Franconia Ridge

Franconia Ridge

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Climbing the Caps to Mount Jefferson

I've been hiking the Presidential summits this month. Today I would be hiking the Caps Ridge Trail to Mount Jefferson. With heavy rain in the forecast for tomorrow this would be the best day for hiking above tree line. The forecast called for high clouds moving in but summits in the clear with comfortable temps and light wind. I bought a new backpack last week, an Osprey Stratos 50, and was going to break it in today or maybe it would break me in. I was quite happy with the way it fit in the store but loaded down and on the trail might be a different story.

 Valley fog

 Mount Jefferson on my drive to the trailhead

 The hike starts here

 Well-placed log bridge

 View of the Caps

 Viewpoint from Caps Ridge Trail

I drove out of valley fog into clear skies but with very thin high clouds. Not being sure where the north end of Jefferson Notch Road was I drove to Base Road and made a quick stop at the Ammonoosuc Trail parking. While there I met Richard whose hikes I have followed online, he was with a group of hikers that were also on their way to hike Caps Ridge Trail to Mount Jefferson. I continued on to the south end of Jefferson Notch Road and up to the trailhead for Caps Ridge Trail.

 Some good ledge scrambling up ahead

The parking lot was quickly filling up. With a few black flies buzzing around I didn't waste any time getting on the trail. Although this was a solo hike for me I would not be alone today on this popular trail. The first outlook provided a spectacular view and I got a good look up the trail toward the Caps. After a few photos I had to keep moving, the black flies were really bad.

 Looking down the Caps Ridge Trail

I got to the first Cap and the fun was about to begin. I stowed the trekking poles on my backpack and started up. There are places along the Caps that require careful foot placement and definitely need handholds for the ledge scrambles. Slow and easy takes one up over these Caps without any problems. I was thinking this has got to be a tricky climb in wet or icy conditions.

 Mount Washington Auto Road

 Summit pin on Mount Jefferson

After the Caps the trail turned into a rock hop to the summit. There were a few dogs coming up and there's a few places along this trail where they need some help. I did see their hikers lifting them over a few tough spots but for the most part they were doing quite well.

 A crowded Mount Jefferson summit

 Mount Adams behind me

 Mount Washington behind me

 Nancy doing a Presidential traverse

As I got closer to the summit I could see that there was quite a crowd gathered on top. It doesn't take much to create a crowd, it's a very small summit area. When I reached the top I dropped down several feet for lunch so as to give others a chance for photo opportunites and stand on the summit without me being in the way. After lunch I hiked over to the east side of the mountain to get some photos of the Wildcats and Carters.

 A view through the rocks

While standing by the trail junction for Jefferson Loop I looked down the Gulfside Trail and saw a familiar face. It was fellow hiker Nancy on her way to completing a Presidential traverse with two other hikers. Meeting her on the trail has actually happened before when she and her friend Steven were hiking up the North Slide on the Tripyramids and I was hiking down the Pine Bend Brook Trail. I've been invited to a couple of hikes that she has arranged but because I was either sick or injured was unable to join in. Hopefully I can stay healthy when the next group hike comes along again!

 The Castles

 Outlook on the lower Caps Ridge Trail

 Glacial potholes

I started my descent and there were still many hikers making their way up. It was just as fun going down over the Caps as it was coming up. The poles were once again strapped to the pack and it was a careful calculated climb down the ledges. A nice ledge scramble always adds to the excitement of a hike! I had thought about taking the Jewel Trail back down but this would have required a road walk back to my vehicle which I did not feel like doing today. 

 Back at the trailhead

Looking back at Mount Jefferson after the hike

Below the Caps it was a nice hike back to the trailhead. Although this is only a 2.4 mile hike to the summit on this trail it is a full body workout in places with the ledge scrambles and then some nice ankle twisting opportunites below the summit. The views from the summit were spectacular today even with the cloud cover that moved in. This turned out to be an awesome day above tree line and there were plenty of people up there that appeared to feel the same way. My new backpack needed a few minor adjustments but I'm looking forward to many great hikes together!

Having Fun in the Great Outdoors!