February 20, 2005
Butler Lodge trail, Long Trail to Forehead, return on Wampahoofus
Paul D and I waited at the trailhead until about 8:45, but no one showed up. Michael C had called early to say he didn't have a ride. I had had a couple of calls the night before. One hiker ended up by mistake at the state park up the road and hiked the Cowles trail by himself. However, we had plenty of company. Starting out in temperatures cold enough to make fingers hurt, we acquire two canine companions who remained with us the entire day.
At Butler, we met a group of four who were spending several nights at the lodge, exploring during the day. They had carried two 50-pound propane cylinders up the trail, one for heat and one for light, as well as a large multiburner stove! Home sweet home, eh? They had followed the ribbons I placed in December to locate the trail from Butler to the Needle's Eye, and had very kindly done the hard work of breaking trail in the 1 to 2 feet of untouched powder. They informed us that the Long Trail was impassible beyond that because of the "4 feet or so" of powder that was not sticking to the very steep section around the ladders. They had used the winter bypass, gotten lost, and bushwhacked to the Forehead, returning the same way. True, there was no adhesion to the surface, and snowshoes just peeled the powder away. Switching to crampons allowed Paul and me to proceed slowly up the Long Trail. At critical spots, I brushed the powder away with my poles to see where I could put my feet. Our new friends followed us in crampons, encouraged by our progress, and we all made it to the top without too much difficulty. At the famous overhanging rock on that section, all of us but one removed our packs and crawled across away from the exposed side.
We returned on the Wampahoofus trail, which was newly blazed and had gotten a lot of traffic. The views on this cold, clear day were spectacular. Unfortunately, I accidentally pushed a lever on my new digital camera that caused most of my great photos to be washed out, so you'll have to take my word for it.
Our dog friends, who could not get up the ladders, were waiting for us at Butler and accompanied us to the bottom of the trail. We fed them pieces of snack bars and beef jerky.