Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Trailwrights 72 Peaks in 6 Weeks

After returning from 6 weeks on the West Coast on January 31 and back in Vermont for the duration of winter, I desired a little goal on which to focus and ultimately decided on hiking/snowshoeing/spiking to the top of all the 4000 footers of New Hampshire during the remaining 6 weeks of calendar winter... but with a twist. My goal was to climb the 72 Trailwrights 4000 footers instead of the more commonly tackled AMC list of 48 peaks. The Trailwrights’ list has 50% more peaks because cols need be only 100 feet deep or they must have a name on the correlating USGS map. As a result of this clarification, some quality peaks are included such as Sam Adams, Clay, Guyot, Little Haystack, S Moosilauke & Hight. Sections of a few of the peaks are trailless: SW Twin, NW Hancock, M&W Osceola, & small bits of Blue, Sam Adams, JQ Adams & Lethe, & the Black Pond & Brutus sections of Owls Head. The Trailwrights rules also state that only one peak may be counted per hike. Each and every single peak to be earned on its own account. No ridgeline bagging allowed here!

Ten years ago, in March of 2003, I was the second person, behind consummate peakbagger Hiker Ed Hawkins, to complete the Trailwrights list in winter using their one-peak-per-hike rule. For this year's endeavor I did not follow the OPPH rule. One reason is that I do not own stock in big oil and did not relish the idea of driving 1-2 hours to the White Mtns. and back 72 times. Another reason is that I am a big girl and like making my own rules sometimes.  My goal was not to do them especially fast -- they certainly can and will be done much faster -- but rather to merely climb them all within 6 weeks.

The first peaks were Cabot and Waumbek on February 4, but with prior commitments the rest of that week my start was a slow one, with the next hike not until February 10. Still lacking 23 peaks on March 11, I wasn't so sure if I'd be able to pull it off. However, after much bordering-on-neurotic weather watching and with the help and companionship of some good friends, the last few hikes went off smoothly. The final 3 days were the only ones that felt a bit challenging, with 19 peaks, 56 miles, and 17,000+ feet of climbing, but my stars were apparently aligned.

What did I accomplish? Nothing much of significance to anyone but me, just a lot of fun completing another list. For the sake of perspective... with improved gear and the sheer numbers of folks out there packing down the trails, at least to the popular 4000 footers, winter hiking is (usually) much easier today than it was 20 years ago when I first started. On March 9 I had the good fortune of running across an old friend, Tim Kennedy, at Madison Hut, and we descended Valley Way together, chatting nonstop. Tim started winter hiking in 1971, barely 10 years after the Underhill-Collin generation of climbers, the first to do the winter 4000 footers, and he had some wonderful stories to tell about climbing the peaks in wood-and-rawhide bearpaw snowshoes lacking any kind of crampon, with heavy gear, crappy boots, etc. Except for a few years in the early 1980s, snowfall was generally more & deeper, and nothing was broken out, ever. It’s always humbling to think of the Underhills conquering the Hancocks in winter. Because the Kanc was unplowed, this was a multi-day undertaking complete with a box of food cached the summer before. This is something I often think of when climbing the Hancocks in winter, a hike that now rarely takes longer than ½ day.

Too, one of the biggest relatively recent changes is in the ability to communicate (usually) from the backcountry. On my solo hikes I was able to send text messages reporting my location and progress to my husband and a friend of ours. I could also text them if I decided to change plans on the fly. For example, after climbing the Tripyramids solo via Pine Bend Brook, I decided to descend Sabbaday Brook and was able to let them know that via text message. Point being, adventure is not dead, but milder weather, packed trails, better gear, ability to communicate and navigate with GPS do make it easier to raise the bar ever higher. Now then…

