Friday, July 22, 2011

NE Cannon Ball....The Hard Way 7/21/11

The objective for today was to hit Northeast Cannon Ball for the 3K list. While driving by Cannon Mountain on the way to some hike a friend of mine Mike, mentioned hiking up the talus slides in, for lack of a better word, Cannon Ravine. A quite recognizable spot if you are heading north on Route 93 in Franconia Notch.
The plan was to park at Lafayette Place, bushwhack to the talus slopes, continue the bushwhack on up the slides finally hitting the KRT. So I parked the car at Lafayette Place and headed out around 7 AM. I headed up the bike path about a 10th of a mile and then headed into the woods. The first thing I found was a dried-up stream bed which I assume was drainage.
I fallowed that for a while until I got to a point where was starting to show signs of water which was making it a little slick. So I got up onto a ridge and continued to climb northwest. The woods in this area were mildly scrappy but pretty easy to deal with. After about a half mile of this the woods opened up even more into these large boulder fields.
The going was really easy here. After going through these woods for a while I came to a very beautiful spot. It was an open slide in the woods covered with moss. I assume this served as drainage for the ravine. Because of the lush growth of vegetation and moss. It was simply gorgeous.
I followed this as long as I could and then started to head a bit west. I ran into a small patch of thick spruce but decided to just push my way through. The reason for this was I could see a great deal of daylight not too far away. And at about 2700 feet I came to the first talus slide. Pretty much what I had hoped for.
But but if they could grade talus slopes as they do sandpaper, this was 50 grit. I'm talking huge boulders with huge gaps between them. This particular one was enormous. I didn't want to spend the time setting up my camera to take a photo of myself beside it but it dwarfed me. I took a moment to turn around and look back down into Franconia Notch.
It was very slow going in this talus because of the size of the boulders in the gaps between them. What looked like it may have been a good route would dead-end because of the gap facing me. So I just slowly but surely picked my way through it. The next thing I want to head for was an open slide I saw on Google Earth. So at the end of this talus I entered the woods and found a little slide which I had hoped would lead me to the next objective.
This little path wound its way through some beautiful fern and birch trees. It wasn't long on this that I spotted what I was hoping to find. It was about 3100' here.
It looks good in the photo but it was just too steep to head up. I had made a deal with myself and that was that if I came to anything that was a "no fall zone", I would not attempt it. It was not only that but it was actually going to head me in the wrong direction from what my plan was. So I had the slab more north at the base of this which was quite broad.
It was a little tricky getting across this section as you can see the angle. But I took it slow and there was enough ledge to hang onto until I got back to the trees. Once I got through the trees you see in the photo above I came to the second of the talus slides I was hoping to hit.
Again these boulders were huge. Funny, they look so small from the notch floor. Once on that I glanced to my left to see Franconia Ridge in the haze. I was really hoping the have great views from here but because of the heat and the fires in Canada it wasn't to be. Still, pretty fair anyway.
At end of this talus slope it was another short bushwhack to another slide I'd spotted on Google Earth. From all the slapping northeast I was doing I hit this slide, again at around 3100 feet.
Even though it was very dry I still considered this to be a "no fall zone", because it was quite steep. So what I did here was just skirt the edge in the vegetation. In Google Earth this whole area seemed quite open but again I came to an area were I needed to do a short bushwhack.
One mistake I had made today was not to bring the legs to my pants. At this elevation the scrub pine exposed to these extremely harsh elements was tough as nails. But at least at this elevation I was still able to get around it. I then again I came to another slide. 
This one was even steeper than the previous. Probably no steeper than the North Tripyramid slide but I was in the middle of nowhere and I wasn't about to take any chances. So as I did before, I skirted edge where there was vegetation to hang onto and with better footing. At the top of this I had another great view down to where I had come from.
You would think by now that I would have reached the KRT at 3700 feet. But I still had more boulders to     negotiate. At least now they were little smaller and a little easier to climb. But still, quite steep.
And from this area I finally got my first glimpse of the tower on Canon Mountain. Which at this point was an uplifting site. As this climb was pretty tough in the heat we were having.
At this elevation somewhere in the range of 3500 feet the going got very tough. Because the talus had a lot of vegetation growing out of it. For every 10 feet of open rock it was another 10 of the nastiest, thickest, Alpine spruce I've ever run into. It was like walking through barbed wire. I had no choice but to just push through it and deal with the pain. At 3700 feet I could see the trail through the trees I turned and looked back at what I had just accomplished.
One a minute later I was finally on the KRT. This was quite a challenging and tough climb but I was glad I had done it. But this was quite the welcome sight.
So made off quickly to the summit house on Canon Mountain hoping not to scare any women or children with the sight of my shins. They were literally a bloody mess. I managed to get their and cleanup without being noticed. This is after the cleanup.
I made a quick stop at the tower on Canon but didn't take any photos it was just too hazy to waste film, I mean the memory card space. So down of the tower I came and headed towards NE Cannon Ball.
I've never been on the KRT past Cannon. I had heard how steep it was dropping off Cannon but not until I had seen it that I realized how steep. Through hikers really must hate Kinsman Ridge. It is one PUD infested Ridge.
Unfortunately I did not check my elevation when I got to the col. But I would assume I had dropped at least 500 feet. Just before I hit the bottom I got a view of Northeast Cannon Ball from the trail. It didn't look all that far away which was a good thing as I was really starting to feel the heat of the day now.
Now was just one final push on the KRT up to the summit of Northeast Cannon Ball. On the way I passed some wildlife ;-) and some flora.:)
I hit the hieght of land, turned and headed back. On the way back from the trail I spotted some ledges on the East side of Cannons southern sub peak. I had to tell myself, Joe, you just don't have time for this. 
Heading back down the KRT I was starting to cramp up a bit. I was drinking a lot but it was now about 12:30 PM and probably somewhere in the 85 to 90° range. I was real happy when I came to the junction with the Lonesome Lake trail. This section of trail I have never been on before and it was quite beautiful.
It was steep in sections but pretty good footing so I started to pick up my pace because all I could think of was the ice cold Coke I had in a cooler in my truck. Another thing I was looking forward to, even though was not going to be that great today, was the view of Franconia Ridge over Lonesome Lake. I had only been there once before and it was completely socked in. I first came to the bog bridges that surround the lake and this area was quite beautiful.
So much so that I was walking and turning taking photo after photo. Note to self. While walking on bog bridges, stop to take the photos. Do not take photos while walking. Which could lead to walking off the bog bridge in the worst bog area.
I got to the spot on Lonesome Lake we you could see Franconia Ridge. And as I thought it was not that spectacular because of how hazy it was. But at least it's better than the view I had on my previous visit.
From here it was going to be just another mile and a half before I was done. I came to a section on the Lonesome Lake trail that had just had some recent trail work. It was a beautiful set of stairs. My hat's off to the crews that do this extremely labor-intensive trail construction. Thank you.
I had about another half a mile walk from here before I was out. I'd reached the end of my journey at the end of the Lonesome Lake trail. After that it was a sprint to the truck for that ice cold Coke that had been on my mind for well over an hour.
I could have done North East Cannon Ball using only trails and it would've only taken me about 3 1/2 hours versus the almost 8 hours this hike took. But it would not have been nearly as much fun as going straight up this.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

