Monday, March 26, 2012

Hiking North and South Hancock, New Hampshire 4,000 Footers

Its still winter...
North Hancock and the Bonds
Well this winter has left much to be desired has it not? Last weekend's weather was absolutely glorious although completely uncharacteristic. The temperatures in New Hampshire were going to be in the 60's and it was completely sunny. I just couldn't resist steeling a day to hike some more 4,000 footers. With the completion of the Hancocks, I'm officially halfway through New Hampshire's 48 4kers. I need to slow down...

I know I say this about every hike in New England, but this was another wonderful one! The Hancocks are located just north of the famous Kancamangus Highway and just past the highest road pass in New England. The parking lot is well marked and just before a hairpin turn on the highway. 
Lookout on the summit of South Hancock
The Hike

This is a 10 mile hike which penetrates the vast wilderness of the White Mountains. Although its not within the Pemigewasset Wilderness, the area you hike through is very similar and feels just as wild. This hike was particularly enjoyable because it starts at a high elevation and is almost entirely within pine wood forests. It skirts around several streams which make for a serene day hike.

Map of the Hancock Hike

After 3.6 miles of gentle ascent from the trailhead, you hit the turnoff for each of the Hancocks. If you bear right, you will climb South Hancock at 4,278ft. If you bear left, you will hit the summit of North Hancock which is the high point at 4,380ft. Both trails are very steep and in the winter, you would want microspikes and possibly snowshoes if it has recently snowed. A sturdy pair of hiking boots will do in the summer. I preferred to do South Hancock first and then have my lunch on North Hancock. There is a viewpoint just beyond the summit of North Hancock that makes the ascent worth it! Otherwise the views are mostly directional. This hike can easily be done in 6-8 hours.
The view from the summit of North Hancock. The Osceolas are directly south.
Other than that, there's not much to say about the Hancocks! There are certainly better hikes in the Whites if you're just looking for a nice view or a shorter hike. If you're hiking all the 4,000 footers though, I think you'll find this slice of wilderness to be devoid of crowds and much quieter than some of the higher mountains.

Read. Plan. Get Out There!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Ice Climbing Arethusa Falls, New Hampshire

Ice climbing the highest waterfall in New Hampshire!
Iced out Arethusa Falls, New Hampshiire
Its still winter!! Despite the terribly warm temperatures and lack of snow, me and a friend were still able to get a late season ice climb in. Arethusa Falls, located in Crawford Notch State Park, is usually one of the last routes lingering through the spring. Its also a great place to learn how to ice climb because there's plenty of places to set up a top rope and most of the ice is rated WI3-WI4 although more difficult routes are possible. The sides of the waterfall are mostly single pitch climbs but the middle could be a pitch and a half. Whatever your pleasure, Arethusa Falls is an excellent destination for ice climbing.

Getting to Arethusa Falls

Arethusa Falls is located in Crawford Notch State Park in New Hampshire's White Mountains. The trailhead is the first one you will encounter in Crawford Notch if you're driving North from North Conway. Its the same one you would take if you were checking out Frankenstein Cliff. There's plenty of parking at the trailhead.

There's good news and bad news about the trail. It's 1.3 miles to the falls which can be killer if you're carrying 50 pounds of gear and rope. However this also works to your advantage in keeping the crowds down. We've done a fair amount of rock climbing but we're still new to ice climbing so it was nice to not have a bunch of pompous climbers critiquing everything you do. (you know what I mean)
Arethusa Falls in March
General Impressions

The great thing about the falls is that it is large enough to support a multitude of routes. The left side has some easy first-timer routes and plenty of places to set up a solid anchor for top-roping. The ice is rated WI3-WI4 in most parts too (easy routes). The right side has some more difficult routes and it might be tougher to set up a top rope. The middle of the falls supports some routes that are about a pitch and a half. I imagine that would be a great place to try some lead ice climbing but it looked a little sketchy when we were there.

