S & N Kinsman

Route: Reel Brook Trail, Kinsman Ridge Trail/AT, Mt. Kinsman Trail, Route 116

Date: Monday, 1/27/14

Equipment: MSR snowshoes. Poles. Brought crampons - didn’t need. Brought ice axe - didn’t use but probably should have in a couple of spots.

Trail conditions: We have snow! The 0.6 mile approach road to Reel Brook Trailhead had been driven but looked a bit sketchy, so I parked just off the road on 116 without any problems. Reel Brook Trail did not look to have been traveled in some time and had about 4-6” of new snow, more with elevation. Kinsman Ridge Trail had about 6-10” of new, unbroken snow. Mt. Kinsman Trail had 6-8” new snow higher up, diminishing to about an inch at the trailhead. Route 116 is paved, frost heave-y and 3 miles long.

Comments: This was a great hike! I wanted a more sporty ascent of the Kinsmans and got my money's worth. It snowed on and off all morning, and all the fresh snow provided for a veritable Winter Wonderland above ~2000’. Barebooted to just before the first powerline crossing, about a mile in from the trailhead. At that point there was enough snow to warrant snowshoes which I gladly strapped to my boots since I love snowshoeing. All stream crossings were completely frozen over. The wind was howling pretty fiercely early on but let up as I neared the ridge. Just before reaching the KRT/AT, I got some help in breaking trail: a moose had been through very recently. I followed its tracks until almost Eliza Brook Shelter expecting to meet her around the next bend but no such luck. Some pretty deep drifts at the second powerline crossing...

The shelter was rebuilt in 2010 and looks awesome, with NO graffiti. Eliza Brook was barely heard today, and all crossings and feeders were completely frozen over. From the shelter to Harrington Pond to South Kinsman the snow got (seemed?) progressively deeper over the 2000 foot climb. With probably 10” of fresh powder, it seemed like much more than that when the grade got really steep. And the grade got Really Steep: It was a Televator day. To give indication of the challenge, the 2.5 miles between the shelter and S. Kinsman took me 2.5 hours. A good workout. The crux-y move of the day was the last little steep section before S. Kinsman which involved some big rocks with gaping holes and some interesting acrobatic maneuvers and tree grabbing.

Finally atop South Kinsman, the KRT appeared surprisingly untraveled to North Kinsman and on down the Mt. Kinsman Trail. I still had to break trail (!) but thankfully the grade was a lot less extreme than the previous few miles. At the Bald Peak turnoff I finally removed my snowshoes and barebooted down to the highway. Some interesting views of the Kinsmans opened up on the roadwalk. An hour later I was back at the car.

Met only two other hikers today, both on the Mt. Kinsman Trail, an interesting contrast to the 28 humans and 3 dogs on Mt. Carrigain’s Signal Ridge Trail this past Saturday!

One more comment: This was my second time doing this route in winter. The first time was in February of 1992, on a hike organized by Steve Smith, who at the time was working on the first edition of his book Ponds and Lakes of the White Mountains. A particular reason for choosing this hike was to check out desolate little Harrington Pond... and, a personal reason, my first time on the Kinsmans in winter. Creston Ruiter and Roger Doucette rounded out our merry contingent. I wore Sherpa snowshoes with little “potato scraper” crampons and was wondering today exactly how I managed that…??