Holts Ledge

Hiking from fall to winter.

After yesterday’s brief snowfall the weather turned warm and sunny once again, allowing us a beautiful fall afternoon. This morning we woke to dense river-valley fog, so I headed across Lyme to the Dartmouth Skiway and the high point of Holts Ledge. There, well above the fog, I encountered brilliant foliage at the base and an impressive 2″ snowcover on the exposed slopes near the top. Here is one photo from the top, showing Holts Ledge at left and the peaks of Moosilauke, Cube, and Smarts left to right – but don’t miss the gallery for six other full-res photos in brilliant color.

View of Holts Ledge with (L to R) Moosilauke, Cube, and Smarts, with waves of fall foliage below.

Hike stats:
distance = 5.9km
gain = 353m
time = 1h 37m (including photo stops)

Mt. Israel

A beautiful hike through fall foliage.

Today was another spectacular fall day in New Hampshire. I enjoyed a lovely early-morning drive across the rolling hills of center-western portion of the state, around Squam Lake, and past the trailhead for my prior Morgan-Percival hike, to the pretty village of Center Sandwich. My destination was Mt. Israel, seen in photo of fall colors above a roadside wetland. Read on and check out the gallery.

A pretty roadside view on Rt113 in NH. A shoulder of Mt. Israel peeks out at right.
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Woodland wanderings

Sunday morning in the woods.

Today I spent a good portion of the morning wandering the woodlands of Lyme. The sun was shining, the skies were blue, the trees were bursting with color, and I was scrambling over moss-covered stone walls in the midst of historic farm country. If there is a better way to spend a Sunday morning, I can’t think of one. Read on and check out the gallery.

The fall colors are bursting forth this week.
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Morgan and Percival

A beautiful hike through fall foliage to summits that overlook Squam Lake.

The trail sign gave me two choices to reach the summit – via the caves or via the cliffs. Well, I picked the caves of course! Little did I know that the trail would in one place make me squeeze through a passage so narrow I’d need to remove my pack, and that in another place the trail would actually cross over itself like a corkscrew. Read on and check out the gallery for more photos of Mount Morgan and Mount Percival, during fall-foliage season!

View from Mt. Percival, with Mt. Morgan at right and Squam Lake below..
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Freshman Trip

A picnic Freshman Trip at the Lodge.

Dartmouth has a tradition of “Freshman Trips” (now “DOC Trips”) going back almost a hundred years. Before the new first-year students begin life on campus, they spend three days in the New Hampshire wilderness backpacking, biking, canoeing, etc., in small groups. On the last night they converge on Moosilauke Ravine Lodge for a grand evening of dining, dancing, and stories. It is a truly special program, and every year more than 90% of incoming students participate, along with hundreds of upper-class leaders and staff. Totally student run, totally amazing way to begin the Dartmouth experience.

This year, of course, is different. My son Andy is entering Dartmouth as a freshman – but this year, there are no traditional Freshman Trips. So Andy and I walked up to Moosilauke Ravine Lodge for a picnic dinner at sunset. Mara ’22 was the Loj Croo 😉. It was a beautiful evening.

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Customer service

Amazingly great customer service from thinkTANK photo.

Close readers may recall that, several miles into my day-long hike along the Aletsch Glacier, back in Switzerland, that my backpack’s hip-belt suddenly failed – the padded belt portion simply became un-sewed from the body of the pack. Today I received the most amazing example of Customer Service I’ve ever seen…

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Mt. Pemigewasset

A morning hike on a sunny day.

New Hampshire has been an extremely popular destination for hikers during the pandemic, attracting in-staters as well as many from Massachussetts and other parts of southern New England. As a result, my aim is to hike lesser-known trails, to hike on weekdays, and to hike early in the morning. Today I headed up to Franconia Notch (often an extremely crowded destination) and was almost the first car to arrive at the trailhead. I was soon on the trail to Mt. Pemigewasset, a tiny bump between the deep valley of Franconia Notch and the 4000-foot peaks to its west. I’d never been here before, dismissing this little destination as unworthy. But it has a wonderful view, and it makes for a pleasant 3.6-mile round-trip morning walk.

