We ate our continental breakfast at 7AM and drove through Lincoln to the Kancamagus Highway to the hairpin turn where the parking lot for the Hancocks are. The weather for today was supposed to be sunny and clear; much different than yesterday's clouds. I started my watch at 7:49AM.
We crossed the highway and put on our microspikes right away. We hiked in a seemingly flat snow covered well trod and broken path for the first hour or so until the grade rose every so slightly. Traffic on the trails today was noticeably busier than yesterday and we seemed to bump into people every half hour or so.
We hit the beginning of the Hancock loop in just about an hour and a half after starting our hike. We met a couple coming down already with their energetic dog. Deciding to go towards Mount Hancock or the north and highest summit first we initially downclimbed before hitting a steep 1000ft steep climb straight up that made us feel like our hearts were pounding out of our chests. The hiker in front of me was not wearing microspikes and made a bit of mess of the trail. Instead of nice snow steps. there were snow smears making me have to re-step out the staircase up. We hit the summit about 2.5 hours in. Initially when you finish the ascent you hit the junction with the ridge trail. If you turn left, less than a minute of walking will take you to a nice lookout. The Gray Jays showed up here instantly and Deb got a great photo of one flying by me on the summit (see above).
We didn't take a break here as we were pretty warm from the ascent and wanted to keep walking along the ridge to dry out our thermo-regulating garments (OR Refuge Air Jacket) and get back to being warm and dry. The ridge trail was covered with loads of rime ice and snow and on this sunny clear day was quite stunning.
We climbed up over the Middle Hancock bump and passed a few people going the opposite direction. We got to the South Hancock summit where a few other people were lingering at the sunny lookout point. Standing in the direct sun was instantly warming and so we went over to the lookout to join in and have some tea and a bite to eat. Two young guys were there and we exchanged hiking stories and tried to identify peaks in the distance. The Gray Jays were also hovering here and one time when I pointed to one of the peaks with a pepperette in my hand it swooped down and tried to steal the food! It was unsuccessful but it sure made us eager to pack up and move on. We descended down the South Hancock trail (which is steep in places but not as steep as the ascent we came up) and joined back onto the trail we came in on.
We kept seeing many parties coming in after us including solo and small groups. One small group of youngsters had only running shoes and city clothes on which was concerning. I didn't say anything at the time, but I wish I did now. Only a day later a 19 year old girl Emily Soreto attempted to hike Lafayette Mountain and perished wearing only running shoes and not having proper winter hiking gear. I think our hiking community needs to do a better job at education, and I need to speak up more when on trail. It is so easy in the winter to get into trouble.
We finished the hike on the flat snowy path and were eager for xc ski season to begin. Winter has just arrived, and there is more hiking and skiing to be had. With these 4 summits bagged this trip, I am up to 73/115 for my NE list. Getting there!
Time: 6 hours 20 mins