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Thread: Lowe's path to Gray knob

  1. #1
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    Default Lowe's path to Gray knob

    thinking about heading to RMC Gray knob next weekend.
    i'm pretty winter entry level but have lots of 3 season hiking experiance in the whites.
    any suggestions or gear recommendations?

    planning on ascending and decending via lowe's path

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    Corey McEntyre just came back from doing that and is planning on posting his pictures and a trip report - once he gets back to NC. He is flying back right now. I would not recommend it for someone with untested gear, as a first winter hike in very cold weather, and who is really not ready for this. It should be carefully planned and preped for. Corey has done MW in the summer - been back into Tuckermans Ravine in -35 F wind chills a couple of times - did Lafayette in December to test equipment and clothing - then we did N Kearsarge last week to test the new equipment.

    He had the right gear (or so he thought) each time. And he learned a lot about his abilities and the equipment. The rented -15 degree bag worked well though. Now that he did Gray Knob overnight he knows he needs a better balaclva, better boots, better gloves, a few more down layer options for at night. When he was eating another good hot meal yesterday morning he knew he was too cold and was not going to get warmer - so he headed back down to Lowes. He had a good trip - but it was very hard work, very steep the last stretch going up and required the right equipment.
    Brad (a 6288 club member)
    http://bradstreet.zenfolio.com Personal Photo sales site
    http://public.fotki.com/bradbradstreet Personal photo web site
    http://public.fotki.com/MWO/saved/2012/ MWO image & video archive site 2006-2012

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    Default Overnight?

    Are you planning on staying overnight? If so, despite there being a wood stove at Gray Knob, I would suggest -20 degree sleeping bag. If Gray Knob is full, which it could be on a weekend, you'll be sent to the Log Cabin where there is no stove. Bring your wallet, the fee is $12.

    http://www.randolphmountainclub.org/.../grayknob.html

    You'll need full winter gear including, but not limited to: Wicking underwear, tops and bottoms, wicking or wool socks, winter hiking boots, preferably plastic mountaineering boots, crampons, ice ax, snowshoes, wind/waterproof outer layers pants and parka.

    Many consider Adams a tougher winter peak to climb than Washington.

    KDT

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    It's going to be extremely cold up there Saturday night. Even in the valleys it's going to be minus 15. As far as the trail is concerned, there's a band of steepness that runs across all the northern Presies between about 3500 and 4500 feet, where crampons and ice axe will be needed. I'd also think you'll need full face protection (goggles and face mask). But if you're not going all the way up to Adams summit, that makes it more manageable.

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    Default Jan 20-21 Trip to Gray Knob

    Quote Originally Posted by EarlyBird View Post
    thinking about heading to RMC Gray knob next weekend.
    i'm pretty winter entry level but have lots of 3 season hiking experiance in the whites.
    any suggestions or gear recommendations?

    planning on ascending and decending via lowe's path
    Here is a long winded report of my January 20-21 hike.

    Lowe's Path to Gray Knob .. overnight stay .. then to Crag Camp for a visit .. down Spur .. across King Ravine .. back down Lowe's.

    I apologize for the long post. For those just interested in pictures, there are links at the bottom (to spare the MWO servers the burden). The links take you to the public side of Facebook photo albums - no login or account required - and include my photo captions and any comments that have been made.

    I've had my hopes up to do a guided winter summit of Mt. Washington for some time now, but I was not really sure how to go about it both in terms of equipment and physical conditioning. Brad is to blame for this addiction I now have to the White Mountains. I have followed him up Tuckerman?s several times (summer and winter) over the years. Twice he has guided me to the summit of Mt. Washington via Lions Head (both summer - STP08 and Aug08). He also provided advice for an October summit of Mt. Kearsarge where I attempted to arrive before sunrise in (I did manage to get to the top at 7:15am and took some nice pictures but the climb was exhausting as I didn't leave as early as Brad said I should - I really hate it when he's right). My first true winter test was a Nov08 summit of Lafayette. Again, I used Brad for information about the route and he gave me a firm safe turnaround time I promised to follow. Once again I had to push hard to make the top before the cutoff, but I made it and was able to enjoy the view.

