You’ve seen the summit pictures. Now see what it took to get there and back on a Winter backpacking adventure to a place few folks visit with snow on the ground. The video runs a bit under an hour, so grab a snack and appropriate beverage, make sure you are watching in HD and enjoy!
27 pics and a wee bit of babbling from a Winter adventure years in the making. I have been asking myself for a long time if it was possible for me to get to the top of Sunday River Whitecap during the Winter. Having been up there many times while toddling along the Grafton Loop it has long been a favorite summit. I have never seen another person up there in any other season as it is far from the road. It is rarely visited in Winter for that same reason.
This will mostly be a photo dump from summit day. I shot 22G of video on the trip so the whole story will come out soon, but I saved the still camera for the good part. The hike in to the Sargent Brook tent site was definitely an adventure. I followed some old tracks over Bald Mtn and up towards Stowe Mtn but they wandered off into the woods and then turned back. After that it was a combination of guessing and GPS that led me to the Sargent Brook tent site about noon on the second day.
It was dark and windy, so certainly not a good day to summit. Since I had time on my hands I broke trail about half way up the mountain. The GPS was needed at least once or twice until I was amazed to find tracks coming down the mountain and disappearing off trail headed down. Someone had climbed up from the valley and skied down at some point. I continued breaking trail a bit further before heading down to camp for the night.
So I lived the dream, climbed the mountain, ate the donut. Now I just had to toddle on out heh. It was an amazing feeling to have been there, but I had a real sense of just how far I had to go to get back. Thankfully I had my tracks to follow so it was just a matter of humping that heavy pack up and down a few mountains. We’ll save the details for the video since we’re out of pictures, but spoiler alert, I lived 🙂
26 pics and a bit of babbling after a couple of frigid, but beautiful nights in the Maine woods. I won’t keep you in suspense, there will be amazing summit pics that risked frostbite and killed my batteries. Totally worth it!!
Seeing a few days of sunshine in the forecast I loaded up a pack to hit one of my favorite Winter backpacking spots. I try to do a Baldpates trip every year during snow season.
Last year the snow was several feet deeper when I was here. It was strange to see rocks in places and even open water in a few spots.
It was in the low 20s and breezy which is nice hiking weather as far as I am concerned heh. I had to go a bit slow on the steeper sections to avoid sweating, but all around a beautiful day for a walk in the woods with a 55lb pack on my back.
It didn’t look like anyone had been up the mountain in days and given the weather I wasn’t expecting to see many folks over the next few days.
I arrived at the Baldpate Shelter site around 130pm and had time to enjoy a cup of tea before setting up camp. Knowing the mice that live here I set up my hammock far off in the trees.
It was 14°f when I got up in the morning and cloudy. What else could I do but stand around and drink coffee while I waited to see what the weather would do? I was surprised by a trail runner who stopped in for a snack. He had already ran to the summit and back while I was drinking coffee! Soon after he left it started to clear and I headed up.
The wind at the summit was bitter cold. I love being up there, but you have to be careful not to freeze any bits off.
Looking towards the East peak is always tempting until stepping past these trees and into the full wind. I looked some, but didn’t go much farther.
Not sure how cold it was up there, but my camera batteries started dying fast. Everything shuts down in that sort of cold.
It does create the perfect frozen chocolate donut though!! A favorite treat on Winter backpacking excursions, the frozen donut takes at least 24 hours of frigid temperatures and a fair amount of smushing and crushing to reach perfection. This one was slightly better than that because it was really cold!
Then it was back down to camp for a couple of dinners. Some body heat managed to get the cameras running again so I was able to capture this view of the 4pm setting sun. It would be a long night, at least 487 hours from the feel of it, with a low around 12°f that hit by 7pm and held steady through 8am the next day. I rolled out of bed at 6am in the dark because I couldn’t stay in the hammock any longer. It was cold, but at least I was free heh.
I didn’t wait for the sun and headed down the mountain as the clouds burned off. It had been a great trip, but like most cold weather trips, I was ready to go home where a simple mistake probably won’t kill me. There is a fair amount of stress involved in making sure I stay alive out there, but given how pretty it all is, I think it’s worth the effort.
There will be a video or two coming from this trip as well. I shot about 8G so there ought to be something in there. Look for that on my YouTube channel in the coming week.
42 pics and some babbling from a three day adventure in the deep freeze.
The forecast said it would be cold and clear. It was definitely both when I arrived at the Grafton Notch State Park lot. Despite a few other cars I wouldn’t see anyone until I got back to the lot three days later. These folks were likely either on Old Speck, Table Rock or ice climbing.
