Trip Report: Mt Webster, Mt Jackson, Mt Pierce

Troika! (And the first of the Presidentials.) 

Mt Webster, Mt Jackson, Mt Pierce, Crawford Notch, NH. May Day, 2018-05-01. (Tuesday)

Via Webster-Jackson trail, Webster Branch, Webster Ridge trail, Crawford Path. Approx 9.4 miles. 

38 dF +/- at the trailhead, 45 dF at Mt Jackson summit, with 10-12 MPH winds.

Heavy, wet fog. A brief parting of the clouds at mid afternoon, then mainly cloudy for the rest of the trip.  

Left Highland Center: 0905; Trailhead: 0915; Mt Webster Summit: 1145; Mt Jackson Summit: 1300; Mitzpah Spring Hut: 1415; Mt Pierce Summit; 1530; back at car: 1700. (Approx. 9 hours, including a bit of time spent at the hut.)

There was a lot of Type 2 fun. Certainly not a walk in the park, but despite mild adversity, still a good and very fulfilling day out. Weather-wise, if this hike had happened 2 months ago, when it was colder by about 20 degrees, I’d have turned around after Webster. But it happened on the first of May, so I soldiered on. Waterproof-breathable fabrics are a gift from the gods. On leaving Highland Center, I was hopeful that the weather forecasts I’d read, all of which were basically in alignment, would come to pass. This being the heart of New England weather, of course things didn’t go that way.

After hiking down 302 to the Webster-Jackson trailhead, I began up in earnest. The crossing at the Silver Cascade was fantastic: a large tree spanned the gap, with excellent footing. I front pointed up the other side in short order.

Silver-Cascade-Webster-20180501

There was still a lot of snow on the trails, and for the most part, there was something of a monorail, even if it was only “narrow gauge”. Being mindful of my steps, I was able to avoid the worst kind of postholing, but it took a lot of mental effort, and after awhile, I swapped the K-10s for my snowshoes. I’d find out before long that it was a smart move.  The snow up top was wet, mushy, mashed potatoes, and a few times, my snowshoes became skis on steep downhills. I’ll joke with anyone about “spring snow at its finest”, but this was spring snow at its worst.

AT-Blaze-20180501

I’m fairly certain that the trail crews paint blazes at eye level for humans, not wood sprites. But the increased amount of leaf litter suggests the snow is indeed going away. Spring is here, right?

After awhile, I was at the junction of the Jackson Branch and the Webster Cliff Trail (AT). Yep, the views were stellar.

Web-Jax-Cliff-Jct-20180501

The fog was really heavy and wet, and before long, I was feeling it. My pack cover was deployed, and it was starting to feel like a slog. But I was still nominally warm, so I pressed ahead. There were two peaks to go, and the weather was an inconvenience, not a problem at that point. I crossed Jackson, took a selfie for mom, and just kept the momentum going. Crossing the alpine garden in the col, the clouds parted, and I looked back to see the peak I’d left only a short bit ago.

Jax-From-Alpine-Bog-20180501

I’d have loved to look down on the alpine garden from the summit, but I contented myself with looking up at the summit from the garden.

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And turning the other way, got the thinnest sliver of a glimpse at Washington.

After some more hiking, I arrived at the Mitzpah Spring Hut. Surprisingly, it was actually open! I could sit for a spell and dry out a little. Tom, the caretaker, was there for self-serve hikers, although it was just him until I showed up. I had a look around, and it’s an impressive building. Built to withstand 200 MPH winds, it’ll sleep 60 in very comfortable accommodations.

It’s worth noting that the storm damage around the hut is phenomenal. I asked about connectivity, and he said “yeah, we used to have cell coverage, but then the storm came. So we lost coverage, but we got a view.” And yeah, you could see the carnage everywhere.

Not 50 feet from the hut, heading to Pierce, the trail had a lot of blow-downs to manage. I made swift work of some of it with my saw and carried on. I didn’t realize how much I’d cooled off in the hut, so clearing some of the damage got me warmed back up rather nicely.

Mitzpah-Spring-Hut-20180501

Finally, I arrived at the summit of Mt Pierce. Tom had mentioned the trail to the summit was somewhat strenuous, and yeah, it certainly wasn’t flat ground. Keeping with the day’s theme, it wasn’t all that scenic, either, unless you’re into lunar landscapes and that kind of thing. This was a day to focus on the mosses and the lichens, the rocks and the other things at one’s feet that we often ignore. And be thankful for the cairns.

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A cairn leading to a path.

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A path leading to another cairn.

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A footbridge, and another cairn. Really, that was the summit.

I know for sure that in more clement weather, this is a spectacular mountain with limitless views. There was something that might have been the top of the summit cairn — a rock poking up out of the snow — but I’ll have to come back in the summer to confirm. My GPS said I’d crossed the summit, which is good enough for now.

I made fantastic time on the way down. Crawford Path was in fine shape below tree line, and once the grade started to level out, I doffed the snowshoes and bare-booted the rest of the way with no problems. I made a quick stop to take in Gibbs Falls, and then continued on. Finally, I heard the noise of the highway, and the Highland Center came into view. Passing by a bronze marker describing Crawford Path as the oldest footpath in America, and then the trailhead. Crossed 302, and I was done. Without realizing what I’d done that morning, I’d parked my car by the stone steps, which was the ultimate in convenience.

It was a trying day out. Although I never felt like I crossed the threshold into “trouble” territory, across the ridge, I was pretty damp if not outright wet, and occasionally I was feeling colder than I’d have liked. I was, though, in decent spirits, and at various points, even laughing about the weather. Looking back, there are some trips that have already started to blend into others, but this one will forever stand out. Fun, in that “so there I was…” category.

 

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