The Mission is Clear

Our goal is to hike all 48 of the 4,000 ft peaks in the White Mountains. This is the place to be for inspiring photographs of the journey along with dramatic narratives and excerpts from the field notes. You will laugh. You will cry. But above all else, you will CARE.

Coming real soon??? The breathtaking photography.

Keep reading below for the dramatic narratives.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Cannon (Profile) Mountain

Cannon (Profile) Mountain - April 25th, 2009

Guest Appearances: Jen “Magic Backpack” Mason and Jeremy “Ice Man” Onysko

After our November hike, Lt Rockstomper, Big Tuna and I took the winter off to pursue our own individual adventures. All winter long however we were itching to get back out to the Whites and continue our glorious quest! When we heard that the weekend of the 25th was going to touch the 80’s, we immediately decided to try and plan a day hike for Saturday.

We decided on Cannon Mountain for a couple reasons:
1) It would give us a chance to exact revenge for missing it on our November overnight
2) It was easily accessible from the road (we had no idea what roads were still open/closed from winter, and didn’t want to run into any surprises)

We had a couple of special guests that we gathered along the way – Jen, a friend of mine from the good ol’ Ithaca College days who lived within 25 minutes or so of Cannon, and Jeremy, Lt Rockstomper’s ice-climbing friend and coworker.

The morning of the hike, I left Portland at 4:30am to pick up Big Tuna, whose car was at the shop with a bum transmission (Big Tuna could probably write an entire entry about this fiasco, so I will leave the details of his ordeal out for now). Big Tuna and I arrived to meet Lt Rockstomper and Jeremy in Portsmouth at 6:00am. Both had separately gone out the night before until the wee hours, Rockstomper didn’t even get to bed until 3:30am. So what did we do? Make Rockstomper drive of course. Needless to say, everyone was tired in some capacity. We got up to Lafayette Place Campground and met Jen in the parking lot by about 8:30am. Everyone was introduced, and we hit the trail by about 9am.

We had an inkling of how much snow would be up there (and I say inkling because as it turned out, the actual amount of snow on the trail dwarfed any previous notions we had). So we had planned on bringing some foot traction – well, at least most of us had – and I had decided to splurge and buy a pair of gaiters finally, in case the snow was loose enough to post-hole through.

What fantastic decisions. The first half mile or so of trail was a little wet from the previous night’s rain, but aside from the occasional patch of ice it was snow free. Once we got up to Lonesome Lake (about 75 percent frozen) it was a completely different story. After some retracing of footsteps (yes we missed our intended trail) we got onto Dodge Cutoff which would meet up with the Hi-Cannon trail. This was probably the most ridiculous .3 miles of the entire trip. I put on my gaiters and led the way, and all 5 of us plopped into the 4-foot deep snow COUNTLESS times (luckily there was a stream running underneath the snow to stop us. Wait…). It’s a little hard to describe what it was like having one leg fall through the snow up to your knees or waist… especially once every 25 feet or so (more often for others!). But each time undoubtedly involved laughter; everyone really took it in stride.

After an agonizingly slow start, we made it onto and up Hi-Cannon. The snow was better packed further up, and we finally reached the summit of Cannon by about 1pm. We stopped for lunch at Profile Clearing, which had unbelievable views over to Franconia Ridge (Mt Lincoln, Lafayette, etc). Temps were hovering in the 80’s and there was a warm breeze – probably as nice a day as any of us could have imagined. We ate some of Magic Backpack’s massive supply of trail mix (“Magic Backpack” comes from the realization that she packed EVERYTHING in her pack. You name it, she had it; which unfortunately also led to her post-holing the most out of any of us), and soaked in some sun.

One new tradition conceived on this trip was to toast a different beer on each of our 48 peaks. Some of you might remember we toasted bud-diesels at the top of the Kinsmans. Well the brew on tap this day was Old Milwaukee’s Best Tallboys. We cooled them down in some nearby snow and toasted about 20 minutes after arriving at the summit. Let me just say, they were delicious.

After exploring the Cannon Tower and taking some photos at the top, we made our way back to the trail junction and headed down the Kinsman Ridge Trail, where we aimed at summiting the NE Cannonball (NE Hundred Highest #100) before heading back down to the parking lot.

One thing we did not account for was the effect of the melt throughout the day on the trail. By the time we descended the Kinsman Ridge Trail, portions of it (and as it turned out, the STEEPEST portions) had turned to pure, slick ice. This brings me back to traction… Magic Backpack, Big Tuna and I all had Yak Trax Walkers (not much traction, but believe me it helped) and Lt Rockstomper and Ice Man (avid ice climber) had nothing. Well the Ice Man reveled in this new discovery. While the rest of us slowly made our way down the trail, he proceeded to whip around the trail, seemingly more comfortable in the dangerous icy conditions than the snowpack. We endured a couple lengthy sections before the trail evened out, and in no time we were on our way to NE Cannonball.

We hit the summit of NE Cannonball some time around 4pm, stayed long enough to take a picture or two, and headed back down the Kinsman Ridge and Lonesome Lake trail to the Campground parking lot by about 5pm.

What a day!

-Hard to Handle

Check out an album of the trip below:

Cannon Mountain

Thursday, April 23, 2009

North and South Kinsmans

Dramatics narratives as promised, first from the wicked pen of H2H;

North and South Kinsman: Oct 31st – November 2nd, 2008

We all got out of work on the early side on Friday the 31st, met up at Big Tuna's, and spent a few minutes going over gear in the living room of his new condo. The weather forecast called for clear skies all weekend – but temperatures in the 30-40’s in the valleys and teens-20’s in the mountains. We were completely prepared, and would later find out we might’ve been a little too prepared (as our backs and legs would constantly remind us during the hike).

