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.

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