The view up towards Old Speck looked frosty with the higher elevation trees coverd in rime.
The Eyebrow looked icy and not the sort of place I want to visit in the Winter. Some folks enjoy that sort of thing heh, but I am too old for that much excitement.
The snow depth, while enough to cover most of the rocks, was a bit shallow for the sled. Deeper snow levels out the trail and buries obstructions. Pulling is easier and the sled tracks better.
By the time I got to the shelter site my quads were burning from the effort and I was losing daylight fast. Just enough time to melt some snow and make dinner before dark.
The mountain above me was still in full sun though. Seeing all that blue sky had me excited about getting up there the next day.
It was 1°F in the morning. With the sled I was able to bring my heavy insulated boots for standing around in camp. Bundled up and a hot cup coffee in hand, I was in pretty good spirits.
Given how cold it was I wasn’t in a big hurry to start the climb. Hanging out in camp covered with heavy insulation was the best way to appreciate the beautiful morning.
A bit after 9am I started the short, but very steep climb up towards the West Baldpate summit. It was challenging to balance the heat of my internal steam engine with the need for clothing in the single digit temperature.
For most of the climb I stuck to a very pronounced “rest step” which is totally the opposite of how I naturally climb. I like to keep moving, but that leads to sweating and in these conditions, sweating is a lot of trouble.
The cautious approach to the climb took time, but soon enough the sky started to open up above me. I didn’t track the exact time, but looking at my gps tracks it seems it was about 90 minutes from camp to summit at the no sweat pace.
This is what I wore on the climb, single 250wt wool base layer top and bottom, thin shell pants and a wool based jacket with light weight wool beanie. Enough to keep the frost off the outside while not holding too much heat.
Within a few minutes of reaching the summit I was reaching for insulation! Thankfully there was only a small breeze, but it was danger type cold up there. Time for the -30°F rated jacket and a face mask. Even well protected I was acutely aware of the importance of not pushing my luck up there. Solo hiking is always about being safe, but especially in these conditions.
My usual lunch of cheese, sausage and tortillas was frozen solid when I pulled it out. The nuts and berries of my trail mix seemed hard enough to break a tooth. It was very pretty, but time to start heading down.
Descending was of course a lot easier and since I didn’t have to focus on pacing myself I had a lot more time to appreciate just how beautiful it was in the woods.
It was a bit of a surprise how fast I arrived back at the shelter intersection. Happy to be close to my stove and a hot lunch, but a bit sorry the hike was over, I headed up towards camp.
I prefer not to sleep in this shelter, but I love the way it catches the winter sun in the afternoon. A great place to hang out and melt snow. Digging in my food bag I found the extra meal I’d tossed in was lasagna, which made an excellent late lunch.
You can see I’ve had to move my sit pad as I followed the sun across the bench. It was around 20°F, but that little bit of sunshine made it feel much warmer. Well, the -30°F coat probably helped too heh.
All too soon the sun was headed down again. Another 14+ hour night approached. For me, one of the hardest parts of winter camping is the long nights. I awoke at 11pm and read for an hour or so because it felt like I’d had a full night’s sleep by then.
In the morning I had the last of my frozen donuts with hot, strong coffee. The nights may be long, but winter camping also has its joys. I’d never carry donuts into the woods on a three season trip, but the bears are sleeping this time of year…I hope.
It wasn’t as cold on the second morning, but cold enough. Think it was around 15°F when I got up and felt like it was going to warm up a bit that day.
Then it was time to load the sled and head down the mountain. Somewhere near the road my tent popped off the sled. The shallow snow at the bottom was making it track poorly and it kept flipping over. I didn’t notice the tent was gone until I got home, hours later. I put out word and while I’ve had reports of it being spotted both in the woods and being picked up by a hiker, unfortunately the folks who picked it up haven’t found me yet.
While that tragic note takes some of the joy out of this adventure, there was so much dang joy that it hardly matters. Any trip to the woods is going to make me happy, but three days of blue sky sunshine above a sparkling winter wonderland left me feeling like a totally different person. I’m trying to keep that happy feeling rolling despite the stupid rain in the forecast later this week. I say bring on more Winter!!
Hope you’re getting out when you can. I’ve been too lazy to post here, but we’ve been snowshoeing all over the last couple months. Need to catch up on my Trailspace reviews, but I’ll try to share some of the local snowshoe pics when I can.