Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Twin Range Exploration - July 2, 2014

Family vacation in the White Mountains was finally upon us.  We brought two cars this year which gave me considerable more freedom of choice with regard to my long solo outing.  I poured over the map thinking about several options.  Ultimately I've wanted to check out the northern ridge of the Pemigawasett Wilderness and try to knock a bunch more 4000 footers off my list.

My original route was ridiculously optimistic.  I would take the North Twin trail over North and South Twin.  I wanted to head over to Galehead before doubling back to South Twin.  Then follow the Twinway trail east to the Bond Mountains (grabbing Guyot and Zealand as well for good measure.)  It was soon apparent this would have been way more than I could handle.  My short ascent of Mount Stanton and Pickering earlier in the week reminded me that I'm not used to such steep climbs.  And then the weather report began to threaten of afternoon thunderstorms.  And the temp in the valley was going to reach 90.  I shortened the route down to just the Twins and hopefully Galehead.

I was on the road for by 5:15 for the 45 minute drive.  I was psyched when I saw a moose near Crawford Notch - I had been hoping to see one (I snapped some pictures but they didn't come out.)  It's a 2.5 mile dirt road to the trailhead.  There were campsites scattered along the road.  Pretty remote place to camp.  At the end of the road was the trailhead.  I was the only car there and quickly prepped and headed out.  Thankfully it was early and the temp was still in the 60's.

The bear reminder is a nice touch.

Where's the trail?  Oh there it is.

Originally I was going to bring just my waist pack but with the humidty and possible storms I opted for a daypack.  It wasn't too bad to jog with.  And I wouldn't be jogging for long.  I wore my Cascadias for what's probably their last long run.  They are beat up.  I had the handheld and two small water bottles in the pack.  And lots of food - jerky, cliff bars, gels and trail mix.  The first two miles were fairly runnable with easy grades.  The trail ran alongside the Little River.  There were a few easy crossings but then I look over and the trail continues on the other side of the water.  I took a well worn bushwack to a crossing up river.

The climbing began in earnest after that river crossing.  It became humid quickly and I was taking breaks as needed.  Sweat began to pour off me and my singlet was soon drenched.  What a slog.  After a couple miles the air cooled and the humidity dropped off.  It became easier after that. Finally I was getting up there and seeing some views.  Between North and South Twin I had a view of Galehead Hut...down below.  It was going to be another steep climb back up after getting water from the hut.  But I had already gone through half my water so skipping it wasn't really an option.  I took a short break at South Twin.  Great views in all directions!

South Twin summit

Decisions, Decisions

Then came the steep descent down the Twinway.  I made note of the time: 8:05.  I was moving well and soon came upon last night's hut visitors making their way up towards South Twin.  The first large group was led by a lady who asked me if I was doing the whole trail today.  I said that I was but then realized that she was talking about the Pemi Loop.  I told her I wasn't so bold and was just doing my own thing.  Then I encountered a family of five followed by another big group.  Then two Indian ladies.

I arrived at the hut but went straight on to the Mount Galehead.  It wasn't close and not much of a climb.  There was a great view from the side of the hut below and the Bonds above.  Unfortunately there's not much to the summit which is wooded in.  It was a quick trip back to the hut where I shrugged off my pack and ventured inside.  All the visitors had departed and the Croo girls were  busy preparing the place for Wednesday night's guests.  I helped myself to some of their delicious pumpkin choco cake and filled my bottles.

Galehead Hut

The hut as seen from Galehead.
To the right is the bear of a climb back up the Twinway.

Galehead's lackluster summit

Delicious treats for sale in the hut

The short rest helped with the 0.8 mile climb.  It was really steep and a hard effort.  It went quickly though and the power of pumpkin choco bread compelled me upwards.  I passed the Indian women again and one of the larger groups.  Finally made it back to the summit of South Twin and busted out the beef jerky.  Clock was 9:10.  It took just over an hour to hit up Galehead, the hut and return to South Twin which I was really pleased with.  Plus it was still early!  And so far the sky looked benign.

