Franconia Ridge

Franconia Ridge

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Pierce and Jackson and Ice!

A warm week with rain followed by freezing temps had me wondering what the trail conditions would be. There had to be a lot of ice out there on the trails. I was invited to join hikers Christine, Scott, Lisa and Jill on a hike to Mount Pierce (4,310') with the possibilty of adding Eisenhower (4,780') or Jackson (4,052'). The initial plan was to hike Mount Isolation which would be Christine's 47th summit on the 48 4,000 footer list. Not knowing what the river crossing would be like 5 miles into the hike the decision was made for an alternate hike to Pierce.



 Gibbs Brook

 Christine wants to take a dip

 Starting our hike up the Crawford Path

The weather forecasts that I looked at were calling for high winds so I was preparing myself for those conditons. It was dark when I left home this morning but as I got closer to Crawford Notch there was a spectacular sunrise to be seen through the clouds. I was the first one of our group to arrive at the parking lot followed by Jill then Scott, Lisa and Christine.

 Standing on top of the Gibbs brook Dam

 Crawford Path

 First view from the trail

 Mount Eisenhower

 Falling down into a snowdrift

It wasn't that cold so I started with two thin layers and a fleece making adjustments on the trail if needed. We decided to leave the snowshoes behind and started out with microspikes that stayed on for the entire hike. We were soon ready and began the hike on the Crawford Connector. Reaching the Crawford Path we turned right and started our ascent.

 Back on my feet for a photo

 Christine coming up onto the summit of Mount Pierce

 Mount Eisenhower

 Christine enjoys feeding the gray jays

 Frosty tree

 Gray jay waiting

Microspikes proved to be the perfect traction on the hard packed trail with just a little bit of loose snow from the recent storm. Seems that was a southern coastal storm and the mountains missed a good snowfall again. There is a severe lack of snow this winter. I was able to step off the trail without any problem. During a normal winter stepping off the trail meant sinking into waist-deep snow at this time of year.

 Leaving Mount Pierce for Mount Jackson

 Stopping for photos

 Mount Carrigain

 Mountain snow showers in the distance

We made our way up past the Mizpah Cut-Off and continued on the Crawford Path. Trees that are usually heavily coated with snow had just a light amount that didn't even bend the branches. The first views were becoming visible through the trees and as usual were spectacular. The northern Presidentials were in the clouds and stayed that way for the rest of the day.

 Large crowd at Mizpah Hut

 Frozen bog

At the trail junction we turned and made our way up to the summit of Mount Pierce. The trail was icy but not a problem. When we reached the top we encountered many other hikers arriving at the same time. The gray jays knew there would be food among these hikers and Christine was ready to feed them. We now had to make a decision on which direction to go, either north to Mount Eisenhower or south to Mount Jackson. The wind was calm and the temps remained in the 20's, not even close to the weather reports that I had read before leaving this morning. Christine decided on Mount Jackson.

 Gray Jay follows us

 This is why the gray jays follow us

The gray jays REALLY like Christine

 Looking back at Eisenhower

 Snowy grass waves on the frozen bog

 Bog walk

After a few photos and we were on our way south on the Webster Cliff Trail to Mount Jackson. The trail was a little less broken out but still not bad at all. It was a nice stretch of trail between the two summits. As we made the final ascent on Mount Jackson that all changed. There were some very icy ledges and care had to be taken to avoid injury. The first big ice we bushwhacked around. But the final ledge scramble was all on ice. There were no slips and we made it up onto the summit without incident.

 The trail is about to get interesting

Scott thinks about crossing the ice but takes the bushwhack

We did NOT cross this trail ice

 Onward to the next ice

 Spruce trap

There was a cold breeze blowing on the summit of Mount Jackson but still very tolerable. I added my windbreaker and that was all I needed to be comfortable. The gray jays were back and it was a feeding frenzy with the gathering hikers. After a brief rest break and some photos we began our descent to Route 302. This is a steep ledgy trail from the top. The ice would prove very challenging through here.

Climbing some ledge ice 

 A look back to Mount Jackson

 Zooming in on Mizpah Hut

 On the summit of Mount Jackson

Jill was in the lead and wasted no time going down. The rest of us followed, it was very icy. Jill rounded a corner and was out of sight. We then heard hollering and yelling, we all knew what was happening just by the sound. Jill had slipped and was sliding uncontrollably down the steep ledge. The hollering and yelling stopped suddenly. Then there was laughter. We knew she must be all right. I rounded the corner and saw her standing up at the bottom of the ledge. She had slid down approximately twenty feet and plowed into the scrub trees below. I considered that to be a close call from serious injury.

 About to start our descent from Mount Jackson

 Jill takes the lead on descent

 Jill gives the OK after a hair-raising slip and slide into the trees below

 Jill walks down the ledge

The trail got a little easier after this because there were some trees and branches to grab along the way. Careful footing was needed the rest of the way down. Did I say careful footing? I did manage to slip and fall on some hidden ice but that was the last time for today. I looked back to see Christine sliding down but it was on purpose and controlled. It did kind of make sense, it's hard to fall down when you're already down!

 Christine takes the cautious approach

 Last of the gray jays for today

 Christine remains cautious as Scott patiently waits

 Ice formations

 The last steep icy section for today

Back at the trailhead

One more final, steep icy section and it was a relaxing hike out to Route 302. We took off our microspikes and did the road walk back to the parking lot on Mt. Clinton Road. I felt drained after what is normally one of the easier 4,000 foot hikes. Must have been from fighting the ice. Crampons would have come in handy along parts of the trail today. The microspikes just didn't have enough bite for some of that ice but we managed. We all enjoyed a fun and challenging winter day of hiking!

Having Fun in the Great Outdoors!

1 comment:

  1. You've done it again! Great Blog and even better pictures! We're heading north on April 5th after the Naval Air Station Air Show! Maybe I'll start a little hiking from viewing your hiking adventures!