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.
There is no joy in Mudville 😦
Androscoggin is up about three feet though and flowing fast for a deep channel.
About time 🙂
No music this time. Just the natural sounds of… ummmmm… Nature!
A little work on the traces and my sled was ready for more real world testing. Well and I was ready for more playing in the snow! Loaded up and headed to New Hampshire to see what the snow looked like over that way. The late March sun was melting everything around home, but in the mountains there was still plenty to be found.I headed out on the Eastside Trail which was broken out for the first three miles until the wilderness gate. I bare booted this far and then wore shoes to handle the deeper stuff beyond.With lots of sun and temps a bit above freezing I took lots of breaks to avoid over heating. Dragging is easier than carrying most of the time, but those other times can be hard heh.Can’t complain too much though because the Spring sun on the snow makes a person pretty happy. I wasn’t sure where I was headed, but I knew I had a few days to find out. There was some talk of climbing a mountain, though that would involve a long walk to reach the start of the climb.The Cedar Brook crossing was worth posting two pics, though having someone to shoot video would have been better. Several feet of open water bordered with ice with steep banks on either side.I folded the traces back, grabbed the sled with two hands, carried it across and tossed it on to the shelf above me. When I came back the other way I couldn’t imagine how I’d gotten across heh. It was a much bigger deal to try walking across with the sled for some reason and I ended up just sort of tossing it across.The deep snow allowed me to dig a nice cooking hole to help block the wind. I used the snow from the hole to build a sitting spot right next to it.The sled really opens up new possibilities when it comes to winter camping. Instead of stopping for a donut on the ride to NH I stopped for half a dozen and four managed to make the trip into the woods with me. None returned 🙂Hiding under the donuts is my box of crap. Keeping all your crap in one place provides the illusion of organization. Not losing your crap in the snow is vital since finding crap in the snow is pretty hard. In the box I’ve got a pot, a kettle, a canister stove and fuel for it, a white gas stove, coffee mug, a few sporks, a wrench for the sled bolts and some duct tape for everything else.Now you can see my well placed sit spot heh. That let me get off my feet while still keeping an eye on the stove and pot.I camped early because based on how fast I was moving I had no chance of reaching that mountain I’d been thinking about. What a relief! Now I could enjoy the rest of the trip and focus on being happy where I was rather than wanting to keep moving. Where I was seemed pretty nice to me.I brought the big Cooke tarp and tied off to conveniently located trees for the most part. Had to bury one stick in the snow but unless I’m setting up for serious wind this sort of limp pitch does the trick without much effort. My reasoning is that making gentle tie offs to what I see is better than stomping down big areas without knowing what is under foot. Thankfully I camp alone so no one is there to make fun of my tarp 🙂Morning sun shining through the steam means coffee and breakfast soon will be ready. With no big plans I was able to relax and enjoy the morning. Frozen chocolate donuts and hot coffee in the snow are now a moment I will always carry with me. Also pretty sure I’ll be carrying those donuts again next Winter!Slowly everything was condensed back into the sled. The hammock came down later after I sat down to pull my frozen Limmers on. Much better feeling the frozen leather compared to the frozen synthetic boots on my last snow trip. Seems to soften up easier or something.I opted to head back closer to the highway for my second night so that meant crossing back over Cedar Brook. The sled is really nice except when it flips upside down and when you have to get over water crossings. This crossing took a while, though at least the sled didn’t flip over heh, and I was ready for a break when I finally got across.Oh look, a perfect place for a break!! This big snow drift is actually right in the middle of Cedar Brook. Sitting there in the sun was a perfect place for elevensies so out came the sausage and cheese. Eventually the sun moved enough for a tree to cast a shadow on me so I moved on, but I was there for quite a while.Then it was back into the woods to find a place to camp for the night. My goal was to seek out a spot part of the way up the ridge that runs parallel to the river and trail in this area. First I scouted out a spot leaving my gear down below. Then when I tried taking the sled up I quickly realized that without a climbing brake that wasn’t going to happen.
To be honest I’m not sure I could have hauled the load up that slope even with a brake. In the end I made two trips, one with the pack and one with the sled, to get everything up there. It took me probably 90 minutes to break the trail, haul both loads up and set up camp.Totally worth the effort! I kept a little of the ridge above me to block some of the wind if needed as I camped on a little perch well above the river. A set of small deer tracks passed near the spot, but no other sign of animals were on the ground. The trees were full of rampaging squirrels though hehe. Two tiny reds came through engaged in either a major frolic or battle. It was epic acrobatics as they never stopped moving unless it was to scream at one another for a few seconds. Nature puts on some great reality programming 😉Just an incredible place to spend the night. Far enough from the river that it became a distant murmur allowing the other sounds of the forest to come through. I recall standing there eating my dinner and being blown away by what a great place I was in the universe. Well and the chicken noodle dinner in my bag was pretty darn good too leading to some more happiness.A bit of a snow squall came through over night. I knocked most of it off trying to get out from under the tarp. The sound of snow sliding down the tarp is very relaxing. Not sure about snow bombs though heh. Maybe I’ll get to test that out next year.I’ll just leave you with the pretty sun on snow pics from the walk out. It was great to get another chance to get out in the snow. These trips are hard to make happen, but always end up leaving me wanting to go back. Snow is going fast and I’m in Mud Season mode right now which means working on projects around home so I can go camping later. Hmm, now that I think of it, time to make some Baxter reservations!
