Monday, May 27, 2013

Not what I expected

The Hill Junkie blog ain't dead... yet. Back-to-back proposals at work and lack of inspiring short topics to share relegates blog time far down on the pecking order. Income, sleep, riding and home projects leave no bloggy time.  I do have a few important topics brewing, including one that I've done a fair amount of research on and will no doubt be a polarizing topic like gun control or other ideological controversies of the day.

But this post is not about that. The weather this holiday weekend thwarted best crafted plans. Just like they say in war, battle plans never survive contact with the enemy. The enemy this weekend was the weather - perhaps the suckiest Memorial Weekend weather since I moved to New England in 1997. We had a group ride planned in northern Vermont on Saturday. The forecast called for lots of rain and frigid temps. We're not stupid. We don't go out on 200km misery fests just so we can brag about how "epic" it was to those who opted out. The ride was cancelled.

So I did solo repeats on nearby Pack Monadnock instead. Short, but potent workout. I brought my hardtail MTB so I could have assurance of controlling my speed on the descents with disc brakes. A couple portions of Pack exceed 20% grade. When wet with tree debris on it, coming down can be quite terrifying on 23mm tires with caliper brakes. Naively, I didn't think I needed booties. I wore other winter gear. My feet promptly froze. The dense drizzle quickly saturated everything and added 10 pounds to the weight I had to carry up each time. I felt a little wobbliness in my legs on the fourth climb, so I called it good and headed back down to Wilton where I started. It took the whole drive home with floor heat on high before I got all the feeling back in my feet.

Sunday afternoon, the weather finally broke. The sun made an appearance. Cathy and I decided to get in a hike. We attempted Mt Cardigan a couple years ago in the fall. We had to turn around half way up because there was too much ice and we didn't have spikes. Other than being wet, it didn't even register that conditions might not be much better this Memorial Day weekend...

We parked at the AMC lodge on the east side. Driving in, I said to Cathy, "Is that snow up there?" She said no way. It sure did look like it. Cardigan just breaks 3000ft. I knew northern VT got snow, lots of it in places. I didn't think this far south and this low was at risk.

We no more than started hiking than we encountered snow. The snowline was down to 1500ft. I got pretty pissed, as I was hiking in an old pair of running shoes (open mesh top, but grip extremely well on wet granite). Plus, it was way colder than at home. I didn't bring hat or gloves. Silly me.

About half way up the Manning Trail, the snow got deeper, making climbing treacherous. I gave up trying to avoid the water running down the middle of the trail. You could get traction there, not in the snow to the side. My feet were soaked anyway. Two days in a row with numb feet. Grrrrrrr!

We kept going and eventually reached the open slickrock ledges approaching the Firescrew summit. We had to hike and scramble against rushing torrents of water in many places. Guess the warm granite was melting the snow quickly. Didn't warm the water any. I'm sure it was 32F.

The wind was ridiculous up top. You had to brace yourself to stand. Maybe 50mph? The windchill had to be in the teens too. I didn't know how I was going to keep warm if we traversed over to the Cardigan summit along the exposed ridgeline. To make matters dicier, random bursts of rain and stinging sleet moved through too. Unbelievably raw. I wondered why, in an hour of hiking, we hadn't seen another soul...

I wasn't going to let the mountain beat me again. Cathy was certainly good to go, as she wore more layers, including an outer Goretex shell with a hoody. Smaht, unlike me.

There were many deep pools of frigid water and knee deep slushy snow drifts to plod through in between the two peaks. The final scramble to the summit was really going to suck. Zero trees to break the wind, just bare granite. I made haste and took shelter behind the fire tower base while Cathy made her way up. There was nobody else at the summit, which I thought very unusual for a holiday weekend. But then other would-be hikers weren't standing there shivering with frozen feet, hands and ears like some dimwit cyclist dude either.

We started heading down the other side as soon as Cathy made it up. We saw the first people of the hike a ways below us. Looked like they were skipping the summit. We planned to take Clark and Holt trails back down. They looked a little less steep than Manning. They were, but they were also much wetter and snowier.

It was so good to get back below treeline. My feet were never going to be the same, as I had to continually tromp through water. Cathy wore Goretex hiking boots. Smaht girl. Her feet eventually got wet too, but not cold.

There was a really cool waterfall most of the way down. It doesn't show on any maps, and I suspect it is only an intermittent waterfall, such as during a rain storm or heavy snow melt. I had to scramble down to get a photo of it.

We got back to the car with 5.8 miles in 2.6hr moving time on the Garmin. Cathy said it was a hard hike and wasn't sure she'd do it again. I was worried about her knee that she had routed out a couple years ago, but it gave her no grief during or after the hike. Just lots of DOMS the next day. I too worried about my knees that have been finicky lately (maybe a post on that later this week). I did ok. Normally, steep descents wreak havoc on my knees and give me shin splints. At least this time the score was Mr & Mrs Hill Junkie: 1, Cardigan 0. Here's a photo dump from the hike and a couple I stole from the Internet.
Part way up Manning trail in stream of water. This rock is were we were forced to turn
around last time hiking here. 

Near the Firescrew summit at just over 3000ft

In the saddle between Firescrew and Cardigan on Mowglis Trail.
Cardigan summit. Frozen water. Rain/sleet squalls in distance.

Looking back up at Cardigan summit from south face. Hard to tell, but quite steep. Cathy
is leaning into the wind to stay upright.

Clark trail. Water running down everywhere. Surprisingly, my Nike Structura's gripped extremely
well on wet granite. Cathy did slip and fall once.

Around 2000ft elevation. Absolutely treacherous. No water running down here to carry snow away.
There's something wrong with this scene...

Unnamed water fall close to junction of trails called Grand Junction.

Jay Peak, from their FB page. Powder skiing on Memorial Day weekend!

Whiteface Mountain near Lake Placid, NY. 30" of new snow!! There's a bike race up this
in less than three weeks. I'll probably be doing the MTB race at Whiteface that weekend.


aspenmike said...

wow, the northeast and the Giro both got snow. It was almost 60F at 12,000' this weekend, corn skiing was superb. The warmth will move east, you should see it in a few days.

DaveP said...

dude, that shit follows you around. it did generate a whole lotta laughing at your expense, so thank you very much!

ps: you guys weren't one of the parties that were rescued this weekend?

Rami said...

Must have narrowly missed you near Cardigan Lodge. We were there for the weekend. Only opted to hike up the mountain on Monday after the weather cleared (