Kinsman Ridge Traverse
Up and down and up andHiking
This was one of the toughest hikes I've done. My generally positive attitude toward this hike now is sponsored by caffeine.
We were planning where to hike with Doug. The Kinsmans got suggested. Then Doug wrote, "Another option if we wanted to bite off quite a bit more and run a shuttle: the full Kinsman ridge traverse" along with a Strava link to the FKT (3:41 in case you were wondering). I thought that sounded great — something new! I had hiked the section from Cannon to North Kinsman a few times, but this would include a long stretch of the AT down to Beaver Brook TH that would be new to me. "It's the AT, how hard could it be?" I said. Given it took around 6.5 hours for us to hike up Madison + Adams last week in similar conditions, I figured we could do this one in 8 (Gaia possibly was confused about the elevation gain and I didn't check the book until we were waiting for Doug at the TH). Oof, I was wrong.
We met at Beaver Brook and dropped Doug's car, then we masked up and rolled down the windows and drove our frigid commute to the Cannon ski parking lot. Hiking up Cannon, a very direct straight up 2 miles, was a good warmup and for some reason I figured that climb would be the toughest part. "We're on ridge the rest of the day," I said. "Once we're past the [Cannon]balls, we're home free," I also said. The hike up Cannon turned out to be the easiest part of our day.
We carried onward. The trail was reasonably well broken out and we were glad to have left our snowshoes in the car (except Cody). One ball down, then another, then the last, then the final big push to North Kinsman, and we're "home free" at South. We were looking forward to a long descent to the car, but we still had the toughest part of our day ahead of us.
The trail from South Kinsman to Beaver Brook is gnarly. It's extremely steep in parts, and the conditions made it treacherous with ice and just a little bit of snow on top — enough to pad your spikes so they don't actually catch in the ice, but not sticky enough stuff to prevent you from slipping. It was very slow going for a while. Finally the trail evened out a bit as we got Harrington Pond. Then it started climbing again — two miles to the summit of Mount Wolf. It was somewhere in here that I took a highly caffeinated Gu. I felt great! The guys did not...
We hiked to the tune of frozen gurgling Eliza Brook. It got dark and the wind started howling and we still had a big handful of miles left. We donned our headlamps. Even though we all knew we were basically going down, it seemed like the trail kept climbing up and up. It would descend and then sharply rise. The last set of switchbacks we reached an hour after dark nearly got Cody. Finally we heard some traffic and could see headlights not that far below us. We had finally, after over 9 hours of hiking, made it back to Doug's car. We threw on all our layers, our masks and zipped up the highway to our chariot, in which we drove away from Doug with the heat blasting to pick up a to-go pizza from Schilling. We figured we'd have a slice and then head home. We put away two whole pies. It was certainly not as cozy as eating inside would have been, but definitely better than nothing.
Cannon (4,081 ft), North Kinsman (4,293 ft), South Kinsman (4,358 ft)
Cannon Ski Area —> Beaver Brook
16.80 miles, 7,395 ft elevation gain
Start: 8:44am, 9:11 Total
Partners in Crime
Doug, Cody + Rye
Cody + Doug on near the summit of Cannon, Franconia Ridge behind
Cannon tower, Kinsman Ridge
Me, Cody and Doug atop Cannon
Rye, North Kinsman summit
Doug and Cody, South Kinsman summit
Very cool ice
Covid times: Eating pizza in the car