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Thread: Another Winter Baxter Adventure: South Brother + Coe, in deep snow

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    Another Winter Baxter Adventure: South Brother + Coe, in deep snow

    Photo Library: on Facebook

    GPS Tracks:
    Cars to bunkhouse: https://www.gaiagps.com/datasummary/...fa859fcc348fe2
    Hike:
    https://www.gaiagps.com/datasummary/...236c048e55aabc
    Bunkhouse to cars: https://www.gaiagps.com/datasummary/...18c2ae623e5e79

    Introduction

    It had been a winter of real extremes and challenge. From the arctic, frigid temps in the weeks following the Solstice, to warm temperatures, to the serious storms near the Spring Equinox that dropped major amounts of snow. Despite the difficulty along the way, I humbly but diligently took on the challenge and completed a second round of the New England 67 4000 footers, this time in winter. It took at least a few retries and some schedule shifting to get several of the last ones.

    That said, I certainly didn't have it the toughest. I'll forever be in awe of my friend Jason's completion of the New England 100 highest peaks _all in one Winter season_. That's real challenge and accomplishment!

    With my Winter 67 done, I had one more trip planned since November -- a bit of unfinished business from last year. This was a return trip to Baxter State Park in Maine, my fifth overall and the third in Winter. Last year I joined friends Liz and Jason to go for the four high peaks near Katahdin that include one 4000 footer (North Brother), and three on the New England 100 highest list (Fort, South Brother, and Coe). Recent, significant snowfall made that goal very difficult, and even though we joined up with another group of six led by another friend, Pam, we ended up reaching only North Brother and Fort, leaving South Brother and Coe for later. This return trip was aimed at finishing those two off. With them in the bag, I'd complete the six Baxter high peaks in Winter.



    Leaving Millinocket for Baxter


    This year, Liz worked hard to put together a team, assembling a great group of eight. But in the few weeks leading up to the trip, the numbers fluctuated (a common occurrence with winter Baxter trips, in my experience). In the end, five of us committed to head up into this largely unspoiled winter wonderland, with a summit of South Brother and Coe in mind. Our basecamp destination would be the Nesowadnehunk bunkhouse, built just two years ago and located at the northwest corner of the park within a campground of the same name. The itinerary involved at least three days, possibly a fourth:

    Day 0: travel to Millinocket (overnight stay at Ruthie's Hotel Terrace)
    Day 1: 45-minute drive and a several-mile hike to the bunkhouse
    Day 2: first attempt at both peaks, an 18-mile round-trip hike
    Day 3: possible second day attempting the peaks in case we couldn't reach them the first time
    Day 4: several-mile hike back out to the cars

    Any hike of Baxter's major high peaks in Winter -- Katahdin (Baxter + Hamlin peaks), North/South Brother, Coe, and Fort -- requires careful planning, serious mileage, unpredictable weather and conditions, and a real commitment of time. Baxter lay well north of the northernmost tip of New Hampshire, a solid 4.5 hours from southern New Hampshire where I live. And the Baxter State Park Authority requires advance reservations for any stay in the park, complete with detailed gear list for those that hike there in winter. The few cabins in the park are sought after, at least on weekends, and require reservations submitted well ahead of time. So you're rolling the dice regarding weather and any difficult conditions due to recent snowfall: you may end up encountering "boilerplate" conditions (well-packed trails that make for fast travel), totally unbroken snow, or anything in-between.



    Katahdin


    The Park Authority closes the park's roads in winter, too, making entry into the park for us peakbagging hikers a much more involved process. For those of us who seek to peak bag the highest points across New England, and be recognized by the Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC) via its Four Thousand Footer Club programs, the only way to reach these peaks in Winter is to travel by your own energy, be it by foot or skis. And these programs require a "car to car" approach, regardless of season: you cannot have the help of motorized equipment from the farthest point you can drive your car; along the roads and/or trail(s) to the summits; and all the way back to the car. This very often turns what would normally be a more basic, several-mile-or-so hike into a 20-30+ mile, multi-day expedition. It's quite unique among all the higher peak destinations of New England, making Baxter pretty much the ultimate quest for Winter hikers seeking real adventure.

