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Thread: Spun around on the way home from Moose Mountain.

  1. #1
    Senior Member Neil's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2004

    Spun around on the way home from Moose Mountain.

    Thursday November 29.
    It turned out that Moose Pond wasn’t frozen over so it was just as well I left my skates at home. We did put on microspikes before commencing our excursion and they turned out to be the best gear of the day. Moose Pond is a beautiful body of water and we followed a trail along the west side for 10 minutes before it veered off and petered out. Shortly thereafter we happened upon a plastic bucket with a toilet seat. The bucket appeared half full. We proceed above Grass Pond Outlet taking advantage of easy traveling but not going in the right direction. When we corrected our course (125 grid nearly all the way to the Moose Slide) our crossing turned out to be a massive flooded area completely covered in blowdown and dead trees. Very gingerly we crossed thin ice on fallen logs and followed the bearing up the other side through open mixed forest.

    We had two more crossings, one of which was not on the map and for that one we found a very flimsy beaver dam and kept our feet dry. We found ourselves in rolling country with nothing to aid us in navigation except that 125 grid bearing, which we stuck to like glue. The country had a Lilliputian feel to it and we were very, very small. The sky was grey, the wind moaned and we caught a couple of glimpses of the Moose Slide….at exactly 125 grid. It looked vertical and about 3 days distant.

    After a few hours of that we dropped into the final drainage coming down off the slide. We ascended on snow-covered boulders among the flowing water. The wind seemed to have picked up and snow swirled all around us. We could see the slide above and it looked very ominous. Eventually the microspikes no longer sufficed and we sat down in the ominous wind and put our crampons on. It didn’t take long to get chilled and fresh mitts were a charm.

    This was Bib’s first time ever wearing crampons, first ever slide and 2nd ever bushwhack. As expected there was a lot of dark and hard ominous-looking ice but the angle was moderate. Bib’s crampon lesson was quite simple. I said that if one were to fall it would be an extremely fast and rough ride down to a pile of rocks below. (Actually, there was more to the lesson than that and Bib was a quick study thanks to his experience climbing utility poles) Off we went seeking out the best lines. You had to really jam the point of the axe into the ice or it would slide off uselessly. Our razor sharp crampons performed admirably and we were soon at the top. Picture taking was a quick method for numbing one’s fingers in the stiff breeze.

    We exited left through a narrow band of gently interlocked spruce and put our micros back on. It took us an hour to reach the summit through very difficult terrain, presumably rendered more difficult than previous reports indicated due to the snow and frozen ground. When we looked up and saw a lone spruce waving to and fro as if Paul Bunyun himself was shaking it we figured we were close to the summit ridge and indeed we hit the ridge, found the trail and within 3 minutes we tagged the summit and turned around.

    There was no way we wanted to descend what had just clambered over so we followed the trail for 15 minutes to where it flattened out and dialed something like 330 mag into the trusty compass and regretfully, left the trail. In doing this we congratulated ourselves in doing an end run around the difficult section between the slide and the summit. The descent was long, and not always easy but it got progressively easier until 90 minutes from the summit we suddenly broke out into the open hardwoods. We had chosen a bearing that put us on a converging course with our inbound trail. I said to Bib, “I bet our trail is just below this rocky outcrop” and sure enough there it was.

    Our trail in the snow, like a string, would lead us back to Moose Pond so after some fuel and water we took off feeling great. An hour later, atop a windswept knoll we lost our tracks but after some searching managed to find them and sped up again. This was repeated on a second knoll. By now we were really cruising but for some reason it was taking a lot longer than expected to hit our next crossing. I kept checking the map and shrugging my shoulders. Our tracks were partially filled in but it slowly dawned on me that the heel looked wrong and that some signs of our microspikes should be visible. I checked the compass and had a sinking feeling when instead of heading on the reciprocal of 125 (ie. 305) we had been blissfully cruising for 30-40 minutes on about 20. “Uh, Bib these aren’t our tracks we’ve been following and we’re way off course.” Someone else had been out hunting today and had been up on the same windswept knoll as us. Already, we knew we’d be finishing in the dark but we hadn’t anticipated bushwhack navigation under headlamp.

    Some quick calculations and lines drawn in the snow determined a new bearing convergent on our inbound route. The immensity of the woods suddenly got subjectively ratcheted up a notch or two and off we went. We crossed the same bootprints several times more and the last sighting showed them less than an hour old. We made the next crossing in the time we had predicted and decide to cut the bearing 30 degrees shorter for 15 minutes in an attempt to cross our trail before darkness might make us miss it. The 15 minutes went by and we stopped, dug out headlamps, drank and I removed my vapor barrier socks. When we started up again the light had faded noticeably. We reverted to our previous direction and caught sight, pretty much as predicted, of our 2nd to last crossing down below and saw a set of faint tracks in the snow. This good news lasted for about a minute until the compass indicated they were not our tracks.

    Down at the crossing we decided to follow it downstream for a spell in hopes of seeing our tracks. The headlamps hadn’t been turned on yet. 2 or 3 times I was sure I saw our beaver dam crossing but close inspection proved me wrong. Then when I was sure for the 4th time we saw our tracks (no mistakes!) and by sticking to them managed to speed up considerably after the crossing. Then we lost them again and said to hell with it, we would just waste time hunting for them. In any case our recip bearing would lead us to a rather significant backstop-Moose Pond. We approached our final crossing and after dropping down to it we realized our tracks would be to our left. We also knew that our tracks would lead us safely, if not precariously across the frozen water so we picked them up. The darkness was a help because the headlamps, now on, etched them out nicely.

    Once that crossing was behind us we relaxed and in falling snow enjoyed a final 20-30 minutes of beautiful and easy nocturnal winter hiking back to the parking lot. Talk about a full day!


  2. #2
    Senior Member erugs's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    Manchester, NH
    2,434 doesn't have to be fun to be fun.

    Volunteer Maintainer: East Pond Trail

    "Through winter-time we call on spring/And through the spring on summer call/And when abounding hedges ring/Declare that winter's best of all/And after that there's nothing good/Because the spring-time has not come... William Butler Yeats

  3. #3
    Moderator bikehikeskifish's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    New Hampshire
    Cool TR, Neil. Nice pictures. Good time to be using an ice axe as well

    Bike, Hike, Ski, Sleep. Eat, Fish, Repeat.

  4. #4
    Senior Member Nif's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2007
    Stockbridge, VT Avatar: Antisana
    Nice pics and report yet again Neil. Never a full moment either
    It's only 0.2 how bad could it be?

  5. #5
    Senior Member Brambor's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2004
    Windham, ME
    nice. I like the tilted shot on the ice
    Luck is where preparation meets opportunity.

  6. #6
    Senior Member Sunshine Chris's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Webster, NH
    I love the pics on the slide! Thanks again for another fun read.

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