Chaos on the Cohos Trail: A Winter Thru-Hike

In February of this year, Matt “Gator” Miller, Ian “Willie Nelson” Hart, Ryan “Kris Kristofferson” Hart, Collin “Waylon Jennings” Hart, documented their first ever hike of the Cohos Trail in the winter. Thank you guys for sharing your journey!

Matt “Gator” Miller:

The Cohos Trail is a 170+ mile hike through New Hampshire. It starts in Crawford Notch and ends on the Canadian border. When I was on the AT, I met three brothers doing a southbound thru-hike: Collin, Ian, and Ryan. We all completed the SRK Greenway together and then decided to tackle this hike… in the dead of winter. We experienced extremely high winds, rain, snow, and continuous negative temperatures. But we got it done!!! We didn’t know this when we started, but we are actually the first people to ever complete a thru-hike in the winter on this trail.

Please consider donating to the Cohos Trail. There is an active fundraiser online: https://www.generosity.com/fundraisin… Even if you can’t donate please share the link on all social media and like “The Friends of the Cohos Trail” on facebook.

Hope you enjoyed the video. Thanks for watching!

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Hiking the John Muir Trail with Gordon Dubois

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Down to Nothing

This harrowing expedition pushed a group of mountaineers to their mental and physical brink; carving them Down To Nothing. A six-person team from The North Face and National Geographic attempted to summit an obscure peak in Myanmar (Hkakabo Razi) to determine if it is Southeast Asia’s highest point. The expedition members, led by The North Face athlete and Telluride mountaineer Hilaree O’Neill include, videographer Renan Ozturk, climber Emily Harrington, and National Geographic author Mark Jenkins, photographer Cory Richards, and basecamp manager Taylor Rees.

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Winter is Still With Us

By Gordon DuBois

Gordon & Reuben on Sandwich Dome

As I sit at my kitchen table in New Hampton writing this article I’m looking out the window watching snow fall as it blankets the ground. For the past few weeks we have been experiencing spring conditions, and I’ve be thinking about my summer hiking and biking plans. So hold on, even though the Spring Equinox arrived this past Sunday, we have jumped back into winter. This reminds me of Mark Twain’s famous lines, “If you don’t like the weather in New England, just wait a few minutes.”. So, even though we have had one of the warmest winters on record don’t put away your winter hiking gear just yet. You will still need it. This I can attest to with two hikes this past week. One to the summit of Sandwich Mountain (or Dome) and the other on the Tunnel Brook Trail.

The climb to summit of Sandwich Dome was necessary if I wanted to complete the Winter New England Highest 100 this year. Sandwich Mountain, 3,980 ft., is the highest peak in the Sandwich Wilderness. This Federally Designated Wilderness Area created in 1984 contains 35,800 acres managed by the U.S. Forest Service. The Wilderness Act, passed by Congress in 1964 states, “A wilderness, in contrast with those areas where man and his own works dominate the landscape, is hereby recognized as an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain (and) to secure for the American people of present and future generations the benefits of an enduring resource of wilderness.” The Sandwich Wilderness area is one of several designated in the White Mountains. Others include the Great Gulf, Wild River, Dry River, Caribou –Speckled Mountain and Pemigewasset Wilderness Areas. It’s remarkable that New Hampshire has five Wilderness Areas. This is a testament to the citizens and organizations in the state that have advocated for the permanent protection wild places

richard widhuI began my hike up Sandwich Dome with my friend Dick Widhu and of course Reuben. We decided to take the Drakes Brook Trail as this is the shortest route, 4.4 miles, to the summit.  We arrived at the trail head directly off Rt. 49. We saw bare ground at the parking lot and decided not to don foot traction (Micospikes or Hillsounds), but we were rudely awakened to the fact that ice on the trail would rule the day when we both stated slipping and sliding. Dick tumbled to the ground and I skated over bare ice. Even Reuben had trouble staying upright. We quickly found our traction and put it on our boots. As we made our way up the trail and gained elevation the trail became an unending ice flow, making the footing difficult at best. In some places we found ourselves having to bushwhack around several steep ice flows. We were rudely awakened to the fact that winter still prevails at elevations above 2,500 ft.  In my past adventures on this trail I have always taken the side trail to Jennings Peak. This rock cliff offers amazing views of the surrounding area and I wouldn’t have missed it if trail conditions would have been different. We made it to the summit in about 3 hours, celebrated my completion of the Winter NEHH and began the treacherous journey back to the car. We made it in one piece and celebrated our safe return with a visit to the local pub.

