View Full Version : Mt Pierce 3/19/10

03-19-2010, 08:17 PM
Let me first apologize to everyone in the hiking community. I learned a very valuable and important lesson today as I hike up Mt Pierce. I've done Pierce in the summer, but not in the winter. I have done a lot of hiking this winter, and summited Jackson 6 days ago. We wore our snowshoes up Jackson and didn't need them, so we wore out microspikes down. It was perfect. I read at TR and checked conditions for Pierce two days ago. It seemed that we could manage Pierce without snowshoes and just use our microspikes.

We spent a good amount of the second half of the hike postholing. I have always hated to see post holes on the trail and couldn't figure out why anyone would put themselves through that. Today I learned that no one wants to, but sometimes you get too far ahead of yourself before you realize a grave mistake.

So, I would like to apologize for making a mess of the trail, not bringing the snowshoes, and thinking that one man's opinion of what was sufficent two days ago should mean nothing to me. I know better. I should have, and will never again hike in winter without bringing the snowshoes. We learned our lesson the hard way and got beat up pretty badly. Although we met hikers who assured us they had been there before, and that even with snowshoes they were going through here and there, it didn't make me feel any better :(

With that said, here is a TR from today- a perfect day to hike had I used my head a little more. Please don't beat up on me too badly...

We headed out around 9 am. I knew that it would be a little warmer today than last weekend and knew that the snow on the bottom half of the trail would get messy in the afternoon. I didn't realize that this would carry over all the way to the summit. So I wanted to get an early start. 6 would have been better.

The first half of the hike, up to the Mizpah cut off was great! The constant incline was nice, not too steep, and the snow was still holding up really well. Hadn't gone through once (and didn't even think of this as an issue yet). We took a break at the cut off and were met by two gray jays. We fed them a couple of crackers and the crust for a pb&j then moved on.

Contrary to what the trail description says, it didnt' feel like the grades got 'more gentle' from there, but the snow was still good. We didn't start to go through till the trail opened up more and we started to head up the knoll before Pierce. We would post hole here and there, nothing serious, but I knew there were hikers behind us that we could hear but not see.

We were headed up the partially wooded summit of Pierce, where you could see Mt washington in the background, when it really started to get deep. We were now walking on top of the trees and would go through every couple steps. First up to our knees, then up to our hips. I knew that the summit was only a couple of tenths of a mile away, if that. I couldn't stand the thought of turning around now, after 3 hours, without seeing the amazing view on the other side. Due to enormous frustration and having been beat up by falling that much, we decided to turn around. Even if we made it to the summit, we still had to come back down which just doubles the time if was taking us.

The hikers behind us caught up and I apologized for making a mess of the trail and they were really good about it. I'm sure they were cursing us all the way up and ridiculed us after we parted. They did offer to let us follow them up, packing the trail more for us, but we had had it at that point.

We turned back, so close to the summit. Back through the same old holes, making new ones. I have never fallen so much in my life. I was afraid of getting hurt so we took it slow and tried to make the best of a bad situation. We couldn't do anything but head back down and the snow was a mess by this point. The winds were barely there and the sun was shining and it was probably a great day on the summit I'm sure.

Like I said, we learned our lesson, and got beat up in the process. I will never, ever, hike in winter without the snowshoes again. My winter hiking season is closed for this year. We'll consider next year when it gets here.

03-20-2010, 09:07 PM
Well, to use the hackneyed old expression, "Hindsight is 20-20"! I think just about everyone has to go through that experience once, of realizing that the conditions up high can be very different from the ones at the trailhead. Many people have fallen into that trap: not only does the trail at the bottom look packed down, but when you figure you can avoid carrying that extra weight, then it seems almost nuts to actually put those snowshoes on the pack! :)

03-21-2010, 11:16 PM
Looks like we were 1/2 hour ahead of you. Surprised we didn't run into you at some point during the day. Not surprised that you had the posthole problems. We started split between Microspikes and bare boots but after a couple of major "crotch busters" we were all in snowshoes. That had to be a really tough go for you. I assume that you went up the bushwhack across the south ridge (as we did) and not the Crawford Path. That had to be murder through some of those sections since we went through pretty deep a couple of times even with snowshoes. Like krummholz said - 20/20 hindsight and lessons learned for next time. I'm sure that there are many that would beat you up for the posthole damage but not from here. Everyone needs to learn for themselves (and we're in the early learning stages ourselves). The good news is that you got some great payback for all your pain with the amazing day up there! It will surely be better for you next time...

03-22-2010, 06:32 AM
Though I'm sorry you had a rough time of it, in my opinion you do not need to apologize for postholing. In the spirit of "hike your own hike," I'm not one to ever get upset if someone has postholed the trail. Some people hate to wear snowshoes, and they have just as much of a right to be on the trail as you and I. It's no one's place to scold anyone for wearing snowshoes or not wearing snowshoes. During the winter, postholes are just something you need to look out for, just like rocks and roots are what you need to look out for during the summer.

That being said, I am sorry you didn't bring them just for the sake of your own comfort and safety. I remember hiking Moriah in April last year, when the snow was soft and mushy. Even with snowshoes on, I was punching through up to my thighs. It was not fun at all, I think I left a string of curse words all the way up the Stony Brook Trail. It sucks to sink with every other step. Also drains the energy right out of you, as I'm sure you discovered.

Anyway, don't beat yourself up over it. Next time you'll use that experience to better prep yourself for the hike. As others have said, we've all been there.

And thank you for your post -- I am sure your message will influence others who might have otherwise left the shoes at home.

03-22-2010, 07:35 AM
Thanks for the support! It was rough day for sure and I'm bummed that we didn't stick it out and make it up. If we had know where the trail was supposed to be and followed that, we might have made it, but I don't know. it was soooooooo soft up there! I did see where snowshoes had gone through as well. That's gotta be fun trying to get one of those out of a hole! It won't happen again, if I have any control over things! It was exhausting..