    And this time around, we were surely gonna encounter adventure. A recent, major "bombogenesis" snowstorm came through New England only a few days before, dumping over two-plus feet of snow on the area. This almost surely meant we'd need to undertake serious trail breaking. It's this reason you should really plan up front to hike Baxter with as large a group as you can muster, and include an extra day should you not reach the summits on the first try. Nesowadnehunk sleeps eight people, so we aimed for and had eight. But alas, five would have to do.

    [continued below...]
    Last edited by hikersinger; 04-08-2018 at 07:32 AM.
    _______________

    Mt. Adams (12,276') solo, South Cascades, Washington, July 2015
    New England: All-season 100 (September 2017); Winter 67 (March 2018), Winter 79/100
    NH 48: 3-season (Fall 2012), Winter (March 2017)
    Baxter SP: Pamola/Knife Edge/Baxter (2010-09), Baxter/Hamlin (2015-12), N.Brother+Fort (2017-03), Pamola/Knife/Baxter/Hamlin (2017-09), S.Brother+Coe (2018-03)

    AMC Trails Co-Adopter, Zeacliff Trail[/B]
    Co-founder + Administrator, Hike the 4000 Footers of NH! Facebook group

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    [continued from above...]


    Hike to Basecamp

    After a night spent at Ruthie's in nearby Millinocket (highly recommended, comfortable place and great food!), Liz, Seth, Dolores, Alvaro, and myself headed northwest out of town, traveling the largely snow-covered but plowed Golden and Telos roads until we reached Williams Pond Road; about a 50-minute drive. In the warmer months you'd drive the park roads basically right to the cabin but, as they are closed in winter, these roads would take us the closest we could get before having to walk the rest on foot. Just how long a walk that would be, depends on snowfall, logging work, and perhaps a little luck. This time around, we were able to drive only about 0.7 miles up Williams Pond Road, to the farthest point the snowplows traveled. So the remaining five miles would be a road walk for us.

    Excited to get started, loaded up our pulk sleds with our packs and other gear and began our hike in earnest from the cars. I used the pulk sled I put together for my first Winter Baxter excursion a few years earlier: it's essentially a utility-grade winter sled, with rope threaded along the edges, threaded through two long PVC pipes, and attached to carabiners. In my case I attach the carabiners to a utility belt I wear around my waist, though most people just attach them to the bottom of their pack. Pulling all this weight in a sled makes these long road walks much easier, as the weight involved in a multi-day adventure can be pretty substantial.



    We were thrilled to see the first stretch of unplowed road was broken out by a snowmobile track, making for much quicker progress. At 1.5 miles, though, the track headed to the left, and we needed to head straight. Thus began a very slow slog through about 3.5 miles of at least two feet of fresh snow from the recent storm. In ideal conditions, these five miles should only take about two hours; it took us over five.

    To maintain a more constant speed and help everyone conserve energy, we used a rotation method for breaking trail. One would lead for a time, then drop back to the last position, letting the next person have their turn for a time. This was essential to help everyone maintain a good cadence without totally burning out. With this approach, some could break for longer than others based on fitness and energy level, so it works out well for most any group, as long as the group can handle it. Being even just the second person makes a huge difference as long as you're stepping in the track of the lead person; with more than a few people, dropping to the last position makes an enormous difference, allowing you to replenish energy, hydrate, and give muscles a much-needed break. As rotation continues, the job gets a little harder each time you move ahead from the last position until you're in the lead again.

    Breaking trail is tough, but it can be fun, too, especially when coming down a slope. This time, though, it was just plain tough. When you're leading through two feet of fresh snow, it doesn't take long at all before you tire out. Every step takes real energy, bringing your snowshoe up high enough and forward to step down into the fresh snow, repeat with the other leg, and lean forward to advance. With that much depth, too, lifting your snowshoes out of the steps you just made takes effort as well since some snow falls in over the shoe. I chose to employ a version of the "rest step," where I would take one step forward, pause for a quick moment, then repeat with the other leg, and so on; it allowed for just enough extra rest to be able to keep more constant and extended endurance.



