Sandwich Dome

Submitted by Pat

Mountains: Sandwich Dome (3,980) and Jennings Peak (3,460)
Date: January 21, 2007
Time: 5 hours and 30 minutes
Weather: Sunny, teens
Miles: 8
Elevation Gain: 2,553
Steps: 16,964
Trails: Sandwich Mountain Trail out and back
Holy Shit Factor: Medium

Picture Gallery

Short Video Clips
On the Way Up
On the Way Down

We decide on Sandwich Dome because the trail is protected most of the way - it is only 8 miles round trip and it is relatively close (2 1/2 instead of the usual 3+ hours of driving time). We also choose it because it "counts". There are so many different climbing lists out there, it's hard to keep track, but Sandwich Dome is one of the Hundred Highest in New England so it counts. In celebration of the shorter drive we agree to meet in Keene at 6 a.m. We stopped at MacDonald's in Concord because I need coffee and they have Newman's Own - Call me weird, but I don't like Dunkin Doughnuts coffee - nevertheless I am handed the worst cup of coffee I've ever had. One sip and I know it is trashcan bound. Blech... Thank goodness for the Irving in Meredith where the dark roast is always good.

We find the trailhead without a problem and although it has not been plowed it has been used. We gauge the snow level - nothing new - and decide just to bring STABILicers. Nancy is trying out her new winter boots. She has a small, low volume foot and her heel is slipping in her other boots, no matter how tightly or inventively she ties them. As we are putting on our boots, I hear a pop from the front seat where she is sitting and a curse - at first I think she has broken her shoelace, but no, she has ripped the hook grommet right out of the boot. After a moment of thinking we might have to head back she finds a way of tying them so she can at least try and continue with the hike. Turns out she had no trouble, either with the tie method or her heel slipping.

At 8:30 a.m. we hit the trail. Temperatures hover around 6 degrees and the sun is out, the sky clear, and no wind at the trailhead. Almost immediately we come to a brook - my favorite hiking pleasure. But the ice is thick enough that we are able to cross without incident. And then we start climbing. It is a steady, fairly steep slog up the mountain. I start breathing heavily almost immediately - usually I like to warm up to the heavy breathing part, but that is not to be. It is hard to tell if we are out of shape or if the climb is just darn steep, but we are sweating and breathing hard. Nancy works herself into quite a lather. I stay cooler by not wearing a hat or gloves.

The trail is packed snow on top of ice. Great footing. No need for STABILicers. I love that. We stop often and briefly to catch our breath or eat a power bar. We hit our first ledge at Noon Peak around 10:30 a.m. I am so excited by the view that I grab Nancy and give her a big hug. It is stunning, beyond words, the mountains out there in their frosty perfection. The sun is out and it almost feels warm - we take some pictures before reluctantly moving on. As we come up to the Jennings Peak spur we hit another stretch of ledge with a view and it gives us a chance to see where we are going. It looks, as ever, so incredibly far away. How can we possibly get there in our lifetime? That's how it feels when I look at where I'm going during these hikes. In my mind I know the distance can be covered in an hour or so, but my eyes see impossibility.

Onward and definitely upward - the climbing becomes steeper and harder and my climbing muscles start to get a little tired. Maybe a couple of tenths of a mile from the top, I put my head down and enter the "zone". I just walk and walk and don't stop and don't talk and don't look around. A couple of hundred yards before the top the wind picks up and I get Wow, despite working hard in the climb, the wind and the temperature rips the heat right out of me. I put on a jacket and a hat and keep going. Normally this would be where Nancy would stop and take off all her wet upper body clothing and replace them with dry. She choose to put on a jacket instead. We reach the Sandwich Dome summit (elevation 3,993 feet) at noon. Neither of our cameras function because of the cold so we don't get a summit shot - and the fact that we have to take off our gloves to manipulate the little camera buttons doesn't help much. We both are chilled so we high five and get the hell out of there fast.

On the way up, I start noticing pain in the front of my foot caused by a seam in the tongue of my boot. I try tying the boot tighter and that makes it worse. Both ankles start to feel the pain as I walk down. When we stop and then start again it was excruciating. I limp and stagger until I get used to the pain and can walk more normally. What a freaking drag. And there is nothing I can do - the damage is done - so it is a matter of getting down the mountain as fast as possible. I want to maintain a positive attitude so I keep breathing and repeating to myself, "This doesn't hurt. There is no pain. I feel nothing. Only joy and peace and happiness." Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.

What does work is sliding down the steep pitches on our butts. What fun! I remember sliding down the steep rocky parts of the upper Monadnock trails during winters where there was so much snow that only the tops of the rocks showed. This is kind of the same, except much less snow and more rocks showing. But we slalom between them and save huge amounts of time, to say nothing of saving major ankle pain from my bruises. Nancy has a blast - she has on slipperier pants than I and manages to eke out more speed and distance than I do. It is great to see the smile on her face.

We reach the parking lot at 2 p.m. - three and a half hours up and two hours down with a lunch break. Not too bad. I am going to be in time to get home to watch the Patriots game. Whoo Hooo!

A great hike. Now I just hope the bruises on the front of my ankles heal in time for this coming Saturday's hike!

45 out of 100 Highest