Friday, January 24, 2014

Saddleback & Saddleback, the Horn - 12/26/2013

I arrived at the Saddleback Ski area in the afternoon on 12/26 after hiking Old Speck just a few hours earlier.  It was snowing pretty hard, and it was very cold.  I walked into the lower part of the lodge, and asked the first person at a desk I saw which trail would be the best to ascend, and that I had been on the Grey Ghost on a prior hike during operating season.  I was told that the Green Weaver was appropriate, and was on my way after being told to "have a fun hike" was already late in the afternoon, so I was raging up the ski slope.  After about 1/4 mile up the Green Weaver, I was stopped and asked for my pass.  My pass? I informed them that I had checked in and asked someone about using the trails, but I was never informed by that person about their new policy and complimentary pass required.  I was asked to descend to the lodge to obtain the pass, which I kindly obliged, always wanting to play by the rules. I literally ran alongside the ski patrol guy as we descended.  About 20-30 minutes later, now closer to 4pm, I was on my way up again moving as fast as I could.  I was stopped again near the top (near the photo taken below) by two ski patrollers and was looked at like I was completely out of my mind.  I pointed to my chest pocket and through my balaclava asked if they too wanted to see my pass.  They didn't, but the female patroller was highly skeptical of the time, but I informed them I was experienced, and had even left my cell phone number on the liability form if anyone wanted to or needed to check in with me, they were more than welcome to.  Anyways, for future reference, check in with the booth where you buy lift tickets since their employees are not fully informed on hiker policies.
Nearing the top of the Green Weaver Ski Trail
Looking back down the Green Weaver
A blurry photo of the summit plateau of Saddleback
Another blurry, but cool looking photo from Saddleback summit
Saddleback Summit
After getting blasted by some heavy duty snow making operations, I was headed to the summit.  After a quick stop at the Saddleback summit, I continued on toward the Horn without any delay.  Daylight seemed to rapidly disappear, and at the same time, conditions deteriorated rapidly becoming colder and windier, with blowing snow, and of course no more distance visibility at all.  I was slipping and falling all over the place in my microspikes.  Somewhere in between, I put on my snowshoes which basically didn't help, because they were so dull, still not really aware due to not doing a "gear check".  Drifts were deep, and I was losing the trail often (as you can see by checking out my GPS track below).  To be honest, I was getting a bit concerned that this would be the one that screws me over big time.  Finally, with a pure black background, I could see the perfectly white summit marker for Saddleback, The Horn!

That was only half the ordeal.  My tracks were getting covered quickly, and I lost the trail a couple of times on the return trip too, pushing myself through thick scrub.  The one steep section in between was very difficult to get back over - it took several tries and leaps of faith with respect to reaching and grabbing holds onto vegetation so I could pull myself up the icy ledges.  I was literally crawling and climbing the icy ledges on this one.  When I passed back over the Saddleback summit, I couldn't find the trail leading to the ski trails.  All I could see was black, swirling snow, and for a brief moment, I was sort of worried that I'd have to hunker down in some scrub before possibly descending the wrong side.  I resorted to my GPS, which lead me in the right direction.  Eventually I found a Saddleback pipe-line which I followed through the top of the ski area until I reached the ski trails.  Once back on the ski trails, things calmed down significantly, and I was sure as hell tested on this one.  My two experiences on the Saddlebacks (only this one was a real winter hike) have been dangerously icy, slippery and windy.  After I got down, I drove to Millinocket to sleep, and where I would be meeting my brother at 6AM to head into Baxter to attempt North Brother.

Hike Stats
Trails: Green Weaver Ski Trail, Appalachian Trail, other ski trails
Distance: 7.4 miles
Elevation Gain: 3,279 ft.
Actual Book Time: 5:26
GPS Track: Garmin Adventures

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