I hadnít hiked in 6 weeks, a fact I repeatedly kept mentioning on this hike apologetically. It was plenty cold, too, with temps. near zero at the bottom, but fortunately, the sun was out for most of the hike, providing some mental uplifting.
I met Brian (New Hampshire), Greg (HardCoreIdiot) and Ethan (Slopetastic) at the Bow Park and Ride at 6 AM, having 3 hours of sleep thanks to being so excited to hike again after too long. Yawn! We got to Ingerson Rd. in Jefferson at 8:00, a half hour earlier than we were supposed to meet Melissa (and her dog Delilah too). I wanted to allow for some extra time to get packed up and possibly a stop if need be, but no such doings. We simply parked along side the road, which doesnít seem to be a problem on this little used loop. We waited outside the whole time, why I donít know given that my hands and feet were getting cold, and I could see this on at least Greg, too. 8:30 came and went and no Melissa. At 8:40 we decided to give her 5 more minutes, figuring she could easily catch up with us if she did show. Sure enough, pretty much as soon as the words were out of my mouth, there she was.
We set off at 9, and set what felt like a quick pace to me. It probably wasnít, given my out of shape condition, and the grades were super easy the entire way. I ended up lagging behind for quite some ways, and took my turn trailbreaking for maybe 10 or 15 minutes. Trailbreaking is a bit of misnomer, as the snow was incredibly consolidated (as we expected and hoped), with only a few inches of new powder. Plus, we barely make out the track of the previous hikers a couple of weeks prior. The trail is abandoned, but easily navigated up to maybe 2700-2800 feet, save for the occasional blowdowns. After that it was a bit of a hunt, and finally at 3000 feet we made straight for the summit after some discussion. We skirted left when needed to avoid anything that looked less than wide open, which is exactly what we had the entire way.
I had taken the extra precaution of wearing a polypro base layer on top, plus a Techwick shirt and a microfiber shirt under a fleece. The fleece came off in short order, and I was still plenty warm until we hit about 2900 feet where the wind started picking up. On came the fleece.
Melissa and Ethan headed ahead of us, and Brian, Greg and I blessedly took a slower pace. I would take about 20-40 paces and have to stop to catch my breath. My calves were killing me. I kept checking the altimeter, counting off the remaining 500 feet, 50 to 100 feet at a time. Were I alone, I surely would have turned back. I knew I needed food badly for some energy, but didnít want to stop to take off the pack, dig it out, put it back on, blah blah blah. I keep forgetting to pack some in my pockets. Finally we saw Ethan and Melissa on top, but what separated us was a 15 foot steep PUD. Argh!
The first thing I did was let out a weak yeehaw for Ethanís sake, then put on a jacket, and finally dug out the hot soup. Tomato with milk. Oh yum. It was too much to keep to myself and I passed it around. Some other food I choked down (what wasnít frozen solid), and stuffed some more in my pockets. Finally, starting to really feel the cold, I checked my thermometer on my pack, which read -10F. Youch. Melissa got a picture of this. After about 20 minutes we retraced our steps, my fingers and toes now badly hurting. It took about 15 minutes for the heat to finally return to them.
We made quick time back down, and I actually wished it were steeper so I wouldnít have to try so hard to walk. The easiest whack ever, the best conditions for winter whacking (despite cries from the skiers and trailed hikers, hee hee), and good company as always.