sandy priceA few days later my trail friend Sandy Price and I decided to hike the Tunnel Brook Trail in Benton, NH. This trail follows an old logging road along Tunnel Brook and doesn’t go above 2,280 ft. in elevation. We choose to the access the trail from the southern end, off Long Pond Rd., which is short distance from Rt. 25 in Glencliff. This hike didn’t require traction, but due to spring runoff and ice forming on the rocks at designated stream crossing it made travel challenging. There were several stream crossing where we had to bushwhack a considerable distance up stream to find a suitable crossing and at two of these we had to build bridges using fallen logs. However, with these challenges came spectacular rewards. At the height of land lies Mud Pond. Not a picturesque name, but this is a destination not to be missed: A beautiful idyllic set of beaver ponds that sit between the cliff faces of Mt. Mooselauke and Mt. Clough. Ice still covered the ponds, but as the sun became stronger throughout the day we heard the groans of the ice as is warmed and melted. At the southern end of the first pond we found a welcoming campsite, making me think that this would be a great place to bring my granddaughter Maggie in a few years for her first backpacking trip.

After reaching the height of land and passing three other beaver ponds we continued along the trail, heading toward its junction with Tunnel Brook Rd. (Fr 700). We didn’t anticipate the trail disappearing into beaver ponds, losing the trail a number of times. The beavers were very active during the summer months and are always looking to expand their aqua terrain. The trail became very obscure and we found ourselves bushwhacking in several locations, staying close to the ponds and stream. There were a number of very impressive beaver dams, ponds and flows. Anyone interested in studying or photographing these engineering feats of the beaver should make it a point to put this destination on your “bucket list.”

We continued our way along the beaver flows until we reconnected with the original trail. Hikers interested in taking this route should careful to follow the flowage. The trail is not marked and there are several more stream crossings, so a map is necessary to insure you stay on the route to the north end of the trail at Tunnel Brook Rd. Once we reached the parking area at the trail head we reverse directions and made our way back to Mud Pond and eventually the parking area where we found our car.

As spring approaches and if you are a nature lover, this short hike to Mud Pond of 2 miles should not be missed. The views of the cliffs, the ponds, the beaver dams, and the active bird life offers a chance to experience the wilderness that awaits those who are fortunate enough to live so close to the wonders of the natural world. As Rachel Carson stated, “Those who contemplate the beauty of the Earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts.”

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Summiting Katahdin, February 23, 2016

Ron, John, Fran, Sue Doug, and Ron on the summit.

Ron, John, Fran, Sue Doug, and Ron on the summit.

A Journal of our Hike to and up Katahdin
by Bob Manley
(to view a gallery of all the images from our trip click here)

On February 23, 2016, myself and seven hiking partners summited the highest peak in Maine, Baxter Peak on Mount Katahdin, a journey that began months earlier.  This is the story of that journey.

First a little history. Baxter State Park (BSP) is the largest public wilderness area in the State of Maine. The park is is only open to cars during the months of May through the end of October, during the rest of the year you can only access the park on foot. Snowmobiling is allowed, but is restricted to only a few areas within the park.

Every person who enters the park must first register with the park and reservations are limited. Preferential treatment is given to Maine residence over all others. For this reason, access to the park is extremely difficult to get, especially for the more popular areas like Chimney Pond, the most common access point to climb Katahdin.

So, our journey began with Sue, our trip organizers and leader, spending several days camping outside the doors of the BSP office on the days leading up to November 3rd, opening day for reservations for the 2015/16 winter season.  The sooner you get there, the closer to the beginning of the line you will be and the better chances of you reservering the dates you wish to enter the park.  As a result of Sue’s experience and dedication, she was able to reserve one night (Feb. 21) for ten at the Roaring Brook Cabin and four nights (Feb. 22-25) for ten at the Chimney Pond Cabin, thus begins our journey. Click for map

Over the next several months planning and preparations began for our epic journey to the summit of Katahdin. Confirming participants, organizing group gear, travel arrangements, hotel accommodations, car pooling, etc. Our trip organizer exchanged dozens of emails with trip participants ensuring we were all prepared and well informed with regard to the trip itinerary and required equipment. As the day of departure approached, the flurry of emails grew ever greater checking and rechecking last minute details.  All of us started watching the extended forecast in anticipation for our journey, if we were not to make the summit, the number one reason would be weather.

In the final days our numbers went from ten to eight hikers. Two people had to drop out for personal reasons. On Saturday, February 20th, the eight remaining hikers began their journey to Northern Maine from all points across New England and as far away as Southwestern Connecticut.

