Thursday, November 25, 2010

Training, it's all about the training!

There is nothing quite like filling a back pack full of gear & food and hitting the trail!  I was invited by my mountain bike friends, Bill, Todd and Chuck to head out on a section of the Appalachian Trail in Maine for a couple of days. What a great backpacking trip it was! 

Walk the plank to the other side of the river!

The Fall Colors were just starting to appear in the Sugarloaf, Maine area and as I entered the forest, the buzz hit me, the colors intensified, the smells of the wilderness opened up my air way and I realized that I was very much alive.  It's tough to put into words the excitement I felt about getting on the trail, walking a great distance carrying all I would need to survive, very comfortably I might add, for a couple of days. But in one word, awesome!

You couldn't ask for a better crew on this trip. In addition to Bill, Chuck,Todd and myself, there was Steve, Paul, Jules, Don and Todd Ringelberg, we were nine in total. The trail was rugged, as you might expect from the AT, but I just hiked slowly, methodically, placing my feet firmly on the turf, walking on stone as much as possible and taking it all in. Premeditation for future mountain missions.

A steep and rocky trail climbing up to Sugarloaf Mountain

A good shot of the crew headed up the trail.

I had hiked up this trail before, many, many, years ago to peak-bag Sugarloaf, but this time I was after my sixty sixth Four Thousand Foot Mountain.  You see, a few years after I finished climbing the 65 peaks on that cold, cold, day February 2, 1996 they re-measured a couple of the mountains in Maine, Spaulding and Reddington. They found them to be just over 4000 feet.  Who doesn't want to add more peaks to their list?

Most of the guys in the group had to bag all three of our planned climbs for their lists.  A decision was made by some, which I quickly scoffed at, to drop pack at the junction of the Sugarloaf spur trail and go for the peak.  I think I said in a few explicative words, I'm not dropping my F&^@!#$ pack, I'm carrying over all the summits, basically throwing down the gauntlet right then and there!  The only one to follow suit, at least over Sugarloaf and Spaulding was Ringelberg.  Ahh, good fun and a nice challenge.  I think I even took off for the summit of the Loaf with a very brisk pace from that junction only conceding to TR1 just before the summit, so he could have the glory of summiting this Maine 4000 footer.

and there he goes!
Atop Sugarloaf, the second highest mountain in Maine, sits a lot of trash from the skiing operations.  It's littered with buildings, radio & communication towers and just a bunch of crap to put it mildly.  Oh whatever, it's a great ski mountain for the two plankers and knuckledraggers to ski and ride on.  Plenty of Massholes make the trip and add to our state's economy.  Thanks Holes!  Now go back home.  Ha, ha!

The summit building, where you're no longer allowed to camp in, or even go into to seek refuge in bad weather.  Who needs rules? They were meant to be broken! I didn't venture in, but a few of us did. 

I didn't take a summit photo from Spaulding, but I did get to the top, pack on my back and took this shot of the hill before hitting the trail to the top.

It's a quiet little peak, but very nice indeed. Spaulding Mountain in the distance.

I think I was the last one to reach Spaulding shelter and it was pretty full with the crew gobbling up their spots to sleep.  The party had already started when I arrived so I quickly joined in the fun.  A good way to end the day!  I settled into my little nook behind the shelter, sleeping bag, bivy sack, ground cloth, all set to snooze!  

My nook! (Photo by TR1)

I woke up to the sound of rain droplets hitting the ground and a few snoring grunts from the crew in the shelter.  I should have thought more about where I set up my sleeping situation.  They were sawing wood all night in that lean-to and it reverberated out the back quite loudly.  I still slept like a log on the ground though from the previous days efforts.  

One problem, I was responsible for coffee, which I forgot, thankfully one of the Todd's had a little pack of Starbucks Via and the Todd I was supposed to supply coffee for, had some special tea, so it all worked out.  Thanks for the Via, Todd B.

With breakfast in our bellies, we set out for the second half of the trip.  It was a wonderful rainy hike through the forest toward Mt. Abraham.  There must have been a few moose watching us, there was moose droppings all over and it looked like he or she had trashed about the trail.  Not any old trail, I'm talking steep, rocky terrain at elevation.  Pretty impressive signs of moose life from my perspective. 

some colorful moss.

