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 Trip Report: Mt. Hancock 12-03-06 
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 Trip Report: Mt. Hancock 12-03-06
I arrived early at the Hancock Notch Trailhead on the Kancamagus Highway. You can't miss this trailhead as it has its own extended parking lot just after the hairpin turn when you are coming from Lincoln. There was only a small dusting of snow in the curb shadows in the parking lot. Magic, Jay and Dianne arrived and we got ready and headed out at 10:10

The trail as advertised is relatively flat with great footing, gaining just 400 feet by the time we reached the junction of Cedar Brook Junction. The trail had a light dusting of snow in places with occasional frost blooms sticking up out of the ground and the one stream crossing here was easy. We turned on to Cedar Brook trail, immediately crossing a brook. While there are 5 more crossings, next two we bypassed by following a trail keeping to the right of the water as we headed north. The water was not high for any of these, and the weather the last few days was warm enough so that there was little to no ice at any of these crossings. The trail had a few more tree roots, the occasional rocky section and a few iced-over puddles but after only 200 more feet of elevation gain, we arrived at the junction for the Hancock Loop Trail.

Unlike the last two trails, this one is more your typical rocky path. There was also more snow on the path, but still it was only a light coverying with ground and rocks showing through everywhere. Crossing over the brook again, we headed up another 600 feet over the next mile to reach the junction where you can go to the north or south peak. Shortly after the first crossing, there was another minor stream crossing which actually proved to be the most challenging. Most of the rocks had some black ice on them, but as long as you moved slowly and looked for good footing there was no problem.

From the junction, we headed down hill a short ways to the stream and crossed what during the summer would have been a gravel stretch which the water would flow under. The colder weather, however, must have frozen some spots up and the water was flowing over the gravel. Crossing the stream we were now at the base of the real climb. While up to this point the Hancock Loop trail was steeper than the first two trails, we had really only gained 1200 feet over 3.7 miles. For the next 0.6 miles we climbed straight up another 1000.

The footing was fairly good most of the way up, with stone steps and wooden support steps in places. It was cold enough that the earth and stone was not as loose as it might be in warmer weather, and only a few spots near the top had ice that had to be navigated over, though not in such quantities as to riquire stabilizers or campons.

This is the section of the trail that I got into trouble. While climbing Mt. Hale a few weaks ago, I had to start and stop in the steeper sections, taking a rest every 10-20 yards to catch my breath. I wanted to try to slow my pace to that I could keep going without stopping and not be out of breath. This worked on the lower part of the Hancock Loop trail before the junction, and on a warmer day it would have been fine on the upper section too, but as I approached the top I was going so slow up that I was not generating much body heat. To keep warm I had put back on my hat and gloves that had been stored away on the lower trails, but as approached I the top where the trees were getting thinner and the wind was starting to blow through to me. When I tried to speed up I would be quickly out of breath and my sore musles were starting to announce themselves. Fortunately, the steepest section was now past and I only had 50 yards or so to the top.

I got a spot out of the wind and tried to get some food in me. I need to bring a thermos with something warm in the future and find a few other things that can go down quick. I've noticed this on other trips before, even when I have not been cold -- I am hungry but lack a big appetite so that it is hard to eat as much as I should. Thanks everyone for keeping an eye on me at the summit. This is what early hypothermia is like. While I could still think straight, I could also see myself not reacting quickly. Like Magic mentioned later on the hike down, seeing me staring at the sandwich that I was halfway through eating. While it was some of it was the appetite thing, it was also a 'slow' thing.

We quickly took a few group shots at the top and headed back down out off the peak. While we would have liked to gone on to do the south peak, we started too late in the day to do both. Even if I had been in better condition at that point, it was 2:25 and with the sun going down in just under two hours we would not be able to do ssouth peak safely. Fortunely there is a small section of relatively flat trail near the top of the peak, so Magic and I were able to sprint along that section. By the time we got down got to the top of the steep section and down into the regular trees I was feeling warm again and we preceeded down as fast as we could.

We made it over most of the stream crossing and didn't have to put on our headlamps until the small path that allows you to bypass two crossings. This left just the simple crossing before the Cedar Brook Trail / Hancock Notch Trail Junction and on the on Hancock Notch to cross by headlamp and before we knew it we were back at our cars. Personally, the best thing about this part of the trip was that we did not stop for any major breaks once we left the peak. While there were short breaks such as waiting for someone on a stream crossing or when we got our headlamps out of our pack, I was not out of breath like on the way up. I was getting sore muscles and joints, but I could keep walking through that.

After a quick change at the cars, we headed down to 'The Common Man' in Lincoln and spent an hour or so eating and chatting before we headed home for the day. Thanks everyone for a great trip.

Added Pictures at:
http://s111.photobucket.com/albums/n129/chet_tidwell/Mount%20Hancock/

Chet


Last edited by Chet on Wed Dec 06, 2006 6:18 pm, edited 2 times in total.



Mon Dec 04, 2006 11:24 pm
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Nice TR Chet!

You didn't miss much on the south peak unless you needed it for a list.

I'm hoping to do this one again this winter only via Arrow Slide. Any chance you got a good look at it to see what the snow/ice conditions were like?

Thanks!
Bill

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Tue Dec 05, 2006 8:31 am
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Hey Bill.......lets just say I have it on good authority a Black Diamond Raven might be under the tree waiting for me.......bring on Arrow slide baby!!!! :lol:

B.


Tue Dec 05, 2006 5:52 pm
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I didn't get a good look at it, but not counting any precipitation that fell this week, I would guess that it would be pretty free of ice and snow for most of the length. On the path up beside it, which had tree cover most of the way there was only a light cover of powdery snow that one would imagine blown away with a light wind. Where the sun would come through, it woudl melt and there were a few small sections that had trickles of water flowing down the path. Only near the top before it crossed above the slide did any ice patches show up.

Chet


Tue Dec 05, 2006 6:07 pm
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You wish, ...action speaks louder than words!

Chet, you are a gentleman and a scholar. It was delightful hiking with you and the group. I'm very glad to have the training and experience to detect hypothermia even at 29 degrees. No problemo, we all got throught it and enjoyed the great fellowship on the trail and in The Common Man. This is a superb t.r. Thank You for this hike!

I must say, the shade of blue in your avatar is amazing. Let us hike!!

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Tue Dec 05, 2006 8:03 pm
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Thanks Chet!

Looks like we might be doing this in March now as Tom only has 12 peaks left for his winter list and with N Hancock already checked off, this will be one of the last winter hikes we might do now.

Any chance the conditions will remain the same until then? :wink: :D

Happy Holidays!
Bill

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Wed Dec 06, 2006 1:43 pm
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