Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Mt Hancock and South Hancock - March 19, 2016

I'm on the DL with the ankle stress fracture and that means no running.  However walking/hiking doesn't hurt so that's fair game.  Amanda suggested I plan a trip north so that I don't go stir crazy.  She thought I'd plan it for the next month or two when the weather warms but I was excited to get up there while there was still snow and make use of my new winter gear one more time.  I scrapped the idea of an overnight as it was still too cold for that (which was wise as it ended up being mid-teens in the valley on Saturday night).  Instead I opted for two day hikes.  The first would be a trip to bag the Hancocks.  This ten mile hike off the Kancamagus Highway is fairly moderate until you get close to the peaks.

I stayed with my friend Rob aka the Manchild on Friday night and he was game to join me on Saturday.  A trip report from the week prior indicated a lot of ice on the steep sections which had me a little worried but we steeled each other and were ready to give it a shot.  It was a gorgeous bluebird day with temps in the 30s.  The trail was immediately snow with a bit of ice.  It became more and more ice as it wore on.  We wore our microspikes almost immediately.  The first few miles were an easy hike through Hancock Notch.  Then we had to deal with a couple water crossings.  The streams were running fairly high and there was still plenty of ice on the rocks.  The first few were tricky and we bushwacked a bit to find the best place to cross.

Rob stops to shed layers

Beautiful frozen waterways aplenty

At about 2.5 miles we hit the Hancock Loop Trail and after a tough water crossing the trail began to climb.  We passed a group of three guys that we would leapfrog with for the next few hours.  The Manchild's cheap knockoff microspikes broke a couple chainlinks but luckily I had brought my leatherman with pliers.  He mended them as best they could but they were soon janked up again.  At the point where the trail splits in two and loops over both peaks, Rob stopped to work on them again.  A woman came down the south trail in crampons and told us not to head down the south side with just microspikes.  Apparently people had been buttsliding and it was sheer ice in many spots.  She was kind enough to provide Rob with some zipties (a great idea!) and once again his janked up spikes were back in business.

Heading her advice, we went up the south trail and would come down the north.  The next mile was slow slow slow.  It was a little bit of snow over mostly ice and the trail was very steep.  The microspikes actually worked well.  We just had to choose our spots carefully.   A couple faster groups passed us and it was tricky finding places to stand to let them by.  The heel of one of Rob's spikes was now good and useless but he could still use the front for traction.  Finally we got to the summit of South Hancock and enjoyed a great view of Mt Carrigan, Attitash and the Moats.

South Hancock summit

Mt Hancock summit

The 1.4 mile trail between the summits was moderate and provided some shelter from the wind which hounded us on the summit.  The trail was wellpacked snow but if you stepped off the trail you postholed about two feet down.  We stopped for lunch and the Manchild fired up his stove to whip up chili mac and hot chocolate.  Those three guys passed us again while we ate.  Once we got going we soon passed them again for the last time.  Not long after we reached the summit of Hancock.  Great views of the Sandwich range.

Now it was time to descend.  The north trail was longer than south but not quite as steep.  There were also some muddy sections near the top where the sun had been at work.  We passed a few groups heading up and they'd be the last people we'd see all day.  One of the Manchild's jerryrigged microspikes finally gave up the ghost.  He now had only one tractioned foot to work with and the going was tough.  Once the trail became all snow/ice again he went with the buttsliding technique, using his feet to steer and break.  It was something to see.  The other microspike blew out on his first slide and now he had no choice but to continue this way.  By the end he ripped a big hole in his pants but otherwise seemed no worse for wear.

The plight of the discount spikes

When we got back to the intersection the Manchild had a much easier time of it though he still had to watch his step on the icier sections.  The rest of the hike was without incident.  After making it over the final water crossing we relaxed and enjoyed the rest of the hike back to the cars.  I'm glad Rob was able to join me.  It made the day much longer but I was glad for the company.  I'm also glad that the trails weren't as treacherous as previous trip reports had led me to believe.  Thankfully the microspikes were good enough.  Well, mine anyway.  The Manchild learned a valuable lesson about investing in quality traction.

This was NH 4k #31 & 32 for me.  It was winter 4k #2 & 3.


  1. Sounds like a fun hike. And yes, definitely better to shell out the $$ for quality gear.

  2. Nice write-up and pics, Seth. Don't think I've ever hiked in ice conditions.