Saturday, October 22, 2011

51F and Sunny...

The forecast looked highly favorable for a hike in the Whites on Saturday. My son Aaron is home on leave from the Navy and wanted to hike something he hasn't done yet, maybe 5hrs/10mi kind of deal.  I've been up the Benton Trail on the north side of Moosilauke, but never the south side. Aaron has never hike Moosilauke. It is relatively easy to get to. The old carriage road path seemed like a good choice. Not too technical, 3000ft+ net gain in about 5.1 miles.

All the high peaks in the Whites were socked in when we got there. Bummer. Seems every time I hike with Aaron, views are obscured. The lower carriage road was pretty muddy in spots. There was grumbling. It was nothing compared to what came later.

Aaron a couple miles in

I hiked a moderately aerobic pace, waiting a couple times for Aaron to catch up. I wore only a medium weight Casteli jersey. I threw a wind shell in the pack "just in case." No hat, no gloves, no extra thermal layers.

At about 4000ft elevation, it started snaining (snow and rain mixed). I thought it would blow through in a minute, as the forecast couldn't be that wrong, right? But the people coming down carried ominous signs: their hats and packs carried heavy tufts of wet snow.

When we reached the ridgeline above treeline, the snow was going sideways with about 100ft visibility. A slurry of slush was building up on my bare forehead. On the bike, I thought I experienced the most intense ice cream headaches possible, but this took top prize. I had nothing to put on my head. I stopped and questioned out loud to Aaron the wisdom of continuing. We were probably less than 500m from the summit based on Garmin readings. It was slick as snot. I decided to make a sprint for it.

Aaron was horrified. "What if you roll your ankle?" Um, then I freeze to death in less than an hour? At first I thought maybe he was concerned for my well being. But then a deeper realization dawned on me. I think my son realized I was Darwin Award material. The only problem, I wasn't taken out of the gene pool before reproducing. Ponder that from his perspective.


We reached the top in near blizzard conditions. Hard to believe how mellow it was just 3000ft below. I spent no more time at the summit than needed to take a picture. Then it was a race down to treeline without splitting our heads open on snow covered rocks. It is pretty easy for me to keep my core warm, but my hands and head were a different matter. Everybody else up there was in full winter gear, and still freezing. A woman even offered me a hat.

Coming back down, near tree line. 10sec shutter from cairn.

The snow let up momentarily when the sun tried to poke through, but then came back with a vengeance. As we descended, the snow turned to a steady rain, which sucked even more. I don't descend well, and there was no way for me to go down fast enough to generate any kind of body heat. As careful as I was, my feet still went out from under me. I was lucky to miss all the pointy rocks with my elbows and pelvis.

The hurried pace didn't help my IT band issue either. It flared up with about two miles to go. Not surprised really. I was just back up to 5mi/40min runs with no issues. This was 3+ hours into a rigorous hike.

It was nice back at the car just off the Sawyer Hwy.
Looking south, away from Moosilauke.

The total hike took about 3.7hrs moving time and covered 10.2 miles round trip. The descent took 6 minutes longer than the climb. This turned out to be an epic hike. I had hoped for a more leisurely pace and to hang around at the summit for a while. The view on a clear day is quite grand.

Carriage Rd path to summit

I would love to come back to this trail sometime when it is warmer and dry and run up this beast. The trail is pretty rocky in spots, especially above treeline, but good foot planting can be had in most places. The grade holds 20% or more for a couple miles in the middle.  80 minutes to the top maybe?

No comments: