Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Guilty of another repeat: Pierce and Ike

Distance: 9.6 miles
Duration: 5.5 hours including breaks
Elevation Gain: 3,200 feet

View to the north of the Presidential Range from an outlook at the Crawford Path/Webster Cliff Tr junction
Anyone kind enough to follow us has probably figured out we love Pierce.  And Eisenhower.  We love the two of them together even more and is definitely our favorite hike.

Yesterday, we wrapped up an interesting January with a fantastic hike with some of the usual suspects and our new trail friend, Matt, who was celebrating a weekday birthday.  It was also a special hike for Ms Eva, who will wrap up her career with 6 NH4K's, as we are driving her to her new home in PA this weekend!

Our happy crew:

Since I've already reviewed this one before and the snow only served to make it easier (and more magical), I'll keep this one short and simply aim to encourage folks to do it themselves!

We began at the Crawford Connector at 9:00 and made good time chugging along after the dogs.  The trail is in perfect condition and Hannah was able to bare boot most of the hike.  Choosing to go in the opposite direction, I donned my Hillsound Trail Crampon Pro's.  I was lucky enough to snag them on a Facebook gear page for a respectable discount and thought it would be a good day to test out what I affectionately call my "baby crampons."  ("Baby" crampons can and will (read: did) shear clothes like legit ones!)
Perfect winter trail, in the opinion of this lazy hiker 
Back to the hike... The Crawford Path ascends via an easy to moderate incline.  It was well-packed with only a few icy steps above Gibbs Falls.  We reached the junction for the Mizpah Cutoff after an hour.  From there to the Webster Cliff Trail was a stroll.

At 10:35, we reached the ledge popular for a pre-summit break/photo-taking (all of which we indulged in).  Then we scooted up to the summit (take a "right"/turn south for two minutes/.1 mile) just to make it official (it was crowded!) before heading back down to the Crawford Path to head to Ike.

Webster Cliff Trail, just steps from the summit marker
Pierce to Ike = heaven.  We traversed the ridge in and out of scrubby trees and over windswept rocks. The snow was not perfectly packed down but was still completely doable in light traction. While Eisenhower looked like it towered above, the trip between the two peaks was mellow and took about 50 minutes to reach the summit loop junction.

The .3 mile jaunt up the bald summit of Ike was the steepest and windiest portion of the hike.  Collectively, it took us about twenty minutes to reach the perpetually windy summit (only once have I visited a wind-free/low-wind Ike).  We lingered a bit but Hannah and I both felt inclined to get our girls back to where the wind was calmer.

barrage of photos from the summit loop:

There is a set of three stairs to the right
behind Tango they obviously didn't see
Another small ladder

Still in love with rime...
Eisenhower summit cairn

Ty's new Ultimate Warmer Jacket
We returned via the same route, some of us virtually flying down the mountain.  Along the ridge, the temperature reached 40*.  It was unbelievable to be wearing a single layer and no hat or gloves along a somewhat exposed ridge in January.  (Thankfully, the winds were fierce enough on Ike to test Ty's new Hurtta Ultimate Warmer jacket, review to come because I am crazy impressed!).

Follow the leader

Lilo demonstrating the ease of the descent
As I actively fight the urge to do nothing but gush about how awesome Sunday was, I'll summarize the main points.  We were treated to a spring-like trip with warm-ish weather but the beauty of snow all around. Your results may vary, as we did dance with the alpine zone on Ike and were exposed along the ridge.  This is a very popular hike; we were only one of several groups but we were accompanied by the only four legged hikers of the day.  As of 1/31/2016, snowshoes are not necessary and we did not see a single pair in use.  Barebooting is possible but light traction is highly recommended (or "baby crampons" if you're me and want some extra digging in power when being dragged by an exuberant Carolina Dog!).  There are some trickles of running water for dogs between the parking lot and Webster Cliff Trail, though none of ours felt the need to drink much.
All smiles!
Famously moderate grade and well packed for good footing (with traction).  I got to see rime ice (a long time goal) and now get to say I have entered the alpine zone during winter.  Cheating a bit since the weather was so warm but hey, I'll take what I can get!  Overall, a wonderful day with friends and a huge smile on my face for getting to accomplish a winter hiking goal, check off #6 & 7 (I have officially decided to somewhat actively pursue the "Winter 48's"), and seeing each and every dog full of bliss. It couldn't have been a better day!