    At about 4.5 miles (a little over 5 miles from the start of Williams Pond Road), the road essentially ends and cross-country skiing signs take you into the woods and down into the Nesowadnehunk campground. We crossed a beautiful river and soon arrived at the bunkhouse, got the wood stove going, unpacked and settled in, had dinner, and rested up for the big hike the next day. There was not another soul at Nesowadnehunk -- not even a park ranger. This is what makes Winter trips to Baxter so special. There's just a skeleton staff in the park -- mostly rangers based at Chimney Pond at the base of Katahdin. While the park does see several tens of thousands of visitors in the warmer months, those numbers dwindle to perhaps just a few thousand over the entirety of winter. The park roads are all closed down and unplowed, though snowmobiles often travel the major roads. (In the end, I did not personally encounter any snowmobilers or other hikers beyond our group, the whole time we were there.)

    [continued below...]
    Last edited by hikersinger; 04-05-2018 at 10:38 PM.
    _______________

    Mt. Adams (12,276') solo, South Cascades, Washington, July 2015
    New England: All-season 100 (September 2017); Winter 67 (March 2018), Winter 79/100
    NH 48: 3-season (Fall 2012), Winter (March 2017)
    Baxter SP: Pamola/Knife Edge/Baxter (2010-09), Baxter/Hamlin (2015-12), N.Brother+Fort (2017-03), Pamola/Knife/Baxter/Hamlin (2017-09), S.Brother+Coe (2018-03)

    AMC Trails Co-Adopter, Zeacliff Trail[/B]
    Co-founder + Administrator, Hike the 4000 Footers of NH! Facebook group

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    [continued from above...]


    Early Start, and a Tough Call

    Confident in the knowledge we'd be running into serious, unbroken snow, and since were looking at a solid 17-18 miles round-trip the next day, we wanted to get as early a start as we reasonably could, waking at 4am and getting underway as soon as possible. We dragged our feet a little, heading out from the cabin around 5:45am still under darkness, save a sliver of dawn light along the horizon to the east.



    Yeah, that's a stop sign...


    Nesowadnehunk sits along the park's "Tote Road," a main artery that travels through the western and southern sides of the park, connecting several campgrounds and trailheads together. While it is closed to vehicle traffic in winter, snowmobilers do regularly travel it. Thankfully one or two had since the storm (likely park rangers), so we made quick time walking/skiing along the four miles or so to the Marston trailhead, reaching it at 7am.

    As expected, the trail wasn't broken out at all since the storm so we knew we'd have to work hard to reach these two peaks. As we did on the way in to the bunkhouse the previous day, we used the rotation method to share the effort of breaking out the trail.

    By the time we were a mile or so in on Marston, one person in our group was really dragging and shared that he wasn't able to continue. We've all encountered this, simply losing all steam for various reasons. Even the most seasoned and fit hiker experiences this from time to time, in any conditions. This time especially, though, the trail so far was really tough to break out, with some steeper sections. But an even steeper stretch lay ahead, and we had several miles more before we'd reach the summits. Conditions up on the ridge were largely unknown, but certainly would involve even deeper snow pack and drifts, colder temps, and serious wind.



    Every hiker should continually check in with themselves at regular intervals, taking a virtual "step back" and assessing body, mind, and ability to continue. In this person's case, continuing just wasn't in the cards. It's a decision we all sincerely respected, and indeed one we've all had to make at one time or another. After some thoughtful discernment, we decided as a group to split up, with two heading back to the bunkhouse and three continuing. Another in the group volunteered to accompany the exhausted hiker back to the cabin, for safety and assurance reasons: a decision I will always truly admire and appreciate.

    [continued below...]
    Last edited by hikersinger; 04-05-2018 at 11:28 PM.
    _______________

    Mt. Adams (12,276') solo, South Cascades, Washington, July 2015
    New England: All-season 100 (September 2017); Winter 67 (March 2018), Winter 79/100
    NH 48: 3-season (Fall 2012), Winter (March 2017)
    Baxter SP: Pamola/Knife Edge/Baxter (2010-09), Baxter/Hamlin (2015-12), N.Brother+Fort (2017-03), Pamola/Knife/Baxter/Hamlin (2017-09), S.Brother+Coe (2018-03)

    AMC Trails Co-Adopter, Zeacliff Trail[/B]
    Co-founder + Administrator, Hike the 4000 Footers of NH! Facebook group

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    [continued from above...]


