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View Full Version : winter travel on Jewell and Ammo trails?



blacknblue
10-27-2007, 11:28 AM
I went up Ammonoosuc Ravine and down Jewell yesterday--my first time on either. I was hoping to do these as a loop this coming winter, so I was paying particular attention to details. Still, it's hard to predict how winter winds and snowfall will alter a trail.

Can anybody give any insight as to the difficulty of routefinding in the winter on these trails? Of course, I'm mostly interested in the transition zones between the cleared trail in the forest and the cairn-ed trail in the alpine zone. Especially on the descents, it seems like drifting could make things pretty tricky.

Also, with all the water on the Ammo Trail, is this often a significant problem in the wintertime? Obviously, conditions vary, but can one generally expect to be able to snowshoe from Cog to Lakes Hut w/o use of crampons? or is significant ice travel inevitable?

poison ivy
10-27-2007, 11:40 AM
I had no trouble following the Ammo up in winter -- however, you will probably need crampons. The top was extremely icy and I don't think snowshoes would have been enough, at least on that particular day. We hiked Washington and Monroe as an up and back. Here's a spot where I wouldn't have been comfortable without crampons. (http://ivy.phanfare.com/album/170254#imageID=9962016) A few pictures past that one, there are more examples of the ice near the hut.

I've had difficulty following the Jewell Trail above treeline in winter -- though I'll admit the day we were up there the weather turned and it was nearing white out conditions. (We also intended to use Jewell as an up-and-back.) The cairns were snow covered and not visible so we were really just heading up toward the ridge (and followed what was left of our tracks back down.) Once below treeline, there were no issues.

- Ivy

dr_wu002
10-27-2007, 11:41 AM
Is the base road going to be plowed again this year?

-Dr. Wu

Bob Kittredge
10-27-2007, 11:45 AM
I've only been up the Ammo in winter, and that was one March when the snow wasn't very deep. Wore crampons from Gem Pool up. In early winter, you may mainly encounter ice. I think the safest bet is to always carry both 'shoes and 'pons.

I would worry most about having to descend from the summit cone into the face of strong westerly winds. They could make it pretty hard to pick out trail markers, particularly if you throw some precipitation in as well.

Did the bridge at the bottom of the Jewell ever get properly repaired or replaced?

blacknblue
10-27-2007, 12:10 PM
I've only been up the Ammo in winter, and that was one March when the snow wasn't very deep. Wore crampons from Gem Pool up. In early winter, you may mainly encounter ice. I think the safest bet is to always carry both 'shoes and 'pons.

I would worry most about having to descend from the summit cone into the face of strong westerly winds. They could make it pretty hard to pick out trail markers, particularly if you throw some precipitation in as well.

Did the bridge at the bottom of the Jewell ever get properly repaired or replaced?

Yes, I would always bring both snowshoes and crampons regardless.

And yes, I agree that what intimidates me the most is having to descend with the wind in my face, with the trail/tracks all filled in by blowing snow. Finding the entrance back into the forest is my main concern.

And yes, the bridge on Jewell Trail is in place. It looks like the old one just got tossed in the woods. Not sure when "they" intend to fully remove it.

Kevin Rooney
10-27-2007, 12:32 PM
I'm familiar with both routes in winer, and it's a good idea to carry both snowshoes and crampons in winter. If the the Cog RR runs their ski train, then you expect lots of travel on the trails. The Jewell makes an excellent approach to Jefferson, assuming conditions cooperate.

If you go after a storm, it may take a strong party to break out the Ammo - the snow seems to pile in there more that Jewell. And, finding the re-entry point at tree line can be a bit tricky, especially for Jewell. I have a GPS track with a waypoint set for the Jewell re-entry point, and I make a point of loading that track before a trip - just in case. Of course, if you're ascending that route it's not necessary, as you can set one at that point.

If you're familiar with the Ammo, it's easier to find the re-entry point (at least for me). I always figure that, worse case - find the outflow from Lakes and follow that down, know that the trail pitches right just below treeline.

DougPaul
10-27-2007, 01:10 PM
If you're familiar with the Ammo, it's easier to find the re-entry point (at least for me). I always figure that, worse case - find the outflow from Lakes and follow that down, know that the trail pitches right just below treeline.
Pretty much just go straight down from the SW corner of the hut. A short distance down, there is a SW to NE stream crossing on some ledges.

