Chocorua – finally. It never seems to amaze me how long I’ve put off this peak, but also I was waiting for the day of perfection, and here it was in July. A day of abundant sunshine and very low humidity. Brian and I agreed on a large loop which would include Middle Sister (52WAV). We set off on the Piper Trail, complete with a smell of something funky (Brian thought it was fish food). Quickly we came to the Weetamoo Trail with some side-hilling, and finally some climbing. Brian was forging ahead strongly, I was lagging a bit. I finally realized heat and humidity is his enemy and today there was none of that. He was now leaving me to huff and puff it up.
We came to a large rock, wondering if it was Weetamoo Rock, and with a chance of views, I made a precarious climb to find no views. Argh. Near the junction of the Hammond Trail, we found what must have been the rock, a monster that was fairly well obscured by new growth. Additionally, there was no way in hell to climb the sheer faces on this monster. Coming to the Hammond, we were given some easy grades and the first real views off some ledges, proving what a winner of a day it was going to be. We also had our first views of the summit, an odd rocky cone rising up.
On the Liberty Trail, we had some more climbing and came to the chained down cabin. Good thing, I might have stolen it and taken it home were it not chained. It looked pretty sheltered and hard to imagine it being blown over, but it’s happened before. We went in the cabin, which I thought would be a great place to stay, until I saw disturbing entry after disturbing entry in the register. I’m weird, but this place out-weirded me. Now the summit was at an impossible angle above us, but we encountered nothing terribly steep as we slabbed ledges around the summit, finally coming out on top with only about 8-10 people present.
The views are definitely worth the hype. Brian and I both commented that the Sandwich Range, in particular Passaconaway actually looked very attractive from this angle. The only thing in the clouds was Washington, otherwise, it was quite a spread. We stayed a while and chatted with a woman and her daughter before I took a few wrong turns to find the trail to the Sisters, before I realized I had to backtrack. The PUDs looked awful going over the Sisters, but in reality, they were easy, with a lot of great views back to Chocorua.
Arriving at Middle Sister, there was a repeater site for the USFS which Brian knew about, but it was house in some sort of stone tower, complete with a staircase. Odd. Need to find out the history of that structure. All the time since we left Chocorua we saw the crowd increasing as expected and were glad for our early start time. I was getting now sick of saying hi to everyone every few minutes and was happy to get past the worst of it past the Champney Falls Trail. We still encountered people, but rarely now.
At the junction of the Carter Ridge Trail, we could see at least 2 nasty, nasty drop-offs which the guidebook had warned about. Worse, this trail was painful in shorts, as the brush needs some serious trail work here. But, not as painful as when Brian banged his knee hard getting down one drop. Uh-oh. Many miles from a trailhead with lots of steeps ahead. Brian manned up admirably, only saying “Ow! Ow! Ow!” with each steep step he had to take. Phew! More views of the summit, and the only thing of consequence was some really bad trail marking somewhere on the ledge, where it appeared the trail went down a steep, slippery, loose scree slope. This was insane, this can’t be the trail, way too dangerous. But no obvious other way. I went near the bottom and it looked like it petered out. I headed back up (considerably easier), and Brian found the path leading off to the left. Dammit! Not a blaze or cairn to be had. Nickerson ledge was decidedly “meh.” We could hear a very loud party of kids ahead of us, but we never caught them. Happiness reigned when we reached the Piper Trail, although it seemed an awfully long 0.6 miles to the Weetamoo junction, but from there it was a quick trip to the trailhead.
Bottom line: A mountain every hiker must climb, no matter what route you take!