    Onward and Upward

    The remaining three of us -- myself, Liz, and Seth -- continued on, soon reaching the pond that lay at the base of the steep, cathedral-like section that would bring us up and onto the broad col between the two Brothers peaks, North and South. With three people, the going was slower for sure as we were each having to work harder and longer to break out the fresh snow pack. But we continued along at a consistent pace, moving slowly but surely. Once past the steepest part -- about a third of a mile long -- we progressed through the last mile or so a little more quickly. It's been said that snow depth along that stretch is among the deepest in Baxter, so we weren't surprised to be chest level with the upper branches of the trees ("canopy") that would normally be at least 7-10 feet off the ground in the warmer months.



    Along this same section, it was tougher to stay right on the trail, again due to snow depth and the fact that the tree canopy was essentially obstructing the trail almost constantly. Many of the painted blazes on trees were right at foot level, and some were surely buried under snow. Where there was doubt I consulted my Garmin GPS unit, which had my track from last September on it, to keep us mostly on-trail. It was key to keeping us moving on the right path and avoid costly "wandering" to continually find the trail.



    North Brother summit on the left


    Once on the col, we eventually reached the junction with the Mt. Coe Trail, the trail which stretches from the summit of North Brother, along the ridge around the South Brother summit cone, up and over Mt. Coe, and down off Coe to loop back and eventually meet the Marston Trail down low. The sign at the junction was buried under snow, but we knew we were in the right place so we took a right and started our way toward South Brother.

    [continued below...]
    Last edited by hikersinger; 04-05-2018 at 10:47 PM.
    _______________

    Mt. Adams (12,276') solo, South Cascades, Washington, July 2015
    New England: All-season 100 (September 2017); Winter 67 (March 2018), Winter 79/100
    NH 48: 3-season (Fall 2012), Winter (March 2017)
    Baxter SP: Pamola/Knife Edge/Baxter (2010-09), Baxter/Hamlin (2015-12), N.Brother+Fort (2017-03), Pamola/Knife/Baxter/Hamlin (2017-09), S.Brother+Coe (2018-03)

    AMC Trails Co-Adopter, Zeacliff Trail[/B]
    Co-founder + Administrator, Hike the 4000 Footers of NH! Facebook group

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    [continued from above...]


    Assessing Progress on the Ridge

    Before long, though, we stopped and assessed. It was 2pm and we'd been out a little over 8 hours so far. We traveled the first 3.4 easier miles on the broken-out Tote Road in 1.5 hours, but it took us 6.75 hours to travel the next 3.4 miles along the Marston trail to this point. Once on the broad col we'd been traveling about 0.6 miles per hour breaking trail to this point, and calculated that we should be able to reach South Brother and the farthest point, the Mt. Coe summit, by about nightfall. Once there, we'd be turning around and following our track all the way back to the cabin; so the going would be much, much easier, and could be done in the dark without major concerns.

    While the going had been tough, we had been making steady (if slow) progress; and each of us was willing to continue for at least a short distance, to see how much more difficult the ridge might be. Snow depth was certainly deeper by this point, over two feet, but it didn't seem so bad that we needed to turn back. However, Seth did share that he was feeling sharp knee pain when trail breaking with each step up and forward into the deep snow, due to an injury he'd sustained the week before; because of this he felt unable to reliably lead in trail breaking much at all going forward. But he was willing to continue otherwise. Liz was fine to continue as well, but didn't have much energy left to trail break.



    South Brother on the left, Coe on the right


    I quickly weighed the options for myself. I was working hard but felt quite good, considering. We had been maintaining a slow and steady pace and I was doing well at staying hydrated and fueled along the way. We did have the next day as an option to come back and continue; that would certainly work for us, but it would require another full day of hiking and more trail breaking, too. I also knew this was Liz's third attempt at these two peaks in winter, and they were the final two she needed to complete her New England 100 Highest in Winter. I really didn't want to have to come back another day, much less another year if we could help it. Above all, I was really feeling quite good overall, even though I was exerting a lot of energy. I had plenty of food and water left to stay energized, so I felt I could take on the larger share of the trail breaking the remainder of the way -- or at least as long as I could reasonably do so. It wouldn't be easy, but with plenty of daylight ahead, and knowing we were traveling a little over a half-mile an hour, we calculated we should have enough time to reach the far point (Mt. Coe summit) by nightfall. All this considered, and knowing there were five solid hours of daylight and roughly 2.7 miles of trail breaking ahead, we decided to continue and give it a try. We could always turn back if we needed to, right?

