Finish up the Belknap Range Summits

Belknap, Hikes, TripReport , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The cold snap hit again with temps in the single digits and high winds pushing windchill way down. I skipped out on Saturday with Sunday being a tad warmer. I decided to stay a bit southerly and wrap up some loose ends. With the location chosen it was time to figure out the route. Last summer I took the Belknap Ridge Trail and grabbed 8 peaks from Mt Rowe to Mt Major. I decided to loop from Mt Major trail head and aim toward the Dave Roberts Quarry Trail.
The start up the Mt Major Main Trail was mixed dirt and ice. By the time I reached the fork to Brook Trail, it was solid ice. A couple of the brooks flooded the trail and had to make some careful steps around them. At the junction I came across a nice guy and his friendly pup, Tyson. He gave me the skinny on trails ahead. I should expect a mixed bag of bare trail, snow, and ice.
The North Straightback Link tail climbs steadily but soon reach the North Straightback Peak. Following a short descent and a minor ascent, I was on East Quarry Mt. Once up, the trail follows the ridge with some small ups and downs. The trail was solid snow with plenty of melted postholes and footprints. I could use those when needed instead of putting on and taking off my Hillsounds. Once over to West Quarry Mt the trail makes a rather sharp descent. There was a sign directing toward the ledges on the main trail and a bypass. As the trail was icy I opted for the bypass which had its own icy challenges. There were a couple ice flows that needed care.
At the bottom of the bypass it joins the main trail. There were some old remnants from the old quarry and a description of the area. I continued on after a short break and began toward Mt Rand. The trail weaves through some low lands which I suspect could get soggy in the summer months. The ascent up Mt Rand seemed a bit longer and steeper than the previous summits, but still not too bad. The ice was manageable. After Mt Rand, the trail dips and then another moderate climb up toward Mt Klem. When I reached the junction of the BRT and Dave Roberts Quarry trail, I struggled to find the spur trail to Mt Klem. Another couple had arrived at the junction from BRT and we figured it out together. It is the direction the cairn points to and is the white blazed trail.
After tagging Mt Klem again, it was time to begin my return. I took the Belknap Range Trail back. There are a few nice vistas from the exposed ledges on the way to Mt Mack. It is an easy stroll to get the summit. However, it was about 1400 when I reached Mt Mack and the long descent after Mt Mack was quite icy up top. I figured I needed to make some time. I strapped on my Hillsounds and picked up the pace. The Hillsound Trail Pro are one of the best investments in traction. I couldn’t imagine relying on rubber and chains for traction. They can be overkill and longer to put on/take off, but when you need them, nothing can stop you.
I cruised down Mt Mack into the col. The snow pack was deep and solid and allowed stable footing(with traction) and a quick pace. At the base of Mt Anna the snow was scattered so I left them on and gingerly stepped on the clear parts. Not long I was back on Straighback Mt South Peak. I removed traction for the open slabs and off again/on again all the way to the Brook Trail junction. From there up the Merge to the summit of Mt Major was mostly clear and easily side stepped any issues.
Just below the summit I could feel the wind steadily increase. With it being a mostly exposed summit, I planned to sit and rest for some snacks and water. I wisely layered up below the summit, but it didn’t matter. I was still cold and only stayed long enough to snap some nice photos. I carefully started the descent down the open granite slabs until they were covered in ice. There was an obvious bypass into the woods. I followed that until that, too was covered in ice flows. I strapped on my Hillsounds again and carefully made my way down the ice flows requiring some occasional side stepping and stepping lightly on dirt. I found a nice log to rest on out of the majority of the wind and rested.
I wasn’t far from the finish so I didn’t rest long. I was feeling the 10 miles of hard pack and cold wind and wanted to be at the car. The rest of the trail to the junction was a mix but easily manageable. I cruised the icy trail back to the final descent and reached the lot. It was a good day to be outside on the trail.

A few cars fill the close spots in the Mt Major lot
It begins
Scattered ice on the trail at first
The ice thickens spanning the entire trail on the lower sections
I stayed to the right to go up the Brook Trail toward Straighback
The ice fills in the trail recess
Thick in some spots
Splitting off the Brook Trail toward North Straighback
A few steep sections
Must always remember to turn around when ascending the steeper sections
The first summit of many today
The open ledges, some bare, some not
A look back at Mt Major
Walking through the quarry grounds
The tiny summit cairn
Half covered ledge
A glance at the marshland below
Another one down
Opted to bypass the ledges suspecting they may be icy. The bypass was a bit icy anyway
The quarry area
Old remnants of the quarry
Junction between Quarry and Rand
More leftover debris from the quarry site
and the final new summit
A peek between Rand and Klem, you can catch Mt Rowe
A descriptive cairn
Mt Klem again
Back on the BRT, Belknap Range Trail, to return to Mt Major
The trail weaves out to some clearings
The stretch of BRT between Klem and Anna seemed lightly travelled
The mixed trail conditions seen on summit slabs on Mt Mack
The brightest trail markings in the east
The trail descent from Mt Mack was littered with small branch debris. I can only guess a windy ice storm came through
Making progress at the top of Mt Anna
Clearly marked summit
Some steeps heading up Straightback Mt
Continuing on a clear stretch of the BRT
Cool how the water seeps out of the ground and freezes, pressing upward
View from the junction of BRT and Precipice Path toward the south
In the distance, can see a sizeable fire burning
The junction of the BRT and Quarry Trail
The aging sign atop Straightback Mountain
A gentle warning to leave the trail maintenance to the volunteers
One of the many great views of the day. This from the approach on Mt Major. To the left of the dominant mountain in the center(Mt Shaw) you can make out the white capped Mt Washington. Much clearer in person
The half frozen lakes viewed from inside the cabin foundation
Some serious ice flows on the Mt Major Main trail
Much melting previously, but what remains is quite solid
The junction with Brook Trail and the main trail. Traction(or ice skates) needed.
The lot is a bit thinner this late in the day(~1700)
The information hut at the center of the lot.
Some folks just don’t get it. Jerks ruin it for the few good pet owners

A good start for 2017 🙂

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