Peak-bagging and Summit Beers

Freshly warmed up from Mt. Monadnock, and thoroughly convinced that there’s no ski-able snow left in New England, Alex and I geared up (read: had huge dinners and a few beers) and rolled up to Lincoln, NH to crash early and get a fast start for a long hike in Crawford Notch.  We wanted to do something long and fairly challenging, with some decent rewards, but avoid the Memorial Day hordes.  This turned out to be the perfect solution: the plan called for nearly 17 miles, over 8000′ elevation change, it’s remote compared to much of the Whites, and our early start and rapid pace nearly guaranteed few encounters with any crowds.

View Avalon, Field, Willey, Webster in a larger map

As usual, we got off to a slower start than we hoped for, most likely owing to general morning grogginess and a pronounced need for some White Mountain Bagel before seeing any real action.  Still, we managed to hit the trail at 10 of 7.

We set off at a clipping pace up the steep Avalon Trail, out of the AMC Highland Center.  The Avalon Trail goes pretty much straight up, without relenting until you pass Mt. Avalon, where we took a brief detour to play with my camera’s new smile auto-detect feature.  We experienced mixed results.  Next time I think I’ll just go with a tripod and 10 second timer…

Alex tries to figure out what it takes to trip the smile detect.
We gave up and did things the old fashioned way.
Photo Credit: Alex

With all the serious climbing of the morning out of the way we sped off toward Mt. Field.  The trail dips down and up again between Avalon and Field but is considerably easier traveling than the route up from the Highland Center.  The trail wraps around the west flank of the ridge yielding impressive views of the Pemi Wilderness.  Without much trouble we summit Field and push on toward Willey, the final stop before descending toward and the crossing back over Rte. 302.

Willey offers some great view and some nice rocky spots to hang out and relax.  The sun was starting to get pretty high, and the morning’s haze and mist were starting to burn off, so we decided it was about time for Summit Beer Number 1.  Turns out it was a good chance for some more photos.

Some of these slides have to hold enough snow to be
ski-able.  Let’s hope a 3-degree file guide and some diamond
stones find their way into next year’s Christmas Stocking.
302 Snakes along the Notch floor.
Summit Beer Number 1.  The
Sam Imperial White seemed like a solid bet
in terms of slaking our thirst  on a humid
day in late spring.
Clouds culminate over Mt. Washington.
A sweeping view of the Notch.
More backcountry skiing recon missions.
Danger to fun ratio: acceptable.
Once refreshed and rested we set off back down toward 302.  The way down along the Kedron Flume Trail may be steeper than the way up in many places, and it’s challenging, but with a stiff pair of telescoping trekking poles you can really cruise down this trail.  We stopped for a few more quick photos at the flume and then again shortly there after as we crossed the Conway Scenic Railroad.
Jose chillin’ atop the flume.
Just plant, dammit.
Photo Credit: Alex
Alex stands his ground over a
modest railroad trestle.
We emerge from the woods on of the Willey House, a gift shop and ranger station at the crossing of 302.  We fill up on water, change into fresh socks, eat (Alex had an ice cream) and steady our nerves for the next big climb or the day: Webster by way of the Webster Cliff Trail.  We cross the highway, and head back into the woods, roughly following the Saco River toward the shoulder of the cliff, at which time we head more or less straight up.  The Avalon Trail is no joke, but the first mile or so of the Webster Cliff Trail is a real kick in the pants.  Numerous switchbacks notwithstanding, it relentlessly crawls up to the top of the cliffs.  By the time we approach the ridge my quads are starting to cramp up and Alex is working on some Long-Trail-esque blisters.  The arduous climb eventually gives way to an exciting ridge walk; not as exposed as Franconia Ridge but every bit as fun.  After a quick look around we move out.  
The view to the southwest just after cresting the ridge.
Alex surveys the Notch looking north west back toward the
Highland Center.
We charge ahead toward Webster, eagerly anticipating Summit Beer Number 2.  By the time we arrive at the summit of Webster, we’re starting to wonder if summiting Jackson is entirely necessary: we conclude that we actually have a superior view of the surround land from Webster and decide to can the extra 1.5 miles and beeline for the Highland Center, but not before fueling up and snagging a few final photos.
Him again…
Photo Credit: Alex
This bird was completely undeterred by any of our noise
Photo Credit: Alex
We speculate that he followed our scent across the Notch.
Photo Credit: Alex
Mt. Washington and the Souther Presidentials from the
summit of Webster.
The Mt. Washington Hotel.
A brief respite the Highland Center, just past 5 in the evening.
Gear List:

Asolo TPS 520 GV Boot - Men'sBlack Diamond Contour Elliptic Carbon Trekking Pole Ink Blue, One SizeBlack Diamond Traverse Ski Poles

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