Follow the link via the picture or the text below to check out a very special review published today at Trailspace. After a series of snow camping adventures this Winter where I put this box through its paces I felt ready to write the definitive review of this modern yet retro bit of gear. Check out the review for all the details, but suffice to say, this box rox!!
Look for another very special review coming out this Sunday! Well and a Spring Pemi snow trip report and then a snowshoe review, but you’ll definitely want to check out the one on Sunday 🙂
“It’s been a while, but lets see how this goes.” is a good theme for this trip and this post. Obligations at home and a Winter that seemed to have fears about commitment had left me unable to sneak away for more than a few hours at a time for quite a while. When things at home were conducive the weather would warm up to ruin the snow and bring rain. Finally given the chance to get out into actual snow I loaded up my sled and headed up one of my favorite mountains!
I didn’t have much time to work with so the plan was to set up camp for two nights near the MATC lean to on Friday in hopes of a clear summit at some point on Saturday. This was my first real world test of my sled. There were some issues to be found dragging gear up a mountain that didn’t occur during tests dragging my daughter around the golf course 🙂 Modifications have since been made and I look forward to more real world testing soon.Friday was definitely not the day to be on top of the mountain. Having been here many times before I knew which direction to point the camera for this shot. If not I would have had no clue there was a mountain there at all.I checked the tiny stream behind the lean to and while I could hear water way down below it was unreachable. Well at least by me, as I noticed the squirrels had kept little tunnels open so they could get to it. That is how I knew I was looking at about a foot of ice and then another foot or more of air before I’d reach that tiny trickle I could hear down there somewhere. That meant melting snow for water so rather than enjoying the afternoon quiet I got to work so I could have dinner before dark with all my bottles filled with warm water to get through the night.The low was around 20°f with a few snow squalls during the night. I was using my big tarp configured for snow and wind. That let me enjoy the sounds of the weather out there while snuggled warm in my hammock.Using the sled meant I could bring way too much crap and have a place out of the snow to keep it. After years of winter camping in a two man tent this is very different, but I am learning how to make it work for me. Not sure I’d enjoy it as much without the sled.The climb to the summit after breakfast was treacherous with lots of hard ice flows buried under varying amounts of snow. The steeper sections were a bit gnarly but I was testing out some back country snow shoes with pretty aggressive toe traction so didn’t switch to spikes.I was pretty happy to be done climbing because it meant I could take off my pack and start taking pictures. I’d been trying to get up to this spot to take some winter pictures for the last several years but kept getting chased off by rain on my summit day every time. Lots of good camping but no summit pics.
I’ll just shut up for a while now and let you enjoy the pretty pictures. I shot about 100 pics while I was up there. The sun kept fighting through the clouds more and more changing the scene around me. I was pretty dang happy about it all!By camping on the mountain and hitting the summit early I had it all to myself for quite a while. Once I started down shortly after noon I soon began to meet folks on their way up. After more than 24 hours of solitude it was nice to share the beauty with other folks but nicer to move on and return to the peace of being alone in the snow.There was a lot of ice lurking under the recent snow. The warm melts combined with rain can create some beautiful but dangerous works of art.These sort of works of art are a lot less dangerous. Well so long as you stop to enjoy the view rather than trying to stare at them too hard while falling off an ice cliff heh.Speaking of stopping to enjoy the view…I was taking a much wider shot of some trees when I noticed this little bit of valley view hiding back there. I ended up liking this zoomed in shot more than the one I’d taken the camera out for.Back in camp the mountain was much easier to see now. It really isn’t far, but the climb is pretty steep so going up takes a lot longer than coming down.I was happy to be back in camp. I’d set up in the trees far enough away from the LT that the shelter mice didn’t seem to find me out there. Having camped here before I know there are some fearless rodents under that thing.I may have scared a few of them off by drying my feet and socks in the afternoon sun. It didn’t seem to bother the squirrels which were numerous and seemed to think I was in their house.A cup of potato soup is perfect in camp on a winter afternoon. To be honest though, I’m a fan of this soup and think it is pretty darn good for a summer trail lunch too!Sunday morning dawned as my last day here usually does with the best weather of the trip. Suddenly the mountain could be seen clearly. Definitely the day to be going up and as usual, I was going down heh.Speaking of which there definitely was some going down on the descent. Seems my snowshoe testing is so thorough that I’ve discovered an issue no one else appears to have ever reported. If you’ve had a similar experience I’d love to hear about it in detail including specifics of the snowshoe, boot and conditions. When descending a slope with the sled and maneuvering around a tree on the right I managed to slip the tail of my left shoe through the toe of my right shoe. One time is a fluke, but I did this multiple times coming down this mountain.
This only happened under very specific circumstances for me and so far my research is coming up with nothing in terms of other folks having something like this happen with these or any other shoe. Post comments here or email firstname.lastname@example.org please and thanks if you have any experience with something like this. I’d like to hear if anyone else has ever seen this sort of thing under any circumstances.Other than a few tumbles caused by that odd snowshoe hook up issue it was a great day to be coming down the mountain. Lots of sunshine on the snow and the day hikers were getting a late start. In the parking lot I ran into enough folks to make it a crowd but not enough to take any fun out of the day. The day hikers seemed confused by my sled or perhaps concerned I had a body on there.Definitely great to be out there for a few days. It has been a few weeks now and I’m ready for more. This is my sort of anger management!! Hope you are getting out where and when you can!