Fortunately neither Kelly nor I have made it into any future editions of Not Without Peril, by Nicholas Howe during this weekend’s adventure, but it did serve as a succinct reminder to not underestimate the mountain…
We were up in North Conway for ESAW and though that we should really take advantage of the mountains as long as we were there. It didn’t seem like there was much worthwhile skiing to be had, so we opted for a hike. I picked a seemingly benign loop out of Pinkham Notch: Tuckerman Ravine Trail to Lion Head Trail, then south via Alpine Garden and Tuckerman Cutoff, and finally back down by way of Davis Path and Boot Spur Trail.
We got off to a leisurely start (11 AM), but made good time all the way until the Lion Head trail. From there on, it was full blown winter conditions: mud, rock, snow drifts, water ice, and howling winds. Even with micro-spikes our paced slowed to a crawl. It took us a solid 3 hours to get to the top of the ridge between the Boot Spur and the summit, and suddenly our notion of a quick 6 mile jaunt began to evaporate. About half way between the ridge and the treeline on the Boot Spur, the trail takes a sharp dip in elevation and the natural contours offer substantial relief from the wind. We’d had to shout to be heard for the last hour or two.
With much more ‘enjoyable’ conditions along the Boot Spur I managed to snag a few photos with my phone (the Canon was out for repairs). Upon emerging from the low clouds, we were treated to a stunning alpine fall twilight. I tried to savor the view and set aside the prospect of hiking out with about ~2000′ of down-climbing in the snow and dark with just one headlamp. At around 7 PM we skulked out of the woods and drove straight to May Kelly’s for some protein, whiskey and coffee. I was tempted to reprise my trademark libations of one water, one coffee and one beer, but I didn’t care for their draft list. The Irish Mixed Grille hit the spot pretty much perfectly though and the Merry Irishman (coffee, Bailey’s, Jameson) washed it down quite well.