Two big firsts for me today. My first group hike. And my first winter conditions hike.
- Total miles: 6.2
- Total “hiking” time (includes stops, but not the summit stop): 6 hours, 4 minutes
- Total feet ascended: 2,600
Interestingly, Kearsarge North is not a 4,000 footer (the summit is 3,268 feet), but the ascent of 2,600 feet is more than I did for Mt. Osceola, or Mt. Hale, or Mt. Jackson. Which honestly makes me feel better about how hard this was. In addition to more ascent, I was carrying a heavier pack (all those clothes in case the weather turns) and wearing heavier boots (single-layer insulated, again because of the cold).
So this was my first hike with a group, this was with the AMC Winter Hiking Program (see my last post). I believe there were or 11 or 12 of us attending this hike, including two AMC leaders, and a co-leader. The rest of the hikers were people who attended the classes like I did and were trying out new gear. However, they weren’t newbie hikers, and clearly all in much better condition than I was.
The group hike policy is “we only hike a fast as our slowest member”. Hello, slowest hiker here! And while I felt TERRIBLE about holding everyone back, everyone assured me it wasn’t a problem. For that, I am very grateful how lovely everyone was about my struggle. Oh, and did I mention, they had me leading the group up the mountain? It kept the faster hikers from getting ahead and constantly having to stop and wait for me.
Getting to the top was 100% worth it all. It was a “bluebird day”. 360 degree views. And the views were stunning. Skip to the end to see the proof!
So what about the winter conditions? Well, I greatly enjoyed the lack of mosquitos and black flies (and bears and snakes). I also loved not stepping over, through, around all the rocks you normally encounter in the White Mountains (they were there, just buried under snow!). I ended up wearing my microspikes, which gave me great traction on the icy spots and snow, but it took a while to get used to them and to trust that I wasn’t going to slide and fall on my ass. The “trail” isn’t exactly the trail that it is in summer. The trail (if it’s been broken out, which this one was), is the path that has been packed down and creates a narrow divot in the ground. Two feet-widths wide. Not 24 inches. But basically the width of two boots. This made using your poles a bit difficult, because one thin they TOLD us, but I didn’t really get until being on the trail, was that the areas just to the right and left are x-feet deep fluffy snow. This means sticking in your pole can sink it down several feet. It also means stepping off the trail can sink you down into the fluffy snow. Today’s conditions meant the snow went up and over my boot, but they said it can mean sinking in up to your hips or worse.
Today was around 30 degrees with not much wind. And somehow, I was still dripping with sweat while I hiked. So much for not being a sweaty mess when I hike.
Still. Totally worth it.
Overall, despite my struggles, I had a wonderful day and met some really terrific people. Bonus: Kearsarge North is a “52 With a View” (another list that culminates in a patch) and a “View and Brew”. View and Brew is a list of breweries in NH with accompanying hikes. If you complete the hike and then visit the brewery within a set amount of hours, you can count it towards your patch! Some of us headed to Moat Smokehouse in Conway, so that’s my first View and Brew done!