So, back from vacation and we needed something to do. I was getting over a cold, I had been straight out since I got back and started suggestion short hikes. Brian would have none of it after also not hiking for 3 weeks. So back to plan "A", South, Middle and West Hitchcock, a hefty bushwhack and goal for one day. I warmed to the idea of banging these 3 out, so the plan was made. Research Man went into his mode, and I mapped out a logging road that went up towards S. Hitchcock to about 2400' from the Kanc. I had little to no beta on getting to S. Hitchcock, but had some on the ridge going to Main, and more on the rest of the route.
I was worried about snow depths up high, so I was the sole snowshoe carrier. As always, everyone else was right, we encountered only 1-2" of snow the whole way. I thought the logging road led from Big Rock, but a short whack brought us to it, and it wasn't terribly blowdown laden. We came to a "Y" and I took the left turn which looked more obvious, even though Brian thought the right one was correct. Yep, wrong again. See a pattern here?
As we rose higher, patches of fir blocked the road, but again easily avoided. We took a sharp left at one point to cross a brook, then missed the corresponding sharp right. Wrong again. Finally the road petered at 2400', as Google Earth had correctly shown. Whack time. We immediately hit a wall of pencil woods in every direction. Great. So we squeezed through anything that looked better than the rest, and finally crossed a brook to some better woods. The woods never opened up, it was mostly moderate the whole way, and the trees were dumping a ton of snow on us. My hardshell paid for itself, but would eventually soak through later in the day.
We finally came to a patch of young fir, which normally makes me cringe as it tends to be full of blowdowns and tough to push through, but this was the swimmy kind, and with very little blowdown. Tired of taking the snow dumping beating, Greg took the lead. We had these woods for the second third of the whack, and then hit the moderately thick stuff again, but notably better than below, an odd finding. It was really steep here, however, slowing our progress. Finally after a long slow slog, the slope moderated and we knew we were on the ridge now, west of the summit. We kept following the direction of up, coming to the summit. Phew!
After a break, I gingerly asked the question if we had time. It had taken us 4.5 hours to get here, but we had the vast majority of climbing behind us. But thick woods would negate any of that. It was now 4 hours from sunset, and while never having done it, bushwhacking in the dark I hear is zero fun. We decided to push forward and see what happened. We had an easy time on the ridge, passing our tracks coming up, and then in short order started getting thicker woods. We wandered about trying to find easier woods while staying on the ridge, or at least the north side of the ridge, when we finally realized we had become completely turned around and were heading back the way we came. Yoiks! We called it quits. So instead of doing the smart thing and following our tracks back, seeing as we were already on the south side of the ridge we pushed forward to find our tracks further down since it wasn't a bad route. Another mistake.
It was nasty steep and fairly thick here, and the mountain did everything it could to keep us from going in the direction we wanted. A lot of side hilling, never fun. After what seemed like an eternity, we finally hit our tracks around 3000 feet. Long ways left to go. At least we could let our minds go with not trying to find a suitable way through the trees. Much joy as we hit the loggging road, and it was a quiet, but not too long, trek out. I was beat after not hiking for 3 weeks. We got back to the car an hour before sunset, and we at least could congratulate ourselves at having this peak done with, and not pushing it to what would have likely been a headlamp finish had we continued to the Main peak.
Greg had it right, hard, but not bad. Of course, no hike is bad when you're laughing your butt off at constant juvenile jokes. Great to be back out in the woods, and great to have another weekend of snowshoe-less hiking.