Sunday, February 14, 2010

Middle Sister (Chocorua) 2/13/10

With reports of clouds possibly hovering over the Northern Peaks and trail reports of deep snow drifts on Mt. Flume's Osseo trail I thought it best to stay more South. The pick for the day would be Mt. Chocorua via the Nickerson Ledge-Carter Ledge-Three Sisters-Piper Trails. When we got to the Piper parking lot we found that it was not plowed. Why? Do we not pay parking fees for trail and parking maintenance. Should not the popular trailheads be plowed? The home right at the spot unplowed was charging $3.00 for parking. Having paid an annual parking pass I wasn't up for paying to park. No where near the road to park I decided to drive over to the White Ledge Campground gate and parked there. This would change our plan of action slightly, we would ascend Carter Ledge trail at it's start here (bypassing Nickerson Ledge - not much of anything anyways) and we would descend Middle Sister trail.

We geared up and took the immediate left down the loop road. The trailhead (signed) was down a bit on the left. We started up the trail at 8:47am. Only one set of footprints were visible but the snow was hardpacked with just a little crust on top. Many sections were bare from water run off. This section of Carter Ledge trail was rather pleasant up to the Nickerson junction. You pass through many boulder fields, it remains gradual to moderate and contains many fine, large Birch stands. A half mile in we were taking jackets off as it was surprisingly warm. We passed the Middle Sister trail junction which was not packed out and continued on arriving at the Nickerson junction. Continuing on up Carter Ledge trail making it to our first ledge and Chocorua view at 10:45am. It was here we were passed by the only two people we would see all day. Temps. were now reading an incredible 46* in February!! And the warm sun was very pleasant.

Onward now through some steep sections past a slide area and arriving at the seamingly endless ledges and rock slabs. Having done this hike Spring of 2009 and now back here in the winter this area is truly my favorite in the White's (Eagle Crag and Algonquin trail ridge. trailing close behind). Outstanding views to Chocorua, the Piper trail ridge, the Hammond trail ridge, the Three Sisters and the rock slabs containing countless stunted red pines and the occasional rock erratic. We took a break here before dropping back into the trees in a minor col. (North Sister jutting up in front of us) finding some deep snow and post-holing our way through. We snaked our way up the trail to the base of the very steep climb up ledge that was covered in several feet of snow. We careful followed the shrub line for something to hold onto and pulled, post-holed and mumbled our way up. Once atop this first section it got a bit icy and, well, a simple slip and your gonna have a long ride down. So I put on my fresh-out-of-the-package micro-spikes. Boy do these things work! We soon came to and climbed a couple other scrambles then made the height of land. We continued on mostly level grades before popping out at the Middle Sister summit (3,340') at about 1:00pm.

The wind was a little cold here but not too bad, we still didn't need our jackets! Views were impressive (and really just as good as Chocorua's summit, minus views to the south). The Sandwich range loomed to the West, the many peaks North up to the Presidential range, North East to the Conway area and East into Maine. We ate lunch and decided we had our fill for the day. Besides, if we continued on to Chocorua that would put us in around 1-2 hours of hiking in the dark, no thanks! We didn't see the Middle Sister trail junction on the way up, nor did we find it on the way down, so we had to back track the way we came. Again the steep snow covered ledges were a lot of work but we hussled down them and back through the col. to the Carter ledges. Removed our micro-spikes and took a last break and took in the sights one last time. Then down and out arriving back at our starting point at 4:00pm.

Total Time: 7.25 hours
Total Mileage: 7.4
Elevation Gain: 2,790 ft.
Weather: Mostly clear sky's, clouded up by 3:00pm. Temps ranged from mid to upper 40's at the base and ledges to mid 30's at the high points. Light winds now and then and at the summit. Beautiful day!
Hike Overview: My favorite hike in the White's. Beautiful, secluded, ledgy and excellent views.

View pics of this hike HERE

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