Saturday, February 25, 2006

Winter Peakbagging, Part XLIV

Mt. Carrigan. 14 miles and a 4,000 foot climb. Oh, what a slog. Made Mt. Washington look like a stroll in the park. Left the Smallish City at 5am, on the trail at 7. No one else around. Five inches of fresh powder over solid ice. Wind blowing snow-bombs off the trees. Had to keep my jacket hood up to ward them off.

I knew it was going to be a long, lonely, view-free climb, so I took a cue from the young people (and by “young people” I mean “snowboarders”) and brought my iPod, which I set on “shuffle”. After several miles of isolation, I found myself singing along to Gordon Lightfoot.

I soon realized I should have made a “climbing playlist” for the iPod, because songs such as “Desperado” and “Desolation Row” don’t really urge you along to feats of super-athleticism. Eventually the battery ran out, and the climb steepened. As tends to happen up high, the weather got worse. It started snowing, and the wind increased, moaning in the spruce tops (“the wind in the wires made a tattle-tale sound”, I reflected fearfully.) Approaching a short, exposed ridge, fatigue began to sink in. Luckily, I had a thermos bottle of patented “jet fuel” (hot tea with soymilk and maple syrup) which I downed in seconds. Pushed on. The ridge was furious; wind howling from below to the right, disappearing below to the left, hurling everything it could lift. Drifts of snow deepened to my knees. In short lulls, I could see enough to proceed; between lulls the world whited out and I stood still, back to the maelstrom. 15 minutes to go a couple hundred yards. Then back into the woods, and a final climb to the summit.

Carrigan has a claim-to-fame among the 4,000-footers: it is the summit from which you can see the greatest number of the others. But on this day, the view was closed for renovations, as the mountain gods worked on piling up snow instead (thank you, mountain gods!) So I tagged the summit marker, turned around, and started the long trek out. Barely able to shuffle my legs by the time I got back to the road.

Left to go: the evil Twins, the aptly-named Isolation, and the elusive Owl’s Head. And only three weeks to the spring equinox deadline…


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