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Trip 3 (Winter) Mount Chocorua 3500’ 2/18/01

7.7 Miles 2600’ Elevation gain

Kevin and Bob F.

Setting out with the knowledge we would be facing lots of snow and ice I was psyched and Bob seemed to enjoy getting someone new to it out on the trails. Our previous climb had been so good we decided we would repeat that course if the trails allowed. As it turned out Piper Trail was well packed by previous snowshoers, so the hiking was more like taking a snow-packed sidewalk than hiking. As we came on the turn for Nickerson Ledge Trail, it too was well packed, so that sealed the decision to follow that route. The sun was out as we started, though it was well below freezing and I was loving it. Hiking in snow cleats that Jude and I had tried out previously on Mount Major and probably in Pawtuckaway too, I was comfortable I could make the summit in these. As we climbed and took in the views, we could discern on the western horizon a front moving in slowly, not real threatening but we soon lost the warmth of the sun. Eventually as we climbed we ran out of packed trail. The shoers must have given up and turned around. We made the decision to continue, it turned out to be not the best choice we could have made. We soon found ourselves “postholing” in some areas through waist deep snow. At this point we really should have considered turning around, but we didn’t, trying to convince ourselves we would come to where the snow would be hard enough to walk on. It never happened yet we went on, now walking on top of snow, now breaking through and sinking up to our thighs. Pulling legs back out and trying to stand back up, only to break through the snow again and sink right back in. It was nightmarish, but now we had come so far it would have been just as bad going back, and the fear of defeat was pushing me on. I don’t know what pushed Bob on. At one point he had to wait to climb behind me while I let loose a litany of obscenities at the top of my lungs the likes of which have never been heard on this or any other mountainside in the history of the world. I was just about beat at that point. I wanted Bob to just leave me there to die, and realized I was having a glimpse into Jude’s world. I felt great sympathy for her, and resolved to make it through like she always did. After what seemed like a lifetime in purgatory, we made it to the summit of the first Sister where I got a second wind. We still had to go down and up to the second Sister, and then there was the matter of climbing the summit cone of Chocorua. Yes, I was questioning what I had gotten myself into. Having done it and suvived, I wouldn’t change a thing. After another eternity of postholing and slipping across icy ledges, we found ourselves at the base of the rocks and ledges that have to be climbed to reach Chocorua’s bare summit. Bob stopped here to put on his crampons, as it had turned from deep now with a thin frozen rind, to mostly ice. I kept going figuring it was now or never. Some more climbers came down as I was going up, sort of looked at my snow cleats and snickered, then left me to my doom. I managed to make it up with no spills, and immediately changed my prayers to “now, let me get out of here.” I waited for what seemed a long time but Bob finally brought up the rear, and we took a few minutes to take in the views and snap a few pictures. I was way more exhausted than I ever want to be half way through a trip, so I wanted to get moving out of there. As we started down I had a good demonstration of why crampons are needed as opposed to snow cleats, as Bob made it down quite easily, and I had to slip and slide and hope I didn’t pitch headlong as I inched on my butt back down to the level below the summit. Bob started heading in a direction that I thought was away from the Piper Trail we decided to descend by, and I stood arguing with him about it. Of course he was right, boy was I tired. We found the packed trail had been blown over in most places, and although the going was somewhat easier on the descent, it was still exhausting, and we were well down the mountain before the trail became easier to traverse. At one point I had to backtrack to find a cleat that had fallen off. I probably wouldn’t have gone back for it, but Bob had just taken the lead from me, and if it happened while he was behind me he would have seen it, so I knew it couldn’t be that far back. Bob got a nice rest while I repeated that part of the trail. Eventually we made it back to the car. Man, was I beat. Obviously we should have sought a different route when we began to “posthole”. We should have turned around and tried another route, or, not having snowshoes, not made the attempt. We made it, but I wouldn’t advise anyone to try this. If you don’t have snowshoes and the trail isn’t packed, turn back before you’re so exhausted you get into trouble. We made several bad decisions, but vowed to learn from them. One thing I learned was that whoever comes through on that trail next has a heck of a time because of the postholes. If you’re in snowshoes it’s hard to avoid getting caught in the holes and if you’re in boots you practically have to step in the same holes, or risk sliding off the top of the snow into the holes. It can really ruin the trail for the next people through, so, I guess the rule should be “If you’re postholing, turn back!”

Next Mountain
1st Trip 8/18/97
2nd Trip7/12/00