Franconia Ridge

Franconia Ridge

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Cold and Windy On WTF

Summits: Willey (4,285'), Tom (4,051'), Field (4,340')
Trail route: Avalon Trail, A-Z Trail, Mt. Tom Spur, Willey Range Trail
Trail conditions: Packed trails to Mount Field then blown in snow and drifting to Mount Willey
Weather: Cold temps, wind, cloudy with snow flurries to steady light snow
Total miles: 10
Total time:  6:04

I postponed my hike one day hoping that trails would be broke out after recent snow and rain. When deciding on what to hike I had to take into consideration not only trail conditions but also whether or not parking lots would be plowed out due to the government shutdown. I had seen reports that had the trails broken out for Willey, Tom and Field. The parking area across from the Webster-Jackson trailhead was also plowed. This seemed like the logical choice for a hike today.

My plan was to hike up the Avalon Trail to the A-Z Trail, up the Mt Tom Spur and back down then across the Willey Range Trail to Field and Willey. My turn around point would be the outlook on Mount Willey then return on the Willey Range Trail to A-Z Trail and down Avalon Trail. There would be a slight adjustment in this route.

When I arrived at the trailhead it was colder and windier than what I had expected. I added some layers and started the road walk to the Crawford Depot. At one point I climbed over the snowbank and onto the railroad tracks that had a fair amount of ice under a thin layer of snow. When I got to the train depot I sat on a picnic table and put the microspikes on to start my hike.

The Avalon Trail was well packed. There were two interesting and tricky water crossings. Normally these water crossings are not a challenge but today was a little different. The recent rain had raised the water level and although it was receding there was some difficulty determining what was safe ice and what was not. I had no problem on the first crossing but the second crossing my foot went through the ice and I went ankle deep in the water. This was a good test of my winter boots and I stayed warm and dry through this immersion.

I arrived at the A-Z Trail to find it had been rerouted. It was now another 0.1 mile up the Avalon Trail. There was some sticks piled across the old trail to let hikers know even though there was a sign clearly marking the direction of the reroute. I noticed there was some old footprints covered in snow on the old section so apparently someone wasn't paying attention thus the reason for piling the sticks across this trail.

I kept going when I got to the Mt. Tom Spur heading up without stopping until I got to the summit. I was the first one up today and the trail was blown in with snow. It was cold, windy and gray and the trail was difficult to follow once up on the summit but I had been here several times before and knew where the summit was. A quick photo into the valley and I turned around and went back down. I met one other hiker on my way back to the trail junction.

When I got to the Willey Range Trail junction I noticed the A-Z Trail was not broke out beyond here. It was a nice hike up to Mount Field with a hard packed trail to follow. When I arrived at the summit there was very limited views and I noticed the trail going to Mount Willey was blown over with some drifting snow. I put my snowshoes on and was glad I did. As I made my way across I broke through some minor drifting snow.

I went up over the summit and around to the outlook. There would be no views today. The temperature was 11°F and the wind was howling. This was my turn around point and I wasted no time turning around and heading back. I started meeting some hikers and saw some familiar faces, it was Nate and his dog Piper. They were with two other hikers. I knew that at some point they would pass me on the way back. Sure enough when I arrived back on Mount Field they were right behind me. One of the hikers told me they had broken out the Tripyramids yesterday. That's a lot of tough hiking!

I started my descent from Mount Field, it was all downhill from here. Nate told me that Avalon Trail was well broke out and no ice. So this is where I changed my hiking route and descended Avalon Trail but I did not climb the short spur path to Mount Avalon. I've been up there before and no views today so I kept descending. It was just past the Avalon Spur that the trail became a narrow trench that my snowshoes did not fit into so I changed back to microspikes.

Back down at the water crossings I had no problems and stayed dry this time. Knowing which ice to step on was a big help. As I got closer to the trailhead there was steady snow falling. When I got back to the train depot it was a windswept snow blowing into my face all the way down the road to where I had parked my car.

It was cold, windy and cloudy with no views but it was great to be out there today!

Enjoy the photos and videos!

 The hike starts here at the Crawford Depot

 Trail is well packed and I used microspikes to start

 A slightly tricky water crossing

 A trickier water crossing that tested my waterproof boot

On the Avalon Trail

 Easy water crossing

 The beginning of the A-Z Trail has moved 0.1 mile further up the Avalon Trail

 The A-Z Trail starts here

 Recent rain hollowed out the snow pack

 Same rain carved a swath out of the snow

 Another easy crossing

Heading up to Mount Tom

 Only view from the summit of Mount Tom

 A tree arch

 Old buried footprints continue on the A-Z Trail

 Turning onto the Willey Range Trail

Along the Willey Range Trail

 Almost to Mount Field

 A view from the summit of Mount Field

Open area on the Willey Range Trail 

 Hiking through gray and white

Back into the trees on the Willey Range Trail

 A "view" from Mount Willey

A look back from Mount Field

Mount Tom from Mount Field

Descending on the Avalon Trail

Mount Avalon

Packed trail to Mount Avalon but I bypassed this summit

A well packed Avalon Trail

The loop is complete

The water crossing is a little easier having already done it on the way in

Final water crossing

Falling snow is pelting my face as I arrive back at the trailhead

Back at Crawford Depot with steady snow falling

Looking up into the gray to where I've been

Road walk back to my car in a snowy headwind

Having Fun in the Great Outdoors!

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