    So, I needed a tougher test. I needed something that would push me a little harder and push my equipment, but wouldn't end up with a Corey-sicle on top of a mountain. Brad recommended I try Adams, but only as far as Gray Knob so I would have sturdy shelter and someone to tell where I was headed next. I used the gear list on the REI site to guide my purchases along with equipment I knew I already liked after borrowing over the years from Brad and Bill. Brad was also kind enough to put me in touch with Al Sochard who gave me some very frank advice.

    Al was NOT pleased with my boots (I have Merrell waterproof hiking boots). He wanted me in the real deal. I cannot afford $300-$500 mountaineering boots and I figured I'd be there for a single overnight so I took what I had and slept with them in my bag (to prevent them from becoming blocks of ice). He is right about that - they would have been solid. You can rent real boots from IME if you want and I probably should have. In fact, I slept with my entire next day wardrobe so it was all toasty when I put it on in the morning. I also did not own a good sleeping bag. I rented one from IME ($50 for two nights which is steep but better then freezing to death - I had to go with two nights as I was going to be driving past their place at 5:30am). It was a -15 bag and was very warm (I slept originally in my base layer but got too hot so went commando - sorry about the visual). ;-) The cabin is "heated" by a stove, but it is generally not above 25 degrees and is not run at night. The only warmth you really feel from it is when you sit 1ft away and even then the side facing away will get chilled. Al also recommended down booties to wear while at the camp. I took his advice on this as Bill had a pair and I am SO glad I did. My feet were toasty in the booties (and if they have good rubber soles like Bill's you can even wear them out to the bathroom). As for food I am now a HUGE fan of Mountain House Pro packs and JetBoil personal cooking systems. I've tried a few other food companies and they work, but they taste horrible. Mountain House tastes as good as anything you'd eat at home. I had hot meals with meat and pasta and was so happy. I ended up spending most of my time at Gray Knob in my bag as the layers I had were not enough. Next time I will bring down for everything (mittens, jacket, pants) so I can be more comfortable in camp.

    The Trails:
    I parked at Lowe's Store on Rt2 and paid the $1/day fee inside. The folks who run the store are very nice. The trailhead is 100 yds west of the store on the other side of the road. The trail was mostly unbroken, especially higher up. I had brought Kahtoolas to use and made it a whopping 100 yds from the trailhead before taking the pack off and putting on my snowshoes. These came with a heel riser and on the steep sections it really saved my calves. I used Atlas 1230's (my pack and I were about 230 lbs combined) and they were just barely enough. The last .8 of a mile is STEEP and even with the snowshoes I was sliding. The signs are excellent and the blazes seem to appear every time you lift your head (nice to feel reassured). There are a ton of trails there, so bring a good map (I found a nice one at EMS called "White Mountains Hiking Trails" ($4.95)). The only time I was confused was briefly at the very beginning. About .1 mile in you'll cross two snowmobile trails. After the second one, Lowe's Path is 10yds to the right (I originally trudged straight across and found myself in a 3ft snow drift). I'm not sure if that's a winter trail or what, but it?s marked with some tiny orange flags. You'll cross an open area (high tension power lines) and find the trail on the other side (along with the "don't go there unless..." warning sign). The next morning, I took the Grey Knob trail over to Crag Camp where I was going to have breakfast, watch the sun rise, explore, take pictures and eat lunch before descending. The problem was as soon as I stopped being a hiker and started sitting around, I became chilled to the bone. So, I ate two hot meals over the course of two hours, watched the sun, took pictures, and started down at 9:30. If I had a down jacket, some good down mittens I might have stayed until noon as I had originally planned. I briefly thought about pulling out my bag and hanging out in that, but getting it into and out of my pack was a nightmare (despite the compression sack). Coming down, I decided to take Spur trail (also VERY STEEP) and ended up sliding on my butt 75% of the way. That was actually a good thing - super fast descent with almost no effort on my part. And fun too. (I only got scared of eating a tree once or twice). I found my way to King Ravine which is an annoying (becuase I couldn't use my handy heel riser) up/down/up/down/up/down for a little less than a mile, and then I was back on Lowes and had a relaxing descent back to the store. Depending on if you have to break trail and how long you stop to rest or explore (I hung out at the Log Cabin for a bit and stopped to suck wind several times in the last mile) expect at least 4 hours up and 2.5 - 3 hours down. I didn't go for the summit, so I can't tell you about that part although Al did tell me the trail intersections above treeline can be confusing (there are a lot) and not knowing which trail of cairns goes where can sometimes lead to mistakes.

