Franconia Ridge

Franconia Ridge

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Snowshoeing to Mount Chocorua

With no firm plans for a hike this weekend I got an invite from fellow hiker Jill to join her and four others for a hike to Mount Chocorua (3,475'). The plan for today was to hike the Champney Falls and Piper Trails up to the the summit. The weather called for cold temps and increasing clouds with an approaching storm due to arrive late afternoon.

Passing Mount Washington on the drive to the trailhead

High snowbanks at the trailhead parking lot

The hike begins

A big snowball

Henry and John on the trail

We all arrived at the trailhead at about the same time. Mary was already there when I arrived, Jill pulled in right after me followed by John and Henry, and finally Janet and the gang was all here. We layered up and put on our snowshoes. The snowshoes stayed on for the entire hike. It was up and over the tall snowbank and we were on the Champney Falls Trail heading for the summit.

Frozen Falls

Big Ice

The men took the lead over a nicely packed trail. We soon lost sight of Janet and Mary, Jill dropped back to join them. Reaching the trail junction for the Champney Falls Loop we turned left and went to view the frozen Pitcher Falls. The ice was spectacular and there was lots of it. A few photos and we continued our upward climb over a steep pitch across some icy spots before arriving back onto the main trail.

A steep climb

Mount Washington

I was starting to work up a sweat even though it was still quite cold. Henry and John continued up the trail while I took off my Primaloft jacket and stole a quick break. Working my way up the trail I noticed partial views of Mount Washington through the trees and managed to get a photo through the branches. When I caught up to John and Henry they had stopped to eat. I decided to do the same.

The rabbit was here

Climbing toward the sun

We were once again hiking along a section of the trail with a series of switchbacks. Up ahead at the trail junction we were pointed in the right direction by some other hikers. The trail sign was buried in snow and the trail ahead was unbroken. Henry took the lead and did a great job with the trail breaking and the pace.

John stops for photos

Henry taking some photos

Cranmore Ski Area

It was just a short hike on the Piper Trail before we left the shelter of the trees to continue our ascent up the exposed ledges of Chocorua. So far the wind was not an issue. The climb was about to get interesting as we climbed up over icy ledges, crusty snow and bare rock. As we got higher the wind picked up and it was time to put on the balaclavas.

The summit is in sight

Ice and rock

Henry ascends the steep pitch below the summit

The final steep pitch leading to the summit had a good coating of hardened, crusty snow and I took care to make sure I had a good bite with my snowshoes with each step. Henry took the lead and was first to summit, I followed and John was right behind me. There was a cold, biting wind and it would not be a day for lingering and lounging on this cold, bare rock. A few photos and it was time to make our descent.

John on the final steep pitch

Chocorua Lake

John on the summit

The same careful footing was required on that first steep, icy drop off the summit. We made it past this spot unscathed but there was still a few icy spots ahead. Looking down below I could see Jill and Janet making there way up. They were planning to summit and Mary was waiting below at treeline. It was at this point that I noticed I was missing a mitten. This happened back up the trail while taking photos so I started back up again. When I was getting close to the spot where I thought I lost it a hiker was standing there, saw the mitten and threw it down to me. This saved me a few steps up.

Henry descending

Me on the summit

John makes a careful descent

I was on my way back down again. We found Mary patiently waiting on the trail down in the trees. It wasn't long before we saw Jill and Janet coming back down off the ledges, they decided not to summit today. We continued our descent and John set a good pace.

Looking back at the summit

Henry and John descend while Jill and Janet ascend

Jill and Janet still coming up

Janet and Jill carefully ascending a slippery slope

Back on the Champney Falls Trail the ladies were no longer in sight behind us. Both Henry and John wanted to pick up the pace and get back down to the trailhead. Henry backtracked to say his goodbyes to the ladies who were not that far behind us. As they all showed up John and Henry took off flying down the trail and we never did see them again.

A very icy ledge

An important trail sign that was buried

I had been right behind John and Henry until I stopped to take some photos and soon found myself soloing. Back up the trail behind me I could hear voices and knew the ladies were not that far away so I slowed down and then stopped. They soon reached my location and we all hiked down the last two miles together. I'd like to say there were no problems but I ended up with a case of thigh muscle cramps while ascending a short section of trail. That's what I get for not hiking in the past three weeks and just being plain lazy. Mary offered me some of her Gatorade and after a few minutes rest I was ready to go again. There were no further issues and we got back to the parking lot at about 3:00.

Last view

While it was cold today I actually thought it was quite tolerable. We also beat the coming snowstorm and it wasn't until I was almost home before it started to snow. 
This was my first winter hike to Mount Chocorua. Most of my hikes are normally done solo but I enjoyed the company of fellow hikers. It was another great day of hiking in the White Mountains!

Walking along the edge of Chocorua

Panoramic view from the summit

Having Fun in the Great Outdoors!

No comments:

Post a Comment