Cannon & the Kinsmen

Day one of funemployment

Peaks
Cannon (4,180ft), North Kinsman (4,293ft), South Kinsman (4,357ft)
Trailhead
Lafayette Campground Trail Parking
Trails
Hi-Cannon, Kinsman Ridge, Fishin' Jimmy, Lonesome Lake
Total Distance
11.87 miles, 5,518ft elevation gain
Time
Start: 9:30am, 5:43 Round Trip
Weather
10s - 20s temps, no wind. Sunny at the start, overcast for the most of it. Cloudy summits.
Trail Conditions
Hard packed snow trail
Gear
Sharp spikes, Waterproof light winter boots, 1 pole
Partners in Crime
Rye
Start of Lonesome Lake Trail (to Hi-Cannon)
Start of Lonesome Lake Trail (to Hi-Cannon)

As I’m in between jobs for the next two weeks, I hope to hike as much as I can physically handle and take advantage of good weather weekdays to get after it. The first hike of what I’m calling “funemployment” led Rye and I to the Kinsman Range. We made a big rolling loop up to Cannon, then over on the Kinsman Ridge Trail to North and South Kinsman, then back down past the AMC Hut at Lonesome Lake.

Having read recent trail reports, I decided to leave my snowshoes behind and bring my sharp Hillsound microspikes. Unlike last time, this was the right decision. The trail was hard packed snow with few legacy postholes and I didn’t create a single new one. It was very icy in parts so I was glad I had sharp spikes, or else I would have had to switch to crampons.

Hi-Cannon trail departs Lonesome Lake about 0.5 miles in and climbs steadily and steeply up, gaining over 2,100 feet in two miles. I felt comfortable with the amount of grip I was getting on the icier sections in my microspikes. Just after the sharp turn left at 1.6 miles, there was one section with a ladder, but Rye had no problem just stepping on the snow between the rungs, and I did the same. There were some nice views back toward 93 and Franconia ridge, and also down at Lonesome Lake. We passed only one man on the way up.

The 0.4 miles to Cannon Mountain (2.6mi) on Kinsman Ridge were pretty easy in comparison. When we reached the tower, we saw two people who had taken the lift up. The steps to the top of the tower were a little icy, but Rye handled them ok and I felt very secure in my spikes. Unfortunately, the clouds had moved in and there wasn’t much for a view.

We headed back down Kinsman Ridge. Past the junction with Hi-Cannon, there was a 0.2 mile section that was extremely steep and icy, but with decent footing off to the side of the ice. Then we started the long up and down section (is ‘slog’ the right word?) through the Cannon Balls. Though I thought the book said three, there were four distinct rises and falls before beginning the climb to North Kinsman at 3.8mi, 4.2mi, 4.9mi and 5.5mi.

The ridge was less trafficked but still solid enough to avoid post-holing. With the high snowpack, and probably also due to some blowdowns, I was constantly brushing against the trees and had to duck in many sections through tight tunnels. Rye had to problem with this. When we finally made it to the junction with Fishin’ Jimmy and Kinsman Pond Trail 2.5 miles later (5.7mi), I was exhausted and ready to be onto part two of my day – summiting the Kinsmen.

The half mile uphill to North Kinsman looked like a beautiful winter snow globe, but sadly just like Cannon there wasn’t a view from the lookout area (turn left off the trail just at the summit for a spacious and usually wonder-view-providing ledge. Recommended for snacking). I ate some leftover pastries from the farmers market hoping for the clouds to move and a view, but the downside of a windless day was that not happening. We saw our second person of the day who was heading down Mt. Kinsman trail.

We pushed on for our “final-ish” peak (we still had to turn around and re-summit North Kinsman). The 0.9 section of the ridge between North and South Kinsman is pretty easy and seemed short short. We didn’t stick around long at South Kinsman (7.3mi) before turning around and trail running most of the way down back to the junction with Fishin’ Jimmy (8.5mi).

Fishin’ Jimmy Trail went steeply down for the first 0.4 miles with may sections of ice (again, thanks sharp microspikes), then there was a significant rise (9.1mi) that really made me feel my exhaustion. Our pace slowed as the trail gently rose and fell for the next mile to the hut (10.3mi). We crossed the middle of solidly frozen Lonesome Lake and saw three people heading toward us up to the hut. Since there was no snow on the surface, the lake was extremely slippery for Rye, and I was worried she was going to hurt herself in her excitement to greet some of the only people we’d seen all day. She seemed ok in the end, and while I love crossing the frozen lake because it usually provides some beautiful views back towards the mountains, we probably should have stuck to the trail around the outside.

We ran all the way down Lonesome Lake trail to the parking lot, looking forward to sitting down and eating some post-hike pizza and beer at Shilling Beer Co in Littleton, my absolute favorite spot around the Whites, on our way home. Two big hiking days in a row definitely earned us some rest.

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