At the top of South Twin was a single guy having a snack.  He had camped at the Bonds and confirmed that the next section of Twinway was very moderate and that the view from Bondcliff was incredible.  I took a short break at the summit and considered my options.  I could easy venture back to the car now or head towards the Bonds.  I still had hope that I could fit them in but if not I'd see as much as I could.  I said farewell to the solo fellow and continued down the Twinway. 

(As an aside, the next day at the cabin I plugged in my Strava data to their awesome flyby app.)  Turns out that the guy I met on South Twin and the first group I encountered both recorded their hikes with Strava.  It's cool to see when and where we intersected each other.)

Landslides on the side of South Twin

The alpine vegetation of Guyot.

The section of the Twinway between South Twin and Guyot was very moderate as advertised and I found myself jogging once again.  Between the numerous plank bridges and easy descent I was moving well and soon passed that family of five.  Not long after I burst out of the woods and towards the summit of Guyot.  I found myself scrambling over boulders as I reached the intersection with the Bondcliff trail.   It was a short climb up to the summit of Mount Guyot.  I was above treeline and surrounded by alpine vegetation - this is what I was looking forward to.  It's just beautiful up there.  All I could hear was the wind and an occasional voice from people farther along the Bonds.

I pushed on but began to realize that while the hour was still early, the distance was beginning to pile up.  From Guyot I had about 7+ miles to get back to the car.  I would have added six more miles and considerable more elevation to hit all the Bonds.  I considered maybe just the West Bond Spur but these trails are always farther than they seem and I could sense the first inklings of fatigue beginning to overtake me.  When I encounted the sign formally welcoming me to the Pemigewasett Wilderness I decided it was time to turn back.  The Bonds would wait for another day.

Yeah I should probably turn back instead of entering
a vast uncharted wilderness.

I switched shirts at the hut but the singlet was dry by the time I reached Guyot

It was the right decision as it would still take me another 2.5 hours to get back to the car.  I took another well earned break on Guyot as it's such as wonderful spot.  Then it was back up the Twinway towards South Twin.  I was still able to jog at spots but fatigue was setting in and I was down to one last bottle of water.  It was all work now.  I passed those Indian women for the third time as they came from South Twin.  One of them said I was giving them a complex but I told them this would be the last time!  I was happy when I made it back to South Twin but I knew I wasn't done.  I had gone 13 miles but still had 5.5 miles which included some leg-crushing descents.

Down the North Twin Trail I went, moving well but tired and ready to be done.  My water was just about gone and as I descended the humidity and temps rose.  Soon I began to hear nearby streams.  A lovely sound as it indicated I was almost done with the worst of it.  Then at one very minor crossing I moved too quickly over a wet log and was sent flying onto the ground.  As soon as I slipped both legs seized up from my calves to my quads.  I just lay in a heap for a moment as any movement resulted in stabbing pain.  Finally I was able to inch myself into a more comfortable sitting position and a few minutes later I was able to rise and soldier on.  My calves were aching and I stepped gingerly at first.

By the time the trail leveled off I was moving a little better and was able to get up to a ramshackle jog.  The anticipation of being finished and getting a drink from the car compelled me as I hobbled alongside the Little River.  Finally I reached the parking lot.  Success!  I stretched and walked around the lot.  I downed a bottle of water  - it was piping hot from being in the car but I drank it all the same.  The bugs had never been much of a nuisance on the hike but they engaged me now that I was still and I soon beat a hasty retreat back to civilization.

I stopped at a general store just past the Notch and grabbed some delicious Moat Mountain beers.  Then I parked myself next to the Saco and soaked my legs in the chilly water.  Cold!  I couldn't leave them in there long.  But a welcome treat after 18 miles of trails.  All in all a beautiful day.  Not nearly as hot up at the top and the thunderstorms wouldn't turn up for several more hours.  I was definitely in need of more salt towards the end - could have avoided those terrible leg cramps.  Looking forward to coming back some day and tackling those Bonds!

This is livin'

I would be remiss if I didn't mention my wife's adventure the day before.  Amanda rappelled down a waterfall three times!  I don't think I'd have the stones for that.

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like an epic adventure. Top notch!