I went for a long AMC hike over the weekend up to Mount Cabot (4,170 ft), which is the northernmost peak on the White Mountain 4,000 footer list. Situated in the Kilkenny Range, Cabot is about a 4 hour drive north from Boston and an hour north from Pinkham Notch and Mt Washington.
This was my second time climbing the peak, but the first time in wintry conditions. My previous visit had been a 32 mile solo backpacking trip in July 2010, when I’d hiked in from the south over Mt Waumbek and the Weeks, starting from the trail head below Mt Starr King, just off Rt 2. I’d spent a memorable night in the Cabot Cabin, battered by a severe summer storm.
I was accompanied on this hike by about a dozen other hikers from the AMC Boston and Worcester Chapters. The pace was good for me going up and coming down, even though this was my second major hike of the weekend. Besides being fun, I’m spending as many days hiking with heavier winter loads in winter conditions as I can, to get fit for the official winter climbing season which starts on December 22nd.
While this latest hike was a much shorter 9.4 mile round trip hike with 2,500 feet of elevation gain, it still took us about 7 hours round trip, hiking though about 6 inches of unconsolidated snow, ice, and slush. We parked our cars at York Pond Rd, just past the Berlin Fish Hatchery and hiked up the Bunnell Notch Trail, climbing gradually to the Kilkenny Ridge Trail Junction. From here, we turned north and started to climb the Cabot summit following a series of steep switchbacks up to the summit ridge.
The wind picked up noticeably on the ascent and the temperature dropped, although we were fairly well protected by snow loaded trees. As we were climbing, Pam (see top photo) and I had a long conversation about the book Tom and Atticus and other trail memoirs. I view it as a good sign that I was able to hold a conversation while we were climbing: all of this training must be paying off!
We arrived at the cabin at about 1:30 (after a 10 am start), dropped off our gear and hoofed it to the true summit about 100 yards farther along the trail. After meditating for about 45 seconds at the frigid summit, we about faced it and returned to the cabin to eat and refortify for the walk out. We’d been shooting for a turnaround time of 2:00 pm in order to get back to our cars before complete darkness (4:12 pm sunset.)
The Cabot Cabin warmed up nicely with a dozen people inside, as we got down to the business of chowing down on cookies, chips, brownies and many other winter delicacies. Here’s Neal gorging out on his leftover pizza and trying to call for another takeout delivery to the hut (the full moon turns him into a party animal).
Two more members of our party who were delayed at the trail head waiting for a car tow, arrived at the cabin just as were packing up to leave. We said our hellos and then took off, sliding and stumbling down the summit, easily chopping an hour off of our ascent time. Once down, we changed into dry and warm clothes, and waited for our other two friends to walk out. The sun had set by this point and we wanted to make sure they got our safely and met us at the Moat in North Conway for dinner and fresh beer!
This was a nice trip and I hope to hike with many of the same people later in the winter.