Franconia Ridge

Franconia Ridge

Sunday, December 10, 2017

First Tracks to Mount Cabot

I woke up this morning still undecided as to where I wanted to hike. It was a toss-up between Tecumseh and Cabot. I could do a short hike with a long drive or a longer hike with a shorter drive. Because I was taking my time getting ready I chose the short drive, about 15 minutes for me, to Mount Cabot (4,170'). I also didn't feel like getting into the Waterville Valley ski crowd and the parking hassle.

So there were several reasons for me taking my time this morning. We received about 5 inches of snow overnight. I was hoping the road would be plowed and the gate open at the fish hatchery, also hoping maybe some other hiker or hikers would break out the trail to the summit and hoping there would be enough clearing to get some views.

It was cloudy when I left the house and I could see the clouds were covering the summits as I turned onto York Pond Road. The road was plowed until just before the bridge over the Upper Ammonoosuc River and I followed in the tire tracks of the few vehicles that had gone in ahead of me. At least the gate was open and it will now probably remain open for the winter as it normally does after the first significant snowfall.

It was a slippery drive to the York Pond trailhead. When I got there I saw the tire tracks where someone had pulled into the parking area then drove out. I was a little concerned that I might back in there and not be able to get out as it sloped down toward the woods. I held my breath and backed in, then I tried pulling out and had no problem.

My next dilemma was whether or not to use snowshoes. I took a short walk down the trail to get some idea of the snow depth, it was just over my ankles. Not knowing what the snow depth would be like at higher elevations I went ahead and strapped them on. I was then on my way laying down fresh tracks in the new snow. There was two hikers starting out at the same time. It was Howard who was guiding another hiker for Redline Guiding. I have followed Howard's hiking adventures online but this was the first time meeting him. I hiked ahead and was soon out of sight of them. I never did see them again so I'm not sure what happened.

As I continued up the Bunnell Notch Trail the snowshoes were providing good traction but were somewhat cumbersome over the rocky parts of the trail. Further up the Kilkenny Ridge Trail near the Mount Cabot Trail, no longer maintained but still has a sign, there was very little snow. But as I went up in elevation the snow depth increased to maybe 6 inches and continued at that depth to the summit.

When I reached Bunnell Rock I took a quick look and found there were no views so I continued on up. I passed by the Cabot cabin without stopping. At the final viewpoint above the cabin there were no views so my next stop was the summit. There was a cold breeze blowing up here. My outer layer was freezing between me sweating on the inside and coated with snow on the outside. I planned on changing when I got back to the cabin. A few pics and I started my return trip and descent.

Back at the cabin I went inside and changed into dry layers. I also had something to eat. I balled up my frozen upper layer and jammed it into my pack. I also swapped my snowshoes for microspikes and was soon on my way back down. Once again there were no views at Bunnell Rock. The warm layer felt good but I was getting a little too warm and when I reached the Bunnell Notch Trail I swapped this for a fleece layer.

It was along this section of trail that I was doing a lot of slipping due to ice under the layer of snow. While my pace was much better without the snowshoes the traction was not as good so I had to carefully watch my footing not knowing where the ice was. I managed to get through this section of trail with the hidden ice without any major falls. Once back down on the lower part of the trail I looked back at Mount Cabot to see that the clouds had lifted and the surrounding summits were in the figures.

I arrived back at the parking lot and my vehicle was still the only one there. This was one of the tougher hikes that I've had to this summit. Another several inches of snow will sufficiently cover the rocks and ice smoothing out the trail and making this a very nice hike. I was glad I had chosen this hike today as I now had only a 15 minute drive to get home. More snow is on the way this week and that should significantly change the trail conditions for next weekend. Winter hiking is definitely here!

Enjoy the pics and videos!

Upper Ammonoosuc River

York Pond Road had not been plowed

York Pond

 Starting my hike with fresh unbroken snow on the York Pond Trail

Howard guiding another hiker for Redline Guiding

Turning onto Bunnell Notch Trail

Easy water crossing

New snow on a small trailside brook

Snowy stream

Easy over blowdown

Turning onto the Kilkenny Ridge Trail

Not sure what this sign says

The old Mount Cabot Trail no longer used or maintained

Snow covered berries

A tree full of snow covered berries

Arriving at Bunnell Rock

No views from Bunnell Rock today

Laying down fresh tracks in the new snow

A snowy passage

Frosty limbs

Limbs heavy with snow

Passing by Cabot Cabin

On the summit

The summit tree

Occasionally there is an unauthorized summit marker here

Easy under blowdown

A view from the Cabot Cabin

Cabot Cabin

Clouds have lifted

Back at the trailhead

Having Fun in the Great Outdoors!

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