Franconia Ridge

Franconia Ridge

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Hiking To a Frigid Mount Pierce

Frigid weather was in the forecast for this weekend with cold temps and blowing wind that would create subzero wind chills on the summits. I chose Mount Pierce (4,310') for its short minimal exposure above tree line. I would like to have added Mount Eisenhower but I knew that weather and trail conditions would be extremely hazardous, this would be confirmed by a hiker that I met along the way. So this would be a quick trip up the Crawford Path and back down the same way.

There was plenty of parking available at the trailhead, the weather must have kept many hikers away today. As a side note, I was surprised to see the Mount Clinton Road gate still open. There were tire tracks in the snow on the road so it was still being used but not a road that I would take a chance driving on. I parked and then dressed warmly with several layers.

Before leaving the house I had activated some hand warmers and put them in the zippered pocket in my waterproof mittens. I put my microspikes on in the parking lot, they would stay on for the entire hike. The trail was nicely packed from previous hikers and the higher I went the better the trail got. I met a hiker along the trail that had tried to go to Mount Eisenhower. He said the conditions were brutal with frigid temps, howling winds, limited visibility and unbroken deep snow. That was the reason I planned on only doing Mount Pierce today.

Just before reaching tree line I replaced my outer shell with a down jacket. I also put a warmer hat on and broke out the goggles. Before I could get the shell and hat packed away they had frozen from the sweat that was on them. I crinkled them up and stuffed them in the pack. I made the change just in time. There was a stiff wind blowing as I came to an exposed area of the trail.

I reached the Webster Cliff Trail and quickly went up to the summit of Mount Pierce. It was frigid on the exposed trail with a 4°F temp and blowing wind. There were no views due to the low cloud cover. I quickly got a few photos and on the way down from the summit I got a video. I made the turn back onto the Crawford Path and did not stop again until I reached the tree line. The wind diminished as the trail dropped back into the trees.

I kept up a good pace on the smooth trail. There were many hikers on their way up as I was going down. I made a quick stop to remove a fleece layer under my down jacket and then kept on going. The lower part of the trail has less snow so not as smooth going as the upper part. I was back down at the parking lot after three hours and forty-five minutes.

Although it was a frigid day it still was not as cold and windy as I thought it would be. It was a good test of my layering which is always a challenge in cold weather and battling the sweat factor. I had the right amount of layers but could have used an extra hat. My first hat was wet and had frozen, my warmer hat was a bit too warm after coming down from the summit. So one more dry hat would have been just right.

I did this same hike one month ago in the evening during a full moon. While it was a hike to the same summit the conditions were completely different. I find that to be the case on all my hikes. I've hiked to many of the 4,000 footers several times over and each time is a new experience, that's why it never gets monotonous.

It appears that full-on winter conditions are here. I look forward to the official start of winter and hiking toward the completion of the winter 48 4,000 footers which I am halfway done!

Enjoy the photos!

The hike starts here

Lots of small spruce trees under heavy snow

Bridge over Gibbs Brook

Gibbs Brook

On the Crawford Path

Frozen dam on Gibbs Brook

A nice walk in the woods

An unbroken Mizpah Cut-Off

Ice formations on a small brook

Trail is nicely packed and smooth

Snowy woods

Not a day for views

Everything coated in rime ice and snow

At the Webster Cliff Trail junction

Mount Pierce summit

Starting my descent

Heading down into a headwind

A limited view toward Mount Eisenhower

Wind was really howling here

Webster Cliff Trail junction

Temperature at the trail junction

Back below tree line

Short break at the Mizpah Cut-Off junction

Frozen brook

Crossing the bridge over Gibbs Brook

A look back at Mount Eisenhower and Mount Pierce

Having Fun in the Great Outdoors!

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