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Ascent of North Doublehead on 2014-03-30

Climber: Will Hoyt

Date:Sunday, March 30, 2014
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:North Doublehead
    Location:USA-New Hampshire
    Elevation:3053 ft / 930 m

Ascent Trip Report

North Doublehead Mountain Trip Report
Our latest adventure on our quest to complete the NH 52 With A View ( 52 WAV) list was to climb North Doublehead Mountain in Jackson, 3053 feet tall.
We had planned to hike with a group of 15 others from one of our Meetup hiking groups but as weather forecasts for snow, sleet, rain and wintery mix continued to pour in the number of hikers attending dwindled to just 4 including Beth and I. The morning of the hike, it was pouring buckets in the flatlands of coastal NH. The forecast for Jackson was for up to 2 inches of wintery mix, that wonderful combination of snow, sleet and ice. No one likes wintery mix. Skier and snowboarders like snow but no one except may manufacturers of power line cables and towing companies like wintery mix.
Beth was seriously wavering and I could tell if I gave her the option she would bailout so the party line was pack em up, move em out. I’m not trying to minimize planning and responsibly using weather forecasts when climbing in the mountains, especially in winter where weather can literally kill you. However I’ve often found that weather forecast vary and are not always accurate. Many times rain has been forecast and we’ve climbed and had the sun break out. My thoughts were that Doublehead is short climb in a populated area and good gear can make a world of difference.
My worst fear was the condition of the roads. Wintery mix on the roads would be the most danger in our adventure today. NH state road crews are the really best. They will have state highways in condition to travel before you can say Bob’s your uncle. (Hi Uncle Bob) The start time of the hike was 11:00 and I thought that would give the road crews some time to do their magic and if the roads were too bad we would find a diner have breakfast and head back home.
We packed up Murphy, our black RAV4 and drove off in a torrential downpour. Beth said well it’s a good day for a drive and we have to finish our audio book. We take lots of long drives and often listen to audio books to pass the time on our treks up Route 93 or 16. En route we got text messages that the last two hikers dropped off and only these two nut cases remained hiking.
The driving was pretty good, all rain until we hit North Conway. I said to Beth trying to raise her spirits several times that the rain seemed to be lightening up. Well it seemed that it actually was starting to slow down. In Jackson, there were in fact several inches of slush on the roads filling in the monstrous potholes.
We stopped at the Backcountry Bakery & Café in Jackson to use the bathroom and we felt that we should buy something like perhaps a fresh warm grilled blueberry muffin.
It had actually almost stopped dumping wintery mix, just a fine almost imperceptible mist.
The trailhead parking area was full of a couple inches of slush but amazingly there was another car in the parking area. We suited up in our rain gear and snow shoes and trudged off down the private road that was the start of the trail. On the way we met a young woman walking down the driveway and asked her about the condition of the trail. She said that she wasn’t hiking and lived at the end of the private drive.
I thought what a great place to live and that these people must be a special kind of people to allow hikers to use their property to hike up to Doublehead. I imagined the thoughtless people who must block their driveway and leave their trash etc. But then again the owners must also get to meet lots of really nice, wicked cool people like me and Beth. Insert smiley face here. So hats off to these landowners and to all the landowners who allow people to walk across their land and enjoy it and a big THANK YOU!
Well it really did stop raining, I’m not going to say that the sun broke out and it was all rainbows and unicorn frolicking about but it was really not too bad. We started off up the Doublehead ski trail, a wide X-Country ski trail and then took the very steep Old Path. We noticed that other nut out today was using skis to go up Old Path and very obviously must be using skins on the skis because it was so steep. Under the new layer of wintry mix the trail was fairly well packed and up we went.
Everything was grey, the snow and sky both seemed to meld together into one ominous dimension. Thankfully the Old Path is short and after some huffing and puffing we reached the ridgeline between North and South Doublehead. At one point we actually saw our shadows. Our spirits were good and we joked that it was now easy going up to North Doublehead. Of course that didn’t happen, the fog and mist rolled in and ahead loomed a huge mass of blackish green and we both shouted what the #$@ is that? So much for an easy stretch, we were already more wet from sweat than from rain but anytime you stopped the cold misty wind cut through you up we went. Then it got steep and slippery before leveling at the cabin.
At the top is a rustic cabin maintained by the US Forest Service that can be rented out. We walked over to a lovely view spot and gorgeous view, except we couldn’t see it, only gray cold wind whipped icy mist.
The trees were really pretty, coated with layers of clear ice, grey wintry mix, and now recently a thin layer of white fluff. Nature called and we did our thing and then noticed that there happened to be an outhouse next to the cabin. Oh well.
Now the descent. We took out our Butt Sleds and headed down the Ski Trail. For those who are unfamiliar a butt sled is a semi-suicidal device made out of hard plastic slightly larger than the average size butt with a small flat handle that you put between your legs. We sat and slid making excellent time down the nice wide trail. Excellent abdominal workout by the way because you lift your legs up and lean back a bit; about halfway down Beth noticed that I had lost my pack cover.
I told Beth that it probably came off just around that last corner and trudged back up ski trail to find my pack cover. Well my waterproof map was in the snow just around the corner but no pack cover so up I went looking left and right and in the woods for the wayward pack cover. This was getting old. The slick trail that we had just careened down was a chore to go back up. Of course my pack cover was nearly at the top and it started to mist and spit ice pellets a bit more now.
Back on the butt sled and back down I went. I literally ran into Beth who had gotten cold waiting and started climbing back up to stay warm. We took turns leading the way and getting completely soaked before reaching the trailhead. Murphy (the car) was a disaster of sopping wet clothes and gear but we dried and put on warm dry clothes. Beth texted Dianna that we were now down and dry, and we got wetter from the butt sledding than from the sky.
On the drive back I noticed a potential hazard of butt sledding a bit of trail rash on the tail bone. On one checked off the 52 WAV list. 14 more to go!
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