3 Hales / Main, South and East 7/8/11

I had Friday off and wanted to do another hike which would knock another peak off my 3K list. And take me somewhere with unique views. I decided to bushwhack South Hale for the 3K list and East Hale for the views. The trails I would use for both bushwhack's would be Hale Brook trail and Lend- a- Hand trail. so I started off on Hale Brook trail around 8 AM.
A lot of people I know don't think much of Hale Brook trail,but I quite enjoy it. After about a quarter of a mile I came to one of my favorite spots off trail which is the Cascades on Hale Brook. Which every time I pass I cannot resist going off trail a bit and taking a few shots.
After a brief stop at the Cascades I continued up heading for Mt. Hale. Past the Cascades the trail does become fairly steep and steady but goes through some real pretty forest. It's roughly at this spot in the picture below later in the day I would start my bushwhack to East Hale.
After about an hour and a half I reached the summit of Mt. Hale. And I did the usual climbing the cairn to get what little views Hale now has to offer. This picture is taken from the top of the cairn, arms fully extended. Needless to say Mt. Hale basically has no views.
After a short break on Mt. Hale I headed off on the Lend-A-Hand trail for the point I would start my bushwhack to South Hale. I had never been on this trail before and found it to be quite beautiful. After only being on it for 100 feet or so I found an old relic of what I assume belonged to the old fire tower.

