It’s the end of May, and now that I am finally done with training, I can start to relax and start thinking about other things. In the last couple weeks, I have been starting to get my head around going back to the mountains. Not quite ready to tackle the Whites just yet, I decided a good training hike would be to go back up Mt. Monadnock… On a Saturday.
Yeah, so weekend days are not usually my first choice to walk up one of the most traveled peaks in the country, but it’s the only day I have, so it’s going to have to do. I pull into the lot and it’s packed. People from all over travel to Jaffrey, New Hampshire to climb this mountain. While admittedly it’s no Everest, I would never refer to climbing any mountain as easy, and this one is no different. The result of this mass misunderstanding is that hundreds if not thousands of people, flock this place of elevation in an effort hike the White Dot to the summit.
It’s been nearly two years since I’ve been here, and just as long since I’ve shouldered a pack and endeavored to climb any mountain. The last effort was on Mt. Moosilauke in August of 2013, a humbling trek that forced me to reevaluate my systems and make some much needed changes. The beating I took on that trip finally forced to admit that I needed to streamline my system and trim pounds to make a more manageable kit. Armed with a new, lighter pack, trail runners instead of heavy boots, lighter trekking poles and a gopro, I was ready to put some of those changes to the test.
Despite the crowds, I made pretty good time to the summit. Initially, I thought I would be annoyed by the mass of hikers on the White Dot trail, but on the ascent, I found it enjoyable to exchange pleasantries with people as we passed. Arriving at the summit in just under ninety minutes, I could see it was going to be a struggle to find a place to sit. The wind was blowing hard, and the throngs of hikers made it difficult to stake out a spot that would provide some shelter. I found a free piece of granite and took a seat to enjoy some much needed rest and a snack. The real benefit to Mondanock on a Saturday was the summit people watching. Everyone seemed in good spirits, and enjoying taking the requisite summit picture poses. I mean let’s be honest, no one comes to Mondanock on a weekend seeking solitude, right? So I might as well take a few minutes to enjoy the show.
I let some of the groups filter out before I picked up my gear and made my way back to the trail. For the hours of toiling to reach and recover from the summit, I always find it a shame that more time can’t be spent enjoying the view. Since I got a late start, I needed to start heading down. This is where the crowds became a bit of a problem. I’ve said before that the descent can be more dangerous than the climb up, so I’m not racing down the mountain, of course. I also know that a group only moves as fast as their slowest hiker. So with some of these larger, slow groups, some patience was going to be required as I maneuvered down the mountain.
The descent was uneventful until about 15 minutes above the parking lot. I could see a lone hiker ahead of me who I had been trailing for some time. Our pace seemed about the same until all of a sudden it wasn’t. As I closed the distance I could see him doubled over in pain and groaning. I stopped to ask if he was ok. “Yeah I’m just cramping up,” was his response. As it turns out it was his first time hiking a mountain, had gone through his two liters of water and was getting pretty dehydrated. I passed along some encouraging words and pressed on. But as I walked passed him I got to thinking. I had some extra water in my camelbak, and here’s a hiker in trouble. Sure, it’s not far to the parking lot, but dehydrated and cramping, that parking lot might as well be on the moon. I’ve been that guy, downed on the trail, and when I needed help someone was there. I couldn’t just leave him like that. I stopped and turned around. When I got back to him he was sitting on a log catching his breath. I told him that while I didn’t have much left, I had enough to fill some of his bottle so he could have a little more water to get down to the end of the hike. We snapped a quick photo, shook hands and parted. Helping that dude out was the right thing to do, and maybe next time he goes out to hike, or to work, and sees someone else in trouble, he might do a little something to help. You know, pay It forward and all that.
All in all a good day, and a good return to hiking in the mountains. Hopefully more to come this year.