January 2, 2012

Mount Waumbek

With the fall semester over, the holiday family gatherings complete, and the spring semester not quite upon us yet, Katy and I decided to take a few days for just the two of us. We both have brand new snowshoes that we'd really like to break in, so we headed north and spent New Year's weekend in the White Mountains. The weather for Saturday looked iffy, with freezing rain and rain showers in the forecast. So we decided to spend that day poking around Jackson, NH, and ice skating at Nestlenook. It turned out to be a cloudy day but with very little precipitation and just an overall good time.

After a low-key New Year's Eve, we woke up relatively early on Sunday morning for a New Year's Day hike up Mount Waumbek. Mount Waumbek is one of the shortest of the NH 4000 footers and is a relatively straightforward out and back hike, 7.2 miles round trip. Despite our desire to snowshoe, all of the trip reports seemed to indicate that there just wasn't enough snow on most of the peaks, even at the higher elevations. Several Waumbek hikers over the previous few days reported using microspikes all the way up, so that's what we used as well. At about 9:30AM we were at the trailhead, with only one other car in the lot and temperatures in the low 30's and climbing.

The early part of the trail was a mix of ice and bare ground but this quickly gave way to persistent icy conditions covering the entire trail. The microspikes handled this with ease, though, and we were able to move along at a good pace. As we continued to gain elevation, the temperatures dipped back below freezing with a good 4-6 inches of snow on the ground. The trail was well packed down, though, and easy to navigate. Blue skies were threatening at the start of the hike, but we hiked right into a cloud and were viewless at the minor Starr King summit and the tree covered Waumbek summit. We reached the peak before noon and grabbed a few pictures and a quick snack before heading down.

On our descent, we passed several other groups going up, and when we reached the trailhead, the small lot was full and the temperatures were well into the 40's. We stayed another night at the Town and Country Inn in Gorham, NH before heading back home today. Overall it was a great hike, a great day, and a great New Year's weekend getaway with my favorite person. Mount Waumbek is our 27th NH 4000 footer and our first official winter 4000 footer.

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