Monday, February 18, 2008

The Hancocks.. Again.

Saturday, February 16, 2008
North and South Hancock
9.8 Miles in 4 Hours 33 Minutes
Weather: COLD! 8 Degrees for a high
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A group of friends from www.rocksontop.com had organized a group hike up and around the Hancocks for this past Saturday. Originially, Sarah and I were to join them, but the forecast of extremely cold temps kept Sarah inside for the day. ONe of our friends had also flown back to NH from So. Cal to pay her respects to her deceased grandmother. This altered my plans quite a bit for the day. I went from wanting to join the party, to planning a snowshoe run in order to make it home in time for dinner.

I met up with my good friend Charles Donna in the frigid parking lot off of the Kancamagus Highway east of Lincoln, NH. The snowbanks here and on the side of the road tower over every vehicle that travels this road of frost heave shimmy shake. Charles was ultra-light and perhaps under-prepared while I, a bit slower, was toasty warm and ready to go. A we took off down the trail, Charles charged ahead at lightning speed. I'd like to say it was only the Northern Lights Ultra Light snowshoes he was wearing, but as my friend Tom Ryan would later profess, "The dude is all Tendon." A few times Charles stopped to wait for my slow and sluggish butt, only to finally tell me he had to go ahead without me otherwise he'd freeze to death.

We started passing the small groups, all part of the large group, of hikers along the way. All parties started at staggered times this morning, in order to ensure the trail was never over crowded. First we passed Lawn Sale and his group, then Unfrozencaveman and his group of ladies. From here on we had to maneuver through a trail of barebooted nightmare! I was pretty upset to think that even though we have over 5 feet of snow on the ground, people choose to CARRY their snowshoes rather than wear the damn things. The integrity of the trail had been vastly neglected and my ankle rolled more than my fair share of times. As I caught up to Hikerbob's group, I ran into the culprits. I don't know who they were but I made sure they knew that they had made my travels a little more difficult, to which the response I got was, "What? We're not sinking in." Well... it does't take much to ruin a super highway of a trail. The 2-3 inches that they WERE sinking in was enough to drive me nuts and make me work a little harder than I or anyone else needed to. I carried on without argument as I think my tone said it all. My appologies if I offended you folks... BUT WEAR THE DAMN SNOWSHOES!

As I continued to move up the trail, Charles came running towards me. "You done all ready?!" Charles determined that it was much too cold for him in his unprepared state. He was opting out of the hike at 4,000' to do some running on the Lincoln Woods Trails. I wished him well and carried on. I passed Cumulus and the Steve eventually catching Drew and Tish who were in the lead, breaking trail for all of the parties behind. HIking with Drew is always a pleasure as we certainly know how to get into trouble. We chatted away as we climbed the steep steep slope of North Hancock. As we reached the summit, I started to get rather cold from the slower hiking and now being stopped. I had to bid farewell and continue on before I went crazy with pain in my frigid feet.

I was now alone and in the lead. As I made my way from North to South Hancock, I was the trail breaker.. but also the trail finder. There was so much snow up there that trees in places that would normally tower over my head, I was now walking above or at chest level with. Pushing through the jungle of firs, getting lost a few times and scrambling up slopes of deep powder made for quite a workout. I left all kinds of messages in the snow along the way (some of the usuals) and as I reach the top of South peak, I took in the views on this gorgeous yet frigid day in the whites.

The other party was hiking these peaks as part of a sledding mission. As I began down the luge run of South Peak, I had no sled and knew conditions at this point were unsafe. The trail was still unbroken and as I started to break it up, I sunk through a level of hard sleet and ice crust which wreaked havok on my shins. I was not a happy camper, clinging to trees avoiding various face plants and broken appendanges. Once I made the bottom it was clear sailing out. On the way out I ran into Tom Ryan and his Dog Atticus. Tom and Atticus are attempting to hike all of NH's 4,000 Foot peaks TWICE in one winter on behalf of the MSPCA - Angell Animal MEdical Center. Please visit their blog to read more about their amazing friendship and adventures!: http://www.tomandatticus.blogspot.com/ It was great to talk to Tom beofrs currying back to my car. I floored the pedal and made it home just in time.

Another great day of training in the Whites. I hope to get a few more in over the next month before winter Ends. It hasn't been the season I had hoped, but its been fun none the less.

For photos from other folks visit the ROT thread and click on their appropriate links! ROCKS ON TOP REPORTS

Happy Trails!
SJ