Franconia Ridge

Franconia Ridge

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Fresh Snow on the Hancocks

I had not been feeling well the past couple of days so I decided when I woke up this morning that I felt good enough to go hiking. I would be joining fellow hikers Larry, Marty and Brent for a hike to the two Hancock summits, Mount Hancock (4,420') and South Hancock (4,319'). There had been several inches of new snow overnight so I was not sure if this would be another trail breaking hike. Our route would take us across the Hancock Notch Trail from the Kancamagus Highway then up the Cedar Brook Trail to the Hancock Loop Trail.

The forecast called for clearing skies and seasonal temps. There were a couple of inches of snow when I left the house and no more snow was falling. The storm was supposed to quickly move out but there would be lingering clouds and flurries in the mountains. It was a slow go on the roads as they were a little slick. When I got to Twin Mountain the roads were wet but clear of snow.

When I got to the Kancamagus Highway the wind was blowing the snow out of the trees occasionally reducing visibility. I noticed the hiking parking lots had not been plowed yet and the Hancock Overlook was no exception. There were several inches of new snow but I had no problem getting into a parking spot. Larry and Marty were already there. Brent arrived soon after I did.

We had to cross the Kancamagus Highway so we hand-carried our snowshoes and put them on when we got to the trail. Other hikers had already broken out the trail but there was not a lot of snow and it was light. I was hoping the temperatures would stay cold enough to keep the snow from balling up on the snowshoes. Last weekend's hike was still fresh in my mind of spending miles of kicking balled up snow off of my snowshoes and I did not care for a repeat.

Larry took the lead and we were off. It was nice to get a little later start today as it allowed time for the roads to clear and some other hikers to break trail. It was a nice hike across the Hancock Notch Trail. There were a couple of smaller brooks that were opened but easy to cross. The larger water crossings had good solid snow bridges. It was somewhere along this trail that we decided to go clockwise around the loop. That meant up North Peak then over to South Peak and down the steep section of trail to complete the loop.

We got to the loop junction and turned left dropping down a bit then started the steep climb up. It wasn't long before the televators came up on the snowshoes and stayed there for awhile. The snow was loose and slippery in places but wasn't too bad. We arrived at the North peak to find limited views at the outlook. There was a gray jay that had been following us up and there was one at the outlook, probably the same one.

Without the usual good views we continued our hike over to South Peak. We met some hikers on their way to North Peak. What I found amazing was how fast their footprints had been covered over by the wind blown snow. There were a few snowdrifts to cut through but it was not a bad hike across the ridge at all. We arrived at the South Peak and dropping down to the outlook got us out of the wind. I stayed long enough to get a few pics and a video then we started our final descent.

I knew this would be a tricky descent as it is very steep. With the loose new snow and possible ice underneath we would have to proceed carefully. The steep descent did not dissappoint. We were grabbing trees and sliding. On the way down we met fellow hiker Adam coming up. I had met him a couple of weeks ago on a Bonds hike. It was shortly after seeing Adam that I slipped, went down on my butt and kept on going. I found that this was actually safer than standing and trying to walk down. With the several inches of new snow it was a very controlled buttslide.

Back down at the loop junction we took a short break. It was then a gradual descent almost flat walk back to the trailhead. The trail was well packed from the hikers that came after us. I had seen hikers with snowshoes, hikers with microspikes and others like us with snowshoes today. I decided to keep my snowshoes on my feet and not on my back. I was feeling very tired the last couple of miles. I was probably remnants of the "bug" that I had the last couple of days.

This was one of those better than expected hikes. I was expecting worse trail conditions but they were actually very good even with the several inches of new snow. These two summits were #37 and #38 for my winter 48 4,000 footers. With only four more weekends of winter hiking I don't think I'll finish the final ten summits this winter. I'm not in a hurry and I'll be satisfied to finish them next winter. Thanks to Larry for the invite today, it was a fun winter hike!

Enjoy the photos and videos!

 Passing by Cannon Mountain with a fresh coating of snow

On the Kancamagus Highway

 Wind blowing the snow out of the trees 

 View from the trailhead parking area

 Larry takes the lead on the Hancock Notch Trail

 Fresh snow on the trail

 A beautiful walk through the woods

 A frozen North Fork of the Hancock Branch

 Open water crossing

 Well bridged water crossing

 Hancock Loop Trail

 Another well bridged water crossing

 We took the left trail to North Peak and came down South Peak

 Arrow slide

 Snow-capped berries

 Snow blown South Peak

 On the summit of Mount Hancock

 No views from North Peak outlook

 On our way to South Peak

 A crooked tree

 A look back at the Arrow slide on Mount Hancock

 On the summit of South Hancock

 A view from South Hancock

 Mount Carrigain

 Nobody on the Mount Carrigain tower

 Clearing up nicely

 Another view from South Hancock

 Mount Chocorua and the Sisters

 Mount Chocorua

 Starting the steep drop from South Peak

Tree hugging on the way down

 Brent coming down and Adam going up

Back on level ground

On the way out

Easy under blowdown

 Tree design

Back at the parking lot

Sunset on the drive home

Having Fun in the Great Outdoors!

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