Doug

Rols
10-27-2007, 02:47 PM
Conditions determine what type of traction needed. I would not consider the trip without crampons. On the Ammo there is a section beyond the spur to the view that is steep and often collects water ice. There are times when deep snow collects there when snowshoes are necessary. There is a section of the Jewell where it side slabs into the ravine that crampons can be necessary.

In conditions were there is poor visibility descending both trails (Ammo & Jewel) can be a bit of a challenge until entering tree line. I like to have both a compass bearing and way points for the sections of the trails above tree line.

Mike P.
10-28-2007, 09:55 AM
In the last couple of years I have been up Ammo twice in late November & twice in early March. I've yet to use the snowshoes as the route gets decent travel but if you go after a snowstorm, you may the group that packs it down. (I would still bring snowshoes too!)

Crampons are necessary I usually wait until it's too late to put them on. I've put them on in the steep section above gem pool a couple of times, (don't remember how far up, conditions made decision) just before the brook crossing on the flat ledges & just over the brook crossing.

If they run the Cog this winter, the roads will be plowed. (I think they will) Hikers are supposed to park in the lower lot & should go in & ask about paying for parking, don't assume they are going to track you down. It's private property & the RR could restrict parking & access if they choose to do so.

IMO, this approach has a couple of advantages over the PNVC access. First, it's about 500 feet higher., it's shorter using the winter routes that start from behind the RR buildings & little risk of avalanche as this is typically the side that the snow is transported from. (In the right conditions are could have an avalanche & conditions are not reported but it's unlikely)

The disadvantage of course is that you are on the side that traditionally takes the brunt of the wind & when snow is being transported by the wind, visibility can be nil. You can get out of the weather at the Dungeon but if you need to do that because of conditions, you likely should be thinking retreat or maybe a trip up nearby Mt. Monroe & then retreat. It's a 3 mile RT from the hut to the summit.

The Jewell & Gulfside are even more exposed to the typically prevailing winds & for a longer time so it should only be considered in the best of conditions. The cairns are not as large as those on the C-Path or Gulfside & it does meander a bit above treeline. If you are not familar with it I don't think I'd try going down it not knowing where it goes back into the trees as Kevin mentioned, it can be tough to find.

That said, I think I'm going to try Jefferson this year by going up & down the Jewell if the weather co-operates. If I don't like the conditions, I'll go somewhere else.

As far as the bridge, I believe that is teh bridge located not far from the summer lot & below the cog. By using the winter access behind the RR buildings, you bypass that bridge.

Kevin Rooney
10-28-2007, 11:02 AM
As far as the bridge, I believe that is teh bridge located not far from the summer lot & below the cog. By using the winter access behind the RR buildings, you bypass that bridge.

That's a good point, Mike. I use the water tower as a 'marker' and head for it - you need to cross the active tracks just before the old bridge.

As for Jefferson - if there's enough snow cover on the ground, I think the best route is to climb via Jewell, go above treeline a few hundred yards until you can see Sphinx Col, and then turn left heading directly for it. Of course, this presupposes good cover so you're not punching into the krumholtz. It's still a bit of a trek over to Jefferson, as it's not as deceptively close as it appears. And as has been said many times before - keep an eye out for weather approaching from the west. There are no good places to hide between these points, and the bailouts aren't that attractive either.

giggy
10-28-2007, 11:54 AM
all in all, for the average winter hiker, these are both very straight forward.

Since the cog has been plowing base road,washington, monroe,clay and jefferson have been made much easier - but still a nice challenging day in winter.

These trails are very well marked - and in decent conditions will be easy to follow and typically well packed out.

Of course, the typical winter caveats apply. The first year base road was plowed I did the up ammo down jewel loop and recall the entry into treeline from the jewel would have been tricky with low or no visibilty. We could see the route - so it wasn't a problem, but this was after a big snow and recall cairns being buried below clay - if blowing snow and we couldn't see, I could see how the trail could be lost pretty easy.

The entry to the ammo from above is easy, b/c its behind lakes hut.

The upper part of the crawford path is really cool in winter - snowfeilds form over the trail and you really get a cool alpine experience up there. all you see is snow, rock and ice. Most def - one of the cooler places in NH in winter - IMO.

These are great winter hikes b/c you gain the alpine zone quick.

def bring crampons I would say, but if your more of a snowshoe guy and are comfy on steep stuff with them, that works too. The ammo is quite steep and can be icy - as well as the washington snowfeilds.