Gordon and Fran picked me and my gear up (or most of it anyway) at 10:00 am Saturday morning and we headed north. Our meeting place was Ruthie’s Hotel Terrace in Millinocket, a five hour drive. About halfway there I had a heart stopping moment, I had left one of my backpacks at home.  In the rush to load the car, I loaded everything but my expedition pack.

We pulled over on the highway right away to assess the situation.  We had a couple choices, go back, adding four hours to our trip, or assess the gear I did bring and consider whether I could purchase any key pieces of gear required to make the summit at a backpacking store in Bangor. The good news is I am an obsessive overpacker.  Except for just four key items, I had more than enough gear to make the trip. My expedition pack was packed very lightly as most of my gear would be hauled to the base camp in my sled.

We stopped in Bangor at Epic Sports and one other sporting good shop where I was able to purchase a balaclava, goggles, two headlamps, and expedition mittens, the four key things that remained at home that would have prevented me from summiting. A quick stop for coffee and off we went.

We arrived at the hotel between five and seven and gathered in the bar as we waited for everyone to show and began getting to know one another as they arrived.  Most of the group were at least somewhat familiar with each other but there were some introductions to be made, especially for me, as many of our group attempted this hike together in years past. This was my first attempt in the winter, but others were on their third. Our group leader and one other member of our group had summited Katahdin in the winter numerous times befor.

We settled in to dinner at the hotel restaurant around 8:00, our last real meal before five days of camp food. After dinner we made our final group preparations and went over last minute details and went to bed early for a 6:30 am departure on Sunday.

Day One, February 21: Sunday morning began with a quick stop at McDonald’s (the only restaurant open in Millinocket before 7:00 on Sunday), and then up the Golden Road to Abol Bridge and the start of our adventure. We arrived at the parking area around 9:00 and it took everyone about 30 minutes to unload and prepare all the gear in the sleds for the hike in.  Our group included our group leader Sue, Fran, Gordon, Greg, John, Doug, Ron and me.

Parking lot at Abol Bridge. The start of our hike.

Parking lot at Abol Bridge. The start of our hike.

Each hiker carried 30 to 40 lbs of gear and food on their backs and the remaining grear, between 40 and 60 lbs or more, in a sled which we pulled behind us, totalling between 70 and 100 plus pounds per person.  Our gear consisted of food, clothing, cooking utensils, stoves, fuel, head lamps, batteries, cameras, water, water containers, sleeping bags, mountain climbing gear (ice axe, polls, goggles, extreme weather clothing, emergency gear, etc.) for five days in the mountains.

My gear on the first day

My gear on the first day

The hike in involved an approximate 13 mile hike up a modest elevation gain of around 1000 feet to our first night’s destination, Roaring Brook Cabin, elevation 1,500’. In the winter the park roads are closed, so the only way into the park is on foot. Some choose to ski and we discovered that fat tire bikes are now an option as well. Given the conditions, we all felt that walking was the best choice.  Most of this first day was on wide open snow covered roads that had been well packed down by park rangers snowmobiles.

Fran hiking in the Roaring Brook Road on day one.

Fran hiking in the Roaring Brook Road on day one.

It was unseasonably warm at about 35 degrees and raining for the first three or four hours of the trip. As the day went on, the weather started to clear and we began to see a few breaks of sun.  The group spread out based on each hikers hiking speed and the weight of their gear.  Fran and I arrived to the cabin first at around 3:30 pm and got water for the group and got the woodstove stoked up, with the rest of the group filtering in over the next hour and half.

Roaring Brook Cabin, our first night in the park.

Roaring Brook Cabin, our first night in the park.

The evening’s activities consisted mainly of settling into our bunks which were plywood platforms three high in two separate bunk rooms, and preparing our evening meals for retiring early for the climb up to Chimney Pond. Meals ranged from freeze dried food to complete gourmet meals depending on each person’s ambition and level of fatigue.  Most were in bed by 9:00.

Starting out on the Chimney Pond Trail on day two

Starting out on the Chimney Pond Trail on day two

Fran on the Chimney Pond Trail

Fran on the Chimney Pond Trail

Day Two, February 22:  It was a bluebird day with temps in the single digits and expecting to climb into the high teens by afternoon and no wind, couldn’t have been more perfect. We left Roaring Brook Cabin around 8:00 am for the 3.3 mile trek and 1,400’ of elevation gain to the Chimney Pond Cabin.  The trail climbed steadily right from the start.  Feeling the previous days 13 miles and the heavy weight of our sleds, we were in for a workout. The trail was packed down from the rangers snowmobile, so no breaking snow.  About half way up my sled broke. Fortunately, with some strapping and some creative tying, we were underway again in just minutes.

