That’s right the title says attempt, as in we attempted, but did not summit Cabot.
Five of us were going to hike up to Mt. Cabot. The trail we would take was to be 9 miles and 2,800 feet ascended. Longer than my last hike, but less elevation gain. The weather was pretty darn nice for a winter hike, 35F, not too windy (at least not in the trees), partly cloudy. The sun peeked out here and there, mixed with the occasional snow flurry.
However, the weather YESTERDAY was warm. Really warm. Like 65F warm. And some rain. And sun. And the trail up Mt. Cabot isn’t the most popular, so it wasn’t already nicely packed down like the other trails this winter. It’s also farther north, so there was a lot more base snow. The result? The trail was rough.
It had at least been broken out (for those that don’t know, that means someone else had already been up the trail in snowshoes, which at least partially packs down some of the snow, versus breaking trail which is incredibly difficult even with snowshoes on). But the snow underneath was still deep, and thanks to the warm weather and lack of traffic, very soft. When someone “bare boots” on an unpacked trail, their boots sink down into the snow, called “postholing” as the result looks exactly like you dug a hole for a fence post. But today’s trail was so soft, we were postholing even in snowshoes.
And if you’ve never postholed, let me tell you. Each time my foot broke through, I could feel my lifespan shorten. I had a little heart attack each time. Sometimes you sink to your knee. Other times to your hips. The worst time, it caused me to lose balance and I faceplanted into the snow, and then my whole body began to sink down. Another time, my snowshoe got stuck at the bottom of the hole.
I even managed to snag a hole in my leggings with my snowshoe. Somehow I postholed and one shoe was under me and snagged on the butt of my pants. Good times.
Then there were water crossings. Probably in summer these are easy little hops across a stream. Now that stream has 3 foot high banks on each side. And the banks are the aforementioned soft snow that can collapse on each step. The water is really cold and well, wet. Wet is bad when it’s cold out. So you really don’t want to fall in. Plus, you know, falling sucks.
So now, you have to cross a chasm a couple of feet across, standing on mushy snow, with icy cold water below you. And you’re wearing snowshoes. Of course, we could have taken the snowshoes off at each crossing, but the snowshoes are meant for hiking and have traction on the bottom, so you need them to get up the other bank.
This meant I frequently cautiously inched my way down the bank as far as I could before it got too steep/slippery. Plant one leg on the current bank. I’d try to anchor my poles in either the water, or if I could reach it, the far bank. I’d then stretch my other snowshoe-clad foot and attempt to reach the other bank. Which then left me straddling a very cold stream with slippery snow under each foot. With much swearing and ill-placed faith in my parkour abilities, I’d attempt to push off the back foot, swing it far enough forward and up to land on a solid spot on the new bank, with enough momentum to move forward and not back into the stream.
Sometimes footing was okay, but I still had to step up with one foot about hip height and the other behind me and use strength I don’t currently have to push myself up. Other times, I ended up falling forward onto my knees and literally crawling up the stream bank.
Frankly, it was exhausting.
Roughly two miles in, one of our group said she wasn’t feeling well (she had been sick the week before) and was going to turn back. Now if I’ve learned anything reading about mountain rescues, it was that you don’t let someone go back on their own. And quite honestly, it’s not like I was having the time of my life. As they say, “the mountain will always be there next time”. Also, “dance with the one that brung ya”. Three of us turned around and headed back.
I was glad as those water crossings weren’t any easier after the two miles we’d done and they REALLY would have been tough on jelly legs after summiting Cabot.
Our hike ended up being 4.01 miles, 628 feet ascended, and 4 hours, 19 minutes long. No regrets, any day hiking is better than a day not hiking.
On my last hike, I was sort of a hot mess. Luckily, this time more went right than went wrong. I used my new poles, which were AWESOME. I really love the cork handles. And the straps on these are so much better. I put hairties on the snowshoe bindings, which helped them stay in place. I made myself new mittens with the flip top, so I could have free hands, but didn’t end up wearing them much since it was so “warm”.
I fixed my skirt so it didn’t fall down, BUT part of the zipper was snagging on my leggings. I didn’t notice until a mile or so in, that I now have a big hole in my leggings. Well, another big hole, which of course I fixed with duct tape!
I didn’t get to try out my new butt sled since the trail was so soft and there were so many water crossings, but I’m sure it’ll be awesome.
I also got these great bendy stick things to hold stuff like snowshoes onto your pack. Those worked really well, even though it was just getting to the trail, since I wore the snowshoes the entire time on trail.
Gear-wise, I worked out quite a few hiccups from last time.
[…] did. After my breakdown on Moosilauke and the demoralization of water crossings and postholing on Cabot, I needed a win. This was it. A bluebird day with amazing views. A great time with a friend I […]
[…] First, the monorail. This is when the trail gets packed down throughout the winter by snowshoes. In good winter conditions, this means, you can walk the trail wearing microspikes or sometimes even bare boots. But when temperatures warm up (or if people don’t wear snowshoes when they should), the monorail starts to wear away. It gets narrow. You have to watch every step and make sure you place your foot perfectly on the balance beam of packed snow, or you step off and sink up to your hip in soft snow. (See my Cabot attempt hike post). […]
[…] in March, you’ll recall we attempted Mt. Cabot and it wasn’t […]