David on the summit of Mount Pemigewasset, NH.

In the photo above you can see Mount Moosilauke – my hike from two weeks ago – in the distance to the left above my head. I had passed a father-daughter pair coming down just before I arrived at the summit – darn, I’d intended to be here an hour earlier – but otherwise saw no other hikers on the way up.

View of Moosilauke (distant right) from the summit of Mount Pemigewasset, NH.

In the south-looking photo above you can again see Moosilauke in the distance. On the way down, however, there were several large parties coming up, mostly family groups, several with children or dogs.

View of South Kinsman from the summit of Mount Pemigewasset, NH.

In the photo above you see the Kinsman ridge, which John and I traversed a few years ago. I was back at the car by 9:30am and home by 11am, ready to get back to work. Nice way to start the day!

Moosilauke

Visiting an old friend.

It will come as no surprise to those of you who know me, that I was back out on the trail early on my second morning out of quarantine. Not long after sunrise, I drove north along the Connecticut River and then hanging a right through the morning fog toward Moosilauke, my spiritual home in the White Mountains. This route takes me from the town of Lyme north through Orford and northeast to Warren, past the barns and pastures of riverbottom farmland, past the B&B Inns and historic sites that normally draw tourists, past the auto-body shops and driveways filled with pickup trucks. Today it was also striking to drive left to right through the political spectrum, beginning with the Black Lives Matter signs in Lyme and transitioning to the Trump-Pence campaign signs in Orford and eventually to the Trump 2020: No more bullshit sign in Warren.

Moosilauke summit on a fine summer day.

I arrived early and parked at the satellite parking area – the road is gated because Moosilauke Ravine Lodge is closed due to the pandemic. Sigh; this adds a mile-and-a-half to the round-trip distance. Still, the sky was brilliant blue and the morning air was cool. I made quick time, up Snapper to Carriage Road, pausing to visit South Peak, and then on to the main summit. Only then did I see another person – after two hours and almost four miles of hiking. A light breeze blew across the summit, while the cool morning air forced clouds to form and then dissipate as the breeze passed over the higher peaks to the northeast. Four other hikers were already at the summit, sitting suitably far apart.

View from the Moosilauke summit on a fine summer day.

I didn’t stay long, and headed down the Gorge Brook Trail – thus completing the classic circuit in the opposite direction from my normal pattern. As expected, I encountered many more hikers on my way down. All were kind enough to step aside, or would thank me after I stepped aside; about a third would pop on a mask while passing by. (Personally, I don’t see a need for a mask while hiking outdoors, in a breeze, when the contact time is less than 10 seconds, and only make an effort to keep distance during passing.)

Moosilauke summit on a fine summer day.

The terrain here is so different than Switzerland, but so beautiful in its own way, and so full of memories. A wonderful day.

Braunwald Panoramaweg

A return to Braunwald for the summer perspective.

Although it was tempting to think of Friday’s climb of Piz Palü as a grand finale for my time in Switzerland, today’s sunny summer weather just couldn’t be ignored. With only a few days remaining in Switzerland – a hiker’s paradise – I decided to maximize the opportunity. So this morning I hopped a train back to Braunwald, where in March I spent an intense day postholing my way across the high country toward Schwanden. It was quite different today! Read on and check out the gallery.

Waterfall and mountains in Braunwald.
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Piz Palü

I grew up hiking in the Adirondack mountains of New York, and later the White Mountains of New Hampshire – places that are still near and dear to my heart – but ever since I was a young boy, leafing through pictorial mountaineering books from legendary climbers like Chris Bonington and Reinhold Messner, I’ve dreamed of ‘Real Mountains’ capped with snow and glacier. Yesterday, I finally had my chance and summited Piz Palü (3900m, 12,811′). Although relatively simple on the grand scale of mountaineering, it was nonetheless the most challenging mountain I’ve experienced in my 50 years of hiking. Read on and definitely do not miss the gallery – we were blessed with outstanding weather and snow conditions.

David, Patrick, and Felix on the summit of Piz Palü.
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