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Mountaineering Pierce and Eisenhower in February

Hiking Pierce and Eisenhower in February

Mt Pierce and Mt Eisenhower are two 4000 footers within the Southern Presidential Vary which runs between Crawford Notch and Mt Washington. The route as much as these two peaks follows the Crawford Path, which is the oldest constantly maintained mountain climbing path in the US.

Attending to Pierce in winter is fairly simple as a result of this part of path could be very closely used, however mountain climbing past it to Mt Eisenhower is tougher as a result of there’s a protracted above-treeline stretch earlier than you attain the ultimate ascent up “Ike’s” bald dome. Whereas this can be a pretty informal hike in heat climate, it’s to not be taken frivolously in February, with out correct winter gear, expertise, and conditioning. Along with the wind and frostbite hazard, deep snowdrifts kind in between the small timber (Krumholz) that delineate the trail obscuring it fully. You don’t wish to try this part with out snowshoes or solo, as a result of falling right into a spruce lure (a void within the bushes lined by snow) will be deadly in the event you can’t get out beneath your personal energy. After all, that doesn’t cease some idiots from making an attempt each.

Karen snowshoeing up the Crawford Path to Mt Pierce
Karen snowshoeing up the Crawford Path to Mt Pierce

I used to be joined on this hike by my common mountain climbing companions Karen and Ken, who’re additionally engaged on their White Mountain 4000 Grids. You couldn’t ask for 2 nicer, skilled, and wise mountain climbing companions, and we’ve had many adventures collectively. This may show to be one other one.

This was the primary weekend after we bought two toes of snow within the White Mountains, so path breaking with snowshoes was on the menu for many summit makes an attempt. The day began off chilly at -11F on the trailhead, which caught me off guard. I used to be anticipating a hotter begin, however we have been quickly layering off as we climbed up the Crawford Path to Pierce, which climbs 3.1 miles to the quick path main the summit cairn. This part of the Crawford Path is protected against the wind by timber, so we didn’t should put on face safety or extra windproof layers.

Descending Pierce and heading toward Eisenhower (middle)
Descending Pierce and heading towards Eisenhower (center)

Pierce itself is extra uncovered to the wind, however there are some small timber across the summit cairn, the place we gulped down some scorching water and meals, earlier than setting off to climb Eisenhower. The solar was shining brightly, so I switched to my polarized sun shades, placed on my closely insulated mountaineering gloves, and moved my balaclava to my entrance pack for simple entry.

We instantly hit deep snowdrifts and wind slabs as tall because the dwarf timber that defend parts of the path between Pierce and Eisenhower. The wind was from the Southeast, so these dwarf timber protected us from its full impact, but it surely was nonetheless chilly and I put one other insulating layer over the three I used to be already carrying.

Philip and Karen on the above-treeline section between Pierce and Eisenhower. Photo courtesy Ken Robichaud
Philip and Karen on the above-treeline part between Pierce and Eisenhower. Picture courtesy Ken Robichaud

As we made our means towards Eisenhower, the snow bought deeper and deeper, till we have been actually postholing in thigh-deep powder though we have been all carrying snowshoes. The path grew to become more and more onerous to observe because the drifts deepened and we have been pressured to “bushwhack” round sections that have been fully buried and impassable. Out within the open now, Karen and I donned face safety as a result of we have been frightened about frostbite. The winds have been most likely solely 20 mph, however I used to be dropping some sensation on my cheeks and knew I’d want a masks for the bald summit of Eisenhower.

Karen and Ken bundled up on the summit of Eisenhower
Karen and Ken bundled up on the summit of Eisenhower

After we reached the summit spur, named the Eisenhower Loop, we hit a brick wall, so to talk. We couldn’t stand up the ultimate slope as a result of the powder on the base of the climb saved collapsing beneath us. We’d made it this far and I wasn’t going to surrender so near the summit. Then I had an thought.

Utilizing my trekking poles, I pulled the snow down off the rocks on the base of the climb, so I might get a greater buy with my snowshoe cleats. As soon as I’d climbed these, it was a matter of zig-zagging up the slope on the south-facing wind slab, which had the consistency of styrofoam however gives good traction. Quickly we have been on the summit, admiring the view of Mt Washington simply to the north.

Ken, Karen, and Philip - summit selfie. Photo courtesy of Ken Robichaud
Ken, Karen, and Philip – summit selfie. Picture courtesy of Ken Robichaud

The hike again out and down was fairly quick as a result of we’d achieved all of the onerous work on the way in which up. As Ken remarked after we bought again to the trailhead, “It’s been some time since I needed to break path like that.” Sure, certainly. He fell asleep as quickly as he bought residence.

Whole distance: 9.2 miles w/3300′ of elevation achieve.

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