Snowshoeing up Waumbek

Submitted by Pat

Mountain: Mt. Waumbek (4,006)
Date: February 24, 2007
Time: 5 hours
Weather: Cloudy, snow showers, teens, light wind
Miles: 7.6
Elevation Gain: 2,664
Steps: 19,034
Trails: Starr King Trail
Holy Shit Factor: High only in realizing how far we had actually broken trail last week

Picture Gallery

Video Clips
Beautiful broken out trail
Winter Wonderland

It is with great anticipation that I wake up Saturday morning at 3:45 a.m. to prepare myself for another attempt to climb Waumbek, the third shortest of the New Hampshire 4,000 footers at 4,006 feet in elevation. I pick up Nancy at 5 a.m. and we are off to the north country in the dark. We talk sporadically during the first hour and more as the light of day shows itself. As we look north we can see clouds and snow showers, but that certainly isn't a deterrent. Down in southern New Hampshire, the wind is howling at a good clip and we are a bit anxious about adding high winds to the mix.

At a gas station in Twin Mountain, a car pulls in behind us and one of the guys sees my license plate (PKBAGGR) and asks if we are hiking. There are three young men in the car, all eager for their attempt to hike the northernmost 4,000 footer, Mt. Cabot. They are hoping we are heading to the same place so we can break trail for them. Instead we invite them to Waumbek - we can have a trail breaking party. It is nice to see other hikers and feel their enthusiasm. These guys drove all the way from Connecticut.

We make good time and hit the trailhead by 8:40 a.m. The Springer Spaniel who last week stole my glove is nowhere to be found. We can see the trail is beautifully packed out and begin our trek up the mountain with great expectations. I am feeling pretty strong and keep up a good pace. Nancy is not feeling up to her usual stamina and drops behind a little. I never know what kind of a day my body will gift me with until I get started - sometimes I feel great, other times I suck. On this hiking day Nancy is struggling.

At 9:47 a.m. we hit the spot where we turned around last Friday after 3.5 hours of breaking new trail, pay brief homage to our perseverance, and press on in the beautifully tracked out trail. The trail leaves the hardwood forest and enters a denser forest of conifers, more closed in and breathtaking in its beauty. The Springer Spaniel from the trailhead cautches up to us. He nips at anything and everything hanging off our bodies but we keep on walking. Shortly thereafter a woman comes up behind us, Becca, who is the person who hiked the trail on the Saturday (February 17) after we had broken trail on the 16th. She hadn't made it to the summit either so is back to finish her 44th mountain in winter. Bravo, Becca! Sancho decides he likes Becca better and moves on at her pace, leaving us to bring up the rear.

When we come up to Mt. Starr King's summit (10:47 a.m.), the snow on the trees is encased in rime ice. It is gorgeous. I take a movie to try and show how beautiful it is up there. Had we not been in the clouds, we probably could have had some views. Oh well - another day. Onward we go - the trail is less well broken out but Becca is doing a great job pushing through the drifts and making our way a little easier. We meet her and Sancho on their way down about a tenth of a mile from the Waumbek summit. We hit the summit of Mt. Waumbek (4,006 feet elevation) at 11:30 a.m., high-five in celebration of our 45th peak, take a picture and head back down.

We see our first of many hikers coming up the trail as we head down. Two young men barebooting it up the trail, postholing every few steps, and ruining the trail and the hard work Nancy and I had put into packing the trail on snowshoes. It is hard not to say anything like, "Hey, where the hell are your snowshoes? Can't you see that you are ruining the trail? Aren't you tired from postholing up to your knees every other step? Are you stupid or something?" I am surprised at myself - I feel really angry. And we must meet another ten hikers on the way down and half of them are in boots. Grrr... I smile at the folks wearing snowshoes and can hardly be civil to the folks in boots. I guess I'm becoming a bit of a hiking snoot - but we didn't work our butts off today and last Friday breaking trail so these folks could come up in boots and break it all up.

We stop just off the summit of Starr King so Nancy can perform the odious task of changing from wet to dry clothes. She strips down to her bra and puts on dry clothes as fast as possible with cold hands and hating to be cold. But it is good, worth the temporary discomfort, to get on dry clothes. The trip down is uneventful, except for me snagging the crampon on my snowshoe and taking a header into the soft, deep snow on the side of the trail. I laugh so hard I can't get up. The snowshoes we are wearing (MSR's) have metal bottoms and crampons around the toe and heel for traction. That's why they are called mountaineering snowshoes - you can climb steep mountain trails with them. But going down is an art that I don't think I have perfected. I keep thinking about how it will feel to be going down some of the really steep pitches we have descended on other hikes. I guess it will be really slow going. I know my housemate, who has hiked the 48's in winter, talks about taking nose dives from snowshoes grabbing the snow and the body unable to brake itself. My feet get really tired of the constant braking.

By the time we hit the trailhead (1:40 p.m.) my feet are done with snowshoes and it feels like heaven to take them off and walk the .3 of a mile to the parking area. We are two happy, tired girls when we take off those boots and put on tennis shoes for the drive home. We are home in time for dinner. Two strong, proud women. On to the next one on March 10. I can't wait.

3 out of the Winter 48
45 out of NE 67
47 out of the NE 100 Highest
39 out of the NH 48