Destination: North & South Hancock
Route: Hancock Notch Trail, Cedar Brook Trail, Hancock Loop Trail
Elevation: 4,420′ / 4,319′
Distance: 8.95 miles
Elevation Gain: 2,650′ (approx.)
Time: 5:36 Hours
Report: We arrived at trailhead around 7:40AM after staying overnight at the Historic Thayer’s Inn, which is about 35 minutes from the Hancock Notch trailhead. The weather called for rain beginning around 1PM so we made an effort to get an early start. We arrived at the trailhead around 7:40AM and chatted for bit with an AMC group that was planning on heading up both peaks as well.
After crossing the highway from the parking lot to the actual trailhead we put on our snowshoes. We could of used light traction as the trail was hard packed, but we were hoping to get some more experience with the snowshoes, and a very nice snowshoe track had been set that would of been a shame to tear up with boots.
The approach along the Hancock Notch and Cedar Brook trails was pleasant. Water crossings were mostly snow-bridged over. We reached the Hancock Loop trail without seeing anyone else and eventually made it the split where we decided to head up North Hancock. While I had read the trail description, I couldn’t remember which way was easier so I took a guess. Overall, heading up the north peak was steep and increasingly windy as we approached the top. For the most part, the trail was hard packed with some minor drifts approaching the summit. Unfortunately, there was no view what-so-ever as the summit was entirely in the clouds. We reached the summit where we snapped a few pictures. We didn’t bother going to the outlook, given the lack of view and strong winds, and instead made our way below the tree line for a quick snack and a rest.
After a short break, we headed out along the ridge trail. The decent from the north peak was a little steep. We came across another hiker and her dog headed in the opposite direction, and then another pair of hikers a few minutes later. After some time we came across the AMC group who was coming down off the south peak. The walk along the ridge was nice, with a few minor ups and downs. We reached the south peak and stopped again for a few minutes for pictures and rest before heading down the south peak side of the trail.
The south peak trail was much steeper then the north side. It was very slow going and was quite difficult. After struggling for 10 or 15 minutes I was startled by a hiker yelling as she came up from behind me doing a butt-slide down the mountain. She was quickly out of sight and looked to be having a lot of fun. We carried on at a snails pace for a few more minutes before finally deciding that the butt-slide was the way to go. Laura went first and I followed. It was awesome, and made quick work of what would of otherwise been along and painful decent.
The trail finally leveled out enough where we could no longer slide, but we soon reached the intersection with the north peak trail and made our way back towards the Cedar Brook trail. We passed a few hikers heading up. As we made our way down the rain finally hit. It really started to pick up after we re-joined with the Hancock Notch Trail. By the time we were about 1/2 from the trailhead, we were both pretty soaked. The trail was starting to get a sloppy because of the rain and boots. Water crossings were fine, but starting to look a little sketchy.
Despite the less the ideal weather, it was overall a great trip. We had a ton of fun and bagged two 4000 footers!