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 Champney Brook Trail & 1st Sister - 2/18/16 
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 Champney Brook Trail & 1st Sister - 2/18/16
I had to be home by 4 today but I just couldn't make myself waste a bluebird day on Mt. Agamenticus, so I got an early start and headed north. Unsure of where I was going exactly, but Hedgehog and Kearsarge North were on the short list. But then driving north on 16 Mt. Chocorua came into view, and it has this weird sort of pull on me. I have a very hard time resisting the urge to climb this one on bluebird days for some reason so it is my most climbed mountain in NH. The south face looked pretty snow free, and it's a relatively short drive to the trailheads, and that's all it took to suck me in yet again.

Ooooohhhhh. I like the look of this...
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Like it a lot!
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Chocorua and the Three Sisters under perfect skies
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Still looking good in profile
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I was the first one in the skating rink that passes for a parking lot. It was freshly sanded, which I found amusing since people are about to head off on a 4 mile hike up an icy mountain. I geared up and headed out under cloudless skies, crossing the frozen brook and taking the frozen Champney Brook Trail from there. It was crusty ice in spots and frozen snow in others from the rain, melting and re-freezing f the past couple days. Hillsounds worked just fine for it, but most of it was probably bear-bootable up to the side trail to the falls. That was a little icier in spots but still nothing terrible and in no time I was at the base of Champney Falls, which along with Pitcher Falls were pretty much frozen solid. The brook was running well under the ice from the recent rains and warm temps with a breakable layer of blue ice over it, so there was no way to safely get closer to Pitcher Falls and the slot canyon it resides in.

Nice of them to sand the lot
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First one up the Champney Brook Trail
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Following the enbakment high above Champney Brook
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Frozen Brook below the falls
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Pitcher Falls frozen in time
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Above/along the falls the trail was very icy. Flows spilling over the ledges right into the brook made things interesting. I had crampons but didn't feel like putting them on and didn't think spikes were going to cut it, so I went around the worst of the ice by climbing up the embankment about 20 feet and rejoining the trail farther along at the top of the falls. Once back at the main trail it was a long, ramp like climb through hardwoods with views up to the Three Sisters through the trees. Another isolated ice flo at the top of an icy chute off the trail again made me head into the woods for the high route around it before arriving at the start of the switchbacks. In summer they are usually wet, so it was no surprise that they were quite ice. Hillsounds handled most of the ice floes slowly and with care, but a couple I again bypassed in the woods on the high side and just before the junction with the Middle Sister Trail i saw a side path to an open ledge. Not sure if it's new of if I just missed it on my previous dozen hikes up the trail, but it was short and the payoff was spectacular. Views similar to Chocorua's summit with a panorama of the Whites all way from the Sandwich Range to the Sisters. Really impressive, and would be a good way to shorten the hike up if the summit ledges aren't your cup of tea.

Ice flow on the Champney Brook Trail
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Preview of coming attractions from the switchbacks
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Plenty of ice along the switchbacks too
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Views from a ledge I never knew existed
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Carrigain getting lost in some of the few clouds in the sky today
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A few clouds clinging to the Presis
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From there it was a few steps to the Middle Sister Trail junction and a few more to the Piper Trail junction. Not long after that I got my first good views of the north facing summit ledges, which were quite a bit different than the south facing ones I'd seen from below earlier. These appeared to all be covered in ice and crusty snow. Unfortunately one of those days where winter hiking is more than just walking uphill with a jacket, and having a schedule to keep I knew it would be a slow, careful climb up to the top that might make me late getting home. The idea of going it solo wasn't all that appealing either. If I did slip and get hurt having help nearby would be nice in such conditions, or maybe someone to point out where the body slid off the mountain if nothing else! :D Between that, and an easier climb up the Sisters for a consolation prize, it took all of half a minute for me to say "nope, not happening today" (maybe a few 4 letter words sprinkled in for good measure) and turn back.

Just a glimpse, but I could tell it was a little more than simply walking uphill today
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The Middle Sister Trail wasn't too bad. Would have been less interesting with Crampons, but I made it up the icy trail in spikes with minimal damage to the shrubbery surrounding a few of the hairier spots where a slip meant almost certain death. I scrambled to the top and was greeted with cloudless bluebird skies and views stretching for 100 miles. I don't get nearly enough of these days and took as much time as I could soaking it in with Chocorua looking like a transplant from the Rocky Mountains and a snow capped Presidential Range to the north. The rest of the Whites filled in the horizon and a brisk breeze kept things cool in the 20 degree sunshine while I had a snack and took some pics. I wanted to head over to nearby Middle Sister and then take the Champney Bypass down but had no idea how icy that one might be so decided to go with the devil I already knew because turning back and re-climbing the Sisters would make me late and really make my wife mad.