Crossing the Basin Ponds on the Chimney Pond Trail

Crossing the Basin Ponds on the Chimney Pond Trail

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Fran on the Chimney Pond Trail

Fran on the Chimney Pond Trail

Fran on the Chimney Pond Trail

Fran on the Chimney Pond Trail

Again, Fran and I arrived at the Cabin first, arriving around 10:30 am with the rest of the party not far behind. As before, the first order of business being water and stoking the fire. Fortunately, the cabin was occupied the night before so it was warm and the stove was already full of coals. Water is accessed at Chimney Pond, about 300 yards from cabin.  We took one of our empty sleds and a small group of four headed down to the water. Due to the unseasonably warm weather, the ice on the lake was thin and a hole had already been made for accessing the water.  It was simply bucketed out of the lake and we filled our three containers.  Short of Gordon putting his foot through the thin ice, all was good. By noon everyone had began settling in and preparing lunch.

Getting water from Chimney Pond

Getting water from Chimney Pond

Breaking out of the trees on the Saddle Trail

Breaking out of the trees on the Saddle Trail

The highest we got on the Saddle Trail before turning around

The highest we got on the Saddle Trail before turning around

Six of us decided to do some reconnaissance on the Saddle Trail. The Rangers were reporting a slight risk of avalanche on this route so we wanted to check it out before deciding whether to take this route to the summit or not. The Saddle trail provides the easiest and shortest route to Baxter Peak, a 1.2 mile climb to the saddle and a one mile climb to the summit. However, upon reaching an elevation of around 3,700 feet, the rangers suspicions became clear. The trail was very steep at this point. With only another quarter mile to the saddle, we could see the snow propagating with each step, cracks forming away from our snowshoes. We dug down and discovered there was about 12 inches of fresh snow on top of an iced over layer of snow, perfect avalanche conditions. We decided to turn back and hike the Hamlin Ridge trail instead.

Sue preparing her meal

Sue preparing her meal

We returned to the cabin and settled in for the night. Everyone again cooking their own meals and preparing their beds. The Ranger paid us a visit and reported favorable conditions for the high summits on the following day, good news for everyone. Again, everyone in bed by 9:00 or soon after.

Day three, February 23:. An early rise on a spectacular winter day.  Sunny cloudless sky, low wind and somewhere around 0 degrees, expected to rise to the high teens (in the valley) by afternoon with winds climbing to around 20. We prepared breakfast and checked and rechecked our packs for our summit push.

Breaking out of the trees on the Hamlin Ridge Trail

Breaking out of the trees on the Hamlin Ridge Trail

View across to Pamola on the Hamlin Ridge Trail

View across to Pamola on the Hamlin Ridge Trail

The group got off at about 8:00 am to a bit of a staggered start with our leader setting the pace. Everyone was taking time to adjust their equipment and mindset for the long day ahead.  The first seven tenths of a mile was a gentle rise along a pine tree lined Chimney Pond Trail and then the Hamlin Ridge trail which goes off to the left at about .3 miles. However, the trees soon thinned and the trail began to climb more aggressively. We were soon above treeline on the spine of the Hamlin Ridge trail with all of Katahdin spread out in all it’s glory before us. The mount Katahdin massif includes Baxter Peak to the left or south which also includes the Knife’s Edge and Pamola, Hamlin Peak in the center (from this vantage point), and the Howe Peaks to the right or north. It is truly a sight to behold as we climb out of the valley on this wide open ridge.

Putting on our Crampons at the base of the Hamlin Ridge

Putting on our Crampons at the base of the Hamlin Ridge

As we leave treeline the snow begins to thin and the trail turned to mostly rock and ice with patches of iced over snow between. From here on out, we are following what looks less like a trail than simply a route marked by the occasional blue blazes, over and around rocks and boulders. It is here where we decide to switch from snowshoes to crampons.  The Hamlin Ridge trail is exactly that, a ridge and like the Knife’s Edge, it narrows to less that 12’ in places with steep drop offs on both sides, traction is very important.

