Franconia Ridge

Franconia Ridge

Saturday, October 31, 2015

A Hike to Table Rock and Baldpate Mountain

I've been wanting to hike the Baldpates since looking across and seeing them from Old Speck three weeks ago. Weather forecast was looking great with clear skies, sunshine and temps in the 40's nearing 50°F. My plan was to start on the Appalachian Trail then hike up the Table Rock Trail so I could enjoy the views of Grafton Notch then back over to the Appalachian Trail up West Baldpate (3,662') then over to East Baldpate (3,780') for a round trip distance of 8.7 miles.

 Moon over the Eyebrow

 Iron rungs...not really needed

 View from the trail

 Heed the sign

 View from the drop off

It was a dark start to my drive over to Grafton Notch. The sun was just coming up when I arrived at the parking area. I expected a lot more vehicles than just the one that was there. One more vehicle pulled in behind me with two hikers, I would see them several times today. The temperature was a little colder than expected and there was a stiff wind blowing that made it feel even colder. I put on some layers before getting out.

 Looking up through the trees to Table Rock

 Steep climb

 Boulder scrambling

  Old Speck from Table Rock

 A view up Grafton Notch from Table Rock

 More iron rungs

The cold wind in my face was definitely getting my attention as I walked across Route 26 and on to the Appalachian Trail. At 0.1 mile I turned right onto the Table Rock Trail. It was a gradual ascent for a short ways and then the trail quickly became a boulder-bounding, ledge-leaping climb to the top of Table Rock. A nice way to get the heart rate up first thing in the morning! Along the way there was some very nice viewpoints. There was one sign with the words "Drop Off", that's all the words that were needed. A short spur path suddenly stopped at the tree line and there was nothing beyond here but a lot of thin air for a very long ways down!

 Trail starts to get icy

More ice on the trail

Still more ice

The ice continues

Lots of icicles

More trail ice

 On the Appalachian Trail

There was a spectacular view of Grafton Notch on Table Rock. I snapped a few photos and continued on. It was a quick half mile to complete the hike on Table Rock Trail that came out 0.8 mile up on the Appalachian Trail. I started a steady but moderate climb to West Baldpate. With the elevation gain came some ice on the trail. Microspikes were not needed but careful footing was.

 East Peak Baldpate Mountain

 The ledges on East Baldpate

A nice sheet of ice leading to the ladder

A dusting of snow

Once I reached the summit of West Baldpate there were great views over to East Baldpate, my next destination. There was a clear, deep blue sky with temps getting warmer and no wind. I didn't stop at the summit and started my descent down the other side of West Baldpate. This section of trail proved to be very tricky. There was ice on the trail most of the way down but I managed to skirt most of it. A particularly bothersome area included a long wooden ladder I needed to climb down. Not normally a big deal but there was a sheet of ice leading to it. I had to slide down and catch the ladder, a heart pounding maneuver. Missing that ladder would have had some dire consequences!

 Bog bridge on the way to East Peak

 Looking back at West peak

After the ladder the icy trail continued down to a series of bog bridges with a coating of snow. Past this point the snow and ice cleared up enough so that I could walk around any lingering icy spots. The hike up to East Baldpate is all open ledges. I don't recall ever encountering this amount of ledge before while hiking. When I first saw these ledges from West Baldpate I was wondering if they would be ice-covered. I was in luck, there was very little ice with some running water that was easily crossed. I still used a great deal of caution for that "invisible" ice. A slip in the right place on these ledges could be disastrous!

 Ledge scramble to the summit of East Peak

On the summit of East Baldpate

Sunday River

I reached the top of the ledges without incident. It was then a walk across bare granite following the cairns to the summit. The views up here today were incredible! I shot numerous photos and a panoramic video. Would've liked to have stayed longer but it was time to leave. I knew the trip back would be just as challenging as the hike to get here.

Going down over the ledges was probably a little slower than going up. Each foot was carefully placed and checked for slippage. I made it down without a problem. Next was a climb back up West Baldpate on the same slippery trail that I had come down. It wasn't too bad until I got to the ladder. This ladder would prove to be my nemesis today. While I hadn't given it much thought until reaching the top rung I was now faced with crossing uphill ice and no handholds to grab such as trees or bushes. I jumped over and up purposely falling onto the side of the trail so that I wouldn't slide back on the ice. Slipping down beside the ladder would have been a very unpleasant experience.

Starting the hike back to Grafton Notch

Following the cairns

A careful descent on the ledges

I was soon back on the summit of West Baldpate. A quick look back at East Baldpate and I continued my hike back to Grafton Notch. There were very few hikers on the trail today. Once again I watched my step on the icy areas and I'm happy to report no slips and no falling down today. It was a pleasant descent to Route 26. I expected the parking area to be full on such a beautiful day but there was plenty of parking available. These trails were not getting much attention today.

Zooming in on the Old Speck observation tower

Icy trail back up to West Baldpate

The icy trail and dusting of snow are sure signs that winter hiking will soon be here. In retrospect I probably could or should have used my microspikes in a couple of areas. While I had the good fortune of not slipping or falling today I might not be so lucky next time. Besides, traction always improves my pace. Today's 8.7 miles took me 5 hours and 30 minutes. Baldpate Mountain is one more summit I can add to my completed list of the New England Hundred Highest. Another great hike on a spectacular day!

Back at the beginning in Grafton Notch

Having Fun in the Great Outdoors!

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