January 30, 2016.
A brave soul, Jen, who swore off winter hiking after Garfield wants another go at it. Phil and Jen wanted to do the Hancocks this time and I haven't been back to them since my pursuit of the 48 4000 footers. This is one of the quicker 4000's and all in all not that hard as the steep section is not that long. The rest is a pretty mild approach and ridge walk in between the two peaks.
A 7:30 meet at the hairpin turn parking lot on the Kancamagus Highway and while waiting for them a couple early morning shots of the scenic spot.
Arriving right on time they were pretty proud about that accomplishment and even thought they might beat me to the trailhead. Fat chance of that ever happening! Waiting for a few minutes as Kelly and Mitch would be joining us again with their dog, Bentley. With everyone all accounted for it was time to make some tracks in the snow, a rarity this year, and head for the road crossing. The easy trek up the old railroad grade makes for some quick hiking.
Even the crossing of the North Fork was pretty easy. Reaching the junction with Cedar Brook Trail took just under an hour. While there I scoped out the remainder of Hancock Notch Trail as I need to come back some day for that section of the trail. A little further up and it is time for some tender loving care for Bentley. Did I forget to mention he is a BIG dog?
There was recent reroute of the Cedar Brook Trail to cut out a few of the North Fork crossings so it was nice to see sections of the "new" trail. A short thirty minutes on the Cedar Brook Trail and we reach the junction with the Hancock Loop Trail. Thanks to the coating of snow last night the trees are all decorated for us on the way up the trail.
Just before the trail split a peek at the peak of North Hancock all socked in with Arrow Slide visible. Just like I did over five years ago we head in a clockwise direction on the Hancock Loop Trail. The trail first dips down into a col before the big unrelenting climb.
Down in the col is the beginning of the North Fork which I never noticed on my first trip here. Across the brook and the climb begins rather moderate and then steep. The climbing conditions are way better than the first time. I remember it being icy and today the trail is covered in a decent layer of snow. Microspikes are the choice of traction as we stopped to put them on long before we reached this section of trail.
Determined to get through this section I plow through and ahead and make it to a clearing below the summit where there are some slightly obscured views. Thankfully the cloud deck we saw just a short time ago has lifted and the skies to the south have an odd hue to them. Looking past South Hancock are Passaconaway, Whiteface and the Tripyramids with the distinctive slide on North Tripyramid very recognizable. That day I climbed the slide is still fresh in my mind and I want to return to re-climb it some day for redemption.
Waiting for the rest of the crew to arrive and it's a good ten to fifteen minutes by myself before I head back down to see where they are. Meeting up with them and onwards to the top of North Hancock where Bentley poses for his summit pic. A trip down to the outlook and we stop to take it all in and this time I am in a better frame of my mind as I absorb the views. To the left is the route we have to take across the ridge to Middle and South Hancock.
Across the Kancamagus are the Osceolas, all four of them, with just a wisp of a cloud hanging in front of East Osceola. Looking over at South Hancock and I can see the trail that leads down the flank cut into the trees. I had not noticed that the last time I was up here. Amazing how you notice things when your mind is in the right frame.
Off to the right is Moosilauke and oddly enough that is not clouded in today. After a little celebratory banner pic for Kelly marking her successful recovery from some major surgery it is off we continue on the Hancock Loop Trail. This is another one of those easy and favorite ridge walks as we make our way to the pretty non distinct Middle Hancock and then South.
I keep watching for the boulder where there are some views and finally we arrive at the spot. First Jen clambers up and then I do and get my shot back over to North Hancock and then Franconia Ridge.
A few minutes later we are on South Hancock and then down to its' respective outlook. I spend more time here this time appreciating the view. Partly because I am in a better mood and mostly because I have a better understanding of what I am looking at this time. Carrigain is the most prominent and closest of the surrounding peaks. Nosing around on the open ledge and I spy something way off to the left, a very frosted look at Mt Washington!
I take it all in and even spy the Carters to the left of Carrigain's shoulder. Reluctantly it is time to go and we start down the equally steep trail that leads off of South Hancock. On the way down in a little opening behind North Hancock's shoulder is a view of Garfield across the Pemi Wilderness. And a last look at Franconia Ridge with Owls Head blending in just below it.
Heading down and Phil and Jen become lovers of winter hiking.
After the sliding fun it was the usual return trip out the way we came in. I'm glad Phil and Jen had some redemption today and got to experience the better side of winter hiking. Bonus is I got to revisit the Hancocks under better circumstances and enjoyed it a heck of a lot better than the first time.
Final numbers: 9.8 miles, 7 hours and 25 minutes.
Redline Miles: 0.0, Total to Date: 1056.9