Saturday, February 19, 2011

Mt. Pierce - Winter Hiking

Elevation: 4,310ft
Trails: Crawford Path Trail
Elevation Gain: 2,350ft
Distance: 6.2 miles roundtrip
Duration: 5.5 hours

My 4000+ Peak #1 
Listed 4000+: #27
Difficulty:  Moderate

Alright this hike was easy....easy compared to last week's hike up to Noon Peak! The Sandwich Mountain Trailhead to Noon Peak is so steep near the top, it resembles what we rock climbers refer to as a "Slab Wall"! But today's hike was enjoyable.

The commute to Mt. Pierce took me through the Franconia Notch way. I have to admit, in the 24 years that I've lived here in New England, I've never been through that State Park...heck I haven't been to alot of the state parks in New Hampshire! Along the way I spotted more I-93 Ice Flows and stopped to snap photos.

As usual, I got lost, which is why I leave early. But I did find my way to the Crawford Notch AMC center and stopped to use the restroom and ask for directions. Joe Halloway pointed me in the right direction and also told me to come back after my hike to shop in their AMC store. I missed the turn onto the road to the Crawford Path parking lot and when I slammed on my brakes, I slid past the entrance and into a snow bank. Oopsies! In the parking lot I quickly shoved my 3 bucks in the bright yellow envelope and checked the front fender and grill of my truck...okay, no damage.

Met up with my fellow hiking companions; Janet, Catherine, Jess, Lyon and Clarice. I had previously hiked with Janet, Jess and Catherine and it was my first time hiking with Lyon and Clarice. Clarice and I were both bagging our first 4000+ footer peak, so we were totally excited about this hike!

We took the Crawford Connector from the parking lot. This led us to the bridge over Gibbs Brook and continued onto the Crawford Path Trailhead. Just upstream of the bridge was Gibbs Falls. Since we weren't making any stops on the way up, I settled for making sure I stopped at the Falls on our descent. Crawford Path Trailhead is moderately pitched and I kept telling myself how much I enjoy this ascent as compared to the ascent at Noon Peak a week ago. It was still overcast and there were just a few other hikers on the path. We met some hikers on their way down and some on their way up that we let through. And we came upon two hikers who were feeding a pair of chunky Gray Jays.

With our stops along the way, I didn't have to 'unlayer' but as we neared the summit, I did have to put on my balaclava. The wind started picking up and my cheeks and forehead were freezing. Several hikers on their way down warned us of the super windy conditions at the summit. We continued on and as we neared the top, we made the decision to get to the summit then come right back down, taking photos once at the bottom. 

At the summit you COULD NOT SEE A THING! It was a blizzard up there and I was not gonna attempt to take my camera out in that weather! 'Sides, my little 'Aloha' sign would have been blown away! And as for the view....what view? There was NO view! The wind was so strong that in no time my eyelashes and eyebrows were frosted up with icicles and the outer corner of my right eye was frozen shut...yep, no goggles! For just a split second I asked myself, "Seriously?" But I quickly put that out of my mind and chalked it up to a good experience and an excellent excuse to do more shopping.....buy goggles!

We quickly backed down making sure to stay close to one another just in case we got blown off the side of the mountain. Once under the tree line we stopped and regrouped. Janet's a 'runner' and told everyone she was running down. The rest of us just took our time on the descent and I figured that by the time we were at the parking lot, Janet would already be home!

I had purchased a pair of Reporter/Backpack straps from B&H Photo for my backpack but for some reason they didn't work out. When I got them I had hooked them to my backpack and camera and practiced with it on while at home. But on the actual hike, it didn't work and I couldn't strap my camera in for the descent, so I ended up carrying my camera near the bottom of our descent. I gotta work on this setup a bit more.

On our way down there were a lot more hikers making their way up and the cloudy skies gave way to sunshine. We stopped at Gibbs Falls but there was so much snow over the falls 'cept for the bottom where the water pools. No photo ops here.

Once at the parking lot we had our photos taken with the little paper sign I made and then drove across the street to the AMC center to use the restrooms and do some shopping. No "I climbed Mt. Pierce" bumper stickers and no goggles either. But there were plenty of books, maps, LLBean and AMC brand clothing and products. I spoke with Joe again and with the White Mountains map in hand, he pointed out the various trails to the mountain summits around us.

All in all it was a memorable hike for my first 4000+ peak! And this hike definitely had it all: cold temps at the base, comfortable temps on our ascent, a raging blizzard at the summit, patches of sunshine on our descent and shopping at the AMC center before heading home!

** Click on the photos to see a larger view 

Aloha from Mt. Pierce!





2 comments:

Steven Scott said...

Nice blog and post. I miss "the Whites," mountains that is! Love hiking hut to hut...very invigorating and urbane with the hutmeister doing some very excellent cooking!
Thanks so much for the follow on my blog...Field Note and Photos!
Mahalo.

Jobiwan said...

Great blog. Congrats on your first 4000'er! I haven't made it to the White's yet and I live next door (Vt). I do have a Presidential Traverse (sobo)scheduled for June 2011 and Crawford Path will be our final trail. Mt Pierce will be our final 4000'er.