For my first 4k peaks, I was planning on doing the Tom, Field, Willey route. This was recommended by a few people on the TARC Facebook page as a good “bad weather” option. Since T-Storms were in the forecast for the afternoon, I bagged the idea of going right for the jugular and attempting Washington. So Tom, Field, Willey was the plan up until about 9pm when Jay Kelly contacted me and said he was driving up in the morning to do The Kinsmans and Cannon, and wanted to know if I wanted to join him. I’m obviously new to this stuff, but common sense seems to dictate that two is better than one in the mountains, so I changed plans and met up with Jay. We parked a car at the Cannon Tramway parking lot and drove to the Lafayette Campground lot to do the hike. The plan was to follow a recommended route that Jay found from the Backpacking Engineer blog. Lonesome Lake trail to the AMC hut at Lonesome Lake. Then Cascade Brook to Fishin’ Jimmy to the Kinsman Ridge Trail. North Kinsman summit then South Kinsman summit, then turn around and follow Kinsman Ridge Trail all the way to Cannon. Then down to the 2nd car.
Things went pretty much to plan for the first two peaks. We were hoping for more “runnable” trails, but of course thats all relative, and we found very little of it to be runnable on the way out. Early in the climb up to Lonesome Lake, we found ourselves behind an AMC employee who was carrying a 12 foot 2×6 up to the hut. We were quickly humbled as we could only make up ground on him if we ran!
On the way up Fishin’ Jimmy, the weather started to deteriorate. Actually, it was more like the weather didn’t know what the hell it wanted to do! Intermittent patches of sun and rain all the way up to the first summit at North Kinsman. I was disappointed to not find any sort of marker identifying the summit. I was hoping to get a photo at each summit for memory’s sake. (A conversation the next day with Steve Smith at the Mountain Wanderer revealed that very few of the 4k’s in the Whites have summit placards of any kind.)
On the ridge between North and South Kinsman we were greeted with a little hail storm! The pea sized pellets were not quite enough to make us seek cover, but they were definitely enough to keep us honest! We pushed on for the South Kinsman summit with a plan of making a decision about Cannon on the way back to the Kinsman Ridge/Fishin’ Jimmy junction. The weather actually seemed to be clearing up as we headed back, so we decided to go on and get Cannon as well. Very quickly though, we started seeing lightning strikes and thunder started moving in. After standing in the middle of the trail with dumb looks on our faces, a directly overhead thunder crack spurred us to turn around and get off the mountain as quickly as we could. The thunder crack was so close that it sounded more like a fireworks display than thunder!
We were able to move quickly back to the Fishin’ Jimmy junction and get back down to Lonesome Lake mixing in a good amount of running on the way down to the car. We were a bit bummed to leave Cannon lying out there, but we made the right decision in being safe.
I’m still thrilled to have started the journey towards someday having climbed all 48 of the White Mountain’s 4,000 footers!