On the Winter Solstice (December 20) TNAB had its annual party on the flanks of Mt. Washington. I had started late and added 2.5 miles and about 700 feet of gain to the trip by hiking from home rather than the trailhead a couple of miles up the freeway. In December there was snow from the start and snowshoes were required at the Owl Spot about 1,000 feet up.
This time I figured I'd be smarter. I drove to the trailhead and started out with the rest of the impressively large TNAB group. The trail was dry where it left the Iron Horse and we made good time as we climbed. At the Owl Spot there was no snow on the trail, but there was snow off it. The snowshoes on my back were heavy, but sacrifice down low promised goodness higher up.
Where the trail crossed Washington Creek (at least I think that's what it's called) on a snow bridge we found it was time for snowshoes. Too many of us were postholing making it far harder to gain elevation than was needed. Getting the weight of the snowshoes off my back was welcome, too.
We quickly went off-trail and headed straight up the hill. I tried to take a picture (that probably wouldn't have been any good anyway since it was all behinds) I slipped and wound up seated in a tree well. By the time I pried myself out I was about 20 yards behind the fast moving group and although I can sometimes keep up with the TNAB pace it's rare that I can catch up. Dang.
So now I was hiking just with poor Joe who happened to be behind me. And Cubby, a chow that belonged to one of the hikers ahead. (Tokul didn't get to come as she's been showing her age a bit lately. Never fear, though, she'll get back on trail soon.) Luckily Cubby didn't make much of a fuss and Joe happened to work for a vendor I'd done business with so he was unlikely to point out my ineptitude.
We pushed through a bowl seeing the string of hikers ahead of us packing a lovely trench for us to follow. One decided to pursue the summer trail and headed off into the trees by himself. The rest of us turned uphill on an aggressive route that was steep, but shorter.
As we weaved through trees on the edge of an avalanche slope (yes, I was wearing my fancy new transceiver and carried a shovel... so much for traveling light) Cubby got to a point where she just couldn't go on. We played telephone up the hill and got word back that Cubby would just chill. I felt bad leaving her there, but... (and it did turn out ok).
Back into the woods and over the shoulder and now we were looking down the north face and... hey! It's my house. Cool! (I always wondered if I'd be able to actually see it.)
We used a couple of roads and cut straight up at times. Cubby's owner was on her way down and told us we were just moments from the top. Thank goodness. I always forget that little snowshoe trips and trips with the kids can't cut it as conditioners for longer trips or especially TNAB trips that have a more aggressive pace.
It got cold FAST on top. Since everybody else had been waiting for a while we finished our climb we got one group pic and headed down. I tried eating a sandwich on the way down, but that just made me clumsier than usual. At the top of one little pitch I had a wicked awesome calf cramp that hobbled me further.
On a steep downhill the snow was soft enough that I was trying to get more traction by walking in unbroken snow, but wound up sinking too much and trapping a snowshoe. Now I was stuck by the foot with my head downhill and a heavy pack on my back. Thanks to Mark who dug me out (I could have done it myself, of course, if I'd had to.) and then I had to "turtle" to get back on my feet.
Good times all around.
At a rare flat spot we stopped to wait for Don who had gone up the usual summer trail. Three of us opted to wait while the rest continued down. Don showed up and we made good time down below the Owl Spot when we ditched snowshoes. The rest of the crew was waiting for us at the Iron Horse for the short walk back to the cars.
Adversity only makes us stronger. Right?
Six miles and 3,300 feet.