Taking a break and adjusting gear on the Hamlin Trail

Taking a break and adjusting gear on the Hamlin Trail

About halfway up the Hamlin Trail

About halfway up the Hamlin Trail

Hamlin Trail

Hamlin Trail

Group heading up the Hamlin Trail

Group heading up the Hamlin Trail

Gordon and Sue on the ridge

Gordon and Sue on the ridge

For the next two hours we climb steadily with just wisps of wind and the warm sun giving us relief from the the cold.  The group spread out along the spine according to everyones pace but given the wide open terrain, you could see the whole party from any vantage point along the ridge. Everyone seemed to be taking it especially slow, taking lots of time to catch their breath, enjoy the views, take pictures, contemplating, who know’s, the experience is different for everyone.

Changing into our extreme weather gear

Changing into our extreme weather gear

As we approached to top of the ridge, about five or six hundred feet from the summit things started to change, a strong fifteen to twenty mile and hour wind started to develope from the south and the surface become more ice than snow.  Time for another gear change. We hunkered down below whatever rocks and shelter we could find and each began adjusting our gear for the summit push.

Gordon, fully protected from the weather

Gordon, fully protected from the weather

It was clear we were going to be dealing with increasing winds for the duration of our hike. Wind chill temperatures would be deep into the negative digits. Time to put on our best wind gear, balaclavas to cover our faces, and goggles a must. Any exposed skin over a long period of time in these conditions could easily result in frostbite. It was also time to put the poles away and carry our ice axes. As the terrain was very steep and in places sheer ice, with steep drop offs on both sides, one slip could send you careening over the side, the ice axe is really your only defense should this happen.

John, Fran, and Greg on the summit of Hamlin

John, Fran, and Greg on the summit of Hamlin

Within just minutes of changing our gear, and less than two miles into our hike, we were at the summit of Hamlin. No time to linger, a couple summit shots with those that arrived together and off to Baxter. It was already noon and we still had the lion share work ahead of us.

A view from the summit of Hamlin to Baxter

A view from the summit of Hamlin to Baxter

Heading down to the Saddle from Hamlin

Heading down to the Saddle from Hamlin

It was nice to be heading down for a change, reaching Hamlin involved hiking over 1,800 feet in just over a mile, my legs were burning. The view across the saddle, an area between Hamlin and Baxter of about two miles and about 500 feet drop from the summit of Hamlin was breathtaking.  As we descended toward the saddle the wind let up just a bit, blocked by the summit of Hamlin, a great time for food.  Most of us took a few moments to grab a quick bite and enjoy the views, the break was much appreciated.

The hike across the saddle is deceiving. From Hamlin peak, Baxter looks like an easy walk and the first mile really is, as you drop off the summit of Hamlin. However, once you reach the bottom of the saddle, the next mile over to the summit of Baxter climbs thousand feet.  The trail runs along the left edge of the saddle just a few hundred feet from the cliffs overlooking the Chimney Pond area where we came from.

Heading down to the Saddle from Hamlin

Heading down to the Saddle from Hamlin

It is here where the Saddle trail comes up from the Valley, had that trail been safe, we would have arrived onto the saddle right between Hamlin and Baxter. Had we been able to hike the Saddle Trail, our hike would have been shortened by two or three miles, but, we would have missed the spectacular view coming up the Hamlin Ridge. If you are ever in the position to choose the Saddle Trail over the Hamlin Ridge, only choose the Saddle trail if you have done the Hamlin Ridge trail before, you don’t want to miss it.

Heading up the side of Baxter in high winds

Heading up the side of Baxter in high winds

Gordon and Fran heading up Baxter in high winds

Gordon and Fran heading up Baxter in high winds

Gordon and Fran on nearing the summit

Gordon and Fran on nearing the summit

The final climb up to the summit of Baxter was a real bear. I was feeling every mile of the over 20 miles of the last three days journey into the mountains.  My legs were burning with every step and I required frequent stops along the way.  The wind was growing annoying, having been blowing hard now for several hours, hard enough to knock you off your feet if you weren’t careful, and in the fatigued state we were in, that was certainly an option.

Gordon on the summit sigh with Greg and Fran

Gordon on the summit sigh with Greg and Fran

It seemed like forever, but was really less than two hours crossing from Hamlin to Baxter Peak, a long time for just two miles, but the views were amazing and we had no reason to hurry. At around 2:00 pm the first of the group, Greg, Gordon, Fran, and I arrived at the summit in that order. It was truly an amazing moment. Months worth of preparation and anticipation and here we were, at the summit.  The rest of the group followed along shortly.  Everyone began recording their moment in various ways, video, pictures, selfies, group shots, this was a moment to be remembered. I wondered a few yards out onto the Knife’s edge to take in the views of the Chimney Pond area below, marveling at the thousand foot drop just feet away on both sides of me, truly awesome.

