This was the best adventure I’ve had in a long time. Mt Bigelow has two Maine 4000 foot peaks on its Massif. I have never hiked in this area before, and the new views were awesome. The final mile that ascended to the col between the two peaks gained about 1200 feet, and trail conditions were undermined waist to chest deep soft snow. It was about a half mile to each summit in opposite directions from the col. Conditions were still death march slog post holeing until we reached tree line near the summit.
Note: The pics I’m adding now are only from my cell phone camera. My friend has more pics from his camera, that are higher quality that I’ll add later.
Bigelow Mtn., Avery Peak 4,090 Bigelow Mtn., West Peak 4,145
My interest in Peak Bagging Maines 4ks started with a phone call friday. I’ve really not hiked in Maine outside of going up Katahdin on my dads back as a tottler. Friday, after making plans to meet Matt at the park & ride in Portsmouth NH at 6am Saturday morning I immediately got anxious, almost tentative about the unknown. The Whites were my comfort zone. Matt and I have logged at least hundreds of hours together climbing and hiking in all kinds of conditions in the Whites, and now, we were going to be standing on a summit that neither one of us could point at any other mountain and identify it by name for the first time in a while. The excitement made sleep hard and the 4:15 alarm came quickly after finally falling asleep.
At the park & ride we decided to take Matt’s 4×4 Toyota over my Honda Civic due to Stratton Brook Rd being unmaintained for winter travel. It wasnt an easy choice with gas prices at $3.69 a gallon now, but it was the right choice, because if we had not, we would have had to add 3 miles each way of walking down the road if we had not. There was a snow bank blocking the road a 1/4 mile in. The tacoma got high centerd trying to climb over the snow bank, but we were able to push it over. The next 3 miles were either mud, or hard snow frozen from the cold night prior. The drive in was a little exciting at points but mostly uneventful, it was obvious we were the first people to attempt driveing a road vehicle up the road since winter. We reached as far as we could go with out getting stuck a half mile from the Stratton Brook crossing. The water was pretty high, and the current was swift at the Stratton Brook crossing: we rolled pants up, and took our boots off and crossed the very cold water. The pond still had ice on it, and it was so cold it ached.
I have a video file I’ll post later of me crossing.
Stratton Brook Flows out of a large pond that was very pretty. Thats Sugarloaf in the back ground:
For the next three miles the trail climbed gentle grades through perfect Moose, and Bear habitat.
Up until this portion of the hike there were only small patches of snow to slow us down, but over the next 1.5 miles the trail climbed steeply gaining 1700 ft in elevation, and was filled in with 3-4ft deep snow that was soft and under mined. Every step was a waist deep posthole. this pic is where the snow began, and it kept getting deeeper.
At about 4.5 miles into the hike we came to the col between the two peaks. At the col the small snow field was packed enough by the wind that you could at least stay on top of the snow which was a welcome relief for a few minutes, We headed towards avery peak first, the trail wound around the north side of the mountain kind of on a double fall line. The snow here was even deeper than down on the trail below, and was now inconsistant so you wouldnt always post hole, but then you would when you least expected it. From the col up to Avery peak was .4 miles each way. This part of the hike was really hard on our knees and ankles. The Avery Summit was beautiful. I had read that it has one of the best views in the state, and we enjoyed the fact that there was no snow anywhere on the summit. We found a spot sheltered from the wind, and in the sun it was nice and warm for lunch, and beer.
Old fire tower on Summit.
Sugarloaf from summit
After hanging out for a half hour we back tracked down to the col and made the .4 mile ascent up to the West Peak, once again slogging through deep snow. The trail between the two peaks is a section of the AT. The view of Avery peak from the West peak was real nice.
West Peak Summit
Our original plan was to continue from this point west over a couple more peaks that are part of the Masiff, and on the Hundred Highest list, on a trail that looped back to the pond, but it would of added another 2.5 miles over terrain that had a favorable aspect for more soft deep snow. With very sore joints, and not knowing if we would have enough daylight to complete the loop in these conditions, we decided to return to the col once more and follow the fire wardens trail back to the pond. Between the West peak and the Col we found a little snow field that was about 40 degrees and 70 feet long. I’ll add some video of us butt sliding down it when I get the file. On the way back down we found many places where a seated glisade(butt sliding) was possible for 20 or 30 feet. It sure beat post holing.
By the time we got back to the water crossing at the pond our boots were so wet that we didn’t even bother taking them off, and this time the cold water felt good on our sore joints, and muscles. When we got back to the truck we noticed that the warm temperature had turned the road into softer mud, and softer snow. The truck’s tires had light tread, and we had a very exciting ride back. It was like a combination of Rally and Baha racing. We had to keep momentum, at any point if we had stopped we would have been stuck for sure. Also. the road had deep ditches on the side that if we fell in, we would not have got out. So, if we went to fast it was hard to keep control and the truck was drifting a lot in the slick conditions. Thanks too some stunt driving by Matt, we made it back to the Highway. FewF!
Started Hiking at 10:25 am
Ended Hiking at 6:30 pm
We have been hiking together for a long time, and I estimate that without the snow we could have done this trip in about 4 hours. I would like to come back to this mountain again and follow the AT over the whole ridge. The Fire Wardens trail would make a great family backpacking trip, because it has Multiple tent sites along it, as well as toilets. There were some faint indications that a snow shoer had been on the mountain at some time with in the prior week. But, besides that ours were the only tracks we saw on the whole hike. It seemed we had the whole mountain to ourselves.
…One more thing…Haha
I had been hoping we would see some wildlife on this trip, but we didn’t, only lots of Moose Pooh. In fact it was kind of funny; just a little down hill from the Moose Falls Campsite, off the side of the trail there was a huge pile of moose pooh, like literally a dumptruck sized load.. I’ve never known Moose to be creatures of habit that way, to return to the same spot for that reason. I wondered if a moose had some how got stuck in the same spot for a while. Later when I got home, I noticed there was a placemark on Google earth right at that location. The placemark linked to two Bigfoot sightings from the 1940’s that were right in that spot. I can only conclude from these findings that we stumbled upon Sasquatch’s Lavatory.
While my friend was over I was able to steel some of his Bigelow pics off his chip, unfortunately the MP3s I really wanted were not still on the chip, I’ll have to wait till I visit him to upload them from his Mac to my Flickr.
This is my favorite he took:
Me on the West Peak