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September 2, 2010
WHEW... It's been a very hot week. It's not the kind of weather that would make me want to get out Whitehorse or Cathedral in the heat of the day, that's for sure. [grin] On top of that today the air quality was officially designated as poor! It's so bad you can see the thick haze hanging in the air wherever you look, even in the woods. Of course I'm still the kind of person who will go out for a bike ride on a 90 degree day, but at least there's a breeze when I'm riding, unlike when I'm standing in a convection oven! According to the Observatory weather that all should change by the weekend. It won't be a moment too soon for me, let me tell you...
There is a lot of road work going on in and around the Valley. Rt 16 South of North Conway is a mess, so if you are coming from that direction you may want to scoot down West Side Road instead of coming through town. In addition there is construction on 16 near the Scenic Vista that was holding things up there as well. I'd suggest using Kersarge Street to bypass that if you can.
If you're driving around the rural areas after dark, be aware that, for whatever reasons, there more deer, moose and other wildlife out there right now than I've seen in a while. On my way to a rehearsal out in Chatham/Stowe last night, I saw 2 deer going across the road in a space of about 6 miles. Then on the way back I hit a huge possum that darted in front of me and it completely wrecked the front bumper on my 2008 mini-van! In spite of an abundance of berries and wild foods, lots of people in the area are reporting that black bears are invading their yards and campsites. Several houses have been broken into by bears in search of food and campers are strongly urged to hang all food items high and well away from the campsite.
Last Monday my son Lewis and I did a Presidential Range Traverse, starting at Appalachia off Rt 2 in Gorham, and finishing at the Ammonosuc Ravne Trail trailhead over near the base of the Cog. We started up Valley Way to the Madison Hut in a light drizzle at around 11AM, getting there around 4. There were already quite a number of folks there and by dinner time the hut was full. I was pleasantly surprised to see a number of parents with kids Lewis' age in the hut. With no effort at all Lewis connected with 3 other boys his age and they played card games from after dinner to lights-out, while the parents chatted.
The next morning it was a little breezy and cloudy when we awoke. After a delightfully big breakfast we packed our stuff and headed up the trail. The fog persisted until we were almost up to the saddle just right of Mt Adams. As we rounded Adams we ran into another father-son team (Dan and Matthew) who had also been in the Madison hut the night before. The boys got along so we hiked together. We had decided that we weren't going to try for any summits, the 8+ mile hike would be enough for us. It was nice hiking past Thunderstorm Junction and we cruised down into the Edmunds Col. We paused at the plaque at the bottom of the col for a few minutes and then tackled the steep trail up and left alongside Mt. Jefferson. It actually wasn't too bad with just a few scrambles, and fairly quickly we were up on the alpine meadow.
Around this time we started seeing other hikers, all coming the other way. Some were hiking with very minimal clothing and equipment, as if out for an average day-hike in the Valley. It was a little surprising, even tho the sun was out now and the temps were fairly mild. After crossing the meadow we stopped for lunch at the Sphinx Col, shedding some layers and enjoying the views. We could see left down into the Great Gulf and right all the way to the Mt Washington Hotel and Bretton Woods. It was spectacular.
About halfway up the trail, skirting Mt. Clay, Lewis had a small meltdown. He started saying "I can't go on dad!" We a break for a few minutes and talked about where we were and the reality that the only way he was going to get off the mountain was under his own power, unless he was really injured. Then I slipped him one of my caffeinated Cliff Bloks. In a few minutes he was back on his feet and we continued up the trail.
As we hiked, Dan and I talked about where a person learns how to dig down inside themselves to find whatever it takes to get past adversity. He said that he got it from hiking with a group in high school. I thought for a while but couldn't remember where it happened for me, but I had it in early high school. Perhaps from my Grandfather taking me scrambling in the North Georgia and South Carolina mountains when I was Lewis' age. Wherever it comes from, it is something that can really help you all through your life. I'm hoping that experiences like this on the trail will help Lewis be able to find that place.
Very quickly we reached a point where we could see the Observatory buildings and even the Lakes of the Clouds hut. Needless to say that gave us all a little more energy. Now we started to see lots of day hikers. Many were headed down the Jewel Trail and others just wandering around. We hiked up alongside the Cog and I was pleased to see that neither of the 2 engines we saw were belching smoke. I guess the talk about bio-disel Cog railroad engines was true. Now if they would just cleanup all the soot and coal from alongside the tracks!
Both boys had the bit between their teeth to get to the summit of Mt. Washington and started to pick up the pace. In no time at all we were at the Observatory. We walked around to the summit rock pile and got some nice pictures. In the picture both Lewis and Matthew looked as if they were really proud of themselves, as well they should be. After a promised pause in the Observatory snack bar for pizza and ice cream we headed down the Crawford Path to Lakes of the Clouds.
Although the hut sure looks close, it's further than it seems. The trail is also a bit on the steep side and a somewhat loose in places. We met a young lady who works in the hut with a old fashioned wooden frame pack heading down to the hut as well. We thought we were moving pretty quickly, but she was booking. At the hut we checked in and found our bunks. Lakes Of The Clouds is a very large hut and the windows in the common room look out to the west, perfect for the sunset.