The view from a 5 yards out on the Knife's Edge into Chimney Pond

The view from a 5 yards out on the Knife’s Edge into Chimney Pond

Knife's Edge from Summit Carne.

Knife’s Edge from Summit Carne.

We all spent no more than 10 or 20 minutes on the summit, each of us starting our return journey in our own time. Everyone’s experience and reason for being there is different. Some of the group had been on the summit many times before, winter and summer, others, like myself, only in the summer and I believe at least one of us was seeing the summit for the first time. Some were pursuing lists, others just looking for another excuse to be out in the great outdoors. I don’t know all the reasons people choose to go through what we went through to spend a few minutes on the top of this mountain, I only know mine, and I am not sure I even fully understand that.

Ron, John, Fran, Sue Doug, and Ron on the summit.

Ron, John, Fran, Sue Doug, and Ron on the summit.

Bob Manley, on the summit of Katahdin, February 23, 2016

Bob Manley, on the summit of Katahdin, February 23, 2016

The simplest answer is that Katahdin and Hamlin are two of the mountains on the list of New England’s Hundred Highest mountains, a list which Gordon and I have been trying to complete in the winter for nearly 15 years. Today’s summiting of Baxter marked the completion of that list for Gordon (Congratulation Gordon!), I am still about a dozen summits away from completing the list.  Honestly, I don’t know if I will ever complete it.

The list is not my reason for being out there. I choose to do this for so many reasons, the list being the least important of them.  I do this to share experiences with the people I care about, to meet new people with similar interests, to explore the great outdoors, to test myself, to push myself mentally and physically to the limit, to find out what my limits are. Honestly, when the conditions are really harsh and the going really tough, I can’t tell you why I am out there, but at the end of the day, I am always glad I am.

I will add here that Summiting Hamlin and Baxter today, was by far the most challenging of all the summits I have hiked.  Not so much the actual summit push from Chimney Pond, I have been on many a hikes that were harder than this and in much harsher conditions. No, climbing Baxter is a trip that takes months of planning, hours of preparation, and miles of hiking and climbing just to get the chance to hike the mountain, and many people go through all that and never get to make the summit.  Let’s be clear, we got very lucky, if we had been there one day later or two days earlier, we would not have been on that summit.  Because of the extreme exposure, hours above tree line, and the remoteness of this area, the weather must be very good to chance a summit push.

To help put this into perspective, some of our party, including Gordon had been on this trip twice before in the winter and never summited Baxter.  A party we meet coming out of the park were on their eleventh attempt and still had not summited Baxter in the winter. If I had to guess, I would say that less than a third of all attempts to summit Baxter in the winter are not successful, don’t quote me on that, it is really a wild guess. Needless to say, I am feeling very fortunate to have been able to achieve the summit on my first winter attempt.  Thank you to Sue and everyone else who helped make this happen.

However, summiting is only half the challenge, we still had 4 miles of hiking to return to our base and an additional 16 miles to get back to our car. We returned the same way we came, everyone still felt that trying to go down the Saddle would be too dangerous.  We descended Baxter to the saddle and back up over Hamlin, climbing the 500 feet to the summit (not fun), then descending the Hamlin Ridge Trail the way we came up. The afternoon light was spectacular, views changing by the minute as the sun began to set and a front started to move in. As we got to the bottom of the ridge we could see the summits of Hamlin and Baxter begin to be engulfed with clouds, thankfully, none of us were still there. We were all safely back at our cabin at Chimney Pond by five-ish and began celebrating our spectacular day.

A view of the Howe Peaks on the way down Hamlin ridge

A view of the Howe Peaks on the way down Hamlin ridge

Afternoon light on Hamlin Ridge on our decent

Afternoon light on Hamlin Ridge on our decent

Greg taking the lead on the distant Hamlin Ridge

Greg taking the lead on the distant Hamlin Ridge

The Ranger interrupted our celebration to inform us that the weather was changing for the worse and that we might want to consider cutting our trip short as a result.  All but two of us decided to leave the next day, Wednesday, February 24 instead of the intended day of Friday the 26th. We had achieved our goal and did not relish spending two days cooped up in the cabin while it rained and risk not being able to get out on Friday due to potential flooding.

