A Long Weekend in the White Mountains


July 15-17, 2005

by Papa Bear

(Photo of PatN)
Peak above the Nubble from the East Peak
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A Long Weekend in the White Mountains

Friday July 15th - Cannon Mountain
Saturday July 16th - Unnamed Peak above the Nubble
Sunday July 17th - Scar Ridge


A Long Weekend in the White Mountains

T

his summer there was a good possibility that I would go to Labrador for an extended trip. However, for various reasons, that trip did not happen. So I had a whole summer to fill with hiking (among other things). I thought, perhaps I could finish up on the peakbagging lists I was working on. Those were the New England Hundred Highest (including the NH 4000 footers) and the New England Fifty Finest. I had already decided that Mount Carrigain would be my last peak on these lists since it was on both lists (as well as the NH 48 and the NE 67 which are included in the HH). I would shoot for Carrigain for October. My birthday is near the Columbus weekend so that was a nice medium term goal. Before this trip, this is where I stood:

Maine: Hundred Highest - all done, Fifty Finest - 4 to go
Vermont: Hundred Highest - 8 to go, Fifty Finest - 1 to go
New Hampshire (not including Carrigain): Hundred Highest - 14 to go, Fifty Finest - all done

Thanks to all my VFTT friends who hiked with me over this blitz. It's always more fun when you do things with friends.

This report is the last of four which cover my hikes and climbs during two weeks in July. The first report covers the peakbagging I did in New Hampshire from July 5 - 10 and the 11 peaks I climbed that busy week. The second recounts some peakbagging I did in Maine and the third covers the AT Section hike I did on July 12th. To go to the other reports, click on the entry below:

Blitz part 1: New Hampshire - 11 peaks in a week
Blitz part 2: Peakbagging in Maine
Blitz part 3: An AT Section Hike in Maine
Blitz part 4: A Long Weekend in the White Mountains (this report)


Cannon Mountain: July 15, 2005

I

  awoke Friday morning at about 6:30 AM at Audrey and Pat's cottage in Oquossoc, Maine. I had spent a very profitable 4 days hiking and peak bagging in Maine, but now it was time to get back down to New Hampshire. I had some unfinished business in New Hampshire.

My goal for July was to finish all the 4000 footers and Hundred Highest peaks in New Hampshire, but due to some rain and running out of time on past days I had 3 left - not counting Carrigain which I'm saving for last, probably in October. The three were Cannon Mountain, an easy 4000 footer with great views, and the two toughest bushwhacks on the list: Peak above the Nubble and Scar Ridge.

Today was a travel day, so I would drive over through Gorham, do some errands, then drive on to Franconia Notch and bag Cannon.

I got off at 7:40 and made it to Gorham in just about 2 hours. After doing my errands, I headed on to Franconia Notch. After a few false starts as to where to park, I reached the tramway parking lot and pulled off to the side of the road of the picnic area. It was 10:57. I changed into my hiking stuff, got my pack on and I was off at just about 11:15. It was a warm sunny day. It would turn out to be the best hiking weather of the weekend.

(photo of Echo Lake)
Echo Lake far below
The Kinsman ridge Trail starts out pretty easy and it is obviously old and well built. But soon it showed its age: several steep sections were highly eroded dirt gullies, and looked like they would be "interesting" when the rains come. Soon these were replaced by a rough and rocky steep trail, typical of many in the Whites.

At this point I heard some shouting above. It was a 20 something couple in sneakers and T-shirts with no water or packs stumbling down the trail, and cursing about how could someone have not warned them about the trail. They were ranting about "really laying it on" some poor soul down below who had apparently told them of the trail. I had trouble even finding someone who knew there was a trail, since 99.99% of the folks there were just interested in taking the tram to the top. As I loped by them they were saying, sort of in my direction "how could they not have told us, blah, blah, curse, curse. How were we to know blah, blah, blah curse, curse". I said sarcastically "Read the book" and quickly moved on.

