It was time. The peak I've dreaded for four years as the Monsterous Bushwhacker Eater. Not only does it offer nasty woods, it's a long hike. Joe had held off when Brian and Greg did this, opting to give me some company, so he got first choice to go, and he was happy to join in. Armed with beta that the headwall to the Carrigan col offered a steep, but decent route, along with rock climber's herd paths, we felt pretty confident this one would be out of the way.
Joe suggested biking up as far as we could. I had an ethical moment. To date, I had done everything per the AMC 4k rules, and while there is no formal 3k list, and therefore no rules, most folks abide by a sense of fairness in achieving these peaks. Question was, was this fair? My descision was made when I had enough accounts of some prominent folks either using or advocating bikes on remote peaks, and it was too tempting to think we could cut this down to a 3 mile hike or so.
So we rode up to the still closed Sawyer River Road, and got the bikes rolling. Hmmm, this doesn't seem as easy as I'd figured. My legs are in good shape, why don't hike muscles = bike muscles? Puff puff puff. I struggled up, and occasionally hopped off to walk the bike on the steeper sections, eventually on anything that resembled steep. Huff puff huff.
Before the Signal Ridge Trail the slope finally agreed with me, allowing for much quicker and pleasant travel. Coming to the Sawyer Pond Trail, we turned up the road shortly after and I made it maybe 50 feet before calling it quits on the bike. Despite being able to cover 4 miles in 45 minutes, I was getting beat too soon.
We ditched the bikes and walked up, coming to a flattish section quickly. Dang it, looking back, I probably could've ridden for another 2 miles, but no matter, the bike thing wasn't working for someone who hasn't been on one in decades. I couldn't ditch Brian telling me to take the Sawyer River Trail. Sigh, it sounded so good in print.
Ah well, we're here, and the walk along the logging road was more than pleasant, save for the disturbing sight of fresh tire tracks. Why couldn't we just drive up here? Hmmm. It was a pleasant day. There had been rain the day before, so my pant leg bottoms were getting a little wet, but the humidity was low. One dark grey cloud got scared off by of our looks of disapproval.
We got some early views of Carrigan, and puzzled for the longest time over the view south, only to finally notice the slide of North Tripyramid. Around 2100', we got our fist good view of the Captain.
Cool. This peak usually gets dwarfed by the Hancocks to the west and Carrigan to the east, but here, it looked pretty magnificent. We came to the expecting large and fairly open logged out area, where the road ended and it was time to find the climber's path. Around 2250', there was another great view, and it was getting closer and more imposing.
I had thought the herd path would be easy to follow, but it wasn't. In fact, there appear to be several herd paths. We found one low, and another slabbing the slope higher up. We kept trying to follow it in mixed woods, but at least we were able to stay in decent woods, never getting worse than moderately thick.
We came to the bottom of a big slide, where a camp complete with rock chair was set up. Higher up, Joe gave up on finding the path and just headed for the col. I protested, opting for the base of the cliffs and then going around, but it almost immediately set in that trying to follow this path was just wasting our time and adding distance. So I voiced my realization that this was indeed a fine idea, and off we went in decent woods. The grades were decent, and I kept waiting for the steeps that had to be coming soon. It was getting somewhat steep at 2600' and at 2700' it hit and hit hard. We found a slab on the left, and there was no way in hell we were using that at this grade.
Then we noted nasty ledges on the right. Cripes. In between, we were holding on like crazy with crumbling dirt underneath. I was thinking of bailing earlier, as I was running out of steam, but said screw it, we're too close, I don't want to come back in a few weeks. Chug chug chug. After one particularly nasty spot, I needed food and a smoke to gather myself. Joe waited patiently, and finally I started up again, doing some aerobics around a funky set of blowdowns. I went maybe 100 feet and I couldn't take it anymore. 0.1 miles to the ridge, and then 0.15 miles (albeit scrappy miles) to the summit, and I couldn't do any more, I was completely spent. It was 12:30, and I was figuring it'd be pushing 2:00 before I could haul myself up that last bit.
I hated to tell Joe, especially since there was no way he was coming down this alone. Crappity crap crap. I hate bailing, and I really hated bailing knowing I'd have to come back. I especially hated dragging Joe all the way up here from Mass. to not make the peak. This sucked big time. I appreciated that he took it in extremely good spirits, especially since this is far from the first time I've wimped out. Sigh.
Down we went. Yeah, steep, but at least it was faster. Did I mention it was steep?
We stayed lower coming down and found a stream bed where it was clear people were hopping in and out of it, and were able to stay on a herd path back to the logged area. From there, it was an easy walk out, although seemingly too long. We got a nice view of Passaconaway to N. Tri at least. I kept looking forward to the bike ride out. Something fun.
We hopped on the bikes, and despite having to push on the slight uphills, it was fun on the downhill section. It took 15 minutes to go the 4 miles, hitting 26 mph at one point. Wheeeee! After running into Mike LaRoss last week, I was amused to run into one of his hiking companions Beth in the parking lot, who I had run into previously at McDonald's in Lancaster by accident. We had a nice chat, and I especially enjoyed a wickedly cold and tasty beer courtesy of Joe.
Sooooo, we talked afterwards and shall be doing this again soon, barring unforseen circumstances. Joe said he wouldn't be averse to a slight modification of the same route, and while I was reluctant at first, I'm warming to that idea given the good woods. We did agree to use the Sawyer River Trail to avoid me pooping out on the bike. I thought this was a great idea at first, and Joe couldn't know that would drain a chunk of my energy away. I guess I should've known, but I'll chalk it up to another thing learned. Never too old or experienced for that.