    [continued below...]
    Last edited by hikersinger; 04-05-2018 at 10:46 PM.
    _______________

    Mt. Adams (12,276') solo, South Cascades, Washington, July 2015
    New England: All-season 100 (September 2017); Winter 67 (March 2018), Winter 79/100
    NH 48: 3-season (Fall 2012), Winter (March 2017)
    Baxter SP: Pamola/Knife Edge/Baxter (2010-09), Baxter/Hamlin (2015-12), N.Brother+Fort (2017-03), Pamola/Knife/Baxter/Hamlin (2017-09), S.Brother+Coe (2018-03)

    AMC Trails Co-Adopter, Zeacliff Trail[/B]
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    [continued from above...]


    Forging Ahead on the Ridge

    The trail corridor along the ridge was generally more clear to follow, though we very often encountered points where we weren't quite sure which way the trail went. We were still up in the canopy, and painted blazes were few and far between. But, as you hike in winter more and more, you do develop a sense of intuition about these things. I usually ended up making the right choice, but sometimes had to back-track a few steps when it became very obvious the trail didn't head in the direction we intended. My GPS unit helped provide some security along the way, showing we were either on the trail, or off it enough that we needed to correct.



    South Brother calls to us...


    This is a good time to note that it's best not to totally rely on technology to guide your way. I do agree that having a waterproof map and compass, skills to use them, and thorough knowledge of the route are ultimately the most reliable tools in making your way. I have committed myself to learning map and compass, and vow to do so. To this point, though, I've been relying on thorough research and two electronic GPS devices with reliable, offline maps to guide my way. I use a Garmin 64s and Samsung Galaxy S8, a very hearty smartphone that's handled temps down to -20. I realize these are not the most authentic tools, but they have served me well on some very difficult treks.

    Rest assured, though, I'm not one to attach ribbons or the like along the trail I'm walking; that's just way too far. Each hiker should seriously engage his or herself in being self-sufficient enough to sustain their way along the trail without littering it with such things. But I do use GPS to ensure I'm traveling the general direction I need to go, when the way isn't clear. Besides, in this case especially, we knew we had a tough road ahead and would eventually be needing to travel in the dark. So we needed to do what we could to stay on the established trail corridor, for efficiency's sake. The GPS devices were key to our attempting the goal.

    [continued below...]
    Last edited by hikersinger; 04-05-2018 at 10:50 PM.
    _______________

    Mt. Adams (12,276') solo, South Cascades, Washington, July 2015
    New England: All-season 100 (September 2017); Winter 67 (March 2018), Winter 79/100
    NH 48: 3-season (Fall 2012), Winter (March 2017)
    Baxter SP: Pamola/Knife Edge/Baxter (2010-09), Baxter/Hamlin (2015-12), N.Brother+Fort (2017-03), Pamola/Knife/Baxter/Hamlin (2017-09), S.Brother+Coe (2018-03)

    AMC Trails Co-Adopter, Zeacliff Trail[/B]
    Co-founder + Administrator, Hike the 4000 Footers of NH! Facebook group

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    [continued from above...]


    Reaching the South Brother Summit

    It took us a little over an hour to travel 0.6 miles from the Marston junction along the ridge to the junction with the spur path that would lead us up to the summit of South Brother. We decided to head up the 0.2-mile spur path. We soon reached treeline, and found the trail was easy enough to make out since wind had blown enough of the snow away to reveal the general path. The way was familiar to me anyway, having been there just six months earlier to complete my all-season New England 100 highest.

    Once above treeline, though, we encountered the fiercest winds of the day. It was pretty cold, but with the wind factored in we knew we were easily in negative wind chill territory. Winds seemed well over 40-50mph sustained with higher gusts, but weren't so bad that we couldn't make it up to the summit. We felt great and energized, and it was thrilling to see Liz reach her 99th winter NE 100 summit. After a quick photo or few, we headed right back down into the relative safety below treeline.