Well, this gratuitous advice did not sit well with them. As I left them behind, I could hear screams of "READ THE BOOK! I hope you don't break you back! f*ck, f*ck, f*ck!". I don't usually insult perfect strangers, but somehow my comment just slipped out. Well, happily I didn't break my back and continued up.

Near the top of the steep part the trail coincided with steep corridor that reminded me of a snowmobile trail, but perhaps too steep. It was too straight for a cross country ski trail so I just don't know what it was.

Soon the mountain leveled off and a short trail led left to an outlook with fantastic views of the Franconia Ridge just across the notch. Breathtaking. The trail then descended slightly and them climbed the summit dome. The observation tower was visible up to the left and the upper tram station was over to the right.

But what was that noise? It was screaming! Hundreds of little kids screaming at the top of their lungs. No, they
(photo of Franconia Ridge)
Franconia Ridge across the Notch
were not being attacked by bears (alas) but they were just screaming because they could. Now I know why I prefer a lonesome bushwhack to a mountain with a tramway!

I made my way through old, young and middle aged folks ambling along with their walkers and Ice cream cones and whatnot and finally arrived at the tower. There must have been no less that 100 kids in yellow shirts with various larger people with similar yellow shirts clogging up the entire tower top, stairs, everywhere. I elbowed my way up the stairs ("excuse me, excuse me, excuse me"), took a few photos and then made my way down again ("excuse me, excuse me, excuse me") and hurried off to find a quiet spot to eat my lunch. It had taken me a little over an hour and half to climb up.

Going down was relatively easy, with no real problem spots (or people) and I got to the car around 2:30 PM. It was another great day in the White Mountains!

Cannon Mountain: #47
Distance hiked: 4.0 miles
Elevation gain: 2200'
Time: 3:16
Obnoxious children: 120
Curses recieved: 11
Photos: Cannon Album


Unnamed Peak above the Nubble: July 16, 2005

I

  spent the night at Hikers Paradise in Gorham. I was due to meet "Onestep" Saturday morning at 7:00 AM. I figured this was about an hour away, so I got up at 5:50 and hit the Dunkin Donuts that we all know and love so well, and was off on the road at 6:00 AM. We were going to meet at the Gale River Road turnout on Route 3, but conversations with Audrey I had had during the week had me leaning towards the Haystack Road approach. I met Onestop about 6:50 and we had a discussion on the route. We agreed the route starting from Haystack Road (the road which leads to the North Twin Trailhead) which followed the north ridge which leads to the East Peak, was the one to follow. This would be similar to the route posted by Frodo on VFTT.

Audrey had said to start at the road that turns right off of Haystack Road which has 3 large boulders blocking vehicular access. This road is shown on the AMC map 1.8 miles from Route 3, about a mile before the North Twin trailhead. This puts the starting point east of both streams which rise up to the peak (one on either side of Haystack Mountain). Both streams cross Haystack Road in culverts .7 and .9 miles from Route 3 respectively.

We got ourselves ready, checked our strategy and our maps and were off about 7:20. We followed the old grassy road up an easy incline and after about 1/2 mile passed a sand pit on the left. Right after this, a logging skid road
(photo of PatN)
Peak above the Nuble from Twin Mountain
Note the clear-cut area that we hiked through
branched off to the right up the hill and we followed this. It actually headed up very close to the bearing we had taken from the map. The road rose and passed through several clear-cut areas generally on the left side. At the last clear-cut we could see the peak rising up in front of us and we confirmed our compass bearing with this visual.

We entered the woods about 7:45. We followed the ridge with checks with the bearing and side stepping thick areas when necessary. The slope took us ever so slightly to the left of the bearing, which was OK since no ridge line will follow a perfectly straight line. There was one significant rock ledge which we skirted to the left. Generally the going was easy. We reached what we thought was the East Peak or False Summit about 8:50 and then set out for the summit on a new bearing along the summit ridge and found a herd path. It turns out this was not the False Summit after all, but a False False Summit, as we reached a higher peak along the ridge in about 20 minutes. This was the True False Summit or East Peak (which on old AMC maps is identified as the "Nubble", as distinct from Haystack Mountain). It was open at the top and we could get a perfect view of the True Summit ahead of us (and it was indeed the True True Summit).

