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 🙂
There were some battery challenges due to the temperatures as well as a bit of frost nip on my thumb shooting the summit clouds, but if you liked the pics from my last post I’m thinking you’re going to enjoy seeing the trip in motion.
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.
There is no joy in Mudville 😦
Androscoggin is up about three feet though and flowing fast for a deep channel.
About time 🙂
Shortish video shot on a three day Pemi visit. Sun, snow and a bit of cold.
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.
32 pics and more than a wee bit of babbling from three days of blue sky and snow on one of my favorite mountains!
I’d had my eye on the weather for these three days. With a recent foot of fresh snow I was really hoping that someone would break out the trail over the weekend. Saturday was blown out but sure enough, some nice folks stomped me a trail on Sunday.
The buried signs at the side of the road were an early indicator that the snow was deep. Many blazes were between knee and ankle height along the way.
The weather totally came through for me. Cold, in the 20s at the parking lot, but lots of sunshine. Gusts of wind at time, but not the steady sort that makes you wear a lot of clothes.
Down low the trail was really well stomped. The route up to the viewpoint at the cliff is very popular. The folks over the weekend had to break trail from where the AT extends beyond the short loop.
This would have been a lot more work if I was breaking trail. As is, it was a bit of a sweaty climb given my load and lack of any real climbing in months.
I didn’t use my normal winter pack on this trip because I’m doing some testing with a different one. It was interesting paring down my winter kit to fit the reduced capacity. With three different sized thermos bottles of water and the big bottle of stove gas it came in at right around 40lbs. I did add some donuts on the drive in. They are tucked into the stove bag behind the shovel in this pic.
The shelter was well buried, but the wind had swept the front cleaner than other years. The snow over all was deeper than I was used to, but the wall in front wasn’t there. That blue sky was amazing. I recall worrying that I was missing the good day.
I had things to attend to though, so the summit would have to wait. First I wanted to get the hammock up and try out the new tarp. This one has doors on the ends and may become the distance shelter. That blowout on the Cohos last Fall made me see the benefits of doors heh.
Then there were evening chores to attend to. At this time of year there is no access to running water at this site. That means spending a lot of time melting and boiling snow. I started filling my thermos bottles, then got dinner soaking while I finished the bottles. With the temp dropping fast it was easy to get into the hammock before dark. With a good dinner and a chocolate donut in my belly it was easy to fall asleep before dark too heh.
There were some great stars during the night, but the blue skies were already returning by the time I rolled out of bed in the morning. I always love the feeling of coming out from under the quilts in the morning light and feeling the sting of the air. It feels like survival heh.
This is why I carry a cheapo refrigerator thermometer on all my trips. It is easy to read without glasses and the decimal comes in handy during wild temperature swings. I was glad to have the warning that morning on the Cohos when the flash freeze hit.
Time to melt some breakfast snow while I waited for the sun to do its thing. Coffee and a bag of breakfast slurry warmed the belly nicely. It had been a while since I’d been able to get out, but everything seemed vaguely familiar.
I stashed what I didn’t need for the climb at my camp. While I was there I grabbed one of the quilts and stuffed it in my pack…just in case heh. Then it was up up and up, into the trees. The snow was so deep that much of the climb was a wrestling match with branches that are normally well over head while walking on the ground.
On the way up I heard some footsteps in the distance below me. Thankfully I’d noticed him and stopped singing before he knew I was there heh. We chatted briefly as I let him pass by. He moving faster as he was dressed to sweat inside a shell. I was going for the cooler approach with thin wool layers and taking lots of breaks on the way up. It is hard for me to not attack a hill, but I kept making myself take slow steps. It didn’t work heh. I was still a little damp when I reached the top.
We took turns taking pics for one another and chatted a bit before he had to head down. Company is always appreciated more when you haven’t seen anyone for a while.
He was wearing some Baffin boots he was very pleased with. If you are out there man, I’d love to see a review on Trailspace 🙂
After he left I had to take my own pics. It was a lot of work so I treated myself to cheese and sausage because I’m worth it. OK, I’ll shut up and let you look at the pretty pics for a while…
Even with dark sunglasses I was pretty much blinded after a few hours up there. I knew I had a very steep descent and a few trees in my way so had to say good bye long before I wanted to.
Well, maybe just a few minutes more. I try to remember that there are no guarantees in life and every mountain may be my last. Sure hope not, but this was a darn good one to go out on!
On the way down there were some really steep drops. At the top of some of them were amazing views. It was important to view and drop separately hehe. With the soggy afternoon snow traction was entertaining enough that focus was important. Like I always tell my daughter about climbing mountains; You can look or you can walk, but don’t do both at the same time.
Nice views of the Whites on the other side of the border in NH. Spring is eating into the snow and the wind has helped in that regard. Won’t be long and there will be plenty of mud, at least down low.
With two solid days of blue sky it was hard not to hear the old ELO song in my head…”Mister blue, you did it right.”
“But soon comes mister night, creeping over, now his hand is on your shoulder”
“Never mind, I’ll remember you this, I’ll remember you this way.”
The second night was a bit warmer, but seemed very long. I was ready to get up and get moving. With the temp around 26°f it was easier to swap camp clothes for hiking clothes than the previous morning. Thankfully I managed to get everything loaded back up and I was on my way.
It was going to be another fabulous day. The light in the forest was amazing and I had to keep stopping to look at it. I recognized the terrain from some of the video I shot snowshoeing in deep powder here on a previous trip and was again pretty happy to be there.
Rather than complain about all the times I wasn’t there this Winter I was thinking about how happy I was at the moment. Good times heh.
Lower down I began to meet people day hiking. Maybe time to stop singing…or not heh. Spring definitely was waking up after a few days of strong sunshine. Up top it will take a while to eat through that deep snow. Even here it may be a while unless there is a warm rain. Soon though…soon.