Thursday, July 19, 2012

Fishin' Jimmy and the South Face of Kinsman

 ... or 'Isn't this supposed to be a hike?' ...

Wednesday, July 11, 2012:

As in Vermont, each section of the Appalachian Trail through the White Mountains has its own name.  Many of these trails predate the AT and so the AT just piggy-backed onto them.  Today I hiked (or should I say attacked) the rest of the Kinsman Ridge Trail, then the Fishin' Jimmy Trail, and finally the Cascade Brook Trail.

The climb up the south face of Kinsman Mountain from Harrington Pond is just that - a climb: hand-to-rock combat.  The last 300 vertical feet before you emerge to the summit shield are at once spectacular, and heart-palpitating.  I don't have a fear of heights in any clinical sense, but this bit of 'trail' gave me weak knees.  It is very exposed (only sky and a vast landscape dropping off beside you - see the summit view toward Bog Pond and Mt. Moosilauke at left), and you're using your hands to clamber up the bedrock.  If you slip and fall, your life might be in danger.  This is close to Class 4 climbing.  This is not hiking.

Before I move on to the Fishin' Jimmy part of the story, I want to backtrack to show you Harrington Pond, all in bloom.  It's full of water lilies, surrounded by sphagnum peat moss in which a zillion pitcher plants are in bloom - see the smiling 'face' of one below - and it's incredibly remote.  To get to Harrington Pond from Eliza Brook you have a super-steep scramble, and to get to it from Kinsman Mountain you have the Class 4 climb just described.

Now ... from the top of Kinsman South you cross a high saddle to Kinsman North.  This is a much more 'pointed' mountain and offers great views of Franconia Ridge, Lonesome Lake, and Mount Washington.

From Kinsman north there's a fairly well-behaved descent (lots of smooth bedrock and some occasional need to grab a tree for help) to Kinsman Junction.  There a side trail takes you to Kinsman Pond and a look back up to Kinsman North:

Kinsman Junction is where the Kinsman Ridge Trail ends and the AT is handed over to Fishin' Jimmy.  The upper half of this oddly named trail is another serious challenge - some use of hands, some drilled and chiseled footholds in bedrock and some wood wedge steps in more bedrock.  It's uneven - not continuously steep trail - there are level boggy parts.  But where it's steep, it's very steep.  In summary, Fishin' Jimmy was my least favorite part of today's 'hike'.

Yet at the bottom of Fishin' Jimmy Trail is the gorgeous Lonesome Lake and my first taste of an AMC hut by the same name.  Huts are little enclaves of civilization deep amid the wilderness - the heavy stuff is air-lifted in and out, electricity is from solar panels, and the 'croo' are a bunch of friendly, hard working kids.

Finally, down near Franconia Notch along the Cascade Brook trail, and not mentioned in any guide, I found this gem of a waterfall on Whitehouse Brook, just below where the AT crosses it on rocks.  There's no side trail to this, no sign or anything - I just heard it and bushwhacked down to see what was making that inviting sound.  I guess there are just so many great waterfalls in the Whites that a little pocket waterfall like this (only 20 feet from top to bottom) doesn't rate.  Well, I think this one is just about perfect, thank-you-very-much:

Tomorrow is one of the big days.  I get to walk a couple miles of exposed ridge in the 'alpine zone', meaning tundra - above timberline - along Franconia Ridge.  I'll go over Little Haystack Mountain, Mount Lincoln, and Mount Lafayette.  Weather promises to be perfect - I can not wait!


Here's the map of today's hike along with its gnarly elevation profile--more than 3000 feet of elevation gain and loss today:

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