Trying Out New Gear on Pleasant Mountain, Maine

We had two goals for Saturday, January 7, 2017: Hike Pleasant Mountain in Denmark, Maine and get home in time for the 4:30 p.m. Oakland Raiders at Houston Texans NFL playoff game.

We got our usual early start. The outside temp was 11 degrees when we left home at 6:30 a.m. Brrrr…

Just before we reached the trail head parking lot we came upon a deer in the road. She must have heard the car because we saw her head peek up above the knoll. She hesitated a moment and then turned to get off the road. She slipped on the ice once and then successfully bounded over the snowbank and into the woods.

I always get a kick out of seeing wildlife when we are hiking. Funny how most of the time we see them from the car.

Anyway… we reached the trail head parking lot at around 8 a.m. It was -5 degrees Fahrenheit. OMgoodness Brrrrr…

Now I’m not proud of my behavior in those first few moments, but I’ll share them with you anyway. To put it kindly, I threw a wee bit of a temper tantrum. Here’s what happened:

It was bitterly cold. Did I mention that it was MINUS 5 degrees??

Rather than go with my standard cold weather solution of wearing a buff over my cheeks and chin and a hat on my head, I decided I should wear my balaclava. That was mistake #1. It fits tightly and covers the nose. As soon as I put my glasses on they fogged up!

Arrrggh! I muttered something about how-can-people-wear-glasses-with-these-dang-things-on and tossed my glasses back in the car. If I was going to be hiking blind, why should I carry the extra weight of glasses on my face?

Earl offered a couple of ideas, but I was too cold and aggravated to listen.

The Southwest Ridge Trail was well packed so we decided to wear our new Grivel G10 crampons. These crampons have heavier duty points than our Hillsound crampons. We were looking forward to giving them a try on an icy trail.

Grivel G10 crampon
Grivel G10 crampon

I found them a bit awkward at first. I kept stubbing the front points as I walked and had to consciously lift my feet higher so I wouldn’t stumble. The grip on the trail was amazing though.

We hadn’t hiked far when the balaclava started annoying me. It was hot on my face and I didn’t like the pressure it placed on my nose. We stopped so I could switch it out for my old standby–hat and buff.

A short distance later I became aware of a burning sensation in both heels. Uh oh.

Earl said he didn’t think my crampons were fitted properly. We stopped to adjust them, but the problem persisted. Finally I opted to remove them.

The trail was beautiful!

The Southwest Ridge Trail starts out as a lovely wooded trail. The trail soon starts to climb and opens up to the most amazing views. Apparently the snowy-scape is actually rocky ledges. I just know there were a few places where I wouldn’t want to slide off the trail in the snow.

A trail sign pointed to the main summit of Pleasant Mountain. The trail was not as well packed and we started post-holing. We quickly made the decision to call it a day and turned around.

Once we were back at what we think was the Southwest summit, I put my crampons back on. I knew it would be tricky going down the mountain without them.

Now it’s time to share another Donna-quirk with you. As you can see from the picture above, the crampons are held in place by webbing. The tail of the webbing kept coming untucked and was flapping around my feet. It was driving me crazy! Every time it came unwrapped, I stopped to fix it. Earl tried tucking/tying it up and it kept coming loose. Finally he wrapped and wrapped and wrapped the tail of webbing until it couldn’t come loose. Success!

It didn’t take long for my heels to start burning again. I kept the crampons until we had navigated the steepest parts of the trail.

When I finally removed them, I asked Earl to take the lead. I was aggravated enough that if he’d been behind me cautioning me to “be careful” each time a foot slipped, I would have gotten a bit cranky at him. He certainly didn’t deserve that!

A bonus for me was that he had the car warmed up by the time I got back to the trail head. I tossed my pack in the trunk and climbed into the car. I looked over at him and saw he had left his hiking poles sticking out of the snow bank. Silly Earl!

Despite my fits of temper, we had an enjoyable day. A few times we thought the sun would make an appearance, but it never quite broke through the clouds. The temperature when we got back to the car at 11 a.m. was a whopping 9 degrees.

Before lunchtime, we had accomplished Goal #1.

And yes, we got home in plenty of time for the football game. In fact, we even had time to take a nap before we tackled (pun intended) goal #2.

P.S. I was surprised to discover that the crampons actually caused a blister on my right heel. Ouchie.


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