January 16, 2022
Start/End: Big Island Rd, side of the road
Elevation gain: 5295′
I woke up at 6am, prepped my water bottles with boiling water, and then started driving for the trailhead. I was relieved to know the roads I was going to drive were plowed and open; it had helped me sleep. I arrived at the start of the bushwhack by 7:45am, suited up, tied on my snowshoes, and then headed out. It was -17 actual at the start and 0 at the end; it never rose above 0 with windchill factored in; it was not a day for lingering though the sky was completely clear and the sun was a welcome companion.
For the first mile, I was able to follow a lone snowmobile track. I then identified the mountain I was heading for and pushed into the woods. The mile to the top of the mountain was brutal and agonizingly slow; it climbed 1800′ and I discovered that due to high winds, any open areas not covered by trees had snow up to waist deep. In bushwhacking, it’s typically easier to aim for open areas since it’s easier to navigate and wayfind when you can see further but for this hike, I had to favor tree cover, where the snow was never more than knee deep.
I was happy to make it to the top and break out onto the herdpath between White Cap and Kennebago Divide. I headed left for KD; the herdpath was easy to follow for a while and then slowly became harder to see in the smaller spruce. I bushwhacked my way up to the summit, enjoying the more shallow snow. I then quickly retraced my steps and pushed on towards the summit of White Cap. The herdpath to the summit was easier to follow than KD, but once at the summit, I realized that I had lost yet another water bottle out of the same pack pocket as yesterday afternoon. I guess the bungee on the pocket is dead. So I velcroed my remaining water bottle to my hip belt using an insulated sleeve and topped it off with boiling water to melt it, since it had frozen solid.
Then it was a straight bushwhack off the summit to connect with the boundary swath. Some folks bushwhack across the open area near Dennison Bog, but I decided to go the more direct route to the bondary swath. The mileage and gain is identical, and the open area was going to be hell with waist-deep snow. For most of the bushwhack, I was able to stay under tree cover, but the last hundred feet I traveled through were completely open and flat. Breaking through the waist-deep snow took me an eternity, and by halfway through, my right hamstring had vigorously protested by spasming and cramping uncontrollably any time I picked up my right leg to step.
Thankfully, once I broke through to the swath, I found a snowmobile track and a gloriously hard-packed surface, so long as I stayed on the track. I snowshoed along the swath, climbing the unpleasantly sharp hills to get to Boundary Peak. I was relieved to have made it so far, because it meant I only had one final bushwhack and it would be downhill.
At the summit of Boundary, I took some pictures, pulled out a snack, and ate as I hiked back over my footsteps to get to the col where a logging cut gave a less dense descent. Unfortunately, I had to fight through deep snow again, since it was more open to the sky and wind. This slowed me down, but at least it was downhill; as I dropped lower, the snow depth began to decrease as well. I finally popped out onto an older logging road; I turned left here and followed it until I emerged onto the plowed logging road.
I took the opportunity to remove my snowshoes, put on my spikes (the road was very icy), and pull out my headlamp. I then put my head down and power walked the ~4 miles back to my car. The temperature dropped sharply after sunset and my soaked hands and toes became painfully cold even while I walked very quickly. I arrived at my starting point a little before 6pm and was very glad to find my car there unbothered.
I took off as many wet layers as I could, added some dry gloves to my hands, and drove back to Rangeley. I took a quick shower, changed into dry clothes, and packed up. With the snow storm forecast to start by 7am and last almost 24 hours, I decided I’d rather drive home in the wee hours of the morning than deal with getting stuck for almost 2 days. I started driving around 8pm after drinking two energy drinks, and made good time until around 1am, when I hit the storm moving along I-90. The roads were a mess and it took me until 2:30am to get home, but it was definitely worth it!
I’m so excited to have checked these peaks off my list. They’ve been a major source of anxiety for a number of months, and I’m happy to have successfully climbed them!