Franconia Ridge

Franconia Ridge

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Rain and Monorails to Mount Pierce

With nothing but several days of rain showers in the forecast the thought was to hike during a possible break in the showers and make a go of it. Sunday morning appeared to be rain-free with showers moving in for the afternoon. With all the rain there would be some water crossings on certain trails that are difficult and possibly hazardous. The decision was made to hike Mount Pierce and Mount Eisenhower. I would be joining fellow hikers Jill and Larry.

When I left the house it was not raining but there were dark clouds all around that looked threatening. The high summits were in the clouds and I was hoping they would start lifting by the time we got into the hike. As I was driving across Route 115 the sun broke through the clouds and I saw a rainbow start to form. I quickly pulled to the side of the road and got a photo. When I got to Twin Mountain the rainbow was fully formed and I stopped again to get another photo. I saw the other end of the rainbow as it was starting to fade when I was passing Bretton Woods and stopped into the ski area parking lot to get one last photo. That would be the last of the sunshine and rainbows.

We all met at the Mt. Clinton Road parking area. While we were putting on layers a mist was falling, so much for a dry start. I decided to put on my waterproof Endo pants and waterproof jacket. We agreed to reevaluate the hike to Eisenhower when we got to the summit of Pierce. The hike started in light rain on the Crawford Connector that seemed to let up when we got in the woods. Just before the Crawford Path we crossed the bridge over a swollen and fast moving Gibbs Brook.

It was a very wet Crawford Path as we started up. We took the spur path down to Gibbs Falls where there was a lot of water spilling down over the ledges. Back on the main trail we slogged through running water. Further up a small, narrow monorail started and we were initially able to walk beside it. A bit further and we decided to put on microspikes to keep from slipping off the growing monorail.

We arrived at the Mizpah Cutoff junction and saw three hikers. One hiker had a knee and ankle injury. We offered assistance but he said he was all set and we continued on. The deteriorating monorail just seemed to get worse with the snow getting deeper. Water was running underneath the monorail and there was the occasional posthole if we slipped off. Just before the Webster Cliff Trail junction the snow ended and we removed our microspikes.

Our hike up to the summit was devoid of snow although very wet. When we arrived at the summit a light rain started coming down and it was cold. We all added another layer. I put a fleece under my waterproof layer. It was not a day for views and there would be no lingering on the summit. We made the decision to not hike Eisenhower today. We started our descent back to the parking lot. When we reached the snow the microspikes went back on.

It was the same balancing act on the monorail with the occasional postholing and sections of wading through the water. Just past the Mizpah Cutoff we removed the microspikes for the last time. The snowshoes were not needed on this hike. The traction of the day was microspikes and they made the hike much easier and safer. We passed the injured hiker that we had seen on the way up slowly making his way down with the assistance of his fellow hikers. Further down the trail there was another hiker with an ankle injury. We offered assistance but he kindly refused stating he would just take his time getting down.

We met several more hikers on their way up. I must say that they were very unprepared for what they were hiking up into, no traction or proper footwear and inappropriately dressed. We were told that there were many hikers that had stayed at the Mizpah Hut the night before. The hut opened for the season on Friday but not full service.

Back down at the parking lot the skies were starting to clear. While still very cloudy there were a few breaks of blue sky and the rain had stopped. Although a very wet day with a deteriorating monorail to hike on it was still nice to get outdoors. None of us regretted the decision not to go on to Mount Eisenhower, that summit could wait for a better day. More rain and snow in the high summits is in the forecast this week. The trails are going to continue to be challenging in the foreseeable future as well as water crossings. Trails will have to be carefully chosen for a safe and successful hike.

Enjoy the photos!

 A spot of sunshine through a dark cloudy overcast

 A rainbow starts to form on my drive across Route 115

 The rainbow is complete when I get to Twin Mountain

 The other end of the rainbow over Bretton Woods as it starts to fade

 Rain gear is on as we start our hike

Crossing the bridge over Gibbs Brook

Water over the dam on Gibbs Brook

 Water flowing everywhere

 Gibbs Falls

 More water

 First sign of a monorail

 Monorail begins

 Narrow monorail

 Jill crosses a suspended monorail

 Larry crosses the suspended monorail

 Continuing up on the monorail

 A precarious snow bridge

 A small brook flowing down into a rabbit hole

 No views from the Webster Cliff Trail junction

 A rainy and bleak Mount Pierce summit

 Trying to keep dry at the summit

 Descending on a deep snow pack

 Water flowing beneath a deteriorating monorail

 Looking down Gibbs Brook

 Back at the trailhead

Mt. Clinton Road still closed from this end

A look back at Mount Eisenhower as the clouds start to lift

Clouds starting to lift from the Presidentials on my drive home

Having Fun in the Great Outdoors!

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