Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Unknown Pond Peak & A Long Walk Out. 1/21/13

I arrived in Lincoln Sunday night for a week of skiing. But my season pass is blacked out on what is MLK day to us Mass residents. Independence Day, in NH? I've been getting very lazy with my hiking efforts lately so I really needed to force the issue Monday and pick a peak I needed towards my completion of the NH200. My first thought was Jeffers Mountain in Benton via Blueberry Mtn Trail and Blueberry Mtn. But since I was in Lincoln I went with something that would be a long day trip from Mass. and decided on UPP. Unknown Pond Peak on most maps is an unnamed peak. Not sure what range (if any) you'd call it a part of. It's basically a 3510' peak, 1/4 east off the KRT north of Unknown Pond. Red flag on Map below shows UPP.

The approach for this would be pretty straight forward, I thought. I would be starting out on the Unknown Pond Tr. from York Pond Rd. Taking that to the Kilkenny Ridge Tr., 3.3 miles. From there, north on the KRT to the hieght of land and bushwhacking east to the summit of UPP. About a 1/4 mile bushwhack. It was a beautiful but cold morning. Car thermometer said 3* and that did not include the wind-chill.

The trail started well packed out but since I brought snowshoes more suitable for bushwhacking (10-28's) they are a little too wide for the tracks broken by the narrower mountaineering style snowshoes causing an occasional trip. That became a mute point after about a mile as all the tracks were blown in and solid. As seen below.

The snowshoeing was getting difficult due to the frozen conditions. The trail parallels an unnamed (as far as I can tell) brook, slabbing the side of the hills. This was rough on the ankles. Reference below.

The trail was also becoming very difficult to follow. Due to the tracks being none exsistant at times and the total lack of blazes. I've found this area in general to be very poorly blazed. I came to one crossing that was a tad difficult with the longer snowshoes.

After that, the trail was near impossible to find.

With more of that difficult slabbing going on, and the lack of any signs of the trail I decided with about .8 miles to go before hitting the junction with the KRT, to just head up. In beautiful open woods.

The going was still tough though, because of my lack of hiking and the steepness. Along with the less aggressive snowshoes I was using. I did come to a nice clearing with a partial view south. That's The Horn on the right and probably one of the Terraces in the middle.

Somewhere in the neighborhood of 3200' I hit some thicker woods. Semi thick spruce and pencil woods. But at that point they were a welcome site. Finally something to grab to help pull myself up.

With about 100' of elevation gain left the woods opened back up. And shortly there after I made the summit. 3 hours. Much slower than my normal pace. 

Now I had a dilemma. The whole time I was climbing the south slope my intent was to descend the way I'd planned to ascend. That would be to bushwhack west down to the KRT then back out on the Unknown Pond Trail. I wanted to do this, rather than retrace my tracks because I have not visited Unknown Pond yet and really wanted to do so in winter. The dilemma was I was looking at what appeared to be endless, wide-open birch glades heading off to the east on the ridge. The possibility of views won out. So I set off in the glades. I was on the move for only a couple minutes when I spooked a moose. Or did he spook me? Let's call it a tie. At any rate, only could get a picture of his tracks.

My decision to head back this way payed off. Never got any real open views but coupled with the incredible glades I'll take'm any day.

The glades and views just kept coming. Rogers Ledge and Square Mtn through the trees.

Not done yet. Into Maine, The Baldpates

Still more! :) Jericho and Sugar Mtn's

I was so caught up in this that I paid no attention, at all, to the direction I was heading. I took at look at the map before heading off the summit and saw that if I followed the ridge east, once near the end dropping down to the south would bring back on trail. What I neglected to notice was that there was a fork in the ridge. The northern most one headed away from the Unknown Pond Tr. and that's the one I was on. I did not realize this until I started to drop down off the ridge and could see York Pond dead ahead.

I knew York Pond was about 1.5 miles east of where I was parked. So now I had to make a abrupt right to get back to the trail-head. To make it worse, at the lower elevation it was thick with saplings and hobblebush. Which were constantly tripping me up. I stopped counting after the 10th face-plant. 

The expletives are probably still echoing in mountains. Well, I finally hit the trail and was out.

I wouldn't have changed a thing. Except..... to continue straight to York Pond and do the road walk. What was I thinking?   D'oh! 8)

The Tracks