There was an area of rough going through some blowdowns just past this peak, but soon the going got good again and we found another herd path. But as we got out of the tough section, Onestep noticed that the center of his compass was no longer with him. All that was left was the outer rectangular shell; the circular compass part had been snatched by the bushwhack gremlins! He was glad he had a backup (me!). Lesson: make sure everyone has map and compass!

We reached the Final True Unnamed Peak above the Nubble at 9:42 and celebrated with some lunch. The views of North
(photo of PatN)
Peak above the Nubble from the East Peak
Twin and it's north slide were impressive, but alas the day was too hazy for a good photo. It was also very buggy. The black flies were harrying us but thankfully not biting (or not biting very often). We ate our lunch with long sleeves and head nets on and sweltered in the heat and humidity, But we had made the summit in about 2 1/2 hours and were justly proud. We signed the register, read the recent entries and got going back down. It was just past 10:00 AM

As we started down, Onestep noticed a herd path veering off to the right to the steep ridge on the north side. He looked over and saw a path that went straight down this very steep slope. We speculated that this might be Gene Daniel's "forbidden trail". But why would someone cut a trail down this side of the peak? Where would it end up? on the North Twin Trail? Whatever.

The whack down was, if anything, easier than the route up. We kept close to our bearing but by veering left slightly, avoided the blowdowns and the East Peak altogether. It was more or less a straight shot down the ridge.

We were surprised to meet three hikers coming up. They asked us "Where are we coming from?" Duh! I answered: "The same place you're going", resisting the urge to say "Oh, we're just a few minutes from the top of North Twin".

Knowing we had veered left a bit to avoid the East Peak, we shifted slightly to the right and kept seeing what looked
(photo of canister)
Papa Bear at the canister
like the rock ledge we had noticed on the way up. Well, after several False Rock Ledges, we actually came to the True Rock Ledge. Actually we had to butt-slide the 4 - 5 feet drop over it and didn't recognize it till we were looking back at it from the lower side. It was short work from there to the clear cut and we got into the open at exactly the same tree where we had entered the woods.

We crossed the clearing and proceeded down the skid road to the old grassy road. Would you believe when we got to the sand pit, I realized I had not noticed it on the way up! So if you go this way look behind you once and a while and you'll see the sand pit. We reached the car at about 11:45 - a round trip time of 4 1/2 hours. This was one easy bushwhack. Just give me less humidity, less heat and less bugs and I'd do it again in a minute.

Onestep and I had a nice lunch at Mr. Pizza in Gorham and I had a 24 oz "Hit the Trail Ale". Having a long drive, Onestep had ice tea. Hah! After lunch I drove (carefully) back to Hikers Paradise and had a long nap. One bushwhack done before noon followed by a beer and a long nap! Life was very good.

Unnamed peak above the Nubble: #90
Distance hiked: 3 miles (approximate)
Elevation gain: 2100' (approximate)
Time: 4:29
Photos: Peak above the Nubble Album


Scar Ridge: July 17th 2005

O

nestep had eagerly agreed to do Scar Ridge with me when we talked about it the previous day. (What were we thinking?) He even said he had been thinking of doing it on Sunday by himself. Audrey had said she and Pat were also interested so I had set a meeting time for 9:00 AM. It turned out Audrey couldn't come but I did get an extra hour's sleep because of the late starting time. I had a bit of a constraint, since I needed to drive back to the Boston area after the whack, but that looked like it would be no problem.

I hit the Dunkin Donuts at 6:30 and was rolling by 7:00. I took the "northern" route: Route 2 to 115 to 3 to 302 to Bear Notch Road to the Kanc rather than the "southern" rote through North Conway. Who knows, maybe it was longer. At 7:00 AM Sunday there was no traffic anyway. But I am always impressed at the stupendous mountains when going down through Crawford Notch. And the view was certainly better that a shopping mall in North Conway!

