Sunday River Whitecap is a person of the most exclusive mountain hikes in Maine. Rugged terrain, phenomenal sights and a barren alpine summit deliver a remarkable winter mountaineering knowledge.
Positioned on the northeastern conclude of the Mahoosuc Assortment in much western Maine, the 3,337-foot peak features a hike that has about 2,100 toes of elevation achieve and a selection of trail disorders.
The Grafton Notch Loop Path is the regular route to the summit. From Route 26 in North Newry, the 14-mile out-and-back trek is an arduous wintertime expedition. For about 3 decades, Chowderheads with the Penobscot Paddle and Chowder Modern society have been scaling Sunday River Whitecap by using an esoteric 6-mile spherical-vacation alternative route.
Scheduled to guide a mid-January chowder society wintertime mountain hike, Sunday River Whitecap was my option. Unaware of snow depth in the Mahoosucs, a most important worry was to snowshoe or not to snowshoe. Total disclosure, for me, snowshoeing is a suggests to an close. If I can get to the best of a mountain with out applying them, that is my desire. All through my very last Sunday River Whitecap outing, a companion and I toted snowshoes for the entire vacation, under no circumstances needing them. At my age, I’m pacing my arthritic joints, trying to postpone their inevitable demise. Senselessly carrying additional bodyweight is a non-starter.
Many club customers responded to my inquiry about snow ranges in the Mahoosucs. Their studies indicated about 10 inches of snow accumulation could be anticipated and snowshoes have been possibly pointless. Our approach was to take them to the trailhead in advance of generating a last choice.
Six of us fulfilled in a clearing at the junction of routes 2 and 26 in Newry on a sunny, breezy wintertime working day with temperatures in the minimal 20s. Due to the fact parking was predicted to be limited at the esoteric trailhead, we masked and teamed up in pairs for the 9-mile push north on Route 26 to an previous dust road on the still left between Screw Auger Falls and Grafton Notch. A snowplow experienced cleared house ample for a several automobiles.
Inspection at the trailhead indicated the 10 inch snow prediction was exact. As the snow had a really mild consistency, our final decision was settled: no snowshoes. Anticipating gusty winds and lower temperatures above the tree line, we packed for intense wintertime conditions. Everybody carried ice cleats, some sporting them from the outset.
Our intrepid band commenced the journey by crossing a bridge about Bear River prior to pursuing the passageway as it rose steadily south. Just over and above the bridge, snowmobile Route 82 ITS joined from the right. For the to start with time in my practical experience, no snowmobile tracks ended up apparent. Inadequate snow accumulation is the possible rationalization.
Turning left, the gradient moderated as our team traveled easterly. About a mile from the trailhead, the get started of what was formerly a bush whack was detected on the suitable. Thanks to occasional usage and some trail markings, a rather obvious path has developed that potential customers through a scattered conifer and hardwood forest. Persevering uphill for roughly a mile, we connected with Grafton Notch Loop Path in Miles Notch.
Following progressing southeasterly on the loop path for a quick distance, our tenacious group of mountaineers angled correct and commenced climbing steeply south on the north shoulder of Whitecap in a dense conifer growth. Scrambling up a narrow gully amidst a consequential rock development, we emerged on to the lessen finish of an considerable alpine zone where extraordinary views of the northern Mahoosucs awaited us. Encountering frigid wind chills and sporadic icy footing, everyone donned parkas and ice cleats.
Climbers take pleasure in breathtaking sights of the northern Mahoosucs even though descending Sunday River Whitecap. Credit: Courtesy of Ron Chase
A formidable topography of wind-swept, ice-included surfaces and drifted snow, challenging by a labyrinth of patchy mountain scrub, confronted us. Trailfinding became a lot extra problematic. Cautiously surmounting an icebound escarpment and approaching the summit cone, we ended up not able to find vital trail cairns. Advancing right up as securely as possible seemed our most effective system.
Doggedly persisting up the cone, we serendipitously noticed a snow-encrusted cairn to our right. Again on the path, we could very easily discern the remaining route to the blustery summit and located shelter from the piercing gusts on the southwest aspect of the crest. There we enjoyed an overdue respite and substantially wanted treats.
Departing the summit, we handed two hikers. They ended up the only other alpine adventurers fortuitous sufficient to knowledge extraordinary Sunday River Whitecap on that superb working day.
Would snowshoes have been beneficial on the descent? I believe so.