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Happy Washington's Birthday ... to us!

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  • Happy Washington's Birthday ... to us!

    "Quick - what's the best way you can think of to spend George Washington's birthday?"........... "Yep, I agree!!"

    On BernerBabe's list to finish the 48 we had Monroe and Jefferson, which are both fine hikes by themselves, but on a day like yesterday, they could only be made better by visiting their neighboring peaks as well. I have been busy at work, and picked up some extra stories (you Scrum people know what I mean) to help others on the team. Like enthusiastic winter hikers all over New England, Friday stood out as a "Presi Day" among a month of clouds, extreme cold, and ferocious winds. By late afternoon Thursday, I had managed to complete those stories and pulled together a small group including Kyle, Roberta (BernerBabe) and "Stinky Feet" Sue (to whom I must apologize for pulling her away from her original goal of NW Han****...)

    Kyle above treeline on the Ammo Ravine; Ascending Monroe (Tim C nearly at the top)

    We arranged to meet at 7 at the cog hiker lot, and Kyle and I carpooled from Concord, and met Roberta at New Hampton. Having Roberta's 4WD pickup was a plus since Base Station Road had a few inches of new powder, and we were delayed while someone's Prius was being pushed over the top of one of the rises (two weeks ago, we were delayed on Franconia Notch Parkway by another car-gone-off-the-road... hmmm.) The parking lot was a winter hiker reunion, with many familiar faces. The biggest celebrity was Hiker Ed, who needed only Jefferson (which he got) to finish "Over 60 Grid #2". We set out on snowshoes following Tim C who was on a mission for Monroe-Madison to finish his SSW48 - 2013. Amongst the four of us, we enjoyed a slightly more subdued pace while following the river to Gem Pool.

    Ran into Scarpy at the hut; Tower "lighthouse" on Washington

    Gem Pool arrived within an hour or so, and being warmed up, we paused briefly for food and water, and to raise the televators. As the elevation increased, so did the powder depth. What was 4-6" at the base looked like 6-8" as we approached Monroe Brook and Twin Falls. The crossing here was trivial, although the track to the right (the real trail) dead-ended after only a few steps. Instead, the track follows the gulley just to the left all the way to the hut. At the hut we debated adjusting layers as the wind was still pretty light. In the end, the shells came out. While preparing for Monroe, Scarpy and his cousin Taylor appeared, with Scarpy's dog Alaska. Monroe was straight forward, the only tricky spot is the S turns on the snowfield on the steepest part of the north side. At the summit, it was 9:30, when I usually have the daily Scrum meeting ("standup") so I called in to claim my status and plans for the day (okay, I was really calling in to gloat.) Did I mention we could see the Atlantic Ocean from the summit?

    View towards Pemi and Franconia Ridge; Roberta, Sue, Tim and Kyle on Monroe

    On the way down, we ran into Val and Mark, as expected having talked to Tim C earlier. Two more people, two more that we knew, also planning the same route as us. In fact, a whole conga line of people, many of whom we knew, were ascending or descending Monroe (and Washington and Jefferson too). Passing the hut, we crossed over the usual river of ice that forms from the spring-fed overflow of the Lake of the Clouds, and proceeded along the Crawford Path, or as close to it as we could come while trying to stay on snow and off rocks. Even with the recent snow, it is still pretty bony, and one could make do without snowshoes for the most part once above the trees.

    Snowfield along the Crawford Path; Looking back at Monroe

    There are some decent snowfields between the Crawford Path and the Trinity Heights Connector, and we used them to ascend in snowshoes, avoiding the rocks where possible. Mixed in with the snow is a fair amount of ice as well, so caution is advised because you could go for a bit of a ride here if you lost traction. At the summit, we ran into the state parks folks, Mike Pelchat and Guy Jubinville and chatted for a bit (well, mostly Guy) while having lunch and generally just basking in the low wind, low teens and 100-mile+ views. There was actually a (short) line for photos at the summit sign!

    The birthday boy; Group shot - first winter summit for Roberta and Kyle


  • #2
    We descended Trinity Heights connector and over the Cog tracks to follow the Gulfside. It's still very bony and icy here and we diverted back to the tracks for a bit as there is a definite no-fall zone along the Great Gulf headwall. As the terrain levels out, the ice and rocks became covered up by snow, increasing traction and making our snowshoes happy.

    Great Gulf and Northern Presis; Wildcat and western Maine

    Many people, when traversing between Washington and Jefferson, will take the Gulfside Trail around Clay. Why this is remains a mystery to me. Clay is my favorite peak in the Presidential Range, at least north of (and including) Washington. It is not really all that much out of the way either. Sue is on a mission to re-visit all the Trailwright peaks in winter and I needed no arm-twisting to visit this one. Clay was unique, conditions-wise, in that snowshoes were definitely the right footwear choice. For whatever reason, there is a ton of snow blown in and around Clay, and there were many interesting vantage points to enjoy Mother Nature's scultptures.

    Kyle on the way up Clay; One of many interesting snow sculptures courtesy of the wind

    The main reason for staying in snowshoes thus far was that I have been over Clay a number of times in winter, and it always has more snow than its neighbors. Once back on the Gulfside (Sphinx Col), we switched to microspikes, although bare-booting would have worked as well as the ice was minimal. There are occasional pockets of snow, but it held us well. Most of the travelers we encountered were likewise forgoing snowshoes. Some had left packs at the Jefferson Loop/Gulfside junction. We ran into Hiker Ed and his group on their way down, and congratulated him on his latest grid completion (60+ #2), and in usual Hiker Ed style, he congratulated us on "whatever peaks you've summitted today."

    Descending Clay bound for Jefferson; Adams from Jefferson

    Unlike last March, Monticello Lawn had a fair amount of snow cover, but the trail proper was hard packed or icy. The Cornice/Caps Ridge sign has been up-rooted from the rocks, rebar anchors and all, so be aware of that if you're looking for a sign in low-visibility conditions. Jefferson has those bumps surrounding the main summit that offer the false hope that one is close to the top, although between them, the double summit and "the big cairn" were visible. We scrambled up the final little bit where we ran into The Gibba (Peter), who graciously took the final summit group photo for us.

    Constantly changing, spectacular undercast conditions; Group shot on Jefferson

    On the way down, we ran into Val and Mark again, and on the way up the west side of Clay, Tim Seaver (again). The slog along Clay to reach the Jewell comes at that point in the hike where you're looking to point your snowhoes towards the car and turn on the auto pilot. Just past the spring, we put the snowshoes back on and navigated the spruce traps to pick up the Jewell. Right about where it re-enters the trees, we descending back into the clouds. The trail had a perfect snowshoe track and wound its way through the snow-laden trees, adding a final, different, but just-as-beautiful touch to a spectacular day above the trees.

    Happy Birthday, George Washington

    The full photo album



    • #3
      Nice day out, Tim. Funny, I did the same loop last year on George's birthday. Stealing my ideas?!
      “Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.” John Muir

      "Not the kind of "fun" you have to force yourself to remember you're supposed to be having, but the kind where you realize for the last half a day you've had this idiot grin on your face that you just can't seem to shake." -Mirabela