Thursday, April 13, 2006

Mount Passaconaway Hike

Two weeks ago, Mark Lotterhand, his dog Sophie, and I hiked Mount Passaconaway in New Hampshire. Snow was a distant memory in Massachusetts but we knew it was still in the mountains up north. To prepare ourselves, we packed lots of winter hiking equipment.

I was excited by the opportunity to break out the hiking boots I had worn to Mount Kilimanjaro. Waterproof, rugged, and comfortable, these things just about walk up mountains by themselves.

I was running late when I dashed out to meet Mark at his house, where we would take his car up to Passaconaway. We arrived at the base of the mountain, popped the trunk, when I had the sudden revelation, "I forgot to pack my boots!"

My brain exploded. I had packed trekking poles, layer upon layer of warm clothes, food, water, everything. I had even brought gators to prevent snow from getting down my boots. My boots, my boots! I can't believe I forgot my damn boots!

I stomped my feet. I cursed. I came short of punching myself in the head. "Maybe your wife can drive up and drop them off," Mark offered as a joke. It was a two hour drive away.

Mark reassured me it wouldn't be that bad, to hike in snow up to our calves in sneakers. When the hike was finished, he confessed he would have told me any lie in the world to convince me to hike that day.

It turned out to not be as bad as I expected, although I learned that hiking in wet cold sneakers through snow is not an ideal situation. My feet are getting cold by the memory of it. I was glad I had worn thick wool socks and brought poles. This hike would not have been possible without them.

We were rewarded with a beautiful clear view of Mount Washington, which towered over the neighboring peaks. Here you can see it from 50 miles away, its rocky summit still covered in snow. There was not a cloud in the sky that day and it never got as cold as we expected.

Passaconaway is one of 4,000 footers of New Hampshire - standing at 4,043 feet. I motivated myself to continue hiking by the thought of being able to put a check mark next to its name on the list and say, "I climbed that one."

Finding the way was sometimes difficult in the snow. We came to two lookouts, giving a spectacular view of the surrounding countryside and Mount Washington. Mark held off on taking any photos on the lookouts, we wanted to wait until we got to the summit. We started a slight descent, which suddenly became a long descent, when we realized we had just been on the summit.

Hiking up in sneakers wasn't too bad but the descent was a painful experience. The snow was melting and slippery, forcing us to descend very slowly. In this photo you can see my mesh sneakers. We had seen some other hikers on the ascent, one of them advised the way up was possible without resorting to the use of crampons. I had asked him, "How about with sneakers?"

Despite the cold I felt, Mark assured me I wouldn't get frostbite. In that situation, the worst danger was coming down with hypothermia, which was a extremely remote possibility. The more likely danger was slipping and hitting something. It was slow going.

On the descent, the errors continued when we got lost and had to extend the hike a mile through unpacked snow. The trail we took threaded a path between some of the biggest cliffs I've seen in New England. While working our way down the rocky slope, I bashed my unprotected ankle on a rock which was no fun at all.

We came upon another lookout, standing atop a 600 foot sheer vertical face. I shied away from the edge, envisioning myself accidentally skiing to my doom over the side. Mark has no fear when it comes to heights. He risked his life to get this shot which made the whole hike worthwhile.


At 9:35 AM GMT-5, Anonymous sandra said...

So gorgeous. And thanks for the lesson! ("hiking in wet cold sneakers through snow is not an ideal situation") Who would've known?! I love it because that's so something I would do.

At 5:33 PM GMT-5, Anonymous John P said...

Sneakers? What are you from Roxbury? Do you go skiing in a jean jacket? Sounds like you guys had fun, I'm jealous.

At 8:13 AM GMT-5, Blogger dgreten said...

Yeah, I know, the sneakers - you'd think I had never gone hiking before. It was a nice hike but would have been a lot nicer in waterproof boots.


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