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Almost Whiteface


I figured I'd visit Whiteface and Passaconaway today since it was going to be such a beautiful day. I had not been there for a while and was just looking to get out. I'm always aware of the ice that collects on Whiteface this time of year so, I was expecting to either triumph or just have a nice day on the trails without a summit. Isis is of course my main concern and I hold true to my word that if I need crampons over Microspikes, She should not be hiking. It's just the way it is with me. She's my responsibility and she'll follow me where ever I go... I don't need to lead her into danger. We started on the Blueberry Ledge Trail after walking through the residential area and then turned on the Blueberry Ledge Cut Off. I enjoy this way to the summit a lot better than just taking the Blueberry Ledge Trail. 




To start, the Cut Off is a mix of snow and ice... More ice than snow really but I'm feeling good and my spikes are grabbing well. It travels by a brook that's flowing well from the rain and the melt of the warm temps. Heading into the forest, the snow suddenly disappears and the spikes come off. Of course, they eventually come on again... It's that time of year. Spikes on, Spikes off. Isis and I reach the clearing where the Cut Off meets the actual Blueberry Ledge trail and we break here. I know that the ice will be building again so the spikes go back on. Isis and I have something to eat and we take in the limited view over the trees. Everyone from the parking lot is probably ahead of us and that's fine. The day is beautiful and the trail's not that bad... We start again and as predicted the ice builds where the sun does not get to it. We hit the stairs and grabbing in becomes a little tricky. I press on for a little while and before we hit the real ledges, I pull out my full crampons. I look down at Isis and promise her that while we'll try it, if she doesn't want to, I'm good. As I am getting my feet set in the crampons, two very nice men pass us. We catch up to them at the first big ice flow... "Well, shit! Excuse my language." Is the first thing they hear from me. It's a photo op for them and they seem to scramble up no issue. They wait for me and I tell them to keep going. The younger one wanted to toss a rope down to help us. Isis turns to head back down and I tell them that "I'm OK... She's hesitating so, I'm going back down." They wish us safety and we part. Time to carefully head back the way we came. It's that simple of a decision for me. This was probably 400 feet from the summit but it was not meant to be. Between this point and the summit are bigger ledges and who knows what kind of conditions we'd be faced with. As a solo hiker and a hiker with a dog, I'd rather hike another day than stress out my trail partner or hurt us both. We made our way back down to the clearing for a good sit in the warm March sun and lunch.




After lunch, I decide that we'll take the actual Blueberry Ledge trail back instead of the cut off. I had not been on it in a while so, I wanted to check it out. As we got underway, I didn't get my feet under me quick enough and fell... I slid about 20 feet on ice and well, my backside was pretty wet. No one was hurt but it was not a fun slide to say the least. Where the sun has difficulty penetrating the trees, there is a good deal of ice. On the lower sections, there is water flowing under the ice as well. Shoulder season is in full swing with a week of Winter to go. Once back at the car, I change into a t-shirt for a change rather than my sweatshirt and we head for coffee and home. Today was actually a fantastic day to get some miles under me.


Hikers are great people. We're always looking out for each other on the trails. When hiking solo, I seldom have a complete solo day in the Whites because there's plenty of people to meet and talk with. Someone always knows my plan should something go wrong. I guess that is why I feel at ease solo hiking. I have the gear and for the most part the confidence. I listen to myself and if I don't like the conditions, I turn back without question. It's just best practice for me. Funny though, it was not always this way. When I first started, there was a time when it was hard to turn back and it was usually followed by a quick turn around and a re-hike the next day (that's a lot of miles and gas money!). Something has changed since I left list hiking and maybe aged just a bit. Summits are not so important to me. A day out on the trails is what I want. Just put a few miles under my feet and I feel renewed. The other change is that I hike with a dog. That's a big responsibility.

She's grown up on the trails with me and she loves to hike. That is to say that she loves to be with me and I hike. By default she likes to hike. I'm very careful with her and while she hikes on a leash, we do so safely. If there's a trail she cannot do, we turn back. I have a basic rule that if I need more than microspikes, she doe snot need to be on trail with me. Today, while it's considered a Winter Hike, it's a big mixed bag of conditions. I had to pull out my crampons on an upper section. I pushed just a little to see if she could. SHE decided for me and turned us back. At the first big ice flow, she said No way! As we are a team, I listened to her. Mind you, it would have been great to get the summit and the other one that we had planned for today... Technically, it would have left my girl with 4 winter peaks left to a dog set of the winter 48 4000 foot summits in New Hampshire (my last list I finished in January). The thing of it is, the DOG list for winter does not exist. The AMC actually cautions people from hiking their dogs in winter as it can be dangerous. Dogs follow their owners anywhere. I'm not about to hike mine into danger or cause her any stress. We always turn back. It's not worth it for a patch that she cares nothing about. She only wants to spend time with me. We were perfectly happy sitting in the sun having lunch once we turned back.

Seems that we get so wrapped up in lists and things that we forget sometimes it's just good to get back out there and hike. This winter season has been uncharacteristic of most Winter Seasons in the Whites. With less snow, it'd become easy to test out Winter hiking. My best advise is to wait until the next heavy snow winter.... That's winter hiking. Skating on ice has it's own challenges but I don't consider it winter hiking. While challenging to bag peaks, it's not my idea of fun. I think that's why I prefer long distance hiking over peak bagging these days. I'm less concerned now about hiking summits and more just wanting to explore and spend a full day out there. As a solo hiker, long distance hiking can be very grounding and long distance hiking with a dog can be a huge bonding experience. Today was every bit about conditioning for my LT trip in July. I got miles under my feet in a pack that is getting heavier as I add gear to it. Today was about listening to myself and my canine companion and doing what she wanted rather than pressing forward. No summit is worth anyone getting hurt whether they are human of canine. Live to hike another day and the summits will always be there for you next time. See you out there!


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