Abraham, Spaulding, Sugarloaf thru-hike
Needed Spaulding and Abraham for #63+64 of the Winter 67, so we decided to take a chance and thru-hike the trio, starting from the Kingfield end. A 2.5-mile walk from the plowed end of Rapid Stream Road went quick enough, thanks to snowmobile tracks. Firewardens hadn't been traveled for perhaps a week but had a relatively solid base, like most of the other trails along the way.
Not too surprisingly, had to break out 6-8" along the Abraham Side Trail and AT stretches between Abraham and Spaulding, though the section between the Spaulding shelter and spur path saw traffic at some point. Perhaps folks sometimes hike Sugarloaf and Spaulding, then continue and hike down off the col down to Caribou Valley Road with the help of the snowmobile path?
Moose are terrible trail breakers, by the way. If only they wore snowshoes. :)
Very windy day up on Abraham, but temps were relatively mild for winter. Could have used crampons up above treeline, but we did fine with snowshoes. Ended the hike in the dark, coming down Sugarloaf. Glissaded a couple stretches, and managed to dodge a couple groomers. Thanks as always to Sugarloaf for hiker access to this great mountain.
East Kennebago - winter route
A fine mountain on a very fine day. Barebooted to the top of Bambi Lane from Kennebago Road in Franklin, then broke trail in 1-2 feet of snow all the way up (except for the snowmobile road + short track up higher, which were groomed or snowmobile-tracked). Thank Goodness for a strong team of four of us, who rotated through the work: Tim, Chris, Doug, and myself.
Thank you to the residents of Bambi Lane for access from this side of the mountain!
This hike brought our three-day Eustis excursion to an end, successful in hiking our planned five of six New England 100 Highest peaks in the area. The body is worn and tired, but the spirit is grateful and happy. I'll be back next year to get the sixth (Snow Mountain - Chain of Ponds) and nearby Elephant Mountain.
Thanks to Pam and Tim for coordinating and leading a great excursion.
(Note: beginning of track is erratic since I'd started hiking right after turning the Garmin unit on. The track starts where where we parked and started up.)
North Kennebago Divide - White Cap - Boundary
One of the top few toughest "short" hikes I've ever experienced. But this was the right day for it. 10 people strong (plus two more for the NKD/WC ridge) broke out a solid track to bag these three peaks near and along the Canadian border with Maine. Snowshoes all the way, in anywhere between 1 to 3 feet of snow.
So fortunate to have been with such a great group of strong hikers, all of them. The trail breaking, the bushwhacking, the wind-swept clearings, hiking out in the dark - all of it was a great challenge, with great reward. Thank you Pam, Tim, Jess, Jessica, Ron, Chris, Doug, Ryan, Yvonne, Deb, and Charlie!
Snow Mountain - Cupsuptic
Bluebird skies and relatively moderate temps greeted us for this relatively simple (this time) hike up to a New England 100 peak. The drive along logging roads was easy, with a thin layer of fresh snow, and even some sand here and there, helping with traction.
We were able to drive to within two miles of Wiggle Brook Road, the summer access road to the trailhead proper. Thanks to at least two people who had broken trail all the way to the summit the previous day. Our group of six (Pam, Tim, Jess, Jessica, Ron, myself) certainly completed the job, all the way up and down in snowshoes. Major snowmobile activity throughout the area!
This was a real tough one, due a solid 8-12 inches of fresh snow the night before. Combine that with a few inches from a few days prior, and more up high including drifts, and I had to break out anywhere from 8-18 inches of snow, solo. Slow and steady was the name of today's game.
Cooper Lodge is the place for pot in winter, I guess. Solid smell coming from the place on my way up, and stopped in on my way down to find a couple older guys clearly enjoying some of the stuff. All were Killington skiers/snowboarders.
I thought I was to be the only hiker that day, but about a mile down I came upon a younger woman and her dog. The dog had indicated he was done climbing, and after a few questions/answers, the woman decided it best to descend. By her request I hiked out with them, some good lessons learned; I've learned many along the way myself!
With a mile to go we came upon another young woman with her own dog, a spunky one who proceeded to chew a very young tree into a few pieces. The first woman gained additional knowledge, as the other dog had awesome boots and a special coat on (the earlier dog had neither).
So the trail is broken out pretty well, at least for now. At least several more inches forecast for later in the week, so there'll be plenty of chance to get in on the trail-breaking action!
62 of Winter 67. This completes the Vermont 4Ks in winter for me, leaving five in Maine: Old Speck, Abraham, Spaulding, Bigelow West, and Bigelow Avery.
Mt. Mansfield, from the West this time
Headed up from the west this time, taking the very steep Laura Cowles up to stay out of the wind as long as possible, and Sunset Ridge down since, well, I prefer loops (and didn't want to descend all that steep!). LC was half broken-out, SR pretty much fully so. Temps were pretty mild, considering, but winds were very strong up above treeline and on Sunset Ridge especially (upwards of 40-50mph gusts).
Wore snowshoes the whole way, even up on the rocky summit. The recent few inches of snow helped provide enough of a blanket/cover on the ice that the shoes nearly always retained a good grip. Parts of Laura Cowles were certainly tricky, but really not half as bad as if that snow hadn't fallen a couple days earlier. Above treeline, some bare rock, some ice, but also a lot of snow-coated ice to help with grip. A good amount of snow is forecast so that will only help; but still, walk carefully up there.
