Monday, November 8, 2010

Trip Report: Mount Jefferson

As most of you know, Alex and I love hiking. We've actually been hiking together since the night we met, during our first year at Dartmouth.

So we were really hoping to be able to hike together this weekend, preferably up above treeline in the Presidentials. After some investigation, we settled on Mount Jefferson, which fulfilled some important criteria: a yet-to-be-checked-off entry on Alex's 4000-footer list, highly unsuitable for a toddler so would take advantage of our adults-only status, and accessible via a short enough trail to get us home at a reasonable hour.

The Sunday "High Summits" forecast was promising, billing the peaks as in the clear through most of the day.

So we suited up and headed for Crawford Notch. It was a chilly, late-fall, gray day—though we did spy the top of Mount Washington through the clouds a couple of times on our drive.

As mentioned above, our time constraints necessitated the shortest approach: the Caps Ridge Trail, reached from a back road that took us from Crawford Notch up to Jefferson Notch.

Now, you might think that starting out at 3009 feet, from "the highest elevation reached by a public highway in New Hampshire," is cheating. But we thought that the trail's gain of 2700 feet in 2.4 miles would pretty much make up for that.

It was looking a lot more like wintertime up there. And still cloudy.

Here's Alex at the trailhead:

Some beautiful hoarfrost crystals en route:

Up, up, up towards treeline, where the rock scrambling started:

Then up above treeline, but still in the clouds:

Hey! The Observatory people were right! The summits were in the clear!
This is Alex half a mile below the summit of Jefferson, looking out toward Mount Washington in the distance.

Then at the summit, braced against the wind:

Me at the summit! More Mt. Washington in the background.

We were on top of Jefferson for only seconds, just long enough to take the above photos, because boy was the wind flying in from the north. Then we hunkered down about fifteen feet below and had a quick bite to eat while we tried to identify the other mountains peeking through the clouds. That's Franconia Ridge over on the right, with what we think is the Moosilauke massif in the middle. Not sure about the peaks on the left.

Here's Alex as we headed off the summit:

And me, just above the cloud deck:

There was so much slippery scrambling that the hike out took just as long as the climb up. Including some terribly graceful sliding on our rear ends. But we eventually arrived—safe and sound, sore and content—back at the car. All in all, a complete success.