Gordon, Ron, Fran, and Doug celebrating the day

Gordon, Ron, Fran, and Doug celebrating the day

Celabration

Celabration

Camp stove and all our gear drying from the days hike

Camp stove and all our gear drying from the days hike

The whole party. Top row left to right: Doug, Sue, John, Greg, Ron. Bottom row left to right: Bob (me), Fran, Gordon

The whole party. Top row left to right: Doug, Sue, John, Greg, Ron. Bottom row left to right: Bob (me), Fran, Gordon

We got a late start on Wednesday, leaving Chimney Pond around 10:00 am. Our goal was to hike straight out, 16 miles, again pulling our sleds and all our gear.  Our sleds were not as light as we would have preferred as we had three days worth of provisions still in them that would have been gone had we hiked out Friday.

It snowed for the first hour and a half as we went quickly down the 1,500 feet and 3.3 miles to Roaring Brook.  We regrouped there before continuing on.  From that point on it rained the entire 13 miles back to the car. By far the longest slog of my hiking career. Our good gear kept us dry for the most part but the temperature hovered around 32 degrees and hypothermia remained a serious risk should anything happen to cause us to have to stop.

Crossing Basin Pond on our last day

Crossing Basin Pond on our last day

Hiking out Roaring Brook Road in the rain.

Hiking out Roaring Brook Road in the rain.

Hiking out Roaring Brook Road in the rain.

Hiking out Roaring Brook Road in the rain.

We arrived back to the car at around 5:00 p.m. and were pleased to learn that two members of our group had been given a lift out of the park by one of the rangers.  John was having severe knee problems and at the pace he was going, would not have made it out for many more hours, thankfully the Ranger was sympathetic and we all made it out safely.

Fran's sled encased in ice and snow

Fran’s sled encased in ice and snow

After warming up and showering at our hotel, we celebrated our accomplishments at the Sawmill Bar and Grill just outside of Millinocket. The owner bought us all a round of beers, gave those who didn’t have one already, a Sawmill T-Shirt and printed a picture off our camera, framed it and placed in the wall of fame, the Mile High Club.  I am proud to say, of all the pictures on the wall, ours was the only one on the summit in the winter!

Bob, Gordon, Fran, Sue, John, and Greg Celebrating at the Sawmill Grill

Bob, Gordon, Fran, Sue, John, and Greg Celebrating at the Sawmill Grill

Our picture on the Mile High Wall of fame at the Sawmill Bar and Grill.

Our picture on the Mile High Wall of fame at the Sawmill Bar and Grill.

 

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INTRODUCTION TO LONG DISTANCE HIKING

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On Saturday, May 24, 2014 and Sunday May 25th, from 9:00-4:00, the Laconia Public Library, Main Street, Laconia, NH, will be hosting a workshop Long Distance Hiking: Developing a Personalized Plan to Hike the Appalachian Trail. Laconia lies in the foothills of the White Mountains of New Hampshire. The workshop will cover a broad range of topics, including: financial and time considerations, equipment, food, clothing, safety, leave no trace, and physical conditioning. The central focus of the workshop will be to prepare participants to thru hike or section hike the Appalachian Trail.

“I attended the long distance hiking seminar you put on last year(2012) at the library. I just wanted to let you know I successfully (thru) hiked the trail (2013)! Thank you so much for all the information you gave at the seminar. I had already done a lot of research and was positive I was going to go on my hike – but you gave me the confidence that I could actually pull it off by addressing concerns I had and explaining the life on the trail. Thank you again for helping me make the first step!” Kerry Barnard aka S’Rocket

The workshop will be led by long distant hiker Gordon DuBois. Gordon is a resident of New Hampton, NH and has hiked extensively in the mountains of Northern New England. He completed his AT hike in 2011 and has also thru hiked the Long Trail, The John Muir Trail and sections of the International Appalachian Trail in Quebec Canada. On the following day, May 26, Gordon will lead an optional day hike on the AT in New Hampshire to provide a hands-on learning experience.

If you would like to attend this workshop you must register by May 19. There is a $30 registration fee Send your name phone number registration fee to Gordon DuBois, 27 Forest Pond Road, New Hampton, NH 03256. If you would like more information you may contact Gordon at forestpd@metrocast.net or call 603 279 0379

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Winter Hiking Program by Gordon Dubois and Bob Manley

Join us Tuesday November 19th from 6:30 to 8:00 at the Gilford New Hampshire Public Library for a Winter Hiking presentaion.

Bob Manley and Gordon DuBois (Bratts Trail Maintainer) will share their slides and stories about winter hiking in New England. They’ll provide information on the basics of winter hiking and winter hiking equipment with special emphasis on hiker safety, the use of maps and compasses, cell phones and GPS.

For more information contact Betty at: 603-524-6042 or email her at: library@gilfordlibrary.org

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Thirteen years of hiking the Mountains of New England with Gordon, Noah, and friends, a slide show.