Now it was just a steady diet of down, much more than I had anticipated by the way, to start my bushwhack for South Hale. Just a little before I got to my bushwhack point I was treated to a flyby at a fairly high elevation, by an F-16.
I finally made it to the point I'd start my bushwhack to sell trail. The woods started out somewhat thick and scrappy but quickly opened up and was basically a herd path all the way through great woods.
After a about a half a mile I arrived at the summit of South Hale.  
Now on a hike last year to Zea Cliff, while taking some photos from the Twin Way, I spotted some ledges very close to the summit of South Hale which looked like they would offer some great and unique views. After mentioning that to a friend of mine he indeed confirmed there were supposed to be ledges with views on South Hale. So I headed off in the direction of where I thought these ledges may be an in short order stumbled upon them. And indeed, quite spectacular views.

As great as these views were I did not stay long because I had bigger and much better views in mind. So I took a dozen or so quick photos it was off for what I thought was going to be the gem of the day, East Hale. So was back to Lend-A-Hand for about a 700 foot climb back to the summit of Hale. I wasn't especially happy about that but the wasn't a lot I could do. Once on Hale it was back down Hale Brook trail to the start of the bushwhack to East Hale. This bushwhack like the one before was in good woods most of the way.
Nearing the summit I did hit a small patch of some pretty scrappy dead pine but the couple scratches I got here were quickly forgotten once I popped out into the open. 
I'm still in the infant stages of bushwhacking but I can easily say of all the bushwhack's that have had a view this by far, and that's including Whitewall, has the most fantastic unique views I've seen to date. Which as you can see I was pretty happy about.
I'd say the views are probably somewhere in the range of 180° or a little better but just completely unique of anything I've seen. I stayed there for a good 20 min. doing nothing but walk around to get different perspectives taking photo after photo.
I wish after the photo shoot I could've just kicked back and relaxed and enjoyed this beautiful spot but because of the unknown I had ahead of me I needed to move along. Because I decided not to go back the way I came by to drop off the summit into the ravine and head for the end of the Zealand road. My reason for doing this was to hopefully drop off the summit, slab to the North, and check out the talus slides of East Hale. I knew dropping off the summit was going to be steep but not until I started did I realize how steep. It was pretty much straight down. No photos here, as I needed both hands to hang onto the trees as I descended. It took a bit but I did get to easy grades. This descent was a bit nerve-racking so I decided to skip the talus slopes as I certainly wouldn't have gotten any better views that I had on the summit. 

Once in the good woods and easy grades I thought I might try to had more towards where I was parked at the Hale Brook trailhead then Zealand trailhead and avoid the one-mile road walk to the car. As soon as I headed in that direction I ran into a huge boulder field which started to frustrate me because my legs were tired and it was just an annoyance weaving my way through these huge rocks.
Something I have a knack for doing in open woods bushwhack's is finding the hidden objects in the ferns and today was no different. It would be a little difficult to explain exactly what I did but this was the and result. I did not want to lift my pant leg to see the damage at this point in time.

But as luck would have it shortly after this happened I stumbled upon one of the cross-country ski trails which paralleled  Zealand road. Which meant a nice easy walk back to Hale Brook trail and out.

So I did about a three quarter-mile walk on the ski trail and hit Hale Brook trail just a couple hundred yards from the start. And in 5 min. I was out.
This took me about seven hours to complete. I got pretty banged up on the bushwhack coming off East Hale but that was worth the price of admission to East Hale. This is someplace I will be returning to again. :-)