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Thread: Stairway to Hell! Anderson/Lowell/Duck Pond on 2nd Dec. from northern approach

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    Senior Member Oncoman's Avatar
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    Stairway to Hell! Anderson/Lowell/Duck Pond on 2nd Dec. from northern approach

    Difficult strenuous bwk, most would say very difficult. After a while having only to push spruce branches apart felt like easy going!

    Total time to & from Nancy Pond parking lot : 12h45 (9,5m. but felt like 25m. hike!)

    Total bwk time : 8h45 (at 1/3 mph speed the whole way!)

    Norcross Pond to Anderson summit : 1h30 (0,55m.)

    Anderson to Lowell summit : 2hrs (0,6m.)

    Lowell to S.E. end of Nancy Pond : 3 hrs (1m.)

    Nancy Pond to Duck Pond & back to Nancy Pond Trail : 2h15 (0.7m.)

    Impressions of this hike : A truly ghastly obstacle course!

    Obstacle #1 : Convincing border patrol that I was sane! Left Montreal under pouring freezing rain with 40-50 mph winds & lightning. Even had to scrape ¼’’ of ice off my car windshield. Few cars on the highway. Was the only vehicle at the border. Had to answer many more questions than usual before being allowed through.

    Obstacle #2 : Getting to trailhead without sliding off road. Drove slowly particularly in curves & my Michelin winter tires did the rest. Others didn’t do as well. Saw 3 or 4 cars in ditch on 302Hw section after Washington resort (no abrasives on rd here) with state patrol cars & tow trucks.

    Obstacle #3 : Crossing overflown streams safely. Had arrived at Nancy Pond parking lot at 21h30. Slept in my car. Up at 04h30. Thank God the rain had stopped after over 12 hrs of torrential raining, as predicted by weather forecast but not the 30-40 mph winds which would howl over my head all day. Hit trail under headlamp at 05h15. Almost slipped on dark ice-capped rocks at 1st brook crossing. Was difficult to see under headlamp. My walking poles saved me from a very cold bath & potential serious injury. At 3rd, or was it 4th brook crossing, the water level was so high & the flow so strong that I couldn’t cross safely. Luckily I spotted an 18’' diameter birch tree fallen over brook 30’ downstream which I ass-crossed. Higher up the Nancy Falls were a roaring mini-Niagara. Truly impressive, with the sun rising to the east. Arrived at end of Norcross Pond at 07h30 & immediately started my bwk.

    Obstacle #4 : Finding summit canisters without getting lost. Well there are no longer any canisters on any of these pks. Park authorities must have removed them all. However the summits of Anderson & Lowell are fairly obvious, with small open spots on both & even a mini-cairn of 2-3 rocks on Anderson. Duck Pond however is something else. It’s a flat ¾ m. long summit with very dense forest. BTW you have a very nice view of Duck Pond as you descend from Lowell. I found 2 bumps at 3360’. The first one was the same one I had found the last time I was here on 16th Sept. with its wooden sign nailed to tree. Very difficult to find. Suspect the park authorities didn’t find it, which would explain why the sign is still there. When you take a 140° m. bearing from SE end of Nancy Pond it takes about one hr to reach that peak about 0,35m. away. It was exactly at 3360’ on my watch altimeter after having calibrated it at 3100’ at Nancy Pond. There is a 2nd bump about 200 yards further away also at 3360’ slightly more open (trees about 2’ apart as opposed to 1’) where I suspect the former canister was. If you want a true challenge, find the pk with the sign, labelled « Duck Pond ». Note that many trees not on those 2 bumps (barely 10’ higher than surrounding terrain) are higher than the ones on pks adding to difficulty of finding true summit.

    Obstacle #5 : Surviving bwk without dropping from exhaustion. No open woods here & no herd paths whatsoever. A moose may seem a stupid animal but not foolish enough to roam in those thick blowdown infested forests, only bushwhackers are! Initially wanted to take 196° m. bearing from NW end of Norcross Pond to reach ridge line at 3400’ & then follow ridge line to summit. However there’s a wind corridor there near pond with layers above layers of blowdown making for extremely slow going, such that I decided to take a more direct route up aiming however slightly to NW of summit to avoid 30-50’ cliff near top that I had spotted from pond. Slope down from Anderson towards col between Anderson/Lowell is steep (60°) with many 10-15’ ledges. Likewise for slope down Lowell to NE. Only ½’’ of snow on ground. Views of snow flurries racing at 30-40 mph over Vose Spur across Notch & further away over Carrigain were very startling. Was very glad to be under tree cover. Must have been blizzard conditions that day on open higher altitude ridges & summits. The bwk stretch from Lowell to Nancy Pond was the longest mile of bwk I have ever done. Pulling, pushing, crawling under spruce trees, over & under blowdown after blowdown; a 3 hrs of incessant fighting. Very exhausting. If you choose that route you better have very good endurance! Also check your compass bearing every few min. The terrain constantly pulls you downwards to the east & the uphill part after the 2nd brook crossing (the 1st brook goes higher uphill than shown on Topozone map) is very disconcerting especially after 2 hrs of struggle; but remain calm & have total faith in your compass despite the fact that your brain tells you otherwise (at least that’s what I had to say to myself repeatedly in order not to give in to panic). I hit the SE end of Nancy Pond barely 200 yrds off to the west. Such accuracy under those difficult conditions really surprised me and was a fantastic confidence booster. BTW there was a short section of relatively open woods, by that I mean only spruce branches to push apart, for a few hundred ft after dropping off 60° slope of Lowell before reaching 1st brook which was so relaxing but alas very short lasting.