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Destination, Baxter State Park Maine, March 10-15, 2013

Nearing the end of the winter hiking season we headed to Maine, with plans to climb four

Our Journey begins.

Our Journey begins.

mountains located on the eastern side of Baxter State Park, a remote wilderness park in northern Maine. We were accompanied by two other experienced winter climbers, Dick Widhu and Mike LaRoss.

A photo gallery of all the images from our Trip can be viewed here.

 
On Sunday, 3/10, we traveled to the dying mill town of Millinocket, ME. We stayed Sunday night at the AT Lodge, Pelletier Loggers’ Restaurant was a good place to have dinner with a tasty pint of beer. The following day we ate a wonderful breakfast at the AT Cafe and then headed off

Good Breakfast to start the day!

Good Breakfast to start the day!

on the Golden Road and the Telos Rd. to the start of our hike into Camp Cozy at Nesowadnehunk Camps, six miles from the trail head. We pulled our gear and food on sleds to make travel easier. However, it was a warm day with temps in the 40’s, so we had to peel off clothing. Perspiration is the greatest invisible enemy of the winter hiker. Fortunately the temperatures stayed in the 40’s and we arrived at the cabin in the early afternoon.

Sledding in to Cozy Camp

Sledding in to Cozy Camp

The following day we planned to hike

Cozy Camp - and cozy it was!

Cozy Camp – and cozy it was!

Mt’s Coe and S. Brother, with the hope of doing Fort and N. Brother the same day, if conditions were optimal. We left the cabin at 5:00 am and when the sun began to rise we could see Double Top enshrouded in dark clouds. It was obvious that rain was moving in and we would need to move quickly if we were going to bag any summits. Rain began falling around 10:00 a.m. and continued throughout the day. At we approached S. Brother we began to feel the effects of the continuing rain and the fear of hypothermia crossed became evident. We climbed the summit trail to S. Brother, .3 miles in howling wind and rain. Above tree line the trail disappeared in clouds

An early start to a big day

An early start to a big day

and rain and we had all we could handle to stay together. All of us reached the summit and headed back down, off the summit cone as quickly as possible.

We then had to make a decision: to continue over to Coe or turn back. We were wet from the day-long rain and there were questions regarding the trail conditions to Coe. We decided to go for it, knowing that we may need to bail out. Fortunately the trail was easy to follow and the snow levels were manageable, We made it to the summit of Coe’s exposed peak in fierce wind and rain, fortunate that we weren’t blown into the slide to the west side of the mountain.

Heading up to South Brother in the rain

Heading up to South Brother in the rain

We hustled our butts off the mountain and began the final leg of our trek, very wet and cold. We changed into dry clothes and within the next couple hours we were back to the pond, catching a bite to eat before heading back to the cabin. It was a 17 mile round trip journey.

Drying out our gear for our next big day!

Drying out our gear for our next big day!

Wednesday was another day of rain. We took a zero to dry our clothes, hanging them from ropes above the woodstove. Thank God for the woodstove. This was a day of R and R; a day we needed to recoup our strength. It was spent reading, eating, sleeping, and preparing for the next day when we would climb N. Brother and Fort.

We again woke at 4:00 A.M on Thursday and began our road walk on the Tote Road back

Back up to get N. Brother and Forte

Back up to get N. Brother and Forte

to the Marston Trailhead. The day dawned with mixed clouds and sun, but we knew the rain was over thanks to the NOAA weather report picked up on our hand cracked radio. Yesterday’s rain was miserable, but a blessing today, as the snow pack froze over night and we hiked the whole day in micro spikes. The trail was well packed out and we made N. Brother by noon. We continued onto Fort under gradually clearing skies. The summit was in and out of the clouds and

Approaching summit of N. Brother

Approaching summit of N. Brother

the views over to Katahdin and Hamlin were spectacular. We had a relatively easy hike out, back to the trail head and

Descending Forte in a snow squall

Descending Forte in a snow squall

then walked the Tote Road back to Cozy Camp, another 17 miles, to celebrate our accomplishments. The beer, whiskey, scotch, and wine tasted great! The following day we reversed direction from Monday and headed back to the parking lot on the Telos Rd. under a brilliant sun, with a strong feeling of accomplishment, but very tired. 16 more summits to climb to reach the goal of NE winter highest 100.

A photo gallery of all the images from our Trip can be viewed here.

Success!  About to head out of the park.

Success! About to head out of the park.

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WinterHiking.org gets mention: New Trail Map Unvailed/Hiking Tips

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