Published Date Written by Ed ParsonsWinter doesn't linger in 80 degree temps, does it? This Wednesday, after a few days of mid-summer heat, a good friend and I climbed Mount Adams vie the Lowe's Path. The lower trail was bare and wet. But at 2.4 miles, just below the Log Cabin, a Randolph Mountain Club log shelter, water ice began to appear on the trail-- the result of being packed down hard all winter, and then melting. The next mile of steep uphill trail towards the RMC's Gray Knob Cabin was a wide ribbon of dangerous water ice. Our traction devices made it possible.
Then, in contrast, after a brief respite at the Gray Knob Cabin, located just below timberline, the mile and a half walk above the trees to the summit was in August-like conditions. Except for a large snowfield above Adams 4, that required some post-holing, even on the packed down trail.
What a crazy hot spell. In the valley, buds swelled and insects appeared. Last Monday was only day two into the hot spell, I think, but on that day, after a beautiful woods walk around Knight's Pond down in Wolfeboro, my girlfriend found two deer ticks on her pant legs. Later, after this Wednesday's hike up Mount Adams, I noticed catkins and small leaves on aspens in Gorham on the way home.
It is not ideal early spring weather. In fact, it is nice if winter still grumbles a little at the end of March — it helps us appreciate the coming warm weather more, and it prolongs winter sports. But, March isn't over yet.
On our way to Mount Adams Wednesday morning, we were prepared for whatever combination of conditions came our way. Besides the usual MICROspikes for traction, we had a pair of Hillsound Trail Crampons to try out. Made by a
British Colombia company, they are secured to your boots by stretching the rubber over them, just like MICROspikes. The points are also attached to chains like MICROspikes, but they are longer, located on a rigid rear plate and a hinged front plate, and a little more like real crampons. There is also a Velcro strap to secure over the top of your boot. It is needed, as they could otherwise slip sideways if not so secured.
We brought them thinking that there might still be some ice up above to try them out. Well, there was absolutely no ice up above, but the middle Lowe's Path, located in the woods, was the perfect place to try them out.
We parked at Lowe's Store out on Route 2, walked across the highway and started up the Lowe's Path. A steady uphill pace on bare ground eventually brought us to the Log Cabin, where the ice flows began in earnest.
It is well known that steep ice should be avoided as much as possible with MICROspikes. Since my buddy was fairly new to winter hiking, he used the Hillsound Trail Crampons, which had longer points and more holding power on a slope.
I used MICROspikes, but since the ice on the trail was pretty soft and easy to penetrate with spikes, and the safety of dry ground and strong branches was very close by, I enjoyed a relatively safe hike up the icy section as well.
In fact it was fun for both of us.
Gaining height, we reached some patches of snow. In 3.2 miles, we walked up to the fine viewpoint at the lookout called the Quay, then walked on packed snow down a short spur path to Gray Knob Cabin. The door was flung wide, and the place was in spring mode. The caretaker welcomed us.
We snacked, and lingered long enough for a quick rest, then headed back out to the Lowe's Path. Ten minutes later we were above timberline. The rocks were dry. A warm breeze blew by, milder than many an August day.
For a die hard winter hiker, it was a rude awakening to have to scramble over dry sharp boulders of mica/schist towards the summit of Mount Abigail Adams (Adams 4), and then, after post-holing through the long snowfield in the saddle, once again up the summit cone of Mount Adams. Although it was the second day of spring, it wasn't supposed to be spring-like at 5,000 feet.
Still, there was a strong sense of accomplishment when we arrived on top. And the view was great. There were still countless snow-filled gullies on the presidential peaks.
After a deserved spring break in the warm air, we headed down, careful on the sharp rocks. After getting in the zone, timberline approached quickly. Then we donned our respective traction devices and continued down the Lowe's Path ice ribbon.
My buddy was impressed with the Hillsound Trail Crampons. Wearing them on the way down, he did things that I didn't dare to do with MICROspikes. Though we both kept dry ground and strong branches within reach.