I still had to get my mountain fix in before heading back to the daily grind on Monday. It was cold Sunday morning, and the sky was that magical blue again. What is this, seven weekends in a row with bluebird skies? Been an amazing late fall for cyclists, but not skiers. Anyway, on a whim I decided to head over to Mt Monadnock. Turned out to be a great choice.
Only a handful of cars were in the headquarters parking lot. I still don't own hiking boots. I put on my street running shoes with braces on both ankle. The ranger said the wind chill was -4F up top. That would test the limits of clothing I brought along.
In the past, I've always hiked up the White Dot trail and come down the same or adjacent White Cross trail. This time I decided to take a longer route up, the Cascade Link trail up to Pumpelly to summit. This route spends more time on the ridge above tree line.
Cascade Link Trail
Hiking solo, I went up at an aggressive pace, something between tempo and threshold. After I passed a couple other solo guys on the lower flanks, I had the rest of the hike to myself. There was minimal ice on the way up. Only a couple bits made me ponder my mortality. My skin hasn't had a chance yet this season to acclimate to frigid air. Up on the ridge, I marvelled at how bitter cold it was, so close to Christmas, and yet zero snow up there.
Upon reaching the summit, there was not another person up there! Every other time I've hiked this mountain, it was a constant stream of people on the way up and dozens or more at the summit. The air was the clearest I've experienced. White capped Mt Washington, nearly 200km away, was clearly visible.
North panoram. View at 100% and pan.
I didn't have the summit to myself for long. I was soon joined by three others, one who just relocated from California and another from the UK. We ducked into the pocket at the summit to stay out of the wind. I wolfed down a sandwich before heading back down.
Wapack range to the east
Going down was the hard part. My knees instantly rebelled. I felt twice my age. I sometimes found it easier to sit on my butt and slide down than hop or step down the hundreds of oversized steps off the summit area. Then the ice flow started. A long section of treacherous ice had me grasping anything I could get my hands on to prevent this mountain from spitting me off its flanks. It appeared nobody had gone down the White Cross trail, as there was no evidence of spikes. Without warning, a large patch of flat ice I was walking across broke and both feet went in. Oh joy. -4F windchill with soaked mesh running sneakers. There was no way I could go remotely aerobic heading down to keep the fire stoked.
Start up White Dot, bear right on Cascade Link, left on
Pumpelly along ridge, then White Cross down. About 5.6mi.
By the time I got to the bottom, all the eccentric muscle activity left my legs in a quivering mess. I've run 500 miles this year, biked almost 500 hours, skied 500 miles, and yet a 2 mile slog down a mountain utterly destroyed my legs. Funny how the descent always takes me far longer than the climb.
By Monday afternoon, I couldn't even walk right. It seems odd that all the normal concentric muscle contraction does nothing to condition your legs for eccentric muscle contraction, where you muscles are lengthening under tension. I need to fix that. I hope to start up trail running again now that I believe my IT band issue is under control.