The Joe Dodge Lodge at Pinkham, home sweet home
The plan was to run all night Friday and get back in time for the big breakfast at the lodge, sleep a little and go do repeats on Wildcat Mountain ski slopes. Lots of climbing involved here!
We met at Pinkham Notch Lodge after work and began our hike up Glen Boulder Trail at 7:30 PM while it was still light out. Glen Boulder we were very familiar with from prior hikes and also the MMD 50K, which went up this baby some years. It's a steep hike with great views...this is a description from Summitpost:
This route leaves Pinkham Notch and ascends past the famous Glen Boulder. The trail starts from the parking area and heads up around a cliff band on the mountain side. You will meet up to intersections with a couple different trails and also you will get some nice views over to Wildcat Mountain from certain points below treeline. The trail then starts to climb up the Gulf of Slides which is one of Mt. Washington's minor ravines on the southeast side.
At 1.6 miles you will reach the Glen Boulder and pop out of treeline with fantastic views west to the Carter Range and views within the Mt. Washington area. From here, the main trail continues over the alpine terrain and over a subpeak known as Slide Peak. Continue hiking until you reach the Davis Path.
Glen Boulder, next to the cairn
Wildcat across the way
That said it all...The views were incredible and we were beginning to see the signs of sunset, which you only get to see by climbing up there at night.
We followed the Davis Path to our first destination, which was Mount Isolation. The Davis Path early on is above treeline and just a jumble of rocks, so no running just yet. We were able to run on the occasional dirt sections, but these were short lived. Plus it was getting dark and Greg was the first to put his light on as he was having trouble with some dizziness and wanted to turn back, but we wouldn't let him. The White Mountains are no place to be alone, especially at night, so we agreed to slow down a bit and make it a fun night. Jeff and I held off putting our lights on as it was a clear night and we were getting enough residual light from the sky, but soon our lights came on once we dropped back into the trees.
Davis Trail intersection
The Davis path was a mess in places! Trees down from avalanches made passing near impossible. There were several areas where we had to have one person stay put while another went in search of the trail on the other side of the jumble of trees. Climbing up and over and around huge trees that mother nature throw to the ground, some places the jumble blocked 10-15 feet of trail. This slowed us down incredibly as we picked our way through the mess. We also encountered many large blowdowns blocking the trail....it reminded me of Barkley!
Sample of what we encountered, only at night
With persistence we finally found the trail up to Mount Isolation. It was a short out and back to reach the summit, but on wet and large rock slabs. It was quiet up on this summit that was just over 4000 feet and we had a beautiful view of a star filled sky.
Summit cairn of Mount Isolation
Mount Washington in the far distance, that's the ridgeline we followed
Back down to the Davis Path and in search of the Isolation West trail down into the Dry River Wilderness, which would bring us to the Mizpah Hut. We were worried that the trail, which we didn't see on the way to Mount Isolation, was in the middle of one of the avalanche areas and if so, we'd never find it. So Jeff studied his map and figured out that we needed to climb about 300 feet from the Isolation East trail (which we did see), so I took a reading on my altimeter and kept an eye on that. We reached the mess (to climb through again) and we had only gone about 200 feet, but we still watched for the trail...which we found right after the messy jumble of twisted trees.
This trail was no better....it looked like it hadn't been cleared and trimmed in years. The spruce trees grew into each other making the trail barely seen and you absolutely could not see where you were putting your feet down, so the going was slow yet again. We were also getting soaked from the trees holding dew, which would not be good when up above tree line again. We could hear the wind up there and feared that.
The map told us that the trail crossed a river at it's base, so we listened for that...but what made it hard was the river or brook to our left all the way down...which was not on the map, so we feared that the river at the bottom would be a roaring thunder of water that would be impassible. No, there are no bridges out here...
We also realized that the going was so slow we were going to have to alter our route or not make it back in time for breakfast!
Soon we reached the river and it was roaring, but shallow roaring...in the middle it was maybe mid thigh deep and cold. The crossing may have been around 20 feet long and Jeff got in first and helped me and Greg get across. Next up was the decision....continue on to Mizpah or head up the Eisenhower Trail, which we had reached. Hunger told us to start climbing, so up the Eisenhower we went. Next up, treeline and it's wind!
Just before we reached treeline we stopped and put some warm clothes on, jackets and hoods. It was cold up there and the wind was a gentle, but good breeze. One could easily get into trouble if not dressed properly. We bounced around all the rocks and got a good amount of running in up above treeline and soon reached the Lake of the Clouds Hut.