    Coming down off South Brother summit, North Brother in the background


    Continuing on to Coe

    Once back at the spur path junction, we took stock again. We made good time to this point, considering, and while we knew the way to Coe would be tough, it shouldn't be much different than what we'd already encountered the past half-mile along the ridge, so we continued on. Our spirits were high!

    The Mt. Coe trail down off South Brother was pretty steep coming down in places, but it helped us make better time. Around the low point of the col between South Brother and Coe, among more open woods I did mistakenly take us off-trail to the right, but I noticed pretty quickly and we got back on track. By now, Liz was showing her real knack for finding spruce traps; she'd been lucky enough to step into at least three serious ones by then. We got a big chuckle out of it, seeing her thigh deep in the snow. At one point while coming down off South Brother, she lost her balance while stepping into one and ended up falling, slow-motion-like, face first into the snow. Fun times!



    Coe Ahead


    As we made our way along the flatter stretch between South Brother and Coe, Seth felt good enough again to help trail break. Liz had been helping as well, giving me some welcome breaks. We'd maintained a real good pace, and even though I'd been continuing to break most of the way, I was feeling good enough to do so and wasn't feeling anywhere near losing all my energy. I felt really thankful for this; the countless workouts and stair climbing I'd endured over the years has helped me build a strong heart and endurance that could handle this kind of extended, deep exertion. Besides, I was really determined at this point, as the summit of Coe was now often within eyesight, and just a mile or so away. I may have had the physical energy, but I think adrenaline was playing a good part, too. Whatever it was, I was really grateful and loving the adventure of it all.

    As we made our way toward Coe we began to see it's knobby summit ahead through the trees, at regular intervals. Once we were within about a mile of the summit, we knew we were really gonna do this. Before that, we just weren't so sure as the mountains had given us plenty of reasons to doubt our chances that day. But we were seriously making headway, and with such a relatively short distance to the final peak, we began to feel really excited and driven.

    [continued below...]
    Last edited by hikersinger; 04-05-2018 at 10:54 PM.
    _______________

    Mt. Adams (12,276') solo, South Cascades, Washington, July 2015
    New England: All-season 100 (September 2017); Winter 67 (March 2018), Winter 79/100
    NH 48: 3-season (Fall 2012), Winter (March 2017)
    Baxter SP: Pamola/Knife Edge/Baxter (2010-09), Baxter/Hamlin (2015-12), N.Brother+Fort (2017-03), Pamola/Knife/Baxter/Hamlin (2017-09), S.Brother+Coe (2018-03)

    AMC Trails Co-Adopter, Zeacliff Trail[/B]
    Co-founder + Administrator, Hike the 4000 Footers of NH! Facebook group

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    [continued from above...]


    Summiting Coe, Liz's 100th Winter NE 100 Peak

    It wasn't long before we reached treeline just shy of the Coe summit cone. Winds were thankfully not as strong as on South Brother by this point. The trail travels along the east side of the ridge leading up to the summit, so we had prime views east to Katahdin where we knew a group of friends were hopefully up and well on their way to bagging both Baxter and Hamlin peaks. Unlike South Brother and Coe, though, Katahdin was enveloped in clouds and did have an ominous look about it. (We later learned that no groups had hiked Katahdin that day due to extreme avalanche danger not seen in years.)



    Looking back toward South Brother


    As we neared the Coe summit, nightfall was approaching fast. While much of the sky above was cloudy, we were in the clear and saw a thin sliver of clear skies along the horizon to the west, allowing the sun to cast a glow on the ridge we'd been traveling. Looking back at South Brother and even over to North, the view was spectacular. I reached the Coe summit at 6:45pm, and Seth soon came up behind me. Within a few minutes, Liz was in view and reached the summit at about 6:55, right at the moment of sunset. The views were breathtaking, and timing could not have been better for a stunning and memorable Winter New England 100 finish for Liz! This was the completion of her second round, the first completed in the warmer months. We truly and literally basked in the waning light of the sunset, took a bunch of photos, and marveled at the accomplishment of the day.