    Obstacle #6 : Resisting doing Bemis by headlamp. Was back from Duck Pond onto trail by 16h15. Decided to start up towards Bemis along brook in completely open clearing area; but darkness enveloped me 15 min. later and though I still felt strong enough to do this one (a piece of cake compared to what I had endured so far), my moral & determination just gave out on me. Perhaps I would have felt differently had I not been solo, but a red warning sign just kept flashing in the back of my brain; so that I decided to err on the side of prudence and turned around to return safe & sound to my family. Was back to my car at 18h00 & home at 22h00.

    Obstacle #7 : Coming down gently from my cloud of adrenaline-driven ego trip.
    Last edited by Oncoman; 12-04-2006 at 04:14 PM.
    "Getting to the top is optional; getting back down is mandatory". Maxim of Ed Viesturs, the first American to have climbed all 14 of the world's 8,000 meter peaks.

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    Senior Member Amicus's Avatar
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    Just amazing, Pierre, but what else is new? I had toyed with the notion of joining you for this when you first posted it, but my dominant emotion as I read this stirring Report was not regret.

    More and more, I come to believe that Duck Pond Mt. belongs in the "once is enough" column. I saw that sign, by the way, or one like it.

    How will you top this? (Don't try, please.)

    Well done, Mike

  3. #3
    Senior Member NH_Mtn_Hiker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Oncoman
    Well there are no longer any canisters on any of these pks. Park authorities must have removed them all. However the summits of Anderson & Lowell are fairly obvious, with small open spots on both & even a mini-cairn of 2-3 rocks on Anderson.
    I hiked Bemis, Nancy, and Anderson on 10/7/06 and all 3 had canisters then.

    I don't recall a cairn or an open spot on Anderson, but I was tired.

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    Senior Member JimC's Avatar
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    >>Impressions of this hike : A truly ghastly obstacle course!<<

    Pierre, I got blisters just reading your report.

    I felt so bad for you. On the other hand, recent reports indicated this hike to be not so bad.

    I did the Anderson/Lowell loop on the same route as you and found it to be equally horrible. Long day and into the night! It took much longer than planned. It made my Bottom Ten List.

    So, I feel some of your pain. Does that make you feel any better.

  5. #5
    Senior Member RoySwkr's Avatar
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    This is one that seems to have got a lot worse, I hiked them both from Nancy Pond in the late '70s and then later the same week from Carrigain Notch. Both were strenuous but not the epic you describe.

    The interesting thing is that the first hike I didn't find either canister although I found the cairn. The second hike a little more snow had melted off the trees and I found both canisters, above the old footprints!

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    Senior Member albee's Avatar
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    Thumbs up

    Well done, Pierre!

    It sounds like you made the most of your trip to NH this time. I'm impressed that you made the good decision not to attempt Bemis at that hour of the day.

    I will probably attempt a similar trip at some point. It always helps to have another set of eyes looking for the canisters. Sounds like Anderson probably still has one, but Lowell's may have been removed.

    Does the sign on Duck Pond count or not - have you bushwhacking veterans come to a consensus on this one yet?

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    Senior Member NH_Mtn_Hiker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by albee
    Does the sign on Duck Pond count or not - have you bushwhacking veterans come to a consensus on this one yet?
    Is it at the summit?

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    Senior Member Mattl's Avatar
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    That area is beautiful but hell to get through, very simliar to the captain and carrigain pond. At times it seemed I would never get out alive. -Mattl

  9. #9
    Member HikerDoc's Avatar
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    Cannisters on Lowell, Anderson, Duck Pond Pk

    Epic hike indeed. There were cannisters on L & A in March 2006. Counldn't find the cannister on DPP when I was there in Jan. either. However I didn't find the sign either.

