Wednesday, January 30, 2013

W48-in-1: Galehead, Twins, Zealand, & Hale - 1/26/2013

This Saturday, I took on a long and difficult hike over five 4000-footers to the north of the Pemi Wilderness. For 26.5 miles, and for just over twelve hours, I traversed solo over Galehead, South Twin, North Twin, Zealand, and Hale each for the first time in winter.  I didn't see a single other person from start to finish. The temperatures were absolutely frigid, and for the duration of the hike, anything exposure over about 2 minutes started to numb the hands. Despite the frigid cold, the weather was spectacular and the views were some of the best I've ever seen from these peaks. These were peaks 22-26 this winter season.

I started at 4:30am from the Beaver Brook Wayside area on Route 3. This was my first time using this shortcut to the Gale River Trail via the Gale River Loop Road on the cross country ski trail. The trail was marked and packed out with ski tracks as well as snow shoe tracks. After about a mile on the ski trail, the spot was obvious where the path veers right and onto the Gale River Loop Road. I then found myself at the start of the Gale River Trail, where I took my first of many super-quick breaks. Wow that shortcut was a lot easier than I anticipated. I then hiked through moonlit woods up the trail to the spot that overlooks the river where there would be views up to the Twins. There was just a slither of blue in the sky above the ridge - I could tell it was going to be a beautiful day in the mountains. I reached the Garfield Ridge Trail (about 5.6 miles) in just a few minutes over 2 hours - a nice warm-up.
From the Gale River Trail at morning twilight
I reached the Galehead Hut to be greeted with clouds whizzing through the pass between S. Twin and Galehead - as they so often do. Without delay, I dropped my pack just beyond the hut, and scooted up to the Galehead summit for the first time in winter.
View from Galehead Hut 
Galehead summit in winter
I've stated this before, but the .8 mi 1,100 ft. ascent of South Twin gets easier and easier every time. With my televator bars propped up on the MSR lightning ascents, it was a steady, but straightforward ascent. As I inched nearer to the summit, I was awe-struck by the views behind me of the Franconia Ridge with the clouds going over Galehead.

As I reached the rocky summit of South Twin for the 7th time and for the first time in winter, I could see mountains forever through my frost-laced eyelashes! Low-lying clouds skirted some of the peaks, and I spent a few short minutes taking in those sights.

Pemi Wilderness and Franconia Ridge from South Twin

I was pleased to see that the North Twin Spur had been recently traveled. It was easy snowshoeing, and I arrived at the summit of North Twin to take in the views. It was the most spectacular view I've had from this summit.
North Twin summit outlook in winter
North Twin Spur
Looking back at South Twin from North Twin Spur
On the way back to South Twin, the Presidential's were eye-catching to say the least. There was some increased wind when I arrived back at South Twin, so without stopping, I went right over the top and quickly down into the trees on the Twinway. As I made my way over, I saw the trail was a fresh blanket of powdery snow, which I basically skated smoothly down in my snowshoes until it leveled out! This is a beautiful area of the Whites, and traversing this section solo through about a half a foot of untouched powder was a nice treat. The white blazes were tough to locate, but the corridor was extremely easy to follow, allowing for pure enjoyment of this remote section of the hike.
Presidential Range from the North Twin Spur
As I passed over Guyot, I slowed down a few steps, did some 360s, and took it all in - this was the spot to be on a day with visibility like Saturday. After that, it was more great trail as I stopped at the summit of Zealand, and continued onto the junction with the Lend-A-Hand Trail.
Passing of Mt. Guyot with the Presidentials 
Mt. Zealand summit in winter 
Right here at the junction sign just a short distance from Zealand Falls Hut, I took a solid 10 minute break. I added a layer as it was starting to get chilly as I was now into the afternoon hours. I ate some peanut butter crackers, a snickers bar, and had some water. The Lend-A-Hand Trail was broken out with skis, and that again became an advantage for me because this was my first time on this trail. It was a beautiful trail, and the 1,100 feet of elevation gain wasn't that bad. All I knew was that I was getting close to success on Mt. Hale. When I arrived at the summit, I stood on the cairn and couldn't see much of anything other than an truly awesome display of clouds for my last peak on this adventure.
Lend-A-Hand and Twinway junction 
Lend-A-Hand Trail 
Mt. Hale summit in winter 
Beautiful view from Mt. Hale to end my day
After Hale, my plan from the start was to head down to Zealand Road and 302, and the plan was to find a ride back to my car. Rather than hitchhiking, I walked an additional two miles to the pizza shop, where I scored a ride back to my car, which was 7 miles up the road at Beaver Brook Wayside Area. It was so nice to walk into the pizza place and get blasted with hot air. I grabbed a small pizza for the ride south to Tilton, and it was quick to bed for a lengthy night's sleep to rest up for another one tomorrow! One of my "easy"  single peak hikes remaining, Moosilauke, it would be.

This hike couldn't have gone more perfect. I had spent a significant amount of time the prior week preparing for this solo hike. I carried two maps, one which detailed the forest roads more than the AMC map. I carried a sleeping bag, emergency bivy, an emergency stove and lightweight pan (to melt snow if needed), and also an emergency tarp to be used as an insulator or shelter. I didn't make any changes to my plan during the hike, and the trail conditions worked in my favor, allowing me to travel between 2-3 mph throughout the entire hike. I attribute the way it turned out to covering every single base I can when it comes to planning for a solo hike of this magnitude. This one was a favorite!

Hike Stats
Trails: Beaver Brook XC Ski Trail, Gale River Loop Road, Gale River Trail, Garfield Ridge Trail, Frost Trail, Twinway, North Twin Spur,  Lend-A-Hand Trail, Hale Brook Trail, Zealand Road
Distance: 26.5 miles (+2 mi. Zealand Rd. to Catalano's Pizza where I got ride back to my car) 28.5 miles
Elevation Gain: 6,150 ft.
Actual Book Time: 12:15


  1. WOW! That was an epic winter adventure! Another great hike, I'm convinced you're in a class by yourself!

    1. Don - Thank you very much for the compliment, and taking the time to comment. At times during this hike, I definitely thought to myself that this was epic!