Tom, Field, Willey Traverse

"Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature-- the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter."

No work for an entire week! What shall I do? 

I spent my Easter Sunday with my family down in Boston. For three days after that while it was doomy and gloomy I decided to hold off on doing the fun outdoorsy stuff for the weekend where temps would rise and the sun would be out. 

I had planned for a hike with Trish and her two girls, Alex and Sage. We originally were going to aim for Jefferson, Washington, Munroe Loop on Sunday. Given the forecast for that day, we opted out. Winds were forecasted to be somewhere in the 50's. We decided to traverse the "WTF" Range as some would refer to it as. Tom, Field, & Willey. We spotted a car at Ethan Pond Trailhead and started from the A-Z Trailhead. Temps were significantly warm, warm enough as to where your hands didn't freeze without gloves when you went to put your spikes, or snowshoes on your feet. It finally felt like spring!

Blue Sky!
I had only brought my spikes and crampons. Crampons mostly for the sake of going down the south side of Willey. I started with my spikes on as we headed up to the trail junction before Tom. It has been a good 3 years since I last did this traverse and not to mention that was in the summer. I remember the A-Z Trail starting out fairly gradual and getting steep in parts. This day though, we got to a junction and had exactly 1 mile to our Junction for Tom. From here it felt like the longest up hill battle. This I did not remember. But hey! Isn't that the best part of hiking? No matter how many times you have hiked it, it always seems as though you have never been there before.

The snow pack was perfect. There were certain spots where it was balling up underneath my feet on my spikes, but I would kick it off and keep on moving. Finally, arriving at the junction we head up to Tom. A whopping .6 of a mile each way. This I remember being gradual incline for most of the way up, sure enough it was. Once we made it to the top we took a jaunt to the lookout, and then over to the summit for some food to fill our bellies. When we approached the summit, I realized I never even made it to the actuall summit my first time up here, only to the look out.

Trish & her girls at the lookout before Tom's Summit.
Mount Washington from Tom's Lookout
Looking towards Field.
On our way up we had a conversation about the Gray Jays and how neither of us had seen any this year. Sure enough, one came swooping in. Landing on a nearby tree, it took it's perch. Sat and stared relentlessly until someone sure enough was willing to put their hand out and give it some food. I understand the idea about the Leave No Trace rule, and that you shouldn't feed animals in the back-country. However, this is one I make an exception for. As long as you're not feeding it junk food, I can understand nuts as something you would use for these birds. Sure enough we captured some incredible photos of Alex and Sage patiently waiting for one to land on their small hands. Later to realize, we were to meet again on Willey. (If it was the same bird)

Once fueled up and ready to go, we decided to all take the traction off our feet and see how that went. It was perfect! The snow was just sticky enough as to where you wouldn't slide. We all ended up bare-booting the rest of the way back to the car.

Off to Field we went. An easy .9 mile jaunt to the next summit with some amazing views. Here I got to join Trish and the girls enjoy their "Desserts on the 48" it was Fudge on Field this time around! Here it was a bit brisk and cold as we could now feel the wind steadily picking up and whipping through the trees. So we hunkered down into the trees and enjoyed our fudge. Once done, we put our packs back on and headed towards our last peak of the day, Willey.

Alex looking scared (but not) as Gray Jay takes landing.

Gray Jay in soaring action
Sage waiting patiently for the Gray Jay to land.
1.4miles to the summit of Willey, and again, a pretty steady jaunt over. We came across a packed out trail that may have looked like a path to somewhere. Trish checked it out to find a dead end, then Alex and Sage. Within a few minutes you could hear the girls yelling back to us "Come on, the trail keeps going! It takes you to this amazing opening with no wind and we can eat our dessert." Sure enough, those girls being so small, bushwhacked us to the summit. It was funny, and lots of fun for the short bushwhack it was. However, I am convinced that they took us right over the "actual" highest point on Willey, that most people don't bother to do in the summer because of the thick brush, and just assume the small cairn is the official summit.
Looking back at Tom

Junction sign at my waist
At the summit of Willey we enjoyed another great dessert. Thank you Trish for letting me be a part of this adventure with you and the girls by the way! Whoopie Pies on Willey! So yummy after a long day's hike! We took in the warmth of the sun and the beautiful views from the ledge.

Trail to Willey
After a good 20 minutes or so up here it was time to make our final descent. I kind of knew I would be going down a very steep trail. I have heard things about this trail, mostly in the summer time though, but had never actually hiked it myself. Trish also had been talking about her experience on the trail with Alex one year. It sounded very intimidating.

Let's just say... this trail in the winter, is a perfect trail to practice ice axe technique, and self arrest. This trail was by far the steepest trail I have ever been on in the White's. Steeper than Lion Head Winter Route if any of you have ever been on it in the winter to ascend Mount Washington. Unfortunately, there was not many photos taken descending this route for the sake of safety. This trail, officially scared me in one spot. When you are basically hanging by a tree and praying it does not break apart and send you flying at least 50feet down, that becomes quite nerve wracking. However, Trish handled that section very well with the girls, having them not move until she said and to certain places. The girls were incredibly brave and trusting of their mother, as I sat and observed before my turn to maneuver down this section.

Incredibly enough, we made it. Finally, making it down to a descent part of the trail and butt-sledding a good portion of it out after that! Caution though, this is a trail that DOES NOT require a sled to keep you going, and going fast. This is a trail to be advised that there are extremely steep drop offs around corners you are not expecting. I do advise much caution down this trail, as well as going up. It's something to laugh about now that it is over and everyone got down safely, but one wrong move and someone could have been very badly injured. We are all smart, and cautious hikers and together I think we made a great team!

Webster Cliffs from Willey
Mount Washington from Willey
We hiked the rest of the way out back to my car at Ethan Pond Trailhead. It was a easy flat walk out with some small butt sledding areas. I had a great day. There is something to be said for a great hike and good company!

Hike Safe & Keep on Trekking


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