We met at Einstein Bros. in Concord - this time joined by a colleague who hadn't hiked a 4000 footer before.
Bruce did this hike alone when he did his 4000 footers and had recorded a (impressive, as it turned out) time of 4 hrs 15 min.
The trailhead is on one end of a hairpin bend on the Kancamagus Highway and involves crossing the highway in order to start.
The path up to the first junction in the trail is a very long even path which seems to go on forever (about 40 min) before turning off to the left onto the trail "proper". The route that we took crossed a stream a few times with newer sections of the trail that skirt around the bends in the stream to reduce the number of crossings. I suspect that these trails were cut during a period of high water and not knowing any better we took these side trails on the way up.
A steady ascent with a fairly even gradient brought us to the second junction in the trail which is where the loop around the two peaks begins. We chose to go counter clockwise which meant going up South Peak first.
At this point the trail gets steeper - although still at a fairly even gradient that resembles more climbing steps than the high stepping and scrambling that is common to many of the 4000 footer trails. Being his first 4000 foot hike, Jeff needed to experiment with his pace and reminded me of my earlier hikes with a few forced stops to catch his breath on the way up.
The trail up doesn't really offer many views but on each of the summits there is an outlook that offers great views to the South West and South.
The ridge trail was a really easy walk and while the elevation gain between the two is enough to make them both qualify as 4000 footers, it was mostly a gentle hike up to some steep scrambling near the North summit (4,403 feet).
The overlook at the North Peak was pretty busy and fairly eventful.
While we were sitting there a hiker arrived with blood streaming down his leg. We asked him if he'd met a rock on the way up and he held out his left hand which was pretty swollen with a somewhat twisted baby finger. He said that he had been running up the trail and had fallen. After refusing pain killers he let us know that he was going to go on to South Hancock before heading back home.
After he left, one of the hikers offered food in her hand to the Grey Jays that were hanging about and one of them ate from her hand!
The walk down was uneventful aside from discovering that Jeff on his first 4000 footer had managed to drink three litres of water - emptying his supply. I dubbed him the human sponge after looking at my water and seeing that I had drunk less than half a litre.
We realized that the trail down the North peak was pretty steep - covering some portion of a slide - and is probably the better way to ascend (we made a mental note of this for next time).
After the junction at the bottom of the summit loop I paused at some of the river crossings that we had missed on the way up and took photographs of the water.
Including the crew crossing....
and a few horizontal ledges.
We got back to the parking lot at 3:30 after 6 and a half hours of hiking - 15 min over book time. This time it was me who pronounced that "we had cheated death once again".