A few stats:
- Start date: February 4
- End date: March 17
- Total number of days hiked: 22
- Total miles covered: 299
- Approximate total vertical climbed: 90,450 feet
- Longest mileage day: Bonds/Guyot/Zealand (23.4 miles)
- Shortest mileage day: Tecumseh (5 miles)
- Most vertical climbed in a day: Wildcats to Moriah traverse (7200 feet)
- Least vertical climbed in a day: Tecumseh (2200 feet)
- Fastest hikes: Ones with Jeff, LRiz & Rob (Holy crap, 8:20 for a winter Wildcats-to-Moriah traverse... I'm still trying to catch my breath)
- Mellowest hikes: Ones with my Sweetie
- Unofficial trail that felt like an official trail: Firewardens Trail up Hale
- Official trail that felt like a bushwhack: Davis Path from North Isolation to Slide/Gulf Peak.
- Actual trailbreaking thru 6-8 or more inches snow: Franconia Ridge from Little Haystack to Liberty, Mt. Garfield Trail, Asquam Ridge Trail on Moosilauke, Davis Path from Isolation Trail north, Upper Bondcliff Trail to Guyot, & most of the bushwhacks.
- Peaks bailed on: Carrigain 4.5 miles in on February 17 due to extreme high winds.
- Fees spent on trails: $10 to hike up Wildcat D
- Times my alarm clock woke me up: Zero (Cats wake me every morning at ~4:30).
- Miles hiked in the dark: a couple on Liberty Springs Trail & a few on Gale River Trail & Road.
- Times I serendipitously encountered Hiker Ed or his truck at the trailhead: 6
- Most unnerving situation: Franklin to Monroe solo in quickly diminishing visibility
- Most surprising: "Bogus" Mt. Lethe has a wonderful view, & the short bushwhack is very easy in winter.
- Most disappointing: Encountering HUGE groups of hikers and too many postholing morons
- Animal/bird sightings: Pine marten atop Tecumseh & gray jays on Field, Tom, Garfield & Hale. Only one set of moose tracks seen, on Lowes Path.
- Favorite hikes: I enjoyed all of them! Sam Adams was especially cool because it was a beautiful Presi Day, there was a conga line going up Adams, & I had the equally beautiful summit of Sam Adams all to myself. Also really enjoyed doing Hale via the Firewarden's Trail w/Chris & observing his joy (having never been there before) at the winter wonderland conditions & the gray jays.
- Least favorite hike/section: Rollins Trail
- Most humorous text message sent:  "I do not heart the Rollins Trail.  Blowdowns & searching for trail. Ai yi yi... Stick a fork in me... I'm done."
- Number of peaks done solo: 24 (10 hikes)
- Peaks done w/others: All the rest... Thanks to the wonderful companionship of Cruddytoes, BikeHikeSkiFish, BernerBabe, NH Flyer, Scarpy, Dehydrator, Kyle, Hamtero, Freakish Calves, LRiz, Sasquatch, Jeff, Victoria, and Anthony and also to awesome trail dogs Tucker, Toby, and Lyle. But biggest thanks to Chris for indulging my endeavors... and for doing Tecumseh, Hale, and parts of Owls Head and Carrigain.

The full schedule:
2/04 - Cabot, Solo... followed by Waumbek w/Cruddytoes
2/10 - Lafayette, Truman, Lincoln, Little Haystack, Liberty, & Flume w/BikeHikeSkiFish, BernerBabe, NH Flyer, Scarpy, & Dehydrator
2/12 - N&S Kinsman & Cannon, Solo
2/13 - Field, Willey & Tom... followed by Jackson, Solo
2/14 - Pierce, Eisenhower, Franklin & Monroe, Solo
2/17 - Carrigain attempt, Solo. With Signal Ridge in mind, turned back 4.5 miles in by high winds.
2/20 - N, M & S Tripyramid, Solo
2/22 - Monroe, Washington, Clay & Jefferson w/BikeHikeSkiFish, BernerBabe & Kyle
2/23 - N&S Twin, SW Twin & Galehead w/Hamtero & Cruddytoes
2/25 - Owls Head, Solo
2/26 - Carrigain, Solo (Chris joined me on Sawyer River Road)
3/01 - Garfield, Solo
3/02 - S, N & NW Hancocks w/Freakish Calves & Tucker
3/03 - S Moosilauke, Moosilauke, Blue & Jim w/LRiz, Sasquatch & Toby
3/05 - Tecumseh w/Chris
3/06 - Whiteface & Passaconaway, Solo
3/08 - Hale w/Chris
3/09 - Adams 4, Sam Adams, Adams 5, Adams, John Quincy Adams, Madison w/Cruddytoes & Lyle
3/11 - E, Main, Middle & W Osceola, Solo
3/15 - Isolation, N Isolation, Gulf/Slide Peak & Boott Spur w/Cruddytoes
3/16 - Bondcliff, Bond, W Bond, Guyot & Zealand w/Jeff List
3/17 - Wildcats D, C, B & A, Carter Dome, Hight, S&M Carter, Lethe, N Carter & Moriah w/Cruddytoes, Jeff List, Sasquatch, LRiz, Victoria & Anthony

