Monday, January 18, 2010

Liberty On MLK Day and W4K #1 - 1-18-2010

After a great day on Cardigan yesterday we were ready to take a big step up (or a few thousand of them). The plan for the day had been Liberty and our first winter 4K. We spent the weekend with our friends Tim and Val and Tim was planning to join us for the hike (while poor Val had to work).
We had plenty of confidence since Tim who at this point has 20+ 4Ks this season already (amazing) was with us. Trail reports from the weekend said that Liberty Spring trail was in perfect shape. Getting up to about 5 inches of new snow (and still snowing) on Monday morning made us second guess ourselves. Natalie and I have minimal winter hiking experience (and equipment to match) from our couple of years since we started so it didn't take much to cause that second guessing. After talking it over for a while we decided to go for it.

We got to the Basin parking lot around 8:00, geared up and headed out. The bushwhack from the bike path to the Liberty Spring trail was a bit tough to find with the new snow but Tim located it. After a near slip on the single log bridge over the brook at the start of the bushwhack and a nice save by Tim everything was smooth sailing. While our el-cheapo Tubbs snowshoes were less than optimal for a long steep day they held up fine. The trail was in good shape underneath and the new powder didn't cause any problem with trail breaking. 

It was still snowing lightly for about the first hour and then began to clear. Temps were probably in the mid 20s and rising and less than an hour in we were all down to our base layers and comfortable. I actually went without a hat and gloves for almost the whole day with the exception of the time on the summit. Amazing for a mid-January day. The hike up was beautiful with the new frosting on the trees. We stopped for an early lunch when we got to the tent site and immediately got a visit from a typically friendly Gray Jay. After we all shared our snacks and lunch with him we headed up and hit the summit just before noon.

The summit conditions were incredible. It was nearly windless (on Franconia Ridge in January, really!?!?) and still warm enough to just add a light fleece. The sun started to break through right after we reached treeline and the views were spectacular - mountains as far as the eye could see in every direction with wisps of clouds drifting in and out of the valleys. The sun peeking in and out of the clouds randomly lit up the surrounding peaks and the effect was spectacular. We hung out for at least 20 minutes soaking in the views and then headed down.

The hike down was great and the concerns about the el-cheapo snowshoes on the downhill steeps was unfounded. With the exception of a couple of minor butt slides (all short, well controlled and highly artistic) everything went smoothly. The only issue was the very sticky snow as the afternoon temps continued to rise that turned into what felt like watermelon sized balls under the crampons on our snowshoes. Natalie finally ditched hers about 2/3 of the way down and bare booted which worked out fine. Check the pic of her snowshoes when she pulled them off if you don't believe my "the size of watermelons" description. OK, maybe just cantaloupes ;-) 

It was just a fantastic day and a fantastic weekend. Liberty made 4K #14 for us and W4K #1. Each time up gets us more hooked (and now we've got the winter hiking fever big time). Our AMD is fully cured for the moment (see my Cardigan TR if you haven't heard of AMD) but I suspect that recurrences are likely to be more frequent and more severe. Thankfully for us the cure is only a few hours away...

Nat and Tim at an early brook crossing

Nice new frosting on Liberty Spring trail

Is he looking at our lunch?

Yes, and apparently peanut butter and honey sandwiches are just fine

Getting frostier near treeline

First views emerging from the trees. Kinsmans on the horizon

Sun breaking over the summit

Frozen summit

Nat almost to the top with Lincoln and Garfield in the distance

Tim relaxing on the summit and contemplating the views

Me on the summit

Nat and I celebrate our first W4K

He's following us!

Blue skies for the trip down

How in the world was she hiking on these???

Full album here:

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