Yesterday I returned to Crawford Notch as planned to give Mt. Avalon a try. As opposed to when I went up Mt. Willard a couple weeks ago, the day was bright, with a few clouds in the sky. I pulled into the snow-free parking lot at the trailhead around 11AM. The temperature was 39°, and I don’t think it got much warmer as the day wore on.
There was a lot of bare ground at the start of the trail, so the microspikes stayed on the pack and not my boots. What snow there was was easily navigated around or through. There was no ice. Yet.
In a short time I came to the first water crossing. There was a fairly good flow of water, and rock hopping across was not the straightforward exercise it usually is. I had to figure out the best, safest way across and was thankful I had my hiking staff to assist. Made it across with no issues.
The incline increased after that first crossing, and the trail started showing more snow and was really wet. Water flowing down the trail bed towards the creek was visible here and there. At one spot I put on the spikes, figuring I’d be better off with the extra traction to cross a remnant of the snowpack. Then I took them off as the trail returned to rock, roots and mud. The grade at this point is not too bad, around 15%. But the slippery footing prevented me from scooting along as I would in the drier weather.
When I came to the second major water crossing, the water flow was strong. Figuring out the best place to cross was more difficult than the previous crossing, and I ended up heading upstream about 15 yards and crossed there, then postholing back to the trail.
After this crossing there was more snow, and the monorail more pronounced. Still enough bare ground and available traction to bareboot, but that wouldn’t last for long. After the third water crossing, which wasn’t much more than a trickle, the microspikes went on and stayed on.
After that last water crossing, the trailside snowpack was about two feet deep.
The trail continued up, and wasn’t bad going along the rail, although it was getting pretty narrow in places. The warm weather of last week was evident by the myriad of postholes along either side left by hikers during those warm days. I managed to stay centered on top of the hardpack. That was probably the fastest segment of the hike upwards.
About a mile and a half in the Avalon Trail intersects with the A-Z Trail. Here the summit is only a half mile further up some very steep terrain. The grade approaches 45% in places, and being on the north side and well sheltered by trees, there was a lot of hard ice.
A pitch this steep would be challenging in warm, dry weather. The ice added a new dimension- I would not have considered making the attempt without the traction gear. Taking my time and choosing each foot plant, I made my way up the ice. There’s a helpful sign when you reach the final 100 yards.
That final 100 yards up the ice was even steeper. I had no difficulty making it up, and do recall thinking at the time that the descent was going to be extra fun. Eventually I got to the top, and the payoff views made the trip worth it.
The sun was still out, and while I think the temps were still around 40°, there was a strong wind out of the north keeping everything brisk. I swapped out my sweaty hat for a dry one and had a sandwich along with some water. Before heading down, I took a few more photos.
Then the fun began. My first challenge was getting down a short granite rock face. Normally, this would be a “sit & jump” affair, but not with the ice at the bottom. Not ashamed to say, I slid down that rock on my butt as slowly as I could and grabbed the ice with the spiked boots. It seemed safer that way. A mini-glissade, if you will.
Traveling down that half mile was slow business, more difficult than going the other way. Establishing firm and secure footing at each step was required. It took a little while, but I got back to the trail junction and then traveled along what was left of the monorail, and down the hill.
Repeating the water crossings still required attention. I recrossed the second the same way as when I ascended, but the water volume seemed to have increased at the first crossing and I used a different return path, taking advantage of a downed tree partially crossing the creek.
When I arrived back at the trailhead, my boots were muddy and my feet were wet. This hike had turned out to be more of a challenge than it normally would have been, and I enjoyed every minute of it. I logged just under 4.5 miles out and back with an elevation gain of over 1500 feet.
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