I got to the Discovery Trail parking lot at about 8:45 and there was Onestep waiting. It turns out he had made good time and had arrived at 8:00. With yesterday's good whacking experience we were rearing to go. We were basically going to follow Yogi's route which was posted on VFTT earlier this year. It basically follow the ridge line up from Big Rock Campground straight up to the ridge just east of the canister bump.

A word on the bumps. The highest point on the ridge is a peak with two spots above the 3760' contour (40' contour interval) separated by about .3 miles. The eastern bump has no spot elevation and the western bump is marked "x3774" on the map. Strictly speaking, the higher of the two bumps is unknown, but by convention the one with the spot elevation is generally considered to be the higher point. Unfortunately, the canister is on the other (eastern) bump. Here's a map. (The canister is located where the "+" is). So what is one to do? Do them both, of course! (By the way, that dotted line on the map is not a trail, it's the Lincoln/Livermore town boundary line.)

Eric Savage (head of the 4000 footer committee) commented on the two bumps on VFTT (here's Eric's post):

As for Scar Ridge, the x3774 bump is considered to be the true summit but is so flat that no one spot can be identified as the highest. As long as you make some reasonable effort to wander around over there, you can count it. The canister was placed on the other peak only to make it easy to find (it would just be cruel, after having done a bushwhack like Scar Ridge, not to make it as easy as possible to find the canister).

We would worry about the bumps when we got there. First we had a stream to cross and over 2 miles to bushwhack to
(photo of Hancock Branch)
Crossing the Hancock Branch
get to the ridge . We got moving at 8:52 AM and we walked the short distance along the Kanc to Big Rock Campground. A little path on the south side of the highway led down to the Hancock Branch. We got down to the water and it looked like an easy rock hop. Onestep hopped across but I made a misstep on the last rock and ended in the water. I was wearing my bush whacking sneakers so I took them off and wrung out my Smartwools and they felt OK. The heat of the day would cause enough sweat so that this brief dunking probably would not matter much.

The ridge that leads to the canister bump is very broad at the bottom, stretching from one tributary to the Hancock Branch to the next, a distance of about .6 miles at the lower end. Near the top,the ridge becomes virtually a knife edge, just a few feet across. Although we had a good bearing from the map, once on the upper, narrower part of the ridge it was quite easy to follow the ridge upward, always walking directly up hill at right angle to the contours.

The lower section was largely old birch and young Spruce. We avoided the Spruce since it was rather thick in places. Most of the way it was an open easy walk. When the ridge got steeper and narrower, we would start to find intermittent
(photo of herd Path)
On a herd path
herd paths. They would tend to disappear at a blow down or a thick area, and we would have to search again on the other side. We found it helpful in these sections to walk abreast, perhaps 10 yards apart, and usually one of us would find a path (sometimes we both would find one) and then we would follow it for a while. Towards the top, the ridge got really narrow and we walked along a knife edge of rock ledges for perhaps 100 yards. The ridge then widened and the terrain got flatter and we knew we were at the top. The herd path disappeared but the woods were very open. We checked the far (south) side of the ridge but finding nothing, we just headed right (west) at a slight angle towards the higher ground and found a path rather quickly.

The path wound around to the right (north) of the high point and approached it from the north, and after ducking a few blow downs we found ourselves at the canister. It was almost exactly 12 noon. We had taken a little over 3 hours getting up here. We took a break, read the register and ate some lunch. I had a pizza slice left from the night before. Yum!. It had been a long but not difficult bushwhack to the canister. We felt pretty good, especially upon reading some of the long treks and difficult going related in the register. We saw that fellow VFTTers Harryk, Spongebob, Hikethe115 and Little Bear had summited the day before via the same route and had also had a real good trek.

The top of the ridge was in the clouds so there were no views either from the road looking up, or from here. The vegetation was rather wet (although it was not raining) and this, combined with our profuse sweating led to our clothes being soaked.

