Friday, February 3, 2012


Another hike in the white mountains, this time one of the gentlest 4000ft peaks in NH:  Waumbek.
It is always an early start from Essex to get to Einstein Bros. in Concord NH in time for a short breakfast at 7am.  The ride from Essex is a little over an hour and a half and I usually aim to get there about 20min early so the alarm is set for 4:45 for safe measure.

I have written before about hiking in winter and it is not without some trepidation that I packed the night before.  The problems I’d had before with cold - in particular my hands - had prompted me to stop at REI on the way home to buy some new gloves with fleece linings to replace the inadequate over-sized gloves I wore last winter.

We were not sure how much snow and ice there would be.  The winter has been very mild here and although there had been snow in the White Mountains we had also had some unseasonable warm weather.  As a precaution (always in winter) I packed my down sleeping back and brought along micro-spikes for ice and the snow shoes that John has loaned me.

The night before I took a photo of myself with the facial protection that I had decided to bring (remembering how brutal the cold wind was on my face when we walked up Mnt Moosilauke in January 2011).

Not long into the hike we were treated to some beautiful, peaceful views of the path ahead.  Being (usually) the least fit and slowest hiker, my companions allow me to set the pace so I was up front breaking the trail with some delicate sunlight filtering through the trees.

It was cold to start - we had parked the car on some frozen ground at the entrance to a golf course across from the road leading to the trailhead - and although it didn’t take long to warm up enough to start removing layers, it was also evident as we walked through some of the deep shade that the temperature was well below zero in some places.
Fortunately, the snow was mostly compacted and we didn’t need to use the snow shoes - though the micro-spikes came in very handy.

I have this excuse to stop every now and again for a photo, but in the cold this is a double edged sword.  It gives you that breather you are looking for, but your hands and body can easily start to get that numb tingling that warns of bad things to come.

I have described before that feeling I get in my chest as my core temperature starts to fall below comfort level.  There is plenty of warning for this because your body stops taking care of your extremities first and my hands and feet start to get cold and numb before the odd chest discomfort kicks in.

So for some reason, walking up the hill, I ignored the deep cold in the shadows when I should have taken the cue to start adding my fleece and coat layers back on.  By the time we reached the summit, my hands were already pretty cold.

I fumbled around in my pack for my hand warmers - these awesome chemical packs that generate some heat on their own once you expose them to air.  The cold had made me feel a little nauseous so the Einstein Bros. Power bagel didn’t hold much appeal for me and I was more or less ready to head back as soon as we saw the grimed frozen sign near the peak.

The beginning of the hike back down was a little concerning to start with because my thighs and calves were starting to cramp. I suspect that this was partly a combination of not exercising enough between hikes and the effect of letting my body get a little too cold while I was rooting around in my pack for the hand warmers and food.

We stopped once or twice for more photographs on the way down and as my muscles warmed again the cramping receded.

Some short tree stumps with a mushroom snow-cones made for an interesting image.
We made it back down as the shadows lengthened on the ground.  A well on the path caught my eye with the shadows all radiating from it.

Another great hike.

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