Saturday, October 1, 2011
MIDDLE MOUNTAIN & BALD CAP PEAK: 9/27/11
John "1HappyHiker" Compton and I joined up for a trail-and-bushwhack exploration in the Shelburne area, where we have both been hiking a bit in recent weeks. Our plan was to follow an old route up Middle Mountain from the west (off Peabody Brook Trail), which is in the process of being reopened by the Shelburne Trails Club, then bushwhack up to the expansive clifftop ledges on the south face of Bald Cap Peak. We had both been to those ledges before - in my case way back in 1990 on a foggy and warm late winter trip when a friend and I thought we were climbing Middle and ended up on Bald Cap Peak - but on our visits we had both found less than ideal conditions for enjoying the views.
On this sunny, warm late September day, good views were virtually guaranteed. This western part of what will be called the Middle Mountain Trail follows an old route shown on the USGS Shelburne quad, mostly on old logging roads. At present it is only a flagged and uncleared route, but the STC plans to clear and blaze it in the near future.
The upper part leads through some pleasant stands of second-growth hardwood.
We thought this weathered old signboard may have marked the junction with the former steep trail up Bald Cap Peak, which was abandoned by the 1970s.
An old cairn marking the route on the gentle north slope of Middle Mountain.
From the ledges on the summit of Middle, we could see some nice developing foliage on the east ridge of Bald Cap Peak.
A summit sign bearing the attractive logo of the Shelburne Trails Club.
The ledges of Bald Cap Peak loom impressively to the north from Middle Mountain.
A closer look at the cliffs.
John scouting out the mountain. We had both previously ascended this steep mountain by a route to the right of the main cliffs, and our plan for today was to use that general approach after visiting a view ledge down near the base of the slope.
A short bushwhack from the old trail sign brought us to that lower view ledge, which provided a nice vista towards the Moriahs and the Presidentials.
Looking back at Middle Mountain.
This was a nice spot, and it was tempting to linger here, but we wanted to take a long break at the top of the main cliffs.
Behind this ledge was an unexpected hardwood flat.
Then we hit an impassable wall of ledge. After a traverse to the right, John led us up through a very steep "seam" in the mountainside.
A couple of hundred feet higher up, we made a short detour to a small perch beside a dark, sloping cliff - a wild spot indeed!
We had a good view out to Bear Mountain beyond Mt. Ingalls.
More or less following the guidebook description from the 1960s, we circled left and found some traces of the old trail, including this cairn.
We wiggled our way up through a number of ledges and cliffs....
...with some terrific views along the way.
The terrain was a little tricky on the final approach; we would have been better off circling up and behind.
John starts the final approach.
This airy maneuver was the key to reaching the top.
And what a top - the view looking east.
The obligatory boot shot, looking south over Middle Mountain.
Peering down at the hardwood forest at the base of the cliffs.
John checks out the ledges to the west.
Capturing the SE view.
A clifftop red pine, bowed but not broken.
Just hangin' out - we spent over an hour here basking in the sun on these expansive ledges.
Originally we thought we might head over the broad, wooded summit of Bald Cap Peak to the Peabody Brook Trail near Dream Lake. But we had both floundered in dense spruce back there on our respective previous trips, and that did not sound appealing today. So we headed west down the ridge, hoping to hit some lower view ledges along the way. A short way down we found another old cairn.
We descended along the base of this rock wall for hundreds of feet.
We miscalculated on the location of the lower ledges and never found them, but we did traverse some fine open woods at times.
We came down to the Peabody Brook Trail not too far above this ladder.
Just below the ladder we had our last view of the day from a slide opening along the trail. And what a great day it was!