Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Book Ends

January Hike
I started 2014, with a January 1st sunrise summit of Mount Monadnock. It was dark - about 6:00am. It was cold – about zero degrees. It was windy – about 40 mph at the summit. And, it was snowy – about 1 to 2 feet of fluffy base to trudge through. It took me about 4 hours to summit and return via the 4.5 mile long Pumpelly Trail off Lake Road in Dublin.

So, when I signed up for a Presentation at Keene State College for the last weekend of 2014 (and my travel plans took me right past the ‘Nock) I figured why not end the year the way I began it? With another Pumpelly trip to the summit. A "bookend" hike, if you will. Well, as it turns out, the conditions couldn’t have been more different!

The daytime high for THIS Dec 27th was a balmy 40 degrees, with full sun and just a hint of breeze. The warm/wet fall had completely washed away any remnants of snow on the lower parts of the trail making the early going rather easy. I encountered some patches of ice on steeper sections - that had been shielded from the sun by pines and rocky outcrops. Fortunately, my “homemade” screw shoes made quick work of it.

I popped out above tree line at about 2 miles and, as usual, the view was tremendous. In no time at all I was running along the (mostly) bare rock ridge that led to the summit. 1 hour and 30 minutes after starting, I reached the top. Had a quick snack and headed back down. Unfortunately, the freshly applied sheet metal screws on the bottom of my trail shoes promptly “un-applied” themselves about 5 minutes after leaving the summit.

Apparently, with all the breaking I was doing on the steep descent, the bare rock had dislodged the screws leaving me with a pair of slick soled shoes – and with all the icy spots still to navigate. Excellent! To make matters worse, I was already behind schedule in getting to my 3pm presentation – 4 vertical miles and 15 horizontal miles away, in Keene.

So, I tip-toed as best I could along whatever pieces of bare rock I could find. When there was none to be had, I made for the crusty snow - digging in my heels as I went. All the while grabbing at tree branches, tree trunks, roots, and small animals to keep me from sliding off the mountain. And it worked! Almost.

About halfway down I came to a particularly nasty section. One that I barely noticed on the way up, thanks to my now “not-so-nifty” shoes. However, looking at it from above was downright terrifying. So much so that I heard voices of some hikers who were off the trail - having bypassed it completely. They were lost. I tried to guide them back to the trail and, while doing so, slipped and lost my balance. I grabbed for anything I could find. This was going to end badly.

I squashed my shin, cut my hand and if it wasn’t for the good fortune of having one of the “lost” hikers grab my pack on the way by, I would have smashed my back on a very angry looking rock. Whew! Still, it took me more than a few minutes to “walk it off”. I felt like an idiot. A bruised and slipper wearing idiot. Not my finest hour. That’s for sure!

Eventually, I worked my way back down to the not-so-icy parts, was able to pick up the pace and reached the car just before I bonked. I looked at my watch. 1 hour and 30 minutes. Exactly as long as it took me to ascend - when usually, it’s half (or three quarters) of the climb time. Grrr. Stupid shoes. Stupid-er runner!

I made it to Keene with only minutes to spare. As part of a standing room only crowd of 300+, I witnessed the 233’rd (and final) presentation of “It’s Not About the Hike” by Nancy Sporborg and Pat Piper. Two 50-something non-hikers who summited the highest 100 mountain peaks in New England. I highly recommend their book of the same name. I found it, and it's authors, to be inspirational and educational.

Especially since I'm in the middle of writing one of my own!

December Hike


  1. Very exciting you are writing your own book!
    Sounds like a great run to start the new year although not sure if I could stand zero degrees. Nice!

  2. Thanks Jaime! Yeah, it's been fun tapping into my inner writer. Hopefully the publishing process won't take too much of the joy out of it.

    ...also, "zero" is nothing around here. ;)