Location: 10 miles SW of Conway, between the Lakes Region and the White Mountains
Elevation start: 1000′
Summit elevation: 2750′
Elevation gain: 1750′
Difficulty: Moderate (requiring stamina)

Meteorological Conditions: Saturday, January 10, 2003
Base: 25 degrees Clear sky, Winds 10-15mph
Summit: -5 degrees with wind chill, Clear skies, wind 25-35mph

Trail Conditions:
The trip is 3.3 miles up to the Jim Liberty Cabin. It’s a pretty nice hike. The vertical rise is really gradual, so it’s not really that strenuous. There were pretty well established snowshoe trails already too. This made the going a lot easier than on Little Haystack the day before.

The Hike:
We stayed at our friend Rob’s cottage at Lake Winnipesauke on Friday night after hiking Little Haystack during the day. We were up drinking and playing cards a little longer than we should have. Dan and I met up with 5 other buddies that night, Phil, Matt, Steve, Ethan, and Rob. The plan was to crash on Friday night, then get up nice and early Saturday and just make it up to the cabin just below the summit. The booze and lack of sleep kept us from hitting the trail till about 1:00. Lucky thing we were only hiking UP that day.

One thing that was a real pain in the ass was finding overnight parking at the trailhead. There is a little general store (WITHOUT a public restroom!) right on the road/trailhead that only has room in the winter for about two cars. We ended up down the street in a guys driveway across the street (bought him a few pack of cigs, some cheese and crackers for a thank you).

Once we finally hit the trail, it was great. The gradual elevation gain is really not too bad. The views were nice after we got up a little bit. It started getting late as we were approaching the cabin. I don’t think we hit it before 5:00p.m. and it was just starting to get dark out. With the bright stars and half moon reflecting on all the fresh snow, we didn’t need lights outside at all.

Finally inside the cabin, we started taking off our jackets, etc. and the steam coming off our bodies was unreal. You could hardly see inside the cabin there was so much humidity in the air. And it was still damn cold!

Phil and I both made burritos for the hike (mine were better!), so we started our two MSR stoves (great new little toy!) and warmed up dinner. I love bringing burritos on a hike; they pack well, can be made with great complex carbohydrates, don’t produce much trash and can be eaten hot or cold.

After dinner we were still pretty cold… so everyone went to bed at 7:00 o’clock! Thankfully, we were all pretty warm in our sleeping bags; we were a little worried about that.

Inside the cabin there are 9 wooden bunks of plywood and a table surface for cooking or unpacking. Except for Matt’s snoring, I think we all got a good night sleep. We left the summit attempt for the next morning.

We got up the next morning, got some food going (burritos again!), packed up our packs and left them in the cabin, then started for the summit. Right behind the cabin we hit a pretty steep patch of snow about as big as the infield of a baseball diamond. The snow was about 3 feet deep, with nothing but powder beneath a couple inches of a harder icy/snow combo. We couldn’t find the proper trail, nobody could really grab much footing, and the pitch was really steep. A couple of the guys got across it, but the rest of us decided that the risk of a fall wasn’t worth summiting. Chocorua’s summit is really pretty tough to get to. It’s really steep and kind of technical in the winter.

We finally turned the guys around and headed back. Call us whatever you will, I’d rather keep hiking this winter than take a chance on something that might take me out for the season.

Again, I wouldn’t recommend hiking in the winter without snowshoes. It’s just too tough. The Pinnacle 30’s I rented from EMS served me really well.

I also have to recommend trekking poles. I’m only 30 (I know that’s not too old), but my knees need a little bit of help. Using trekking poles really reduced the impact on them, and made the hike that much more enjoyable for me. I was unsure about using them until this weekend. Now I really see the advantage. I’d especially recommend poles if your knees need some help or if you’re going to be hiking with a good amount of weight on uneven terrain.

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