    Tips for this location:
    There is a very nice water source about .2 mile from Grey Knob so you don't have to kill yourself and bring it all. Try to bring snacks you can eat even if they get very cold. I love Cliff Bars, but they are like chewing rocks when cold (I had to put one a few layers in, hike for a while and then eat). Fig Newtons only get slightly solid when cold if you don't want to do the body heat thing (but they seem to dry my mouth and make me super thirsty).

    Ok, the serious stuff is over...
    Warning (Evil Bunny):
    I do need to warn folks as well. There is an evil bunny that inhabits Lowe's Path. What evil bunny does is hippity-hop up the trail in front of you. You never actually see evil bunny, just the tracks. At the top of especially steep sections, evil bunny does a dance around in circles to taunt you and show that he's not the least bit tired. I know this bunny is different because I saw a ton of tracks - they go all over the place - but evil bunny always stays on the path. If you see evil bunny, please let him know I plan on making warm mittens out of him.


    Links to the pics of the hikes mentioned in this post. The last link is the Lowe's Path hike up Adams.

    Kearsarge:
    http://www.new.facebook.com/album.ph...&id=1379500386

    Lafayette:
    http://www.new.facebook.com/album.ph...&id=1379500386

    Adams:
    http://www.facebook.com/album.php?ai...&id=1379500386

  6. #6
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    Great trip report and absolutely wonderful pictures. Looks like you had some great weather with nice clear days.Thanks for sharing.

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    Corey,

    Good post, great pictures, and good report except for the Brad's fault stuff. We all know that is not true. We could have done a nice walk down the snow packed road here in Maine. But, no - Corey wants to go freeze dry himself.

    If you look back at each of the trips, you have been building experience and testing equipment. Each time has been a bit harder and some new equipment. It is all a matter of being prepared and knowing what you can do. Other people can not judge that for you, but in the winter one needs to be very conservative and don't over extend your abilities.

    Just for fun, here is a Corey picture from a Columbus Day weekend hike back into Tuckermans.

    Corey juggling snowballs.
    Brad (a 6288 club member)
    http://bradstreet.zenfolio.com Personal Photo sales site
    http://public.fotki.com/bradbradstreet Personal photo web site
    http://public.fotki.com/MWO/saved/2012/ MWO image & video archive site 2006-2012

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Brad View Post
    ...except for the Brad's fault stuff. We all know that is not true.
    You know .. I noticed as I was writing that I did a trip in July, August, October, November, and January. How else do you explain my addiction?

    And, it sounds like people are not heeding my evil bunny warning. That makes me nervous.

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    Awesome TR and pictures Corey! The hikes all look like they were amazing and the stay at Grey Knob was obviously quite an experience. The White Mountains sure have their hooks in you . Nice display of the STP shirt on Lafayette by the way. At little extra advertising is always good. I'm still laughing about the evil bunny. I hope for his sake that you don't ever catch up with him

    Thanks for sharing all this with us.
    Mark

    Keep close to Nature's heart...
    and break clear away, once in awhile,
    and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods.
    Wash your spirit clean. - John Muir


    Hiking photos: http://picasaweb.google.com/mtruman42
    Hiking Blog: http://theramblingsblog.blogspot.com/
    Seek the 2011 Peak page: Mark Truman's Pledge Page

  10. #10
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    Awesome pics Corey! Really making me want to get up there! I did the Lafayette/Lincoln/Little Haystack look with Tim&Vail back in September (in the reverse direction) and it was beautiful!

    Next time pick me up on your way though VA up north!
    Summit Club Member
    Seek the Peak 11
    Seek the Peak 10: Lions Head/Tuckermans Ravine
    Seek the Peak 09: Boot Spur (redux)
    Seek the Peak 08: Huntington Ravine
    Seek the Peak 07: Tuckermans Ravine/Lions Head
    My 48: Washington (07/07, 07/08, 07/09, 09/09, 07/10), Lafayette (08/08, 08/09), Lincoln (08/08, 08/09), Pierce (07/10), Carrigain (09/10), Cannon (10/10), Jackson (11/10), Field (11/10), Tom (01/11)

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