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Thread: Webster Cliff Trail next couple weeks - Adventure or Stupidity

  1. #1
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    Webster Cliff Trail next couple weeks - Adventure or Stupidity

    It's been 30 years since I was last up Webster Cliff trail and that was in the summer. A buddy wants to do it a couple weekends from now. We would go up Webster Cliff trail to Jackson and descend Webster-Jackson trail.

    We're in pretty good shape, so the steepness of Webster Cliff trail doesn't concern us, unless it's not safe.

    Any thoughts or info re: the trail conditions? I checked trailsnh.com, but there aren't any helpful trip reports for it.
    It's a lot like fun, but different.

  2. #2
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    Its a pretty standard winter route usually broken out within a couple days of a storm. The Jackson side is broken out even earlier. Most folks head up Jackson and if the winds are too high they skip the loop. The one caveat is that there is a section of trail on the Jackson side that can drift in and disappear with no trace if the conditions are right. Its in very open woods and is easy to loose. Later in the winter the stretch from Jackson to Webster can totally drift in. It usually means some hard trail breaking.

    Trail conditions in winter are day to day. Use the Mt Washington summit forecast and check it in the AM after its been updated, be ready to turn around in the AM if the conditions took a turn for the worse overnight. The Jackson side of the loop is frequently a backup hike to more exposed hikes if conditions are poor as 99% of it in the woods. If its windy out you may need to go into full winter gear (overmitts full face coverage and goggles) for the last stretch. The last stretch does have an exposed ledge that inevitably is icy, it can be borderline for Kahtoola microspikes, the Hillsounds with the traction plates usually are adequate but crampons are preferable. I use this hike and the Crawford Path hike to Pierce as a winter shakedown hike for folks new to winter hiking as both can rapidly transition to full winter conditions for the final stretch to the summit.

    FYI there are a lot of trailheads and hikes starting in this area due to the nearby Highland Center. The parking lots fill up quickly and if you park on the pavement when the lots fill up and there are snow removal operations you could get ticketed or towed. It best to get an early start.

    BTW bring some gorp for inevitable Gray Jays on or near the summit of Jackson and Webster Cliff.
    Last edited by peakbagger; 12-02-2019 at 06:41 AM.

  3. #3
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    peakbagger, it sounds like you're talking about Webster-Jackson Trail, where the OP is asking about Webster Cliff Trail from the south, which isn't traveled as often in winter. The only recent mention I've seen is this from yesterday:

    https://www.facebook.com/groups/1631...7716896373493/
    Last edited by Dingo; 12-02-2019 at 07:02 AM.
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  4. #4
    Senior Member wardsgirl's Avatar
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    Greetings!

    Webster Cliff Trail begins on the east side of Rt 302, across from a plowed parking area on the side of Willey House Station Road. It is part of the Appalachian Trail and it is blazed in white. Ascending, you will likely want snowshoes. This is a good time of year to hike this trail, as there are no people, manageable snow cover, and it is a great trail for working those quads! There is a missing sign at the junction with Saco River Trail, but you will easily see that the blazes for SRT are blue. The Saco Lake Trail sign is intact. There are two blowdowns in the first mile. They fell during a storm at the end of October and I haven't yet removed them (I was cleaning waterbars and didn't have a large enough bowsaw with me). They are easy enough to avoid and they may not be entirely visible under the new snow.

    The trail is easy to follow, freshly blazed, and has a great view from the top of the open ledges. If the top of the open ledges are icy, you will want to switch to crampons for traversing over to Mt. Webster. An ice axe may be warranted. The trail winds its way over to Mt. Webster, ascending many rock outcrops along the way. There, on Mt. Webster, you will likely encounter a trail that has been broken in by other hikers on the more popular route (Webster-Jackson Trail, Webster-Jackson Trail-Jackson Branch, Webster Cliff Trail, Webster-Jackson Trail-Webster Branch, Webster-Jackson Trail). You can descend the Webster Branch of the Webster-Jackson Trail here. Peakbaggers will want to continue on the Webster Cliff Trail to Mt. Jackson, but Webster is just as nice, view-wise. You could continue on Webster Cliff Trail all the way over the boggy territory to Mizpah Hut and descend back to Crawford Notch via Mizpah Cutoff and Crawford Path. Or you can continue all the way to where the Webster Cliff Trail ends- just north of the summit of Mt. Pierce, where it meets the Crawford Path.

    I have hiked this trail in winter, and I found it to be a lot of fun. If I, (an overweight old woman), can do it, pretty much anyone with some winter gear and hiking experience can.
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  5. #5
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    Oops you are right. Never mind

    This is a lot more exposed route so wind can be an issue although it may not be as obvious until you break out of the trees. Crawford Notch due to the local geography is a wind tunnel, it can be relatively calm elsewhere but windy in the notch. I personally like to do this hike North to South as the views are better as the terrain is dropping away. I did this hike South to North early summer and was wondering where all the views went. Be aware this is long for typical winter dayhike if you go all the way to Jackson.

    FYI, the winter parking situation at the "Webster Cliff (AT) trailhead is even more dicey after a snow storm along RT 302. Its just wide spot along the highway. If its a significant snowfall they will be more concerned with keeping the road open but usually wing the banks back for parking the next day.

  6. #6
    Senior Member jniehof's Avatar
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    The weather exposure from Webster Cliff south of Webster should not be underestimated. I did it on a January day with 60+MPH winds and we probably spent more than half of the ridgeline time on the open ledges; when I went back in summer I was surprised to see how little distance was actually in the open (maybe 10%). It's going to depend on the wind direction and we really drew the short straw that day. It's also really easy to overcook on the climb up and not have as much in the tank for the weather. If you're prepared for full ATL conditions and allow plenty of time you should be fine and may get lucky. It's certainly gorgeous.Click image for larger version. 

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  7. #7
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    Great info! Thank you everyone! Sounds like it's a go for us, depending on the conditions on the day, of course.
    It's a lot like fun, but different.

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    A number of popular ice climbs end on the ridge south of the Webster summit, The trail is typically used for the descent so often is broken out as a result.

  9. #9
    Senior Member DayTrip's Avatar
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    I would also add that there are several ledge scrambles along the way that could be awkward depending on conditions, particularly the last steep section before the trail flattens out before the summit of Webster. If you continue on to Jackson the approach up to Jackson along this route also has a few good scrambles near the top. Not "fall to your death" type stuff, just awkward. The last time I hit this area at this time of year these scrambles had significant ice flows on them.
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  10. #10
    Senior Member wardsgirl's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by OldEric View Post
    A number of popular ice climbs end on the ridge south of the Webster summit, The trail is typically used for the descent so often is broken out as a result.
    For example, Shoestring Gully: http://goeast.ems.com/ice-climb-shoestring-gully/
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  11. #11
    Senior Member ChrisB's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by wardsgirl View Post
    I am reading that these climbs are being done regularly now so it is possible the trail will be broken out.

    Note however that Some climbers adverse to walking long distances opt to rap these routes.
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  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by ChrisB View Post
    I am reading that these climbs are being done regularly now so it is possible the trail will be broken out.

    Note however that Some climbers adverse to walking long distances opt to rap these routes.
    We tend to be even more adverse to carrying snowshoes. The post hole police won't be pleased....

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by OldEric View Post
    We tend to be even more adverse to carrying snowshoes. The post hole police won't be pleased....
    No!, No! Think of the kittens!
    It's a lot like fun, but different.

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