Found a blue aluminum water bottle on the spur path to Cantilever Rock. Contact me if you lost one.
61 of Winter 67
Straightforward hike, uncommonly easy and quick for a 4000-footer, at under 5 miles. Recent snowfall and traffic earlier in the day provided a nice, soft pack so snowshoes worked the whole way. The summit cone did have bare rock and ice, but with some care the snowshoes were fine (just 40-50 feet total of that). Used my Kahtoola K-10s for the first mile but found they weren't really helping all that much, so I switched to snowshoes and wore them the rest of the way up, and all the way down. The K-10s would have been helpful on the summit cone, but snowshoe televators made the overall ascent much easier.
mountain-forecast.com is usually pretty spot on, but this time they were a little off. Had some sun and clear skies, and wind wasn't half what was forecast (just 10-15 mph tops, and that was only occasional weak gusts).
This is 60 of the Winter 67 New England 4000 footers for me.
Saddleback & its Horn, for 58+59 of the Winter NE 67
Straightforward day checking off two more of the Winter NE 67 (9 left). Ski trails did have some ice, but there was a good amount of solid drifts and/or short vegetation to help with traction. Up on the ridge, though, lots and lots of ice; it was really more necessary to wear crampons, or the half-version (K-10s/Hillsounds). My two friends used crampons and had a much easier time with the ice, but my snowshoes allowed me to glide over the snow drifts among the trees more easily. Bring both along for the foreseeable future.
North/South Crocker + Redington, for 55-57 of Winter NE 67
Some say a Crockers/Redington traverse is one of the hardest hikes in Winter. I would agree it's one of the tougher 15-mile hikes you can do! Coming off a disappointing day the previous day (got only Sugarloaf), we took on these peaks with a renewed and fueled gusto. Chris D joined us as well.
Took the bushwhack from the Sugarloaf Golf course. Park in the main lot, walk down the hill to the left past the clubhouse and around to the pump house. Cross the bridge over the Carrabassett and follow the cart path up to the 11th tee. The bushwhack starts to the left of the tee and takes you down to a sizable stream crossing. We crossed (use poles for best results) and maintained a track largely paralleling the stream until we came out at Caribou Valley Road (CVR), just before the 3-mile mark (from Route 27).
Took Caribou Valley Road to the AT junction on the right and headed up South Crocker. On the way to North Crocker, we ran into two guys coming the other way who _hadn't_ been ahead of us. They actually hiked the AT from Route 27, quite a feat to be taking on. They continued to South Crocker and eventually Redington.
Temps were very cold, below zero, but wind was light or non-existent, making this a very nice day. Cloudless skies provided views to the neighboring high peaks in all directions.
After summiting North Crocker, we headed back toward and over South Crocker, then started in on the bushwhack. At the AT boundary swath we ran into the same two guys from earlier; they ran into trouble finding the bushwhack off the AT boundary. We welcomed them into our little team.
The Redington whack was generally straightforward. We were helped by my GPS device and a downloaded track or two, courtesy of friends like Tim, Pam, Chris.
Three summits in the bag, we headed down the bushwhack and joined up with the old logging road/corridor and picked up a logging road and eventually Caribou Valley Road. The final road walk went much faster than we thought, though we did have to hike out in darkness the last three or so hours.
Plenty of bangs came from the bucks we spent on this one! Challenging, but still very rewarding - as Maine should be.
Sugarloaf, from the ski area
Another tough day to get in multiple peaks without hiking out in the cold wind and dark. Temps were well above freezing in the morning and a steady rain fell until about 10am. We decided to hold off until the rain switched to snow and got underway about 11. Took the Windrow and Timberline ski trails up, as directed by the Sugarloaf uphill access regulations ($10 access ticket) - http://sugarloaf.com/the-mountain/uphill-policy. Reached the summit a bit after 1pm and found good shelter from the strong winds behind the highest building/tower.
Had originally planned to hike over to Spaulding and even Abraham, but the morning rain and unsure LT conditions made it tough for us to reasonably do that. We would have had to hike out in the dark at least a couple hours, maybe more depending on trail conditions of the Sugarloaf Side Trail + LT. (Six miles round-trip to Spaulding and back to Sugarloaf, then another couple miles down.) We decided to leave them for another day, as we had two more days of hiking in the area ahead.
Surface conditions were easy enough. These two ski trails were closed due to lack of snow depth. Didn't really need snowshoes, but the televators made the climb easier. We didn't have to deal with any more than an inch or few of fresh snow. Snow fell the whole time we were out there. In places where snow was blown to one side of the trail, we occasionally broke through an ice crust, but we easily avoided it by hiking on or alongside the visible/mowed growth on the trail.
We'll be back for you, Spaulding + Abraham!
South Brother & Coe - Liz' Winter NE100 Finish
An epic return trip to Baxter State Park, the third in Winter and fifth overall. With this trip in the books, I've completed the six high peaks there for a second time, this time in Winter.
Serious snow depth of 2-3 feet from a recent storm required strength and resolve to forge ahead. Five of us started the day, but only three ended up summiting. Everyone in the group had a fantastic time, though, and I'm sure we'll all hike together again!
Congratulations to Liz for completing her second round of New England 100 Highest, this time in Winter. What an accomplishment, and it wasn't without its obstacles along the way. She persevered and has so much to be proud about.
This brings my quest to complete my Winter second round of the 100 highest, to 76. Great to be done with the Baxter six on that list, but I know I'll return to Baxter many, many more times. It's a truly special place.