. We made summit and returned. I think all of us know each other well and no limits and trust others making judgement calls and knowing that the decisions at any time can be reversed.

  1. Arc Teryx Shell unbelievable all I had on going up Bad Boy was a base layer smart wool
  2. Patagona Backcountry Guide Pants unbelievable the vents work awesome, suspenders awesome great great pants.
  3. Tec Wick long underwear EMS awesome did not have any issues with legs getting overheated i regulated temperature well.
  4. Goggles no issue what so ever...key is keeping face moisture down and good ventilation.
  5. EMS windstopper shirt awesome the wind was howling below treeline this shirt did the trick.
  6. New EMS mittens that are not bulky filled with primaloft awesome work them the entire day vented well and stayed dry inside.
  7. Helly Hansen hat wore it from start to finish.
  8. We moved at a good pace but I seemed to do the moisture management well if i got hot opened vents, took a layer off etc etc...
  9. I told MZ the winds didn't really surprise me or us...talking to other people they were taken off guard and some looked like they were abducted by aliens. I think our past experiences paid dividends.
  10. Once I was able to lean fully forward and be held up my the Winds of Thor.
  11. This was probably one of the best hikes I have been on it had adventure, it was peaceful, spiritual coming down Bad Boy was awesome nobody around us the sun came out and the snow, ice and cairns you see for miles. I told MZ I always wanted to be on Bad Boy in the picturesque setting and finally made it...


Sunday, 12/14

This is just a placeholder post while tMail and I figure out what the plan is. Anyone thinking of heading to NH on Sunday, post hike ideas in the comments section and I'll throw them out on this main page. Sunday ... hmmm... what do we know: fresh snow, ice, crust... sounds like great cramponing. Better check the MWO report on Saturday morning.

[Update 12/13] Word on the street has it that the Bad Boy is the likely destination in order to "look hell in the eye" or something like that. Conditions should be cold and windy. Avi conditions are stabilizing with rain saturated snowpack locking tight like concrete.


The Winter Storm

The heavy rain you kids in Beantown are seeing is moving north as all snow. in between, in g-$$$-ville, it's looking like freezing rain and snow and other stuff.

It looks kind of mixed on the bad boy.

The bottom line: it looks like this is the first of many storms to lay down a beautiful, chewy base (I know the stuff on Jackson was terrific). While i get my hopes up every year, last year we got hammered with so much rain that the bottom base was hard, nearly unscratchable ice. Maybe this year it'll be a snow layer bonded to the rocks that becomes the gift that keeps on giving. Of course by spring it could be the weak layer for many terrific avis, but until then I've got hopes for a great season.


The Next Big Adventure

This week is shaping up to be quite the week for laying down some nice base layers of snow/ice. I went x-c skiing for the first time - had to use a headlamp - but conditions are pretty nice down in Danville. I imagine that there's a nice base being laid down in the mountains.

You may have heard that the MWO satellite antenna had its protective cover ripped off by 120mph winds last weekend. It was -20° (-80° wind chill).

Like MadDog, I have to be at a social function at around 5 or 6pm Saturday night (the same one, in fact). This means something light-weight for saturday for me. There's always Sunday - nothing like a big hike with a hangover. Any ideas?


Slow descent to 12/6: Holiday Ennui

It's time to start the chatter about 12/6 (Saturday). Maddog is out (I'm pretty sure) and I have to be back early. It's a 'tween holiday weekend which makes it a bit suspect for getting a large group together, so I've already got a backup plan if nobody else will be around: Jackson, for my third and final finish of my 96. Great Caesar's Ghost!

[Update 12/6 6:30am] Spanky and I are packing for Jackson. With a 10°F trailhead temp we'll be as cold as we've been all fall. I'll bring her coat for emergencies. We're just going up the Webster/Jackson trail from the AMC lodge over by Saco Pond so this won't be a huge event, but the cold will be a good reminder of what winter is. We're not planning on hitting the trailhead until 9am to let the sun come up and warm things for a few hour so this will be quite the leisurely jaunt.

[Update 12/7] Didn't get around to uploading pics until this morning due to rockin' party at mr. & mrs. maddog's last night! woo hoo! done w/ 96 (for real).