Thursday, December 29, 2011

Mt. Tom - My 1st Winter Solo Hike

Mt. Tom (4,057ft)
Elevation Gain: 2,150ft
Trail: Avalon, A-Z and Mt Tom Spur
Distance: 5.8 miles roundtrip
Duration: 4.5 hrs (includes stops for breaks along the trail and at summit)
My 4000+ Peak #16
Listed 4000+: #40
Difficulty: Moderate

My very first official solo winter hike! And my third attempt to hike Mt. Tom. Couple days ago I was making my second attempt to solo hike Mt. Tom. But when I got to the trailhead around 915am, it was still foggy/cloudy and overcast. The folks at the AMC Highland Center told me that the sun was going to come out but they didn't know what time. I didn't want to wait and take a chance of not having enough daylight to hike. And I sure didn't want to hike it with my camera equipment and not have any views to photograph. So I went to the International Mountain Equipment store in North Conway and shopped through their "Consignment" section in their basement where I found two fantabulous deals on used ice climbing equipment! OMG, Koflach ice climbing boots and Trango Harpoon Dual Point ice climbing crampons (with hardware and tools!) for under $100! WHAT A STEAL! So, you see, all was not lost for that day!

So finally a sunny day from the get-go! My husband had left our old Kirby vacuum in my pickup, so I quickly put it in his car trunk and rushed to pack my pickup, making sure to pack my snowshoes, along with extra socks and winter gloves. The temps were close to single digits but I was psyched at the clear skies and the prospect of getting some photos.

At the trailhead, there were several others leaving for Mt. Tom as well as Mt. Willard and Mt. Avalon/Mt Field. I wore my 4 layers of winter gear because of the wind gusts. No snowshoes, but MicroSpikes were fine. I thought about keeping my camera packed for my ascent but changed my mind and kept it out. It took me three hours to reach the summit. But it only took me an hour-and-a-half to get back down!

The Avalon Trail ascends gradually and crosses and recrosses the Crawford Brook. I didn't bother stopping, but the trail passes by the Beecher and Pearl Cascades path. It took me just under an hour to get to the A-Z Trail junction, where at 1.2 miles, the A-Z Trail diverges right from the Avalon Trail. It descends to cross the Crawford Brook in a steep gully. The ascent from there was gradual until about a little more than half mile, it gets pretty steep. By this time, my left knee was barking in pain. I cursed the rest of the way for leaving my knee brace back in my pickup truck. It was this last stretch that set me back on my time. Finally, at the junction of the Mt. Tom Spur path, I stopped to take photos and had a quick chat with a couple who had just descended the summit and was eating their lunch. They had the company of two very aggressive Gray Jays.

The Mt. Tom Spur path starts off gradually with a spot of small, icy boulders to scramble. At about this time I started getting telephone calls, first from my husband, and then my daughter. Reception was zilch -  each time I answered, we got disconnected. I tried calling them back but couldn't get through. I just continued on the trail.

Mt. Tom has two summits, the first to be reached is a false summit. There were two couples having lunch here and I continued on the main path about another 50/60 yards to the true summit. It was cold, so cold that I was not in the mood for taking photos, but I snapped a couple from this area. I backtracked to the false summit and took several photos first with my digital camera, then with my iPhone uploading them to my Facebook wall. My plan was to have lunch here, or just under the trees and out of the wind. I had a chicken salad sandwich and a flask of hot coffee and although I was hungry, I had no appetite. Yet I forced myself to take a sip of my coffee, which by now, was lukewarm. I quickly shoved my camera into my backpack and put my fleece gloves back on over my glove liners. By now my toes and fingers were so cold, it was making me angry. And the only way to warm up was to run. So I ran down the spur path and in no time I warmed up.

Back at the A-Z Trail junction I stopped for a quick break and two Gray Jays scooped up some trail mix I had dropped. Then it occurred to me why my husband would be calling me while I'm on the trail...I had his only set of car keys!  When I had switched the vacuum to his car, I forgot to leave his keys! I dug into the pocket of my 3rd layer and there they were! I was relieved that they had not fallen out and quickly transferred the keys to a pocket with a zipper. From there I ran down the trail. I fell once, but luckily did not hurt myself (but my lower back will be aching tomorrow). So I stopped running, walking quickly instead. I didn't want to chance falling again and breaking something and having to spend the night.

The trail wasn't crowded at all, only two dozen other hikers on the trail and several dogs along with them. Oh by the way, my chicken salad sandwich was frozen, but thawed out very nicely in front of my truck heater vents.

(I just purchased the Mophie Outdoor Edition for my iPhone and it came with the Mophie Outdoor app. I was able to get it working on my iPhone. It tracked me until I started trying to make calls. Then it just kept shutting down and I couldn't get it back to continue tracking me. I do like the tracking feature, it shows the trail in red and locates me letting me know if I'm on the trail or not. Still learning how to use it, their user manual is large!)

**Click on photos to view larger images

Tried out my iPhone's Peaks app
Photo taken from the AMC Highland Center parking
lot - the info in the black area gives my current location.
Along the Avalon Trail (6)





Along the A-Z Trail (2)

Along the Mt. Tom Spur path (4)



From the "true summit" (1)
From the "false summit" (4)
(Mt. Washington in the background)




1 comment:

Mark Truman said...

Great trip report and wonderful pictures! Just discovered your blog through Kimball @ Trails NH and I'm looking forward to following it. My wife and I did Tom/Field/Willey/Avalon the first week of December and had no snow whatsoever. Nice to see the frosting up there now. We did have the Gray Jays in common though. Darned things were everywhere! Had to laugh about you finding you husbands keys while you were out there. That would have had me in the doghouse for sure. Hope your back is feeling better.

Cheers,

Mark