The weekend started with a 9 hour drive (with 2 brief stopovers to finish Maine Views and Brews! ), to Kingfield, where we stayed at the Herbert 'Grand' Hotel. A cool place, with lots of old-school charm, like antique telephone booths, that they say will be working soon, push button wall light switches, etc.
Saturday we got up and drove 5.2 miles down Kingfield Road and parked where we had last time, a small pull off on the left side of the road, about .3 miles from the last house. We did not want to wake anyone up at 7AM!
Sure enough, as promised, the Rapid Stream was well frozen over, with recent snowmobile tracks crossing the ice bridges. After 40 minutes we were at the old summer trailhead, all on snowmobiled paths. The trail had seen some use in the past, from Dave and Joe, but it was mostly re-breaking 6-10 inches of moderately compacted snow. Kerry did the bulk of it, for which we were grateful, but we all manged a few turns on the steep sections.
Talk about steep, after the Fire Warden's camp ground, (the cabin has been torched! ), we started ascending about 2000' in 1.3 miles! At around 3300', we broke out onto the rubble pile that IS Abraham. The well marked Blue trail was not seen again. Maybe there are cairns, but we didn't see any until 200 horizontal feet before the summit. Which reminds me, there were no less than 5 colors of flagging (one was official apparently) 'adorning' the trail below tree line!
Anyway, we layered up and started out along the rubble pile. There were places swept clean of show, and others with several feet, leading to a few minor spruce trap moments. But we made steady progress, and managed to endure the wind, which was blowing hard enough for one member of the group to don goggles. We passed thru a few small bands of trees, and thought we were almost there a few times, only to have another bump materialize in the distance. The sight distance varied from 100 yards to infinity on short notice. But finally the remnants of the fire tower loomed up and we were there!
We retraced our steps, partly by following our quickly vanishing snow shoe tracks, but the most obvious track left behind was the pole marks. I had never noticed this to be the case before!
Back below tree line, we enjoyed some butt sliding and met up with a small group of skiers. We were done by 3:30.
But the day was not done. We still had to drive all the way to Burlington. We made the trip a little more enjoyable by having dinner at Sunday River! I swear, we literally drove by before we remembered it was right on our way! It snowed most of the drive, and we did not get to bed until almost 11:00 PM, and MBP was meeting us at 8:00 AM Sunday for Mansfield, at Underhill State Park. No rest for the weary.
So, we got up early, had a quick breakfast, and drove off to meet MBP and Ethan. As we climbed, it rained lightly until the temperature dipped to 23 degrees, and then turned to flurries. We got there about 20 minutes ahead of them, called them, and then started the slog up the road. Laurie was not feeling well, and we were going very SLOWLY. But soon after the other 2 guys caught up to us, she kicked into a higher gear. We made pretty good time overall, arriving at the summit by 11:30. We used the Sunset Ridge Trail, and then side-hilled over to the junction that lead up to the Long Trail. I didn't remember the above tree line distance being so long, but Ethan and MBP kept finding the next cairn pretty easily. They also broke 99% of the trail for us! The wind blew from time to time, and Laurie wore her goggles for a while, but it was not unbearable. Once again, the visibility was pretty limited all day, with brief glimpses off into the distance.
At the LT, there were several skiers who were gearing up for a summit push. We all conga-lined up to the top together. Ethan dug out the marker at the top to confirm that we had made it. Some of the skiers were debating the merits of skiing off the Chin, ( ), but IMHO, wisely decided to go back down to the junction. If you don't have a map, compass, or GPS, it's not a great idea to leap off a mountain into a fog bank!
We rapidly retraced our steps and were done by 1:15. This time the drive home was a little better, although it snowed in Vermont, it stopped around the time we entered NY.
It was a good feeling to have climbed both of these peaks on consecutive days, after they had both thwarted our previous attempts.
So that gives us 112W, 3 more to go, hopefully next week in Baxter Park!