Onto the next adventure !!

Winter Recap - the First 6 Weeks

Winter is going out like a Lion here in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont.  On this day before calendar spring officially begins, it is snowing like gangbusters outside my window, with 12-18" predicted before the storm is over tomorrow.  Sure is beautiful - how I missed snow living in SoCal x 6 years.

Chris and I had an interesting winter.  The first 6 weeks were spent living as vagabonds out West, with the last 6 weeks at home in Vermont.  We left New England on December 19, driving all the way back to California in the Honda Element.  We've made the trip cross country so many times now that we're pretty good at knowing great places to stop and stretch our legs which feels SO good after being cooped up in a vehicle.  This particular trip we got runs in on Dickey Ridge in Shenandoah National Park in Virginia; Chimney Top on the Barkley course in Frozen Head State Park, Tennessee; Pinnacle Peak State Park in Hot Springs, Arkansas; Palo Duro Canyon, near Amarillo, Texas; and Grand Canyon National Park, where we snagged a cabin at the Bright Angel complex on Christmas Eve.  Christmas morning I got in a great run down the Bright Angel to Plateau Point and back.  What a special place to spend Christmas.  We also enjoyed spending a night with our good friends Steve and Deb in Jemez Springs, New Mexico.

We closed out the old year and welcomed the new with a little Coyote runfest back in California: a few Ray Miller loops in Pt. Mugu State Park, a couple of days on Santa Cruz Island, and for me running the awesome course of the old Coyote Fourplay 40 miler on December 31st while a bunch of folks did variations of the fat-ass 24 Hours of Ray.  Not a bad way to close out 2012.

Our wanderings next took us on a big, circuitous route to Santa Barbara, Joshua Tree National Park, Sedona, Las Vegas, Death Valley National Park, Bishop, Sacramento, and back down the Central Coast.  We discovered more great trail running in Sedona as I tried to "redline" my local trail map, the loop around Cathedral Peak and the Hangover Trail being particular favorites.  At the end of one of my runs I was chased by a skunk -- though thankfully not sprayed -- a definite first for me.  In Vegas we spent a couple of days out at Red Rock Canyon but found even better running farther south on the Cottonwood Trails, where there was much more smooth, serpentine singletrack.  We spent all of 2 hours on the Strip, such Vegas people we are... NOT.  Death Valley has never disappointed.  We checked out some old favorite trails as well as some new ones, including the awesome Ubehebe Crater.  Such interesting territory out there in the Mojave Desert...

Next up was a couple of days in Bishop.  Since I didn't bring winter gear for the mountains, runs in the Buttermilks had to suffice, and they did.  For the next four days in a row, I ran on the pancake flat American River bike path in Sacramento while we stayed with Chris's brother and his wife.  My run the following day -- on the lovely Vicente Trail in the Ventana Wilderness of the Central Coast -- was pure bliss after 4 days on a paved bike path.  Aaahhh...  On January 31 we flew back to Vermont to finish out the second 6 weeks of winter...