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11/9- 11/10 Colvin to Sno Bird then some of the Great Range.

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  • 11/9- 11/10 Colvin to Sno Bird then some of the Great Range.

    Conditions: Snow free, but wet and muddy. Mud depended on what part of the mountain sees the sun and what's stuck in the shadows.

    Day 0. After seeing the forecast for Monday and Tuesday I decided to call off work and see some places of the HPs I've never been to. I left Sunday evening after saying bye to the wife and kids and drove up the Northway. I arrived at St. Huberts around 9pm and much to my surprise and delight there was only one other car in the Giant/Roaring Brook Falls parking lot. I decided to walk the short way to the base of the falls and camp at one of the designated sites.

    Day 1. I woke up around 6:30, packed up my bag and headed across the highway and up to the Lake Road. I took the Gill Brook trail up to Colvin. The trail was in good shape and mostly dry. (This would not be a sign of things to come.) I reached Colvin at about 9:45 and strated down to the Colvin/ Blake col. The mud was pretty heavy along the ridge and down to the col. When I reached the saddle I was super happy to not need to hike Blake. I knew what I was missing, which is not much. I headed down the "elevator shaft" toward Lower Ausable Lake. The trail was certainly steep and the mixture of wet leaves on wet rock and leaves hiding wet roots underneath made the trail pretty treacherous. It was more like the "one step away from serious injury shaft" Eventually I made it down, crossed the bridge to the Carry Trail and headed towards Upper Ausable Lake. The walk along the river was very pretty. I eventually passed the Wardens Camp and headed up the Haystack Brook trail towards the Sno Bird site. I reached the Sawteeth split and pumped some water out of the brook before heading on my way. The lower part of the trail was a nice gradual up hill and quite dry. You could tell it receives minimal use compared to many of the other trails in the HPs and had a feeling of remoteness. I was thankful the trail was free of blowdown as I wasn't sure how often it gets maintained. Eventually the trail shot up, and at one point I came to a ladder that had about 22 rungs leading up a rock face. I remember the feeling of "its getting late then realizing it was only 2pm. But at this time of the year in the mountains that is getting late as I only had about 2-2.5 hours of daylight left. After a few more ladders and steep sections I finally reached the range trail between Haystack and Basin. About 20 yards or so down the trail I got to the Sno Bird camp site. The site has at least 3 "camp here" discs and a thunder box privy. I set up camp, ate and had a great night's sleep.

    Day 2. I packed up and headed up Basin. I reached Basin and headed over to Saddleback. I was a little concerned about heading up Saddleback with a full pack but doing it a few times before with a day pack I knew that with careful inspection all the holds you need to get up the steep scramble are there and the moves make sense. Next I headed over to Gothics and up the cables. The real exciting part of this climb is below the cables on a rock slab that has a crack running about 25 feet up it that is ones best option for getting up. After getting up Gothics I had a decision to make of how I wanted to get back to the Lake Road. I chose to head out over to the Wolf Jaw notch and down the Wedge Trail knowing there was a campsite available if needed. The way to Armstrong was more of the same as was the hike to Upper Wolf Jaw. Basically mud and knee crushing downhill scrambles off short cliff sections. Eventually I made it to the Wolf Jaw Notch and headed down the Wedge Trail. This trail was dry and a nice gradual down hill. I was perfect for someone who wanted to get down quickly. I made it to the campsites at around 2:30 and decided to just push through down to the road where I knew I'd be able to walk to my car even if it was like a catatonic zombie. I got to the car around 3:45 and headed into Keene for some Gatorade and a Beer.

    All and all it was a great adventure. I'd high recommend the Haystack Brook trail and a night at Sno Bird if you're looking for something differnt.

  • #2
    That sounds like a great loop...I have always wanted to go up Haystack Brook trail to SnoBird. Might be the push I needed...


    • #3
      I've never done the elevator shaft - you have inspired me, though maybe not with wet leaves. We camped at sno bird a few weeks ago to help a friend finish her 46 - it was glorious to summit Haystack at sunrise!
      46R (#7146) ADK, 46W
      48 (NH 4000) + winter
      NE 115 (#706)
      NE Winter 115 (#82)


      • mastergrasshopper
        mastergrasshopper commented
        Editing a comment
        a very nice loop and good way to get some unused trails.
        Standard route up Colvin then down Elevator is GREAT.
        Warden camp up past Crystal brook is very little used remote trail !!
        2nd steepest climb in high peaks up Hay is on very cool slabs and not as hard as it would seem
        the loop down " Chutes and Ladders " trail down along east flank of Hay is all time favorite
        the crossing of Shanty brook is fantastic then trail up Saw is relentlessly steep last mile but remote and not an eroded rut.
        This whole way is highly recommended introduction to this area.

    • #4
      Thanks for your report!

      Your trip mimicked my first trip ever into the HPs, except we bailed down Beaver Meadows Trail and out. I've camped at Sno Bird three times. That first trip was the "darkest" experience I've ever had in the woods. It was so dark that when getting out of the tent at night to take a whiz I literally could not see my hand in front of my face. It was like I was in a cave.

      Since I don't hike peaks with full packs anymore I know there are trails I'll never see again. That stretch by the Warden's camp and up Haystack Brook is so memorable to me, but not likely to ever be hiked again. At the time (2004) there was a ton of blow down down low, from whatever weather event that may have caused it. Big trees were downed all over.

      Huntington Ravine in NH is another that I loved, but will probably not see again.

      Thanks again for sharing!