Brisk Day on Mt Pierce

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First post since restoring the site.

I started thinking about where to hike earlier in the week. Was planning to head up north with a friend but he opted out. Given the temps scheduled, I had planned on staying in the woods, like the Hancocks or Tom, Field, and Willey. When I pulled out of the garage this morning, the air was crisp and the skies clear. The stars flickered as I drove down my road. At that point, I figured I would change to a summit at or above tree line to take in some views.
I typically don’t do well getting up on Sundays, but this morning was going well. I picked up my coffee and headed north. The ride was relatively uneventful and soon I was in Crawford Notch. I pulled into the AMC Highland Center and was surprised to see quite a few others braving the cold. My car outside temperature read -10F. Whether it is accurate or not, it is still quite cold. The winds were expected to be moderate, hovering near 20-25 mph.
I opened up my toe and hand warmers and laced up my boots. I suited up and headed across the street. I wrestled with my poles which were stuck retracted. I must have left them wet the last time I used em and either rusted or may have been frozen from the short walk to the trail head. I was getting cold while fidgeting with them so I made the decision to leave em behind at the Mizpah Closed sign, to pick them up on the way back. I continued to strap on my snow shoes and head on.
The trail was fairly packed, but there was 3-6 inches of loose pack on the top which made bare booting require more effort. Additionally I could see where others had sunk in occasionally so I elected to protect the trail and ease my efforts. I cruised up passing one couple not too far along. They were heading toward Pierce and possibly Eisenhower which is a nice route, on a good day.
As I started to gain elevation, the rime and snow clung to the branches making for a picturesque backdrop. I was just below the junction of the Mizpah Cutoff when a group of 5 or 6 were descending. I chatted with a couple and they mentioned they tried to make their way to Eisenhower but the trail was not broken out and they kept losing it in the windswept snow and spruce traps. One of the guys fell into a trap and lost his snowshoe. It took them some time to dig it out. They eventually turned back for safety.
I continued on and started to catch breaks through the trees as I gained elevation. The sky was deep blue and the views unrestricted. The cold dry air in the winter allows for great visibility. About a quarter mile from the summit trail I started to feel my nose ache a bit. I think it was a bit of frost nip, so I pulled my neck gaiter over my face and warmed it up. Of course my beard was frozen and thus began to thaw and refreeze under the gaiter leaving some slightly unpleasant hair pulling.
I popped out of the trees and the wind was whipping. Having to take my hand out of my mitten to take photos was done strategically and in short bursts. I snapped a few photos down by the trail sign and started my way up to the summit. The wind swept the snow into streaks and drifts obscuring the trail. I followed what I believe were the previous folks tracks until I was able to make out a cairn, and then some other rock formations signifying the trail. The approach was odd, some spots were exposed rock, others 2-3 feet of snow drifts.
I made it the summit which was nearly unrecognizable. In the summer, there is a ledge area surrounded by trees where the summit marker rests. I stood atop the drifted snow, I could see over the trees toward Mt Tom, Field, and Willey. I snapped a bunch more photos, then tamped my way into a nook near some short tree tops, shielding the wind. I took some water, my Blueberry Clif bar and rested a bit. Out of the wind, but in the sun, it was nearly tolerable. In my nook, I checked my temp gauge. I was barely on and showing -1.7F degrees. Certainly the coldest temperate I’ve hiked in to date. At one point I was checking my GPS and it, too, was struggling. I started the day with fully charged batteries and it had dropped to a single bar, and even emit a low battery warning.
After snapping a bunch more pictures of Mt Washington and other directions, I started down to get out of the biting wind. I past a few other folks just below the summit at the trail junction. They appeared to be layering up to make the summit. I wished all well and continued down into the trees. Once back in the trees, I could feel my body, particularly my hands, start warming up.
I passed a few folks as they were ascending, all were very nice. There were a few dogs with their owners. Most were very well behaved, with only one rambunctious jumper, a single black lab. Always one in the bunch to ruin it for the rest.
At the junction of Mizpah Cutoff I met a subset of the ‘misfits’. A small group of hikers who have found each other through hiking and banned together to become friends. I’ve run into them on Mt Carrigain over the past summer. They are a nice bunch and it was great to meet and chat briefly with some them.
Aside from the biting cold at the summit the day was progressing without issue. All until one misstep. Still not sure if I caught the wall of the depressed trail or if I simply crossed my snowshoes, but I found myself flying through the air into a face plant into the snow. I put my arms out to catch myself, but one hand was just off trail and sunk in until my face hit the snow, luckily without injury. I assessed and brushed myself off, looking up and down the trial hoping no one witnessed this debacle.
The remainder of the descent went smoothly. I reached the trail head and started down the road. I had an urge to cross the street to continue hiking up Mt Tom, but my legs had other ideas. I returned to my car and made my way back south. All in all and great choice to get up out of the trees and catch that bluebird day.

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