Dinner was good and filling and once again the kids settled into some sort of group play right afterward. The weather prediction was a bit daunting for the next day, Wednesday, but we both hoped it would be reasonable for our hike down to Mizpah. As soon as lights-out came we both crashed from our long hike.
Sometime in the middle of the night I became aware that the wind had significantly picked up and I worried a bit about our plans. When the morning came it was obvious that conditions had significantly deteriorated with dense fog, 50-60 mph gusts and rain. Not a day that I was looking forward to hiking an exposed ridge with a 75 pound kiddo, so I asked if we could change out Mizpah reservation and just stay put. Turns out that a number of folks had cancelled their reservations, so that would be OK. Thanks AMC...
In spite of the weather a number of parties decided that for a variety of reasons they had to press on. We watched them go and were happy to be warm and dry in the hut. Two of the groups who had left to go to Mizpah actually showed up back at Lakes of the Clouds before lunch, only having gotten on eth Monroe ridge before deciding the weather was just too bad. One of those went back out and down the Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail. While it was pretty boring being stuck in the hut, Lewis managed to play with some of the other kids and got into card games, Jenga and a massive Scrabble match. All in all not a bad day.
After a good night's sleep we awoke to a much calmer morning: no rain, light fog and 15-25 mph winds. After another good breakfast we packed up and headed down the Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail. The nice thing about this trail is that you are into the trees fairly quickly and that protects you from the wind. The bad thing is that you are basically hiking down a stream bed and it is pretty slabby and pretty slippery. Still, at only about 4 miles, it's a great alternative. I was able to get cell service that morning and alert my wife to pick us up at the trail head at about noon. With 2 hiking poles each we were able to pick our way down the trail with fairly minimal difficulty. There were some folks hiking down and the further we went the more folks we met coming up. Again, many of these hikers had minimal to no equipment. Quite a few only had camelbacks and were wearing t-shirts and shorts. Go figure...
About 2/3 of the way down we could see the remnants of a large wet-snow avalanche that occurred this spring. It was very impressive. We also came across a Forest Service scientist putting up bat-detectors in the ravine. They are doing this to monitor the bats to check on the effects of the white nose fungus that is causing problems for many bats in New England. The further down we went, the more the sky cleared, until we we could see the sun coming out. We took a short detour to check out the waterfalls at the Gorge. It is absolutely beautiful and well worth the extra 10 minute diversion. The lower we got, the faster Lewis hiked. I told him he could go ahead as long as he stayed on the trail and stopped and waited for me at any intersection. He was good about this and waited at the Cog cutoff. We kept plugging on and in a fairly short time we were at the trailhead. Mom wasn't there yet but with her good timing she arrived in a few minutes.
This was a really wonderful adventure for us both. We lucked into an absolutely beautiful day for our longest day and the extra day at Lakes of the Clouds worked out well. I'm pretty sure that the memories of this trip are ones that we both will treasure for years to come. If you are interested in checking out the pix, you can see them here:
Facebook photo gallery
Two new routes have been put up on Humphrey's and NO, neither are in the Geriatric Wall area. Sting Like A Butterfly (5.9+) was put up on August 21st by George Hurley and Mike Khan and is located off the ledge just left of the end of the first pitch of Cakewalk. The second, Under Toe (5.8+), starts just to the left of the cool sport climb Shifty Eyes, in the middle of the cliff. This was put up on August 11th by Chris Graham and Bob Ahern. Both routes are listed in the Routes section on NEClimbs web site.
Ed Webster Lecture Sept 4th at IME:
Ed Webster is presenting a lecture entitled The First Ascent of Cathedral Ledge to The First Ascent of K2: 1910 - 1954. It will be held on Saturday Sept. 4th at 7 PM, at International Mountain Equipment in North Conway, NH. Tickets are $8/person at the door.
The lecture will include photos by (and of) Robert Underhill, Leland Pollock, Lincoln & Miriam O'Brien, Ken Henderson, Bill House, Paul Petzoldt, Bob Bates, Charlie Houston, & Fritz Wiessner, plus the Italian team that made the 1954 FA of K2. PLUS: photos of BOTH the 1938 & 1939 American K2 expeditions.
IME Labor Day Weekend End of Summer Clearance Sale:
International Mountain Equipment is having a sale offering 40-50% off summer clothing! This includes marked items only, does not include consignment items, or other discounted items or special orders. Sale runs Friday September 3-Monday September 6
Darn near no bug anywhere folks...
Up on one of the Mount Washington Valley's finest crags and want to know what that climb you're looking at is? Or maybe you're on your way up from Boston and want to check out the Ice Report for your upcoming weekend plans. Or more likely, you're at work just want to daydream about your next adventure. Well if you have a smart phone handy, you can get to NEClimbs from anywhere you have cell service. While it doesn't offer every single feature of the site and it's not an "app", in mobile form, it does do a whole lot and is very useful. Here is the live link to the mobile version of NEClimbs:
Check it out and if you have issues on your specific phone, please feel free to let me know.
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Have fun and climb safe,
The White Mountain Report
North Conway, New Hampshire
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