    Congratulations Liz!!!





    The sun soon dipped behind the horizon. From our vantage point, it literally set exactly between the two peaks of Doubletop Mountain to the west, a really cool sight. We were thrilled and elated to have reached both summits, our goal for the trip; but we knew we had to turn around and make our way back to the cabin. We'd come about 9.4 miles to this point, so we knew we had that much distance to hike back. Thankfully we'd be moving much faster, following our own, broken-out steps.

    [continued below...]
    Last edited by hikersinger; 04-05-2018 at 11:00 PM.
    _______________

    Mt. Adams (12,276') solo, South Cascades, Washington, July 2015
    New England: All-season 100 (September 2017); Winter 67 (March 2018), Winter 79/100
    NH 48: 3-season (Fall 2012), Winter (March 2017)
    Baxter SP: Pamola/Knife Edge/Baxter (2010-09), Baxter/Hamlin (2015-12), N.Brother+Fort (2017-03), Pamola/Knife/Baxter/Hamlin (2017-09), S.Brother+Coe (2018-03)

    AMC Trails Co-Adopter, Zeacliff Trail[/B]
    Co-founder + Administrator, Hike the 4000 Footers of NH! Facebook group

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    [continued from above...]


    Heading Back

    We started back, and within 15-20 minutes day had all but fallen and night was nearly settled in. Armed with headlamps, we made good, steady progress on our way back along the ridge, around South Brother, and to the Marston junction by 8:50pm. The trail was still very soft and required work to step along since it wasn't packed down completely by the three of us. But from Coe to this point we'd indeed traveled much more quickly, about 1.4 miles per hour -- over twice as fast as the pace we'd experienced breaking trail in the other direction earlier!



    Sunset behind Doubletop


    As I moved along, I tried to stay resilient in making steady progress. We still had several miles ahead of us, and it was looking like we wouldn't get back until well after midnight. Liz and Seth were making slower but still steady progress, and I regularly stopped so we could keep in check with each other. Coming down off the col, and especially down the steep section along the Marston Trail, I found myself struggling to stay strong. We'd been on the trail for over 15 hours, and hiking all that distance in the dark was finally taking a toll, both physically and mentally. I was so tired and drained, I stopped several times to simply rest my eyes, even occasionally catching myself dozing off while standing upright. But I continued to fuel and hydrate, pushing forward with real purpose. A warm cabin lay ahead, after all...

    Once at Marston's junction with the lower end of the Mt. Coe Trail, I waited for Liz and Seth once more, then asked if I could move forward at my own speed and hike back to the cabin. I found that I was waiting more and more, and really didn't want to have to be out any longer than I needed to. They were fine with that since they had each other and were doing fine themselves, just moving a little more slowly and taking an extra break here or there for the same reasons I was. I moved as fast as I could reasonably move, reaching the Marston trailhead by 11:45pm. I picked up my pulk sled (which I'd used that morning to carry my pack along the Tote Road) and unloaded my pack into it; I knew this would be a real help for me on the return trip. With some water and more food handy, I started making my way back to the cabin along the Tote Road.



    I moved quickly along the Tote Road since more snowmobiles had packed it out during the day. The remaining four miles of the Tote Road were pretty excruciating, though, in every way. My feet hurt more than they ever have on a hike and, as you might expect, hiking a road you're not that familiar with in the dark meant you really didn't have much of a sense of how much was left.

    I persisted, though, and finally reached the cabin about 1:10am. Alvaro and Dolores were thrilled to see me, and even more happy to hear we'd reached both summits. They'd made it safely back and were in good spirits, which made me feel grateful for the earlier decision. Liz and Seth reached the cabin about 20 minutes later. We were exhausted but so thankful to have achieved the goal: we wouldn't have to return the next day, and instead would be able to spend it resting up before hiking back out to the cars. And our group was together again, which felt fantastic.

