Salty's Huntington west peak Trip Reports


Hiking Dates


Date Climbed: 10/24/2008

Distance: 4.9 miles

Low Elevation: 2129 feet
High Elevation: 3393 feet
Elevation Gain: 1264 feet
Elevation Loss: 1264 feet

Start Location: Hancock Notch trailhead
Finish Location: Hancock Notch trailhead
Route: About 0.1 miles up Hancock Notch Trail, up west ridge of Huntington, west to cliff edge, to wandering around summit plateau to summit of Huntington, west peak to pretty much westerly exit to Hancock Notch Trail

Companions: (none)


When I was younger, so much younger than today (hmmm, I could make a song out of that ), many times along the drive along the Kanc, I would marvel at the cliffs near the hairpin turn. Many grey hairs later, I would identify this as the west peak of Huntington. On my NH3k list on Google Earth, my eyes keep getting drawn back there. I've been itching for a bushwhack lately, in part to exorcise a Demon of Bushwhack Past, but also I just love the beauty, as well as the challenge, of being off trail. The big bonus would be the potential for some unique views._x000D_ _x000D_

I don't have a boatload of whacking experience, but as I mentioned previously, I've been putzing aroung the woods since I was a kid. The Whites, as we all know, are a different matter, however. The Demon of which I speak was the failed attempt at Wolf Cub from Mt. Wolf after running into a never-ending thick 7 foot fir and spruce thrash-fest because of a bad route choice. This keeps returning to my thoughts, obvious since it comes up in my posts from time to time. Scaur Peak was something of a confidence builder, but really not much with the easy to follow herd paths heading up there. _x000D_ _x000D_

I've been stuck down with a cold since my last hike, and been busy splitting and stacking 6+ cords of wood. I thought I was booked up for the next couple of weeks, but alas, I had a weekend free! Joy! The weather for Sunday was lousy, but Saturday looked to be good. For a while. Then that went to hell. I was more than ready to get out, so I took Friday as a vacation day. _x000D_ _x000D_

Huntington fit the bill nicely, because I've read West Huntington was an easy whack and it's a short one with views from the clifftop below the summit. I had the option to continue to the north and middle peaks. The full plan was to continue on to the north peak of Huntington, and then on to the main peak. The beauty of this is there were easy and quick bail options to a trail the whole trip, relieving a lot of anxiety. To keep up on my map and compass confidence, I'd attempt the peaks without GPS, but not for the latter viewpoints (too small and obscure a target). As it turned out, I was able to keep to this. _x000D_ _x000D_

I hit the Hancock Notch trail at 9:00, and very quickly turned off to ascend the west ridge of the west peak. The going was easy at first, for all of 5 minutes. Then I ran into the all too familiar thick 6 foot fir sapling patch. Argh! I was terrified at the thought it might be like this the whole way. All right, push on through, and shortly it ended. Ah! _x000D_ _x000D_

Much better. I wouldn't call it open woods through here, but the way was straightforward, just with a bunch of young fir trees with dead branches sticking out all over the place. After about half an hour, I started feeling pretty strong, a good sign considering it's been almost 2 months since I last hiked (excepting the nearly direct ascent of the hill behind my house looking for someone's lost dog a couple of weeks ago). The going was interspersed with easy going to medium thick stuff. Around 3100 feet, I started seeing snow. Ah yes, how soon we meet again. _x000D_ _x000D_

Soon I could see it leveling off, and knew I must be near the cliffs. This is where things started getting ugly. Blowdowns and thick stands of 2+ inch thick trees with little to no room to squeeze through. Worse, the snow wasn't so much on the ground, it was in the trees so pushing trees out of the way resulted in the first snow of the season going down my back . Oh, how much I missed that... I checked the GPS and found something of a viewpoint, but there were a lot of trees in the way. Off to the second point, taking care to keep from veering away from the cliffs (well, and from going over them), I got some decent views to the east and of Kancamagus and Osceola. There were two other potential viewpoints to check out, but at that point, I'd had enough of the mess along the cliff and pushed off to the summit. _x000D_ _x000D_

The going was decent along this stretch, and before too long I could see the summit plateau coming up. Joy quickly turned to cursing that would make a longshoreman blush . I thought the SE slope of Wolf was bad, here there were places I had to take wide detours because I couldn't possibly squeeze through. I found a few rocks here and there to stand on and try to scope out the summit, but it was no good. I wandered around for around a half hour, thrashing to get through, and getting a ton of snow dumped on me. I got a real good soaking. I wandered to the SW, stopped headed back north again, and was getting ready to call it quits. I saw yet another bump, and this one looked a little clearer, and then I saw the danged canister at noon. Phew! Looking back at the GPS track, I missed it the first time around by something like 25 feet. It was impossible to see that far though! I took off my pack, and it was plastered in dead fir needles. _x000D_ _x000D_

I hung around, snacking and reading through the register. Some entries went back to 1994. The last one was from June, and I recognized some names in there in between. I always love seeing Spongebob's stickers I had decided at this point I had a success under my belt, but I wasn't ready mentally to do the 3/4 mile whack over to the north peak. I need to build up my tolerance to thick crap up slowly. That and it had taken 3 hours just to get this far. I was happy to see in the register some others took 3 hours, but I neglected to note what season it was. _x000D_ _x000D_

I headed west and was out of the crap almost immediately. Jeez! The problem was I came in from the south, which had a long route through the junk, as well as heading off in the wrong direction. I wanted to go directly west, but it seemed to drop off very quickly, and I wasn't about to try that, so I veered to the SW first before heading west. The going was much easier that much farther north, but I had to try hard to avoid heading straight down to the NW. Just before the trail, I saw yellow and blue ribbons paralleling the trail, as well as a yellow blaze. Not sure what that was about. After hitting the trail 75 minutes after I left (including a couple of breaks), it was a quick and easy trip out, barring a little difficulty at traveling side-slope. It was nice being on the trail _x000D_ _x000D_

So I can see how this would have been a quick(er) and easy(ier) whack if I had gone up north of the west ridge, but getting the viewpoints involves some extra exertion. At the trailhead, I took a couple of nice shots of the Osceolas and Scar Ridge (trying not to think about whacking anywhere on that ridge). _x000D_ _x000D_

Since being home, I've found pockets full of dead fir needles, a ton of them plastered to my back, and since I haven't showered yet, I can only imagine where else I going to find them. All in all, it was frustrating at times, but it was rewarding to get a real whack (to a peak) under my belt and a fun time overall.