The best laid plans aren't as well laid as you'd think. The plan was a 3-bagger near Colebrook, until I crunched the final numbers Friday night and came up with 15 miles. Oops. Haven't hiked in a month. When I met Greg, Brian and Joe in Bow, I threw out doing something else, maybe 3 of the Huntingtons which was Joe's suggestion earlier. Brian sighed at me yet again. At least I showed up for once.
So with no prep, other than some mental memory of it, we landed at the hairpin on the Kanc, and hit the Hancock Notch Trail, which had 2 or 3 new inches of snow down low. A nice, easy and fast trip to the junction, and we threw on the shoes to about 6” of new snow covering the trail. Oh wait, back up. This is important. Brian eyed a more direct route through promising woods up to the main Huntington earlier, and we all poo-poo'ed it, preferring a shorter whack distance. This would bite us in the butt later.
Back to the Notch trail, past the Cedar Brook junction. We spied glimpses of Huntington through the trees, seeing many open areas, including the two talus slopes I've long eyed on Google Earth. I desperately have wanted to visit these for some time for the views, but we could clearly see they were way too steep for this time of year.
Yeah, let's skip those for sure. Losing the trail for a short time, Brian guided us back to it in open woods, and we decided to head off from the notch. Brian checked his map of the Whites, and we were going to shoot for slabbing past the main peak heading to South Huntington, avoiding the really steep areas. This would also minimize backtracking as we were going to West last, the peak nearest the Kanc. Joe led the way, and we immediately noticed more up than slab. Uh oh. Sure enough, we ended up in the steeps, and with the new snow over a consolidated base, went slipping backwards a lot. I apologize to anyone on the Hancocks who heard a constant stream of swearing.
We broke into patches of open areas, so at least to Joe and I, the resident Views Whores, we were pleased with this. But at one patch I struggled for 5 minutes to get 4 feet ahead of me only to slide back 10 feet. Joe was above my by only 30 feet constantly mocking me. I told him to wait there for 30 minutes so I could catch up to him and kill him. I was only half kidding. Good thing I really like you, Joe. :) The going was slower than in the thickest stuff I've been in, and the elevation ticked off in painfully slow fashion. We got to a point that slabbing would be more dangerous than going up due to the steep slope. Greg got his chance to lead for the remainder to the top, and I was thankful for any stretch with trees to grab onto to pull myself up. I told Brian my arms were going to be sore on Sunday. They are. We finally came to a large open area near the ridge, and got some nice views from the Hancocks to Tremont.
Some young stuff presented itself, but some skirting brought me to very shorts areas to get through and back into the open stuff. 25 minutes later I was on top of the south peak and waited only a short time to regroup. With the excellent snow conditions, I threw out hitting the nearer east peak instead, but Brian had had enough. I was feeling surprisingly good despite not getting out for a while, but I've called too many hikes short to be even the slightest bit bothered by that. I already had 2 new peaks, and making someone miserable because you want more is no way to hike. Besides, that would bring some yummy hot food sooner to my stomach!
Joe almost died again when he suggested (kiddingly, of course) that we go back the way we came. ;-) We finally decided on going southwest to the Kanc, Brian suggesting going back to the col. I opted for directly off the peak, and led that for a while too. Thick woods showed up here, and I kept getting pushed way right off the intended track, with the main peak right in front of me. Sheesh. I tried a couple of times to force my way in the right direction, but could see nothing but nastiness. I reminded myself, go with the woods, not the compass, and so, came right on our tracks going up. Brian --- right again. Back in the col, it was wide open, and again, some skirting to the right was necessary, but kept us in generally wide open or at least good woods. Greg took over, and we continued with our pleasant walk out, with glimpses of the cliffs of West Huntington coming into view. It was a quick trip to the Kanc, but the road walk back was pretty unpleasant thanks to the increasing wind right in our faces. We all played Kick the Snowball to occupy the time, and finally got back to the warmth of Joe's car.
So after some back and forth about food, I remembered a place in the Kancamagus Motel that was good. Yeah, good and closed until 4. Argh. Wrong yet again. Woodstock Inn it was, and I was especially pleased to see the porter on tap. Joe was especially pleased I didn't have to stop at the rest area in Sanbornton. So, two more peaks under my belt, an overall great day with great friends, I didn't bail, and especially happy to be bushwhacking again, especially with such great snow conditions. Thanks guys, and I'm hoping to be back in regular hiking rhythm again! Oh, and next time, Brian, I'll listen. :D