Winter is afoot.
Near the top of Kearsarge North, we begin to see and feel signs that we are not going to escape winter before we finish the list.
A full on storm was raging north of notches as we drove down. Here, further south, the sky is blue, but hints of hail and ice mark the trail. We pause before the exposed ledges, our breath short and visible. I’m feeling chilled and somewhere above us a cold wind roars over the summit and we can hear trees groan under its force.
“Layer up, kid-o,” I say. “Full on winter conditions. Get your fleece on. Get your gloves and hat out and ready.”
Janelle immediately drops her pack and starts rummaging around for her gear. No protest. Any questions will come later. We’re fully a team now. In the last few weeks, as we’ve inched closer and closer to the finish line, I’ve been humbled by her trust.
I watch her gear up not because I told her to do it, but because she understands now what she must do to stay safe and warm.
“Can we have some tea before we go up there?” she asks.
So I break out the thermos and my partner and I sip raspberry tea, pull our hats down over our brows and listen to the wind scream. Full on winter conditions. This will be our first foray into cold like that.
“Listen,” I say, casually, as though it’s no big deal. “It’s going to be cold up there like we haven’t felt before so we need to stay close and listen to each other. If you feel anything getting too cold, you tell me right away, ok?”
She nods. I give her cheek a pat with my gloved hand. “Let’s get this.”
Janelle smiles and hits the ledges at nearly a run. Above, the frigid wind waits.
Kearsarge North (11/4/12)
Height: 3,268 feet
Location: North Conway. I-93 north to Exit 23 to Route 104 east to Route 25 east to Route 16 north to Hurricane Mountain Road, trailhead on the left.
Our trailhead: Mt. Kearsarge North Trail, up and back.
Distance: 6.2 miles.
Author note: We’re counting down to our final four vignettes! Number 48, The Horn, will drop on Tuesday, Dec. 4. Stop by as Janelle and I face our first full winter conditions hike. But first, on Sunday morning, Dec. 2, we’ll have a little website / Facebook page contest! Look for that announcement on Sunday morning.