    [continued below...]
    Last edited by hikersinger; 04-05-2018 at 11:02 PM.
    _______________

    Mt. Adams (12,276') solo, South Cascades, Washington, July 2015
    New England: All-season 100 (September 2017); Winter 67 (March 2018), Winter 79/100
    NH 48: 3-season (Fall 2012), Winter (March 2017)
    Baxter SP: Pamola/Knife Edge/Baxter (2010-09), Baxter/Hamlin (2015-12), N.Brother+Fort (2017-03), Pamola/Knife/Baxter/Hamlin (2017-09), S.Brother+Coe (2018-03)

    AMC Trails Co-Adopter, Zeacliff Trail[/B]
    Co-founder + Administrator, Hike the 4000 Footers of NH! Facebook group

  10. #10
    Member hikersinger's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2012
    Location
    New Boston, NH
    Posts
    90
    [continued from above...]


    Conclusion

    The next day, we slept in and enjoyed some final hours at the cabin together, celebrating Liz's birthday the previous day and sharing a cake Seth had made. The five of us had a crazy fun time, donning various stick-on mustaches Dolores had brought along, and taking in some final rest time at Nesowadnehunk. It was a beautiful, bright, sunny day, and we all had so much to be thankful for. This is what winter hiking adventures like this are all about.



    Around mid-afternoon, Dolores, Alvaro, and I headed out from the cabin back to the cars via the way we came, taking a little over 2.5 hours to reach them. What a huge difference from the way in! We drove back into Millinocket and had a very hearty dinner at Ruthie's. Alvaro and Dolores headed home from there, but I decided to stay in town for the night since I was still very tired from the past two days. This time I stayed at the Katahdin Inn & Suites, a place I'd wanted to try out. I learned I was the only person staying there that night, following a weekend when the place was completely booked. It was great to rest in a quiet place, and take advantage of the warm jacuzzi there, too.





    I took my time leaving toward home the next morning; another bright and sunny day. Later in the day, we heard from Liz that she and Seth decided to stay at the cabin another night and much of the following day. The weather was gorgeous so I couldn't blame them for enjoying the quiet time together in such a beautiful place, as the end of Winter 2018 proper approached.

    Deep, heartfelt thanks to Liz, Seth, Dolores, and Alvaro for making this trip so much fun and so memorable. We may not have all reached the summits, but it's the people and the shared experience on the trail and at the cabin that I'll remember equally as much! You guys all rock.
    Last edited by hikersinger; 04-05-2018 at 11:22 PM.
    _______________

    Mt. Adams (12,276') solo, South Cascades, Washington, July 2015
    New England: All-season 100 (September 2017); Winter 67 (March 2018), Winter 79/100
    NH 48: 3-season (Fall 2012), Winter (March 2017)
    Baxter SP: Pamola/Knife Edge/Baxter (2010-09), Baxter/Hamlin (2015-12), N.Brother+Fort (2017-03), Pamola/Knife/Baxter/Hamlin (2017-09), S.Brother+Coe (2018-03)

    AMC Trails Co-Adopter, Zeacliff Trail[/B]
    Co-founder + Administrator, Hike the 4000 Footers of NH! Facebook group

  11. #11
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Jun 2009
    Posts
    602
    This is a great trip report. The soft pastel light in the first photo in post #8 is a photographer's dream.
    ---------------------------------------------------------------------

    Trip pictures

  12. #12
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    Location
    New York City
    Posts
    491
    Agreed, I really enjoyed reading this. It was a tough hike in the summer.

  13. #13
    Member hikersinger's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2012
    Location
    New Boston, NH
    Posts
    90
    Quote Originally Posted by Billy View Post
    This is a great trip report. The soft pastel light in the first photo in post #8 is a photographer's dream.
    Thanks very much! Happy to share another photo I took around that same time. I felt like I was on another planet, it was amazing.



    _______________

    Mt. Adams (12,276') solo, South Cascades, Washington, July 2015
    New England: All-season 100 (September 2017); Winter 67 (March 2018), Winter 79/100
    NH 48: 3-season (Fall 2012), Winter (March 2017)
    Baxter SP: Pamola/Knife Edge/Baxter (2010-09), Baxter/Hamlin (2015-12), N.Brother+Fort (2017-03), Pamola/Knife/Baxter/Hamlin (2017-09), S.Brother+Coe (2018-03)

    AMC Trails Co-Adopter, Zeacliff Trail[/B]
    Co-founder + Administrator, Hike the 4000 Footers of NH! Facebook group

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