Friday, August 11, 2017

Hiking the Whites Day 3 - The Weather Turns

Our trip to this point had been a succession of glorious New England summer days. Sunny and warm, but never too hot. The forecast for our third day promised something different, though. "In the clouds, rain showers, winds 30-40 mph, and temperatures in the 40s" were promised for the high peaks.
A red dawn over Twin Mountain - the first climb of the day.

Clouds began lowering over the peaks as the morning began. 
Our hike for today was about 7 miles along the Twinway Trail, which the hut croo assured us was one of most scenic of the Whites. Although the first mile of the hike was a rocky scramble up Twin Mountain (4700'), the rest of the day promised ridge walking and a gradual descent to Zealand Falls Hut (2360'), the lowest in the hut system.
Rain gear on and ready to tackle the day!
Rain began falling during breakfast, and we dressed for the conditions, with rainjackets, pants, and extra layers. Climbing up the steep ascent of Twin Mountain, the extra layers  were a sweat-producing burden, but at the top we were happy to have them. Above treeline the temperature was 35 degrees, and we felt the full force of the 30-40 mph wind. No time to tarry - we were quickly ready to move on!
An inhospitable summit.

Summit selfie - photobomb by Traci.

Looking south towards Franconia Ridge and Mount Garfield. The only view we had all day.
Fortunately, the trail descended along the ridge and into the sub-alpine forest of stunted trees and krumholz. It wasn't much shelter, but it helped. Meanwhile the clouds descended upon us and we walked in a dense fog, with the views to either side only imagined in the grayness. Despite our rain gear, we were all wet and chilled, so the only goal for the day was to keep moving. Even a short stop to pass out sandwiches for lunch left us shivering and cold. 

As we descended the temperature gradually climbed, and we enjoyed some smooth even trail for large sections. Aside from one quick climb through gusty winds and sleet to cross a ridge line, we made relatively good time. 

Approaching the hut, we descended further into a forest of larger trees and warmer temperatures. But by the time we walked in the door of the hut we were a cold and bedraggled group. Zealand Falls Hut is next to a swift-flowing stream with waterfalls. It would be a wonderful location on a warm summer day, but we were content to get inside, claim some bunks, and shift into drier clothes. 

Next - Return to Crawford Notch

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