Time is running out.
We’ve explored the base of the summit rock now for ten minutes, fully exposed to a bitter valley wind, our sweat freezing to our fleece. We are six feet from the top, but it’s six feet up and our stabilicers are not up to the task.
The Horn has a unique distinction. The mountain’s summit is one very large, very steep rock. In the summer, it’s possible to scramble up that rock from several different points. Now, however, as Janelle and I hover around the summit rock, its icy flanks might as well be Mt. Everest.
Six feet. If we reach up with our poles we can touch the summit. But it looks like our feet aren’t going to make it.
“We’ve been here too long, kid,” I say close to her ear, over the howl of cold wind. “It’s too dangerous.”
I could, I suppose, heave her up there. But then, how would I get her down?
“We’ll have to come back!” She says this not as a statement or question, but as a dreaded exclamation. Neither of us want to miss a summit. We won’t have enough time to come back. It’s now or nothing.
“Are you warm, every part of you, are you warm?” I ask.
There is one chance. The western side of the giant boulder is split near the bottom, forming a wedge about two feet wide and ten feet long. I have no clue what’s on the other side of that wedge. Perhaps more impossible-to-negotiate rock. Perhaps a pathway to the top. “Can you fit through there?” I know she can fit. My question is designed to see if she wants to.
“Yes!” she says again, nodding her head to add emphasis. There’s no hesitation, no claustrophobic fear. She’s excited.
“Ok,” I say. “We’ll take one last shot. Follow me. Do as I do. If I say turn back, we just shimmy back the way we came, ok?”
And so, at nearly 4,000 feet, amid the ice and snow, fully engaged and ready for anything, the girl and I squeeze into the void to search for a path to the summit.
The Horn (11/5/12)
Height: 3,905 feet
Location: Stark. I-93 north to Exit 37 to Route 3 north to Route 110 (Groveton) to Mill Pond Road to the end and trailhead.
Our trailhead: Unknown Pond Trail to Kilkenny Ridge Trail to The Horn Spur, out and back. (Warning: Mill Pond Road is not maintained in the winter.)
Distance: 8.4 miles.
We have a winner! On Sunday, we asked you to guess how many total miles Buffalo and Tough Cookie hiked to complete the 52 With a View list. We had some great guesses, you all must have gotten the calculators out! The winner will get a postcard from us and be entered into a drawing to win a reader’s copy of the book. So, here are some numbers from our journey:
Total day hikes: 41
Time: 371 days
Longest single hike: 13.7
Shortest single hike: 2
And the number you’ve all been waiting for, TOTAL MILES HIKED: 225!
That means Melissa is our winner. She guessed 230. Nice job Melissa. We’ll be in touch to get your mailing info. Thanks to all who guessed. We love your support and enthusiasm! More contests soon.