Mt. Haystack

Saturday, Jan 22, 2000 (winterschool week three)

Dave Andersen, Brian DeDecker, Ronny Krashinsky, Stephanie Kyriazis, Janet Lindow, Devon McCullough.

Needles of Wind on Haystack: breaking in a new leader.

Mt. Haystack lies on a ridge with Mt. Lincoln and Mt. Lafayette. We planned to hike to each of these peaks during our Saturday hike, for a nice 8.7 mile hike with "lots of exposure."

Plans, as they say, are subject to change without notice.

Before The Hike

Friday night, a miscommunication left two of our party driving to Camelot without a car to follow. In the lead car, we didn't yet realize that this was a problem, so we made our merry way in Brian's car to Camelot.

Ahh, Camelot. Warm, happy Camelot. Hmm. Empty, dark Camelot. Perfectly easy situation to fix - we'll just go in and start a fire in the stove!

We'll go in. We'll use a key to unlock the front door. Um. A key? It seems that our trip leader had forgotten to check out a key from the office before departing. This necessitated a quick trip back to town and back, where we tried (in vain) to ascertain if another party was coming up on Friday night.

Finally, we gave up, and entered the cabin by alternate means. Soon, a fire was burning in the woodstove, and four out of six campers were happily nestled in front of it warming up.

Little did we know, however, that the other two campers (the ones abandoned without a car to follow, or, as we later found out, directions) had taken a wrong turn on North Groton Road, and were biding their time in Rumney. It did seem a bit peculiar that we hadn't seen them, however, so Brian and I drove back to Rumney to call them. Fortunately, Devon carried a cell phone (hey, they _do_ come in useful), so after fumbling at a payphone for several minutes with cold fingers, we managed to meet up with the rest of our party in Rumney a bit after midnight.

We spent a few minutes getting gear sorted, gloves and socks exchanged, using up the spare gloves and mitts of several people in the party, and then realized that it was a bit after 1am. Between the time and the weather forecast (-17 to -5 at nearby Cannon Mountain, with a severe wind alert in effect), we decided to scale the aim of our trip back to climb Mt. Haystack, and then see how things seemed from there. This proved to be a wise decision.

The Hike

We slept in until about 7:30, then got up, snarfed down some food, filled our water bottles with some fairly hot water, and drove off to to the Mt. Lafayette trailhead on 93. In the parking lot, we were greeted by very cold temperatures (our cheap thermometers couldn't quite tell, but the car thermometer suggested around -10), and a scathing wind which forced us to start the hike with goggles on. Once we got in the trees, conditions improved considerably and soon we were happily chugging along the trail, at about 10:30.

The trail to Haystack gets somewhat steep, and after we hit that section, the path was covered in about a foot and a half of powder. Luckily for us, another team had broken trail for us, so the ascent was not as grueling as it could have been. We passed one of these parties coming down, who mentioned that they'd quit before the summit. But bravely, we continued up, and eventually met up with the other party above us, who described the summit as "rather blustery."

Blustery indeed.

We stopped at the edge of treeline to put on another insulating layer, get our face masks and goggles on, and then we scampered one by one to the summit. Surprisingly, no crampons were necessary; there was enough rock to walk on that you could avoid most of the ice.

The summit of Little Hackstack was awesome. The wind was blowing at at least 50mph, and some of the gusts were strong enough to knock a standing person over. It was amusing that the wind was at our backs as we ascended, so the walk up to the summit cairn took very little effort - though you ended up a bit to the right of your actual destination. While cowering behind a large rock, we took in the view of the surrounding mountains, which was great; the sky was a deep azure blue with no clouds, and the visibility was great. The only drawback was that everything looked a bit orange, and removing your goggles to see was really quite painful after ten seconds or so.

We estimate the wind chill at the summit at somewhere around -80 degrees farenheit; 50-60 mph winds with -15 to -20 degree ambient temperatures. We admit it. We're kind of giddy and proud. :)

At the summit, Brian and I wondered if we could do a quick run to the next summit; to test this, we started walking across the ridge to the next small peak. After 50 yards or so of nearly being pushed off the edge of the ridge while scurrying along crouched over, we decided this was a foolish venture, and headed back to the peak. Other members of the party began popping up to the summit and heading back down; after a while at the summit, we regrouped back in our sheltered below treeline area, and began to descend.

Coincidentally, the descent was as steep as the ascent (still reading? :), and a few members of the party were new to glissading. The snow was deep and powdery, preventing all out glissading, but on many of the steeper sections one could walk with huge sliding steps and descend very rapidly and merrily. By the end of the descent, we had several new converts to glissading; Janet took to it like a fish in snow.. er, water, and Stephanie had mastered the art of the padded snowpant-assisted gluteal descent. We encountered only one minor incident on the way down, where an incorrectly laced pair of mouse boots had created quite the glacier inside a pair of boots, but a quick sock change and duct-tape gaiters remedied the situation.

We arrived at the parking lot at around 5:30, and headed for a nice warm dinner at the Earl of Sandwich in Lincoln.



A carload of people left from the Earl, and Devon was kind enough to drop me off at Camelot, where I hoped other parties would be showing up soon. Having Camelot to yourself, with a nice fire burning in the woodstove and a cup of hot chocholate, is a remarkably relaxing experience, even if you do worry that your transportation back to Boston may be labeled "Greyhound." But others soon showed up, and started drying out for the next day. We were warm, full, and happy - a perfect ending to a trip that went surprisingly well.

Lessons from the trip:

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