Sunday, July 20, 2014

JMT Training Peak, 18 of 21: Northwest Hancock. July 20, 2014

Hancock Notch Trail, Cedar Brook Trail, bushwhack.  Around 11 or 11.4 miles total.

We got Northwest Hancock today for the Trailwrights 72 list.  I don't have time to write the report tonight, and tomorrow the girls have camp (and we might hike another peak), so the narrative and photos will have to wait until Wednesday or Thursday.  In the meantime, here are a few summit shots.

EDIT -- 7/22/2014 -- Trip report!

Hancock Notch Trail, Cedar Loop Trail, bushwhack.  Somewhere around 11 or 11.4 miles roundtrip with roughly 2900 feet of total elevation gain.

We first tried this peak a couple of weeks ago from the summit of Hancock.  I dropped us down too far to the north, and we spent a total of six hours bushwhacking back to where we'd started.  That was humbling...this time around, we decided to go straight up the peak from Cedar Brook Trail.  This would mean a longer, steeper 'whack, but at least we'd know we were going in the right direction.

We left at dawn, since I am only comfortable doing bushwhacks if we have a ton of daylight hours in which to make mistakes.

At the parking lot...

Into the woods!

I won't show pictures of Hancock Notch Trail, since there are a gazillion other blogs that can show photos of the typical Hancocks loop hike.  You can see that traditional hike on this blog too if you use the search function or click on the Four Thousand Footer tab at the top.  For this post, however, I'll concentrate on the route we specifically took for Northwest Hancock.

Start the hike as though you're going to do the traditional Hancocks loop.  Then, instead of taking a right at the Hancock Loop Trail, continue straight on Cedar Brook Trail.

Enter the Pemigewasset Wilderness...

...and continue along Cedar Brook Trail...

...up to the height of land, then down again...follow the path as it takes a sharp right and heads directly toward the ridge...

...then follow the path as it turns abruptly left and stretches alongside the ridge, heading northwest.  You will reach a brook crossing right before the trail turns west-northwest (at that turn, there is a teeny stream...I'm talking about the more obvious brook just before that stream).  

Here is where we began our bushwhack.  

Steve Smith told me there is a slide at the end of this brook, and I have read Philip Werner's account of the slide.  Our first intention was to follow this brook to the slide, climb the slide, and then 'whack northeast to the ridge.  We ended up doing something a bit different.  We followed the brook until it forked...we took the left fork, then we followed it (east-northeast) as far as we could before the constant blowdowns became a huge irritation.  We then left the brook and began 'whacking in a general northeast direction.

Not long after we left the brook, we came upon a dry stream.  This stream, we found out later (and probably could have guessed), used to feed into the brook.  We followed this for a while, still heading uphill and northeast, until old beaver dams and fallen logs became too much of a hassle.  We then stepped off the dry stream bed and plunged into the woods.

Our 'whack to the ridge was 50% relatively open woods...

...and 50% horrible thick fir waves and massive blowdowns.  I don't have pictures of the thick and crappy parts, since I was busy hauling myself up, over, and through rotting logs and sharp branches.  Numerous times, the girls and I balance-beamed our way through the thick fir waves by walking along trunks that had long-since fallen over.  I always went first, since many of the logs were rotting and I wanted to be sure they'd hold our weight.  The logs were often on top of each other, so a slip meant a foot plunging into a hole and an ankle possibly twisting.  We were very, very careful, and we often used neighboring, live trees for support...we could reach out and grab branches to steady ourselves as we balance-beamed it.  Of course, those live branches were covered with pointy needles...the girls did a good job at sucking it up, holding onto the sharp, thorn-like branches, and plowing through.  Thankfully, the nasty bits were regularly interspersed with open bits, so the sufferfests never lasted too terribly long.  Sage and I ended up with scratches all over our hands and arms.  Miraculously, Alex only got one tiny scratch and one itsy-bitsy bruise.

We kept heading northeast, then north-northeast, until we could see a bit of blue peeking over the trees ahead of us...

We popped up onto the ridge at its narrowest point, immediately to the right of one of the little false summits.

We turned left and headed up a fading herd path.

Not the summit...but once you're here,
you've only got a tenth of a mile or so to go, and it's relatively clear.
The herd path disappeared and reappeared, but it was there, under the numerous blowdowns.

There are a couple of little ups and downs...keep going until you reach -- the summit!  It's marked with a canister.

A happy and proud Alex reaches the summit of Northwest Hancock.

The canister is on the opposite side of your approach...

First, you'll see this (minus the Beanie Boo) -- the canister is on the other side.

Sage took a photo of her Beanie Boo by the canister...

Speaking of canisters...there's one like this on West Osceola.  When we did West Osceola a few weeks ago, I spent a minute trying to figure out how to open the canister, then I gave up and had a snack with the girls on Peggy's Perch.  I forgot about giving it another try after we ate, so we never signed that register.  This time around, I was determined to open the thing.  Turns out it's easy -- just unscrew the bottom black section.  Don't over-think it like I first did, become distracted by the screws, and try to loosen the bolt/washer.  Just unscrew the bottom black section.

We signed the register.

It had rained on us a bit coming up -- we hadn't minded, it had felt rather refreshing.  Now, however, after ten minutes of sitting and eating, we began to feel chilled.  Since we didn't want to risk shredding our raincoats, we needed to start moving in order to bring back our warmth.  We had fleece, etc. with us, but we preferred to stay warm by moving (there are only so many articles of clothing I'm willing to ruin on a bushwhack).

We 'whacked west-southwest directly from the summit.  Fortunately, we were able to find a line that was a bit less jumbled than the path we took coming up, but, for the most part, we descended the way we had ascended.  We ended up right back on that dry stream bed and followed it down to the brook.

The brook has its beautiful moments...

We were happy and proud to return to Cedar Brook Trail, exactly where we had left it.

The 'whack took us almost exactly two hours on the way up and two hours on the return trip.

We flew across the trail (trail feels so easy after hours of bushwhacking!) and reached the intersection with Hancock Loop Trail.  We then turned and said goodbye to the Hancocks...I'm not sure we'll be back.  Both girls have the Hancocks for everything they'd "need" (winter 4Ks, regular 4Ks, Desserts on the 48, and Trailwrights).  We are interested in exploring the many other mountains and trails New Hampshire has to offer, so it's possible I'll/we'll never hike these particular mountains again (the girls might come back, of course, as adults).  We waved goodbye to the peaks and the ridge, then we walked the rest of the way back to the car in fine spirits.

Congratulations, Alex -- only four more Trailwrights peaks to go.


Marcy said...

Wow, 18 of 21! You are really tearing through your training hikes. Awesome!

Patricia Ellis Herr, Alexandra Herr, and Sage Herr said...

Thanks, Marcy! I think the girls are now well-prepared to hike the John Muir Trail. My hope is that, after all these training hikes in the Whites, the JMT will feel nice and relaxed. Many of our hikes here have been rushed for whatever reason (incoming storms, afternoon plans, etc.) -- in CA, we'll have all day to hike, so we will cover as many miles in a much longer amount of time.

Marcy said...

Best of luck--I am looking forward to following your adventure, and that's so cool that the hiking will actually be at a more relaxed pace than your training has been :)

Patricia Ellis Herr, Alexandra Herr, and Sage Herr said...

Hi Marcy! Thanks for your support. We appreciate the kind words -- and your donation to Feeding America!