The first Week lasted only 2 ½ hours or so. The second Week lasted perhaps an hour. After that, everything just kinda blended together…
I had PM’ed Brian when Joe’s finish looked unlikely. I was trying to decide what to do on Sunday, which I also expected to be rainy, and couldn’t decide. Brian suggested several options, but the Weeks/Waumbek traverse and some Pemi red-lining were the two that stuck out. Joe cancelled, and Weeks it became. 3 NHHH peaks and a 4k in a day. I was psyched because doing these peaks without a traverse would be a major PITA.
I arrived early at 8:00 AM (damn, I could’ve slept another half hour), and Brian was just behind me. HappyHiker would be joining us today and Joe was questionable. Karen wasn’t too far behind Brian, and then Joe came in, only to supply us a ride over to the hatchery so we wouldn’t have to shuttle back later. Joy! Thanks again, Joe. It was especially appreciated at the end of the hike, since the ride over was a lot longer than I expected.
We set off at 9:45, dodging small puddles, streams running down the trail and mud from the day’s previous rain. One brook crossing required a short walk upstream to find a spot, and another requires some sketchy stepping on submerged rocks, but not a major deal. There was mud down low, but less than I expected. One such puddle swallowed up a tip from my pole. No, I like my grippy tips and this won’t do. I plunged a finger into the hole, but I just kept shoving the tip deeper. I started scooping up handfuls of mud to get that flippin’ tip back, all the while to the delight of “comments a’plenty” Brian. It’s hard to grab a tip when you’re laughing hard, but I persevered over the mud. And Brian.
York Pond Trail is pretty flat to begin with and picks up with some moderate grades. The woods near the last third are all mostly hobblebush/birch forest, with plenty of herd paths and nibble marks. We got to the junction of the Kilkenny Ridge Trail quicker than I expected, and fed ourselves and chatted for a while. The guide then describes the climb as “long.” The guide would be correct. The grades aren’t particularly steep, just relentless, and when you think you must be getting close, you weren’t. The hobblebush/birch forest gave way to tall spruce/fir trees, which are loaded with moss. These were the characteristic woods we would see all the way to Waumbek. With the low clouds coming in and out, it was a gorgeous sight, one of the most extensive and outstanding pieces of woods I’ve ever seen. Of course, ‘twas creepy looking too, and there was much talk of what could be lurking on the summit. Zombies were brought into the fray, and shouts of “BRAAAAINS… BRAAAAAAINNNNS!!” were heard in the woods.
The trail kept getting gentler, but the summit seemed to take forever to come. Finally we arrived, and we stopped and fueled up again. We set off dropping into the col and started up the 400’ climb to Middle Weeks. This would be the ritual of the day. Drop into the col, 400’ climb, summit, repeat. At one point we had a small view of Weeks behind us, which I thought would be the only view of the day. The sun would occasionally pop out only to be swallowed up again. The climb up Middle Weeks was exactly like the climb up Weeks. Déjà vu all over again. Brian has coined an alter ego for me, “Indiana Marsh”, so his mention of this here sent me darting into the woods hopping around madly. I quickly realized in these woods, this was a great invitation to snap my ankle in a moss trap. All in the name of comedy.
Off to South Weeks. I don’t think anything happened, other than we saw the only other people (group of 4) we’d see all day. Otherwise, it was all the same. The summit’s off a short spur (like 20 feet). It was here we brainstormed the report title, and Brian nailed it. Huge laughter, and we all knew, “That’s it! That’s it!” I was looking forward to getting on the Waumbek ridge. My mind was pretty much going numb at this point. Once on the ridge, we were glad to have some easy walking and I caught a glimpse of what I suspect was Lafayette just poking above the clouds. Later Washington showed itself through the trees. Bits and pieces, here and there. Again, Waumbek’s summit seemed elusive, but finally we arrived at the cairn. Finally, the clouds had lifted for good and we were in sunshine. More food, and a gray jay perched above us. Yay! And then left. Boo! And then came back! Yay! And ignored my outstretched hand of goodies. Boo! That was the last we saw of it. Boo. For those coming up Waumbek from the normal way, there’s a nice view maybe 50 yards further than the summit.
OK, one minor climb to Starr King. Yeah, the views are quite limited here. We stood on rocks, I looked for trees, I kept looking at the chimney. And I kept looking at the chimney. I looked around the chimney. Hmmm, a nearby conveniently placed log, some help from Brian, much nervousness that something was going to break (including me), but I made it up. I think Brian and Karen thought I was nuts, but I had to explain I am a total view whore. I stood up on shaky legs, and oh yeah, there’s a view here. A wonderful vista from the Presis to Cannon/Kinsman. I can see why this must have been a popular peak before it closed in. I vote for chainsaws.
All downhill from here. One giant blur of conversation, jumbled boulders, and a monotonously moderate grade. Down, down, down. Please end soon. Feet hurt a lot. Knees feeling pain. Down, down, down. Com-a, com-a, down doobie-doo-down-down. We came to the well, and Brian had said this is pretty much it, and quickly came the beautiful sight of cars. Wow, a 12 mile hike of 4 peaks in 8 hours. Considering our many stops to talk and a pace that wasn’t punishing, I was quite surprised.
We chatted some more for a bit and bid our adieux’s. On the way back, the overlook on 115 was packed with photographers with wide lenses. I hadn’t realized so many people came up here, but with the dramatic sunset (deep reds west, a thundershower north), I’m not surprised.
Thanks again Joe for saving us a lot of time, thanks Brian for putting this out there, and thanks Karen for the extra company, even if you won’t be a witness against Brian.