Next job: the x3774 "true summit" bump. Bob and Gerri had said it took an hour to traverse the .3 miles between the peaks and return, so we expected the worst. The worst came right away. Just west of the canister bump there was a very thick section of blowdowns and Spruce. We plowed through this slowly and then found an area of older trees and suddenly it was smooth sailing. I'm not sure if we couldn't have found a way around this on one side or the other, but we didn't want to drop off the ridge much so we didn't stray very far. From about the mid point between the bumps it was very open with a path that went up and wandered around the x3774 bump. We stood on several candidate high points and finally picked one and took some pictures, then headed back to the canister. We wanted to make sure we got to the canister again instead of just working our way around the bump so that we could reconstruct our upcoming route as closely as possible.

(photo of canister bump)
The canister bump
  (photo of true summit bump)
The true summit bump

We got back to the canister at 1:20, just about an hour as predicted. There were two herd paths off of the bump, ours and one to the south east which we did not explore. Perhaps it came from the Little East Pond route.

We worked our way down to the flat open area and convinced ourselves we were at the point we had first arrived at from the ridge up from the Kanc, and started down using the same bearing in reverse.

Well, we soon discovered that going down a ridge is much harder than going up. Going up you just follow the maximum (steepest) gradient. Going down the reverse holds true: the ridge line is actually the most gradual gradient. We found ourselves zig zagging from side to side, simultaneously trying to keep to our bearing and staying on the ridge, and usually accomplishing neither. The other problem is that herd paths are much harder to find going down. On the climb up they are right "in your face" but going dow they fall away from your feet. Suffice it to say we didn't find one going down till we were way down the ridge.

We soon found ourselves, in spite of every effort, down on the left (west) side of the ridge. And here's the irony: in Yogi's account, he said he had an easy time staying on the ridge going up, but slid down to the left on the way down. In my head I said "Well I'll make sure I don't do that". I asked Onestep and he admitted to thinking the same thing. Well Yogi, if you're out there, forgive us our private denigrations. It's a lot harder than we both thought.

What to do? Onestep had the idea to contour around to the right until we got back on the center of the ridge, and so we did. But it was very hard. It's much easier to climb up or go down than to go sideways. And the going was thicker here than on the center of the ridge, and forget about herd paths. Finally Onestep could see daylight up to the right, indicating the crest of the ridge. So we climbed up briefly and low and behold, we were back on the ridge crest and our bearing now pointed down the center of the ridge as it should have all along. But in our adventures going down
(photo of black files)
Black flies congregating on my knee
and back up from the ravine to our left, we completely bypassed the knife edge section. A warning to future Scar Ridge whackers: don't slide off the ridge - it's harder to avoid than you think.

Once we started down again we picked up a herd path (briefly), but we had no more trouble staying on the ridge. But the thick sections seemed to be more numerous than on the way up and the last mile or so through the relatively gentle terrain seemed to go on forever. And the bugs! At one point I was sitting taking a break and the black flies were having a convention on my left knee and left shoe. Luckily they weren't biting. At another point I did a complete flip and fell head over heels while scrambling over a blow down. Luckily I had a soft landing for which I was very grateful (and so was Onestep). I guess I was tired. Surprise!

Eventually we could hear the stream and then a few cars and we knew we would soon be done. But I was so unsure of my footing I decided to just trudge across the stream. Onestep rock-hopped across with little effort. Ah youth!

We took some time to rinse off in the cool water. Great feeling. Then we trudged up the last 50 yards or so to the road (no path here) and limped back to the cars. We arrived back about 5:20. It was about 3 hours up, 1 hour to the x3774 bump and back, 4 hours down and a half hour for this and that. 8 1/2 hours. Not bad, but I was scratched and bitten and exhausted. But we did it, and I would do it again priovided 1) it was cooler and less humid, 2) there were no bugs, 3) someone can figure out how to stay on that d*mn ridge coming down. Sounds like a project for this Fall. Anyone?

It was good to be done, but of course I was not done. It was a three hour drive back to the Boston area. But I made it just fine and here I am today in NYC (almost) ready to go again.

Scar Ridge: #91
Distance hiked: 5 miles (approximate)
Elevation gain: 2300' (approximate)
Time: 8:31
Photos: Scar Ridge Album

It was a long weekend. A very long weekend.


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