Saturday, March 14, 2015

Winter Hiking Mt Hedgehog and Upper Frankenstein, New Hampshire 52 with a View

Mt Hedgehog and Upper Frankenstein Cliff are two excellent short hikes that can be easily done in the winter. Both take roughly a half day to complete.

Nice view from the "summit" of Upper Frankenstein Cliff
Continuing with the theme of shorter hikes for enjoyment of the New Hampshire winter, I decided to do a mountain on the Kancamagus Highway and another off of Crawford Notch/Rt 302 (the most classic highways in the state). On these days, I was in a particularly frigid period of weather which was cold even by White Mountain standards. Ambient temperature on the Mt Hedgehog hike was 15 below zero so I stuck to the sub 3,000 foot summits. Mt Hedgehog was actually a nice workout- its about a 5.5 mile round trip hike with sufficient elevation gain to allow for a panoramic view without getting too exposed to high altitude winds.

Mt Hedgehog is on the "52 with a View" list, maintained by the Over the Hill Hikers of Sandwich, NH. It certainly earns its spot with an imposing view of Mt Passaconaway which looms over its comparatively short summit. Additionally there's a direct view of most of the eastern Kanc Highway and notch. Its also mostly a loop hike which is always a bonus.
Arethusa Falls, NH
The hike up to the summit of Mt Hedgehog is a relatively straightforward 2 miles with somewhat constant elevation gain. The summit has a fine view before the trail confusingly runs behind and around the backside. In the winter this involved some pretty difficult route-finding; the blazes are infrequent and deep snow covered the usually-well cut trail. It loses quite a bit of elevation before coming around the eastern sub-peak. This isn't a true summit but it is a ledge-y outcropping with ample views of Mt Passaconaway. Its a nice touch to this short hike. The trail then descends easily to the beginning of the loop. Unfortunately this was an expensive hike for me- I lost my camera, broke a snowshoe and a poll on this one!
Mt Washington and a view of the Valley of the Dry River
Upper Frankenstein

I was in no condition for ice climbing but I couldn't resist a nice hike around the famous Frankenstein Cliff. I didn't realize that although it's better known for some excellent ice, the cliff is also a great hike. This is another 6 mile hike and although its steeper than Mt Hedgehog, there are rewarding views of about a dozen ice falls and Arethusa Falls. The "summit" of Frankenstein Cliff has the above pictured view of Mt Washington and the southern Presidentials. For a newly-Midwestern person like me, it evoked many memories of all my times hiking in this part of New Hampshire. Its was a poignant hike.

This hike can also be best done as a loop with Arethusa Falls. It scarcely adds any distance to the trip and the short walk off the main trail brings in view New Hampshire's largest waterfall, frozen. I've frequented Arethusa many times despite the fact that its no secret to anyone. Ice Climbing it ranges from simple WI3 to multipitch mixed routes. It was a good place for me to learn.

I would have liked to have done a 4,000 footer during my time back in ME/NH but it wasn't in the cards this trip. I look forward to returning some time in the early summer for some further peakbagging.

Read. Plan. Get Out There!

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Mt Willard Winter Hike, New Hampshire 52 with a View

I spent an extended weekend back in my adoptive home state of Maine and enjoyed a little bit of hiking in New Hampshire. Mt Willard is neither a far hike nor a difficult one but provides a fine view of the infamous Crawford Notch

Still a fine view, even in the dead of winter
Perhaps it was questionable to visit Maine in mid-February but I was in the mood to enjoy winter for more than just some walks on the Chicago lakefront. Even the tourism brochures tend to stay away from trying to lure people to the frigid north this time of year but to me it's been a private playground. I love winter hiking in the Whites because the trails are almost always empty and the snow makes everything just as gorgeous as it is in the summer. On this day, I had the Mt Willard Trail to myself.

Mt Williard is hardly the summit that the nearby presidential range offers. It doesn't even break 3,000' but for what it lacks in altitude, it makes up for with a view straight down into Crawford Notch. For this reason, it makes the "New Hampshire 52 With a View" hikes.

Snowy trails all day

Mt Willard has the same trailhead as Mt Tom and Mt Field which also have iconic views of Crawford Notch. In fact, all the hikes from the notch are great in the winter as they are usually well cut snow shoeing trails with clear directions. Here is the map-


The snow was constant all day which prevented more extensive hikes but this one was perfect, even with a few inches falling throughout the day. Both the trail up Mt Field and Mt Willard were well cut. There aren't many views going up the mountain but there's the Centennial Pool and a small gorge on the way up. They're both nice resting spots. Blazes were pretty recently placed as opposed to other trails in the Whites which can sometimes be quite ambiguous.

At the summit, I was greeted with a fierce wind but nevertheless a fantastic view into the great gorge. I've driven through this way so many times that I forget how deep and narrow it is. Mt Willard is an excellent mountain to give some perspective to this glacially carved valley. I prefer this view over any other in the area save for the Presidentials. 
Snowy but wonderful
Looking down into the gorge
Nicely pruned trail for snowshoeing

The shear walls of Mt Webster to the North and the walls I was standing above were an impressive sight. There are some fine ice climbing and bi mountaineering routes in this area which are infrequently climbed- most stick to Frankenstein Cliff and Cannon Mountain. I wished I had the gear with me that day to explore those routes. But for this time I was just enjoying the view, despite the frigid temperatures.

The "52 with a view" list is an excellent list of easier hikes. I'm glad to see this one on there, as well as the nearby Mt Avalon. I've been disappointed by some of the 4kers in the past but these hikes always deliver a good time.

Read. Plan. Get Out There!