Mt. Kinsman Trail --> Kinsman Ridge Trail
Distance: 8.6 mi.
Elevation Gain: 3,248 ft. (Overall) 3,626 ft. (Total)
Time: 4:02 (North Kinsman) 4:24 (Turn Around) 4:54 (North Kinsman) 6:22 (Bald Peak) 7:25 (Total)
Being as this trip report is about a week late, I'll make it a bit shorter than normal. Recent warm weather will have changed some things I am sure anyways.
It had been a while since I had hiked the Kinsmans (#4 & 5 of my first round of the 48) and I wanted to get back. I decided on a hike up from the western side since I did the eastern side before. Since the Mt. Kinsman trailhead doesn't seem to get plowed out much if at all (from other reports/sources), I figured I should do this early in the winter before too much snow might accumulate in the parking lot. I drove my truck instead of my car not knowing what to expect. The lot hadn't been plowed, but was passible to 4WD and AWD vehicles with no problem.
The trail is quite easy to start with a long warm up before any real climbs. Even these to start weren't bad. Bald Peak seems to be a very popular spot and most of the traffic stops there. The trail was barebootable until there. After that it was a snowshoe path and it was best if you had them to hike. A recent couple inches of snow were on the trail the entire length and added to the snow on the trees. Including the braches to duck under and lean around.
An easy start
After Bald Peak the trail still isn't overly steep, but does have some nice pitches in it. All the rocks were covered so it was plenty smooth for me. Getting closer to the Kinsman Ridge Trail, the wind was causing snow to drift and at time it was 10 inches deep in the trail. In one spot, you couldn't make out the old tracks, but the trail was easy to follow still. Near the ridge, the snow was occasionally hard under foot and easy walking. I broke trail all the way up the Mt. Kinsman Trail only to have someone catch me about 5 minutes after reaching the ridge and taking a break. I wish timing had been different since breaking trail had been part of what tired me out some today.
Snow drifting into the trail
Kinsman Ridge Trail
Kinsman Ridge Trail was packed well even though not many had been over it yet this morning. It was windy today along the ridge and that made it a bit slower going. I cruised over the summit of North Kinsman planning to spend more time here on the way back and headed towards South Kinsman. I took it slow on the steep parts coming down from North Kinsman so as not to end up sliding down the trail. I headed through the saddle and things were going fine. As soon as I started to climb South Kinsman though, my legs cramped up pretty bad. It took a minute to get them to loosen up. While it isn't far to the summit from here, I was starting to debatge if it was worth it. I was a bit behind schedule for the day with bad traffic on the way to the trailhead. I figured I could push through this, but it would slow me down even more. I made the smart decision and decided to take a break and have some more to drink. Then I turned around and headed back to North Kinsman. One uphill was better than two. Besides, South Kinsman summit was just into the clouds anyways (that's what I kept saying to feel better).
I was going up North Kinsman just fine until the last step up before the viewpoint where the cramps briefly came back. I pushed on and stopped at the overlook to enjoy the views. The clouds were expected to clear up this afternoon, but it wasn't happening very quickly. It was still cloudy, but you could see quite a bit. It was interesting almost being eye level with the bottom of the cloud deck.
Coming back up North Kinsman
Looking out just under the clouds
Once I started to get chilled from the wind, I headed on my way down. Things went fine with another set of snowshoes having packed the trail down. Some snow had already started to drift back into the tracks though. I made the side trek to Bald Peak as planned and enjoyed the views. Things were clearing well to the west. This would be a nice spot to get some views without lots of effort. I see why this is the most popular spot on this trail.
coming down Kinsman Ridge Trail
I know that the reason my legs cramped was that I wasn't drinking enough. I didn't have enough to drink the day before and certainly not enough on the drive up. This started me out less than ideal from the beginning. Hiking when it is too cold to use my water bladder, I don't drink as often as it isn't as easy. I have a couple ideas to try to change that already. I really wish I could have bagged South Kinsman again, but in the end I am fine with doing the smarter thing. Both times trying these peaks, I have learned a lesson. I wonder what I will learn here next time? Even with all this, it was still a good hike and the winter wonderland that you hike through was beautiful to look at.
For the full gallery of pictures, go here