The trail up the 1st Sister looked a lot more appealing today
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In most spots anyhow
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Chocorua and the new-to-me ledge
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Rocky Mountain-esque
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View from on top of the 1st Sister
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George
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After that it was down to the junction where I ran into two other guys, both with crampons, one headed up the Sisters and one with his plastic boots and crampons ready to tackle Chocorua. He asked if I wanted to join him but by that time I had to head down so we wished each other a safe trip and went on our way. Hopefully he posts trail conditions report because I'd love to know if it was as slick and slow going as it looked to be. I put on my crampons for the descent, which made life a heck of a lot easier and faster going down the icy switchbacks. Safer too I might add. Hillsound Trail Crampon Pros probably would have been perfect too, but the basic spikes weren't going to cut it for my tastes. Once below the last switchback I went back to my spikes which served me well for the rest of the hike. There were a couple large but easily by-passed ice floes on the main trail near the falls too, but that was it for excitement and the trip down was a breeze. I passed a half a dozen people who'd gone as far as the falls and another friendly guy and his dog who I should probably have recognized from online somewhere but didn't. Maybe not, but the dog looked really familiar for some reason. The brook was flowing better so I went right to the road, back to the lot and was headed home with a good half hour to spare! :D

Ice flo on the way down
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Parting shot from the lake
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All in all it was a great day. I was happy to have squeezed in what I did, which was 7 miles with 2000 feet of elevation and pretty gradual the whole way. The trail is never really steep, but anyone headed up this way would be wise to have something more than light traction until things either get snowed over or melt away. The rains and warmer temps have really made this one icy. If I had known the summit ledges were going to be so icy I probably would have gone elsewhere, but the south Sister was a great alternative to the summit of Chocorua. Views may actually be even better than from Chocorua since it includes the impressive rocky top of that mountain also and most of the other stuff is the same. The new-to-me ledge, the frozen waterfalls and bright blue skies were enough to make me happy on a quick half day outing. I didn't get in the red-lining I was hoping to either, but am quite positive Chocorua will lure me back for that in the spring.


Thu Feb 18, 2016 10:33 pm
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 Re: Champney Brook Trail & 1st Sister - 2/18/16
Ahhh.....your Pierce. I get it.
Granite Guy wrote:
Rocky Mountain-esque
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Indeed.

And, call me crazy, but I kinda like the icy trails, for the most part. The ice floes this year are so varied and spectacular.

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Thu Feb 18, 2016 10:59 pm
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 Re: Champney Brook Trail & 1st Sister - 2/18/16
Granite Guy wrote:

Views from a ledge I never knew existed
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So, you just say you look at my pix. :roll:
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Fri Feb 19, 2016 8:36 am
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 Re: Champney Brook Trail & 1st Sister - 2/18/16
Guess I never posted a report from when I went, so I can't complain about that, but seriously how do YOU miss this ledge?

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Fri Feb 19, 2016 8:47 am
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 Re: Champney Brook Trail & 1st Sister - 2/18/16
I guess in Chocorua (and the FW/OBP) are to me what Pierce is to you Kathy. Maybe it's because they were my first two hikes. Chocorua more because there's so many different routes up to the big payoff. Whatever the reason they are my oldest and most visited friends in the Whites for sure.

Kris, no idea how I've missed it. Walked right by it more than a dozen times. Seen it from the Sisters too but never realized the trail went literally right by it. What is it, 20 feet off trail. Who knew?! :D

And Joe, it's funny I remember the report vividly actually and the three sisters discussion http://forum.hike-nh.com/viewtopic.php?t=7307 but for some reason didn't realize where the picture was from. Probably though it was on the Sisters trail for some reason. I still think the fire tower is on North, the bump I climbed is Middle and the new-to-me ledge is South. I don't know who this Steve Smith guy is or what makes him the expert anyhow! 8)


Fri Feb 19, 2016 10:13 am
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 Re: Champney Brook Trail & 1st Sister - 2/18/16
Granite Guy wrote:
What is it, 20 feet off trail. Who knew?! :D


Apparently everyone except for you! :lol:


Fri Feb 19, 2016 11:37 am
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 Re: Champney Brook Trail & 1st Sister - 2/18/16
:shock: wow even with crampons I'm thinking that ice would keep me away! Your just a hiking fool. Have u reclined the whole thing yet? I miss hiking, looking good forward to spring I don't care what anyone says about how great winter hiking is.


Sat Feb 20, 2016 2:46 pm
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 Re: Champney Brook Trail & 1st Sister - 2/18/16
hiking lady wrote:
Have u reclined the whole thing yet?


If by reclined you mean redlined, no, I still need the Weetamoo and Beeline Trails to finish up Chocorua and the Sisters massif. You'd think with 20 or so trips up the mountain I'd have it covered but nope, not quite yet. I'm getting to the point where I'm with you on spring. If we can't have a "real" winter with cold and deep snow then bring on the green. Just give me one trip to the Daks that feels like winter and then I'll be ready to call it a season!


Sat Feb 20, 2016 7:57 pm
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 Re: Champney Brook Trail & 1st Sister - 2/18/16
One of these days I'll get back to Chocorua. Thanks for the motivation :wink: !

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Sat Feb 20, 2016 8:21 pm
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 Re: Champney Brook Trail & 1st Sister - 2/18/16
It looked like a great day. Boy that is a lot of ice! :shock:

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Sun Feb 21, 2016 8:30 am
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