We elected to do the routes on the left side of the falls. It was easy to skirt up and around the falls and set up an anchor on the trees you see. Also, we could anchor in at the bottom for belaying. The climb itself wasn't more than half a pitch.
Top of Arethusa Falls
These falls tend to have a longer season than most routes in the Whites. Its well protected from sunlight and tucked away in the trees. Every season's different, of course, but even in this crappy winter there was still enough ice to support a couple of climbs. By the time you read this, all of the ice routes are probably out for the season. However I'm definitely going to be headed back here as soon as next season starts! I think I've picked up yet another adventure sport.

New England is a huge destination for ice climbing! New England Climbs is a website that has updates on most routes and is maintained by professional climbers. NEice is another website which has trip reports and descriptions of routes all over the Northeast. If you're not into ice climbs, well Arethusa Falls is still a great short hike in the summer and winter!

Read. Plan. Get Out There!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Top 5 Snowboarding Destinations and Resorts

I'm pleased to announce that The Pursuit of Life has a guest post this week from fellow travel blogger, Megan Gates. Here's some excellent destinations for a snowboarding vacation!

Megan Gates is an active blogger who provides written work to the blogosphere pertaining to NYC RentalsHamptons Real Estate Listings, home improvement and the latest architecture, design, fashion and travel.  Follow her on twitter @MEGatesDesign.

Looking for the best snowboarding terrain around the world? It can hard, browsing ski resorts, to know which are truly board-friendly and not just throwing in "free snowboarding lessons" to attract tourists. Here are five resorts around the world that are REALLY worth your money.

5: Vail (Colorado, United States)

One of the largest ski resorts in the United States, Vail is known for both its insane quads (in a good way!) and its sheer size - it offers over 5300 acres of snowy, picture-perfect terrain. It's also a prime spot for playing the tourist, filled with shops, museums, hiking and other outdoor opportunities. If you're serious about making the most of your snowboarding trip, Vail should be on your shortlist.

4: Dragon Lodge (Tignes, France)

Located in the picturesque Tignes mountains, the Dragon Lodge offers a snowboarding experience unlike any other. For one, they're a popular resort - and they know it - so they're experts at catering to their guests. They also provide ample entertainment once the sun goes down, offering clubs, concerts and other goodies right at the bottom of the slopes. Best of all, the Dragon Lodge won't break the bank. Book with a group and you can save 10% off per person!

3: St. Anton (Tyrol, Austria)

You may recognize St. Anton from the movies, because it's so beautiful that more than one director has seen it and claimed it for filming. But what if you're a snowboarder and not a cinema student? St. Anton is a freerider's paradise, stuffed with 5-10km runs and elevated to almost 3000m. It's also nestled right between other resorts, so you can keep your options open - not that you'd need to!

2: Verbier (Verbier, Switzerland)

When just one mountain isn't enough, consider Verbier, which has FOUR interconnecting slopes and over 200 pistes and runs in all. With takings like that, it's no wonder Verbier is a favorite of the rich and powerful - everyone from James Blunt to Princess Beatrice has crunched on its snow. But don't let the thought intimidate you! Verbier stays fun and affordable by welcoming thousands of visitors each year, young and old, skilled and just beginning. If you're eying the Alps, Verbier is the place to be.

1: Whistler/Blackcomb (British Columbia, Canada)

With blue skies, towering cliffs and endless amounts of fresh snow each day, there's a reason this resort has been voted #1 in North America... more than once.

Are you an experienced pro looking for a challenge? Whistler/Blackcomb has some of the highest-rated peaks and pikes in the country. Or maybe you're just an eager beginner? They have slopes for you too, as well as trained teachers on staff to help guide and motivate you. And if you ever get tired of snowboarding - unlikely, but possible - you can always ski, snowmobile, ice skate, take a sleigh ride, or fly along the mountain on a zip trek.

For quality snowboarding AND lots of extras, Whistler/Blackcomb is our #1 choice for best resort in the world.
Thank you, Megan!

Read. Plan. Get Out There!