Right off the bat, on the drive to Lyon Mountain from Montreal the freeway entrances were closed past 5am and I got stuck in heavy traffic. Then in the pouring rain, as I was heading out for a winter hike, my driver's side wiper blade flew off into the dark night. I leaned way over to the right and tried to decide whether the problem was with the blade or the arm. Drove a stressful hour to the border in rain with no wiper then decided to risk losing the other one and made the transfer. No further problems.
I met Adam Crofoot in the godforsaken town of Lyon Mountain where we parked, got ready and headed up the transmission tower's service road in the rain. He was skinning in on long fat skis while I snowshoed in the deep slush that threatened to go over the top of my rubber over-boots. The bushwhack from the tower was through wet snow that collapsed into 18'' holes with each and every step, but it was mercifully short. Adam insisted on leading most of the way (I led on the way back ).
It was an uneventful wet return trip and I twice stepped into slush that went over the tops of my over-boots. Then followed a 60 minute drive over back-back roads through desolate towns and the country. The Ausable River had broken up and was a raging torrent of white water and ice chunks.
After a quick drying out and feeding session at the Randomscoots loft, I headed back out for Hurricane, after being warned off Noonmark by Tom. It was 52 degrees Fahrenheit and everywhere you turned your ear there was a roar of violent water going downhill to the sea. Hurricane had one crossing that was 6'' deep and the Tingley overshoes, over top of a 2nd pair of trail runners (I had come equipped for spring conditions), did the job. The lower trail was entirely snow-free and there wasn't much higher up. The summit experience was of pelting rain inside a gloomy cloud so I did a quick turnaround and headed back to the loft for a hot shower and a hot meal before gearing up for snow-mageddon and zero degree temps.
The next morning I was out the door at 5:30 on my way to the AMR to meet Glen. Took me 15 minutes to clean off my car and the drive in the driving snow was done at 30 mph so I got there 5 mins past our meet-up time. Originally, there were supposed to be 18 people taking aim at Dial-Nippletop-Colvin-Blake but as we trudged our way up Noonmark's shoulder in roaring wind and horizontal snow I said to Glen, “looks like instead of a team of 18 we're down to just the two of us”. As the sunrise came up very, very slowly the scene we beheld increased in intimidating beauty.
When we reached Dial, the snow quit with only 3 inches of fluff over a rock-solid foundation. By the time we reached Nippletop, the sun was coming out and the air became dry and cold. We floated effortlessly and quickly downhill to Elk Pass and then we turned up towards Colvin. A couple of youngsters came down without snowshoes and they had positively trashed a perfect trail. Just below Colvin we found a lone snowshoe precariously balanced and saw a hiking pole below the well-known crack. I put the snowshoe into a more stable place and we chatted briefly with the owner on top. We wondered later if she had had a scary experience at that step.
The out and back to Blake was really easy except the final 200 yards to Blake was an absolute post-hole hell, most likely made the day before in the hot weather. Now the post-holes were frozen solid. I guess some people have never heard of snowshoes.
The re-climb of Colvin was done slowly in full-on afternoon sun and about half-way down the road we put our headlamps on. It had been an easy hike but nevertheless we were tired after the 6500 feet of elevation gain.
Dial, Nippletop, Colvin, and Blake Pictures
Back at the loft we were fed and watered and turned in early for a 5:30 meet-up in Keene and a 6:30 meet-up at Clear Pond for the 5 Dix Range peaks.
At 4:40 am Glen announced he was not hiking that day due to stomach cramps that had kept him awake for a lot of the night. At Clear Pond, Joe, Bill, and I briskly walked the 2 miles to the summer trailhead in sub-zero temps. After signing in we maintained a brisk pace to Slide Brook where we put our snowshoes on and steadfastly tromped our way 1000 feet up to the Macomb Slide. I had the feeling that this hike was nothing more than a continuation of yesterday's with a brief bit of shut-eye in between. At the base of the slide, which I have been up and down 5-6 times I looked up and thought: whoa, that looks very steep and heavy-duty. Then Joe described the route we would take and I felt a lot more comfortable. I went first kicking steps with my MSR snowshoes and testing the snow with my poles for hidden ice nearly every step of the way. It was a calf-burner and the views behind were amazing but all I wanted to do was to keep moving upwards.
From Clear Pond to Macomb it took us 3 hours, and in the sub-zero temperatures I was always feel very comfortable, if not too warm on occasion. The sun was ablaze and warm going up both South Dix and Grace. Just below the summit of Grace we met up with MJO and Viviane from FousDeRando Forum (this was planned). After hugs and kisses we relaxed for a good 10 minutes in full sunshine with no wind and chatted before going our separate ways.
Our threesome maintained forward momentum up and over steep Hough and then we watched as the incredibly steep and intimidating Beckhorn drew closer and closer as we struggled upwards. We had an encounter and friendly chat with Francis Willis who had hiked from Round Pond. Finally we topped out on the Beckhorn but of course the work wasn't done. From the BeckHorn to Dix it was all ice and very treacherous at that. The wind chilled us and we spent little time on the summit before returning to the BeckHorn.
Getting off the ice-encased BeckHorn rocks was a slow business and we resorted to bushwhacking down and across to the trail. From there it was down, down, down the beautiful BeckHorn trail to the main trail 2000 feet below. We then tromped our weary way 6-7 miles back to Clear Pond to complete an 11 hour plus day. I realized later that, in the last three days I had hiked 30 hours and about 16,000 vertical feet.
Dix Range Traverse Pictures
The beer tasted pretty good after that.