Lake of the Clouds and Hut
Mt Washington on the horizon, we would climb up that smaller hill to the right and head down
We went into the hut and if I remember right, it was around 3am so we walked silently inside, refilled our water, grabbed a delicious cheese cake brownie (left some money, of course) and headed back out. It was 3 hours to breakfast and we had a ways to go. Up the trail from the hut to the Tuckerman Connector trail and it was now getting light out, so off with the lights. We followed that trail to Tuckerman's, but at the headwall it was closed due to ice and snow breaking away from the cliffs.
From Tuckerman's, we took the Alpine Garden trail to Lion's head.
Down to Lion's Head
Lion's head is a good, rocky descent....very steep in parts, but it does get you down quickly. Greg was having trouble with the rocks, so Jeff and I waited for him on occasion and the break was nice....but the clock was ticking! Once we reached the Tuckerman's Ravine trail again below the headwall, we ran. We ran as fast as we could on that rocky road and got back to the lodge at 6:45 am.
Now for a quick shower and a fantastic breakfast of eggs and pancakes, then a short 3 hour nap after saying bye to Greg, who had to go home.
After our nap, we got dressed for the next adventure....some repeats on Wildcat Mountain with tired legs!
Wildcat is awesome...it is about 2 miles up the ski slope we took up, which was the Catapult. Lower, middle and upper. As we began we enjoyed watching the people riding the zipline over our heads, screaming like little kids. On up the slope, which was tough and I struggled to keep up with Jeff, who is a great climber. We reached the first summit in about 48 minutes, stopped for a minute to take a picture of a couple on top with their camera and started the jog down Polecat, which is more like 2.5 miles down. I've always been a better downhiller than a climber, so left Jeff in my wake and waited for him at the bottom. The run down took about 20 minutes and once Jeff got down, a couple of minutes after I did, we started over to Catapult again, which is one of the steeper slopes on the mountain. I need the climbing for Hardrock and Jeff needs the downhill for western, so it worked out well for us.
The 2nd climb really hurt...and Jeff easily pulled away from me and waited on the summit, watching me suck wind on the last really steep pitch. It did hurt, but parts of Hardrock will hurt even more, so this was good!
Down Polecat one more time and we're done for the day....as I pulled away from Jeff and at a place where the trail turns hard left, a Moose ran across my path. It was awesome as I had not ever seen a Moose while out running. As I turned the corner, I saw he was standing there just staring, so I stopped knowing what these guys can do if they want and yelled up to Jeff "MOOSE!" Jeff didn't hear me, but I scared the critter and it ran down into the trees. I continued on and waited for Jeff at the bottom where we jogged the half mile back to the lodge.
Very similar to what I saw
So it was a great training day and after dinner we figured out the distance on an online map they had in the lodge. Our overnight trek was about 21 miles with 8000' of climb and took us 11:15. The Wildcat repeats were about 9 miles with about 4200' of climb and took 3 hours, so the day was a total of 29 miles, 12,200' of climb in 14 hours. Good workout!
Next Saturday I'm going back up while Jeff is in the middle of his taper. I'll meet some friends at Pinkham Lodge again and we hike up Lion's Head to the summit of Mt Washington, watch some of the the Mount Washington road race and run back down into the Great Gulf Wilderness or maybe to Madison down Osgood back to the lodge. After the post race party, I'll drive to Adams, Ma. for a night's sleep to run the Greylock Half Marathon on Sunday to put the icing on my Hardrock training cake!
One thing I'd like to mention is I've been trying to find "the" shoes for Hardrock. My team, the Wasatch Speedgoat Mountain Racing team, is sponsored by LaSportiva so they are going to be LaSportivas. The Crosslites I love but they just don't have enough under foot for the long haul, so I tried out some Imogenes and they passed the test, these are my shoes for Hardrock! So I wore the Imogenes on the overnight run/hike and the Crosslites on the Wildcat repeats.
I also used my Nathan HPL #020 backpack for the overnight to carry more water and clothes.
On another note I wanted to mention that Deb and I are well on our way to moving to New Mexico. We sold the house in NH and looked at several, made an offer on one which was accepted. Here is what will be our new home in the Jemez Mountains.
It's a Log home sitting pretty at 8200 feet, just 35 minutes West of Los Alamos, not far from Santa Fe, Albuquerque and Taos.
Deb has already moved out there and I will, too as soon as I find a good job that equals what I have here in NH. I will be there by the fall, the latest.
I fly out next Thursday for the 2 week acclimating for Hardrock and return on the 12th and will be pacing Bob Dunfey again at the Vermont 100 the following weekend.
So until next time....maybe see some of you at Hardrock or Vermont!