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    Oncoman! Your post dredged up old memories... I certainly agree with your assessment of this loop as unremittingly nasty! (although it had its redeeming moments)
    In the spring Norcross pond was ringed by hundreds of pitcher plants in full bloom (a waxy purplish flower, quite beautiful !). From the far side of the pond the blowdowns and thick dense spruce began immediately. Others have suggested that continuing further west before ascending leads to more open terrain.
    I thought the Lowell/Anderson col was thick but tolerable and really enjoyed the open tundra area NW of the Lowell summit with its great views of Carrigain/Vose Spur and the Pemi beyond.
    Duck Pond (the pond, not the mountain) had a wonderful remote quality, but it was hell getting there. Very thick too up to Duck Pond Mt until hitting the illegally cut trail on the NW shoulder, which unfortunately only headed in the proper direction for a few hundred yards. The bump with the sign was easy to find, but, like many others, I then spent nearly an hour thrashing around the other dense summit bumps looking unsuccessfully for a jar. I'm not sure which bump is the "true" summit, but the signed one is as good a candidate as any in my book.
    Of course, the descent off Duck Pond to the Nancy Pond Tr. was thick, thick, thick. But Nancy Brook and the waterfalls with springtime high water were fabulous. I think this route holds my personal record for sticks-in-the-eyes and shin-knockers!
    There must be easier routes, although none of us have found them recently...these might be good peaks to attempt in late winter/early spring when the cosolidated snowpack probably covers alot of the nastiness.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JimC
    I did the Anderson/Lowell loop on the same route as you and found it to be equally horrible. Long day and into the night! It took much longer than planned. It made my Bottom Ten List.
    Jim, since you mention it, what are the ten peaks on your Bottom Ten List?

    Also, what is the consensus on the least dense approach to Lowell and Anderson? Heading in from Carrigain Notch or from the Nancy Pond Trail?

    Plus, when doing Bemis, is the preferable approach heading over from Mount Nancy, or by hitting the woods from the Nancy Pond Trail once it reaches the top of the falls?
    Last edited by Nate; 12-05-2006 at 06:54 PM.

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    Duck Pond etc.

    Back when I did DPP in 1987, the "recognized" summit had the sign, with the register being attached to the same tree. It was horrible going even back then. Lowell and Anderson which I did in 1988, were fairly easy to do by making an approach from the east, and both peaks had registers. Nate, Bemis has a trail to the summit.

  13. #13
    Senior Member JimC's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nate
    Jim, since you mention it, what are the ten peaks on your Bottom Ten List?

    Also, what is the consensus on the least dense approach to Lowell and Anderson? Heading in from Carrigain Notch or from the Nancy Pond Trail?

    Plus, when doing Bemis, is the preferable approach heading over from Mount Nancy, or by hitting the woods from the Nancy Pond Trail once it reaches the top of the falls?
    Nate

    I made a Top 10 and a Bottom Ten list, mostly for my own amusement. I don't wish to burden this forum with it. I will say that the most noteworthy attribute was that The Captain made both lists.

    As for a concensus on the least dense approach to L & A, I can only add that I have done Lowell from the Carrigain Notch Tr side and found it to be not too bad. From the Notch Tr, cut NE to attain the ridge and follow the ridge N all the way.

    As for Bemis, there is the old firewarden's road that departs the Nancy Pond Tr at about 2400 ft, just prior to reaching the steeps of the Cascades. The road goes the wrong way uphill for a bit but it will get you up to the ridge and then turn nicely towards Bemis. I cannot speak to the B/W from Nancy to Bemis but recall a report here a couple of years ago. Don't recall what they said.

  14. #14
    Senior Member Frodo's Avatar
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    Awesome report Oncoman!

    The least dense approach to Lowell and Anderson is from heading up the ridge off of the lower part of Signal Ridge Trail. I have not done them via this route, but I know several people who have done it and said it wasn't bad. Though the route from Lowell to Anderson is still goung to be rough.

    I have been on two trips into that area (Anderson twice 04/05, Lowell once 05, and have been to Duck Pond 04, the pond not the peak), and I have relived Oncoman's experience both times. I think these peaks might be easier to do in late winter with consolidated snow. There were also canisters on both Anderson and Lowell. If someone removed them, I doubt they were from the Forrest Service...

    Bemis is an easy 1/2 day hike via the abandoned Firewarden's Trail. The trail is not officially maintained, but IS still maintained and easy to follow. There are numerous blowdows near the summit, but are much easier than whacking from Nancy (I did a Bemis to Nancy whack 2 years ago with several friends and it was THICK).
    "If all the world's a stage, I want to operate the trap door"

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    Senior Member SpencerVT's Avatar
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    This is one of my favorite trip reports ever. Blast from the past.
    Lowell and Anderson are indeed New Hampshire's stairway to hell!!
    Spencer
    Bigfoot

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