We left in the late afternoon and arrived at Lafayette Place Campground after dark. Lt Rockstompter and Big Tuna were in charge of setting up the tent, and I was on fire duty. Both tasks were completed quickly, and we were in the midst of boiling the water for our dinner on Rockstomper's new Jet Boil system when we had an unexpected visitor at our campsite. Megan was a 20-something who had come to the campsite to celebrate her birthday with friends – they were to meet at a specific campsite, but she had accidentally driven her minivan into the embankment on the side of the road, and the erosion on the edge of the road left her tires off the ground. The three Amigos were unable to push it off the embankment, so we called on the help of another nearby camper, whose strength proved to be the difference. After dinner we crammed into our 2 man, 3-season tent (did I say over prepared? This might be the only argument against that) and got a solid night sleep – though the gusty wind was incredible all night.

The next morning we woke up, packed up the truck and got our gear together. We drove the few hundred yards from our site to the parking lot at the trailhead of the lonesome lake trail by about 8:30am. Although it started as a rather mild hike, we had clearly over packed and might not have had our hiking legs under us. We crawled along at quite a slow pace, but still reached the lonesome lake hut in no time. After a quick stop at the hut for Rockstomper's last civilized bathroom stop – we marched on to the Fishin’ Jimmy trail. At this point we were starting to get used to the weight on our back, and although Fishin’ Jimmy was slightly more difficult than the lonesome lake trail, we had fun gaining elevation and observing the frost (and later snow and ice) towards the top of the trail. Around 1pm we reached Kinsman Junction and were in a celebratory mood as we arrived at the Kinsman Pond Shelter.

The Kinsman Shelter – newly rebuilt in 2007 – was quite the site. It was an Adirondack style shelter made of massive 400lb white pine logs with spruce flooring and red cedar roof shingles. It was sponsored by the Vanderburgh family and dedicated to their father - Donald Vanderburgh Sr - an avid hiker still frequenting the whites, now in his mid 80’s. We dropped some of our gear to lighten the load for our short hike over the Kinsmans, and headed back to Kinsman junction. After hopping on the Kinsman Ridge Trail (part of the AT), we were on our way.

We quickly found that the footing was rough and icy. It was a short hike, but there was a lot of elevation to cover. The shelter was at about 3000’, but the kinsman peaks are both over 4200 feet. After passing our first few hikers of the day we finally arrived at North Kinsman. There was a small ledge that looked to the east at Mt Lafayette and Lincoln on Franconia Ridge, and the sky was clear – we couldn’t have asked for better views. We also had the pleasure of encountering an older gentleman from Lewiston who, with his arrival on North Kinsman, had just finished his 48 New Hampshire 4k’s (and is most likely the inspiration for our own aspirations join the NH 4k Club).

Next, it was on to South Kinsman, which was a 45 minute hike. After passing another couple hikers, we reached the peak of South Kinsman, this time in the open, with views in all directions. It was cold, but unbelievable. We all toasted with our Bud-Diesels (Straight Budweiser for the layman) and enjoyed some of Rockstomper’s homemade beef jerky. It was about 3pm at this point, so we decided to head back so we could set up before dark.

The short hike back was uneventful, with the exception of Big Tuna quietly twisting his knee. At the time he thought it wasn’t bad, but a combination of the cold weather and tight sleeping quarters would prove to haunt him the next day. We reached the shelter by sunset and actually set up our tent on the top loft of the shelter, giving us the ability to stay up and visit, rather than hunkering into our sleeping backs at 5 in the afternoon. We had just started boiling our water outside the door of our tent when a father and son arrived. The man was about 40+ years old, and the son looked to be in his early teens. They appeared to be woefully unprepared as the father outwardly admitted to his son “I didn’t realize it was going to be this cold, the weather reports didn’t say anything about this”. We knew better…

The son was friendly and outgoing, the father the opposite. But they got down to the business of cooking their dinner, and we did the same. We traded a few words, but Big Tuna, Lt. Rockstomper and I stayed confined to our tent. After eating our dinner, we played a handful of games of yahtzee with the dice I brought. The only reason I feel the need to mention this is that of all the games we played, Rockstomper and Big Tuna each scored a yahtzee multiple times, to which they were allowed to loudly yell “YAHTZEE!”. I never once got to share in that fun. Oh well, another trip…

The night was extremely cold, and Big Tuna and I did a poor job of holding in our laughter as the father sleeping below us cleared his nose with a loud snort – at an almost comical noise level - about every 5 minutes. We slept well nonetheless.

The next morning came early. The father and son had packed up and headed for the Kinsmans at about 4:30am. Their day was to consist of the Kinsmans early on, followed by hiking to Cannon later in the day. Our day originally had called for heading straight to Cannon and back down. However most of our remaining water had frozen, and Big Tuna’s knee was in bad shape from the get-go. We decided to just call it a day and head back to the parking lot. It was a wise decision – by the time we reached the bottom Big Tuna could barely walk, we would have been in bad shape if we had tried to make the push to Cannon. We drove back to Dover and parted ways, with the new decision that we were going to tackle the 48 New Hampshire 4k’s!

-Hard to Handle

Check out pictures of this trip below:

Kinsman Hike