MOUNT PIERCE LOOP: 2/22/13
The Observatory forecast promised sunny skies, light winds, and summit temperatures topping out around 20 degrees - a classic "Presi day." I shelved preliminary plans to climb wooded Mt. Waumbek (what was I thinking?) and headed for an old winter favorite, Mount Pierce in the southern Presidentials. This is a great winter trek, with miles of snow-draped conifers, wide views and a taste of the alpine zone. The loop past Mizpah Hut adds more views and some nice woods ridge walking. Cath Goodwin would start out later and catch up with me along the way.
The Mt. Clinton Road leading up to Crawford Path parking wasn't plowed, so I parked near the Highland Center and crossed Route 302 to the start of the Crawford Path proper. I strapped on my snowshoes and headed up the softly-packed trail. I was surprised to see a foot of fresh champagne powder in the woods, which must have accumulated over the previous few days. Near the start of the trail is a sign giving a brief history of this venerable mountain route.
At the junction with Crawford Connector I chatted with "Midnight Mike" Bromberg, who was heading up with a friend for an overnight at Mizpah Campsite. Mike has the distinction of having stood on the summit of every NH 4000-footer at midnight in winter. He was also one of the earliest 4000-footer "Grid" finishers. His cartography skills created the great Wonalancet Out Door Club map of the Sandwich Range, and he's made a similar map for Mt. Monadnock. As seen below, a couple of other snowshoers were heading up the Crawford Path.
An interesting burl beside the trail.
Higher up, the trail was an endless winding gallery of snow-plastered evergreens.
Deep powder in the woods beside the trail.
Great snowshoeing conditions today. A steady moderate climb up to the Mizpah Cutoff junction, which always seems to take longer than it should.
Above the Mizpah Cutoff junction, the clouds were breaking, some blue was showing through.
As the trail contoured through the scrub high on the side of Mt. Pierce, I got my first peeks at the freshly whitened peaks of Eisenhower and Washington. A Presi day, indeed!
The trail approaching treeline.
Trail sign at the junction below the summit of Pierce.
Relaxing here were veteran peakbagger Anne Gwynne (on the left) and her friend Pat. Anne was a longtime member of the AMC Four Thousand Footer Committee, has led many AMC hikes, and has completed a round of the NH 4000-footers after the age of 70. They were taking it easy today, just doing Mt. Pierce.
While I was chatting with Anne and Pat, Cath Goodwin emerged from the trees, and we soon headed up through the alpine zone on a bony stretch of trail to the summit of Pierce.
The view back from the summit, where we took a long break in the warm sun.
A couple of Gray Jays soon found us, and before long a third one came along.
Cath and a new friend.
This looks like one satisfied customer.
Where's the food? They are handsome, if somewhat demanding birds. It's always a joy to encounter them on a summit.
A snowshoer came partway up towards the summit, then turned around and descended.
We followed a drifted little passageway over to a view into the dark recesses of the Dry River valley, with Mt. Isolation and the long crest of Mt. Davis closing in the other side. That valley is wilder than ever with the Dry River Trail out of commission thanks to Tropical Storm Irene.
Rocky Branch Ridge (L) and Mt. Isolation (R).
Taking it all in...what a day!
Cath takes a last look at the view before we head out for the loop.
Heading south on the Webster Cliff Trail with partial SW views.
The snow was deep in here, and only partly broken, as we meandered through a tunnel of trees.Winter at its finest!
Many peaks on the skyline.
Looking back from the semi-open south summit of Pierce.
Drifting along the trail.
Approaching the SW outlook - a view of the mighty Carrigain.
This is my favorite spot on Pierce, revealing wave after wave of dark, snow-speckled mountains.
North Moat, Stairs, Resolution, Crawford and Chocorua.
Mt. Jackson and the Sandwich Range.
The sprawling ridges of Mt. Hancock.
Great spot for a prolonged break.
Slide-shuffling down the steep pitch towards Mizpah Hut.
We tromped around in the deep powder by the boarded-up hut, then took the Mizpah Cutoff back to Crawford Path to complete our loop. What a great day in the mountains!