Appalachian Trail Terrain 
Not long after I took this shot, we took the Abraham Trail, then emerged from the trees onto the rocky slopes of Mount Abraham.  I've climbed this one a few times and never have I had a view from this summit.  It's always fogged in and rainy, but that is part of the mystery and lure of the hills, there is certainly something beautiful about it no matter what the weather in the mountains. 

Todd Bumen navigating the fog

the crew headed up

Our reward
 Bill and Steve had charted out a bushwack on the map with GPS coordinates for us to take as a fun aspect of the trip, but considering the lack of visibility, we headed down the Fire Warden's trail and back to the cars.  I had a great time on this trip and it was the beginning of my quest to get to Baxter State Park this winter.  It's all about the training!  Good times with some good friends and some new friends too!
Thanks for reading!  A couple of parting shots!

Mountain flora.

A Sparky Summit Sprint! (photo by TR1)

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

In Honor We Climb

11/10/10 Bits of ice left over in Odell's gully from the cold spell in October.

For the third year in a row, I have made the bitter sweet journey to Huntington Ravine on or near November 10th, to memorialize in some way, one of my very best friends who sadly lost his life on this mountain in January 2008. November 10th is Pete's birthday, which ironically or not, coincides with the United States Marine Core Birthday.  Pete's Dad was a Marine in the Vietnam War and I personally find it interesting he was born on that day, or maybe his folks planned it that way.  Anyway Happy Birthday Pete Roux, Happy Birthday Marines!

On my first outing, November 14th (missed it by a few days) 2008, I hiked solo, following in the footsteps of my lost brother, with the boots he wore on his final day now on my feet, I met the challenge with caution and some hint of higher being or spirit force.  The rocks were all covered in six inches of fresh powder, enough to hide them, but also enough to cause me to take violent falls a few times.  I've only told a couple of people this, but it was as if some power or force was giving me an extra firm shove when I tripped up on those rocks.  As I would trip up on a rock, I could feel the push, which led me to hit the ground very forcefully. Once was above treeline on the Alpine Garden trail, I remember with great detail, looking around through the white out conditions and seeing nothing, but hearing the wind whisper caution in my ear.  I didn't even think about or want to go to the summit on this day, I wanted to get down and home as quick as possible, the dark haunting feeling was uncomfortable.  

November 10, 2009, a full year and a half after the avalanche, I was heading up again. This time with Todd Ringelberg in tow.  What a day it was! We brought boots, crampons and ice tools, but left that all stuff in the car since there wasn't even a hint of ice or snow. We went for the fast and light approach with only our trail running/approach shoes and super light packs on our backs. We made it to the floor of the ravine quite fast and then headed up the boulder scree known as the fan, aiming for the base of Odell Gully, roughly 400 feet below the first ice pitch. The wind was silent and there was unlimited visibility, a Raven appeared catching thermals in the air above the ravine then landing on a ledge, giving off a quick verbal sign of his presence.  We hung out at the memorial site, then shot up the Huntington head wall. We did make the summit on this hike, I think it was my 44th time at 6288.

November 10, 2010.  Again another stellar day on the hill.  Hardly any snow or ice at all and a fine day to climb the Huntington Ravine trail.  We didn't visit the memorial spot this time around we stayed on the HR trail through the fan and headed up the head wall.

 Clouds creeping across the Carter Mountain Range from Huntington Ravine.

J'ai gravi la montagne avec mon ami.
This trail is one of the toughest hiking trails in the White Mountains and is as close to technical rock climbing one can get with what I rate as some 5th class terrain in spots.  It's pretty damn fun to put it in a few words.  PDF!
 Climbing up the steep head wall in Huntington Ravine.
It was quite windy on this day, but we didn't really feel the full force until the summit.  Emerging from above the ravine while climbing up the Nelson Crag trail, he appeared, but only for a brief second as he flew from the upper rim down into the ravine, who you ask?  The Raven, he was lurking near the top rim of the ravine and quickly caught the wind beneath his wings and flew down the mountain. I believe there's a pair of eyes watching over me on the hill, always and forever.

 In honor we climb 11/10/10