Mt.Pierce (Clinton?) hike

The whole trip started with a promise I made to Lisa about attempting a winter traverse of the White Mountain Presidential Range. It's a nice 30 mile hike that is almost completely above tree line and includes all the Presidential peaks (hence the name) and their brutal winter weather. Given that we only had a few days that fit into our schedules, we gambled on the weather and drove up to New Hampshire hoping for a clearing. After dropping off a car at the Pinkham Notch, we drove to the southern start of the traverse, and spent the night at the trailhead of the Crawford Path. Having slept comfortably in the Lisa's huge Explorer, we woke up to discover about half a foot of fresh powdery snow, with more coming down all the time. Obviously, the conditions above treeline would be less than balmy... Hiking up through the woods, our snowshoes were braking trail in about a foot of fresh powder. Human track preceded us for about half a mile up the trail, but then the valiant hiker apparently decided that the trail was too snowed in to be hiking without snowshoes, and turned around to descend back to the parking lot. The trail above that point remained pristine and untouched.  

Along the way the mother Nature teased us with glimpses of a cloudless blues sky, and sunlight that streamed into the woods at brief intervals. Seeing those brief changes in the weather, Lisa and I made hopeful plans to ascend at least a few of the presidentials that day. In the meantime, Lisa stoically weathered my attempts at photography, including one that ended with her in a snowdrift stuck in a spruce trap.  

Closing on the tree line, we entered a true winter wonderland, with Christmas-tree like evergreens covered in powdery snow. The windward side of the mountain collects significant snowfall, and the wind did not yet have the chance to knock it off. So we proceeded, filled with wonder, already thinking of this failed presidential traverse as a quite successful hike. We topped out on the ridge line, and turned left to ascend the final few hundred feet to the top of Pierce (Clinton?). The depth of the snow drifts increased dramatically, and soon the the wind hit us hard. All of the sudden the winter wonderland vanished in a whitout of blowing ice needles. Quickly, we scurried back into the shelter of the trees, breaking out the summit gear: goggles, mittens, balaclavas; zipping up the jackets and the Goretex pants. Thus armored, we proceeded to storm the ridge yet again. The wind and snow posed little problem now, so we happily proceeded into the whiteout, heading mostly uphill. My cheap goggles fogged up completely at this point, so Lisa took the initiative and led the way to the highest local point. At this time it became obvious that we would be foolish to traverse the ridge today, so we proceeded back down, briefly losing ourselves after missing a turn in the trail ("Wait, this drop-off was not here on the way up...") 


Sun followed us on the way down, intermittently poking its head out as if in a mockery. But we were content with our short hike, especially the wintry experience above tree line. Somehow we felt (foolishly?)secure in the bone chilling winds and sub-zero temperatures, like kids when that discover a new playground....And before I overdo the metaphors, I'll better stop. Meanwhile, berries on a tree we passed added a missing color to the snow covered land. Why do the berries not disappear before the snowfall? Are there no hungry animals around that would find them before us?The trailhead appeared just as daylight dwindled, allowing us to take just a few photos before packing the car and going home. BTW, the photo of us in full gear was taken at the trailhead, since I did not dare to break out the camera out at the top.We were coming back early, back to Boston and warm rooms and work and all the other necessities of everyday life.  

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