Monday, March 10, 2014

A Touch of Spring on Mt Chocorua. 3/8/14

With a pretty descent forecast for Saturday, I needed an easy (trailed) hike with great views. It took me all of about 5 minutes to pick Mt Chocorua. A major deciding fact was, I figured the Champney Falls Tr. to be a concrete sidewalk. Thus, making it easy to do this in just spikes and no need to carry the snowshoes. I desperately needed a light pack. I figured if I ran into a situation where I need the snowshoes, I'd just turn around. Ya Right! More on that later. ;-) This would be a few firsts for me. Mt Chocorua in winter. Hiking Chocorua via Champney Falls Trail. And finally, paying a visit to Pitcher and Champney Falls.

I got to the trail-head and headed out around 8, under cloudy skies. Weatherman gets me again. So I thought then.

The crossing over Champney Brook where the bridge is out, was welled bridged. :)

And the trail was as I had hoped it would be. Concrete.

The grades are great on this trail and the first mile and a half went pretty fast.

Arriving at the falls.

I assume this is Pitcher Falls. 

And this Champney Falls.

As I said I've never been there so I'm not exactly sure what is what in there. This is however a view from the top of the cascades.

Then onward and upward. I really like this trail. It's a beautiful area, and grades are very forgiving.

Somewhere in the 2500' range, give or take, the grades steepened a bit but the wonderful invention of the switchback, was well applied here. :) And at one point offered a sneak preview.

Somewhere in the area near the junction with the Middle Sister Tr. there was a beaten path to an open ledge with great northerly views. 

Back on trail I caught my first glimpse of Chocorua through the trees.

No need for words for a bit. 8)

Last bit of up.


As you can see, the weatherman had redeemed himself. Had to be close to 40* and very little wind. Great views in all directions. Forgive the lack of labels. No patience for that today. But I think most of you don't need them.  ;-)

So how could I screw up such a great day, I'll bet you're asking yourself. Well, here's how. When I was passing the Champney Falls Cut-off to Middle Sister.....

I thought I'd hit Middle Sister first since the trail was in the same shape as Champney Falls Tr. But I decided I'd hit it on the way out. While on Chocorua, I asked a member of a group which route they had used to get up there because I was thinking of heading over to M. Sister. They had ascended the same way I did but had been over M. Sister twice this winter and should be well packed out. So I figured I'd head there. 

At the junction here, I could see it had seen use but nothing like what I'd been seeing all day.

I'd made it through the first wooded section only post holing a handful of times (remember, no snowshoes) and arrived at the scrambles up South Sister. The snow was pretty firm, not great, but holding my wait well enough. But as soon as I hit that small section of spruce mixed in the ledges, I fell in a spruce trap with both feet up to my waist about at the X. Here, is where I should have turned it around.

But did I? Au contraire! I battled my way to South Sister.
 Looking back towards Chocorua.


Heading down the ledges off S.S. wasn't too bad but once in the woods, in the col, it was real bad. Almost every step was at least knee deep. You can see the distance to M. Sister and the snow I had to deal with.

From the photo above to the scrambles up M. Sister took about a 20 minutes and I think it was only about 500 feet. I finally hit the ledges heading up M. Sister. About 20 feet up I hit my first waist deep pocket. Here, I finally folded. But the worse was yet to come. As I said earlier, the Champney Falls Cut-Off looked well packed out. Here it is on this end. No tracks at all. :(

This .3 mile trek took a half an hour. The first .2 was heavily drifted and every step was a post-hole to crotch. Unbelievably miserable. I couldn't figure out why one end was so packed and the other not at all. I found out why. About .1 mile in on the Champney Falls Trail side there's some open ledge that everyone must have been going to and turning around. 
Said ledge and views.

Well the great thing about the condition the Champney Falls trail was with it's easy grades, it was very jog-able. Heck, I was actually running at points and was back at the Falls in no time. And it was quite different now. These guys must now what they are doing but I saw good sized chunks of ice on the ground earlier and now it was pretty warm. 

The last mile and a half went just as fast as the previous from the cut-off trail. Saw another busy woodpecker on trail. 

And at 1:30, done. 

I, reeeally, do have to learn how fold them. But despite my little lapse in judgement, it was a great day to be out.  :-)

EDIT: Maybe someone can help me here. I've been referring to the sister I summit-ed as south, and the one I was headed to as middle. As I thought the fire tower remains was on middle. But after looking at a map, there's no significant bump north of what I'm calling middle. But the ledge off trail I hit was a significant bump. So is that off trail bump S. Sister?  And I could have continued up for quite a ways on open ledge. Could see that on G.E. So will the real 3 Sisters, please stand up. 


  1. You got the waterfalls reversed. Middle Sister is the one with the stone foundation. You did go over the First Sister on the way to Middle. The Third Sister is the lowest and can be reached by going over Middle Sister. For some reason the maps don't show the three bumps for the Sisters. Great post as always.

  2. Thanks for the correction Josh.