Franconia Ridge

Franconia Ridge

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Winter Hike to Mount Pierce

The clocks were set forward last night and it was a little tough getting an early start for today's hike. My plan was to do a loop hike of Mount Pierce (4310') using the Crawford Path up to the Webster Cliff Trail down to the Mizpah Hut. From there use the Mizpah Cutoff back to the Crawford Path and Crawford Connector to the parking lot. With only ten days until spring this hike will probably be my only winter 4000 footer this season.


 Sunrise through a milky sky

 Mount Madison and Mount Adams at sunrise

Sun is still behind Mount Washington

The day started with the sun rising through a milky sky. Today's weather forecast was for a sunny start with clouds moving in for the afternoon and warm temps. As I drove to the trailhead the sky cleared and a nice blue sky emerged. I arrived at the Mt. Clinton Road parking lot and found plenty of room. I was anxious to get going and was soon on the Crawford Connector cutting over to the Crawford Path.

 Open pool in Gibbs Brook

 Bridge over Gibbs Brook

 Sun peering through a snowy forest


When I reached the Gibbs Brook bridge I decided to put on the microspikes. My snowshoes were along for the ride today, never did need them but kept the spikes on for the entire hike. The trail was well-packed with a loose top layer. Keeping in the center of the trail was the rule of the day. Venturing off trail was met with waist deep snow. There were a few postholes along the way but only from someone stepping off to the side of the trail. I managed one minor posthole during the entire hike.

Entry to a frozen domain

 Snow tunnel

 A good place for snow down the back of the neck

 Snow coat

As the elevation increased so did the amount of snow and the trees were draped in a heavy layer of it. There would be the occasional large clump that would fall off. With the rising temperature the falling clumps of snow got larger and became more frequent. I spent most of the hike envisioning and expecting one of these snow "bombs" finding its way down the back of my neck. They were falling all around me but I never took a direct hit.

 Lots of snow

 First view from Crawford Path

 Snowy corridor

Mount Washington through the trees

Ascending to the Mizpah Cutoff Trail junction I veered left and continued on the Crawford Path. This is one of my favorite sections of this hike. It is a gradual climb and has the first partial views of the fantastic expansive scenery waiting ahead. I was suddenly startled when I heard a yelp right behind me. It was a small dog and three runners, yes runners, and they all ran past me!

 Mount Washington Hotel far below

 Snowy summits

 The land of discarded snow sculptures

Vermont in the distance

As Mount Washington and adjacent peaks came into view they were cloud-free and completely snow covered. I was soon above tree line and the scenic views were unobstructed and stunning!

 Webster Cliff Trail junction

A cairn with a view

Southeast view

A great spot to take a break

At the Webster Cliff trail junction I turned right and made my way to the summit of Mount Pierce. There were various snow-packed trails leading up so I chose the one that seemed to be the most used. I stopped by a large cairn and grabbed a snapshot then continued on to the official summit. It was here that I took a panoramic video of the surrounding scenery. There was just a slight breeze and it felt warm.

 A look back at Mount Pierce and Mount Washington

 Gnarly tree

 A view to the west

Southern view

I dropped down off of the summit and stopped at a nice sunny spot to grab a snack and a brief rest. There was not the slightest breeze here and it was very warm. I didn't stay long and continued my descent to Mizpah Hut. At one point there was a well beaten fork in the trail and I had to make a decision which one was correct. One way went up and the other down. The logical choice would be down but I went up and soon saw a blaze indicating I chose the right path.

 Waiting for an invitation

Joining me for lunch

Not bashful

Having a bite to eat

You're Welcome!

The snow was becoming soft and sticky. The trail became very steep in places and there was more sliding than walking. It was at the end of these steep drops that the Mizpah Hut came into view.

 Mizpah Hut

Enchanted forest

The Mizpah Hut is closed for the season. I found a dry spot to sit and relax by the hut while I ate lunch. I thought I was alone but that was about to change. While there were no other people around I did have some company. The Gray Jay's decided they would join me. These birds would fly in and sit beside me waiting for a handout and I couldn't resist. I have to admit that it was an awesome feeling to have that wild bird sitting on my outstretched hand.

 More heavy snow

Mizpah Cutoff junction

It was time to continue my ascent and I made my way over to the Mizpah Cutoff. This is a very nice trail that makes a gradual ascent back to the Crawford Path. As I reached the Crawford Path/Mizpah Cutoff trail junction I met the same three hikers that I was following on the way up. After reaching the summit of Mount Pierce they returned the same way while I continued on and made the loop. It was just a funny coincidence that we met at this junction at the same time.

A frozen Gibbs Falls

 Back at the trailhead parking lot

On the hike back down the Crawford Path I made a short side trip to Gibbs Falls for a photo. There was a pool of open water at the bottom of the very frozen falls. It didn't take long to reach the parking lot from here. I took off my gear and changed clothes for the ride home. One last stop along the way was the Mount Washington Hotel scenic pulloff for a fantastic photo.

Mount Washington Hotel with a Presidential backdrop

Today's hike was exhilarating with spectacular beauty both in the woods and as far as the eye could see.

Panoramic view from the summit of Mount Pierce

Having Fun in the Great Outdoors!

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