February 20, 2022
Start: Unknown Pond trailhead
End: Starr King trailhead
Elevation gain: 8366′
My friend and I met up at in Lincoln at 5am, drove to the Starr King winter trailhead, dropped a car, and then headed the hour drive over to Unknown Pond trailhead. When we started at 7:15am, it was 0F/-10F windchill. At the first water crossing, my friend broke through the ice and dunked his foot. After that, we were more careful, and tested the ice before walking across the brook. The wind had obscured the trail, and we had to engage in wayfinding within the first 0.5mi. We needed to keep checking our GPS until we made it to Unknown Pond. From there up to the Horn, the trail was easier to follow; we switched to snowshoes on our way up, having been dropping through the snow crust for a while but resisting the time it would take to switch. With the cold temperature, it was incredibly hard to stop, because we’d become chilled quickly and take 10-15 minute of walking to warm up again. We snowshoed over the Bulge and then headed to Cabot, doing some bushwhacking because it was very difficult to follow the trail with no other footprints. We emerged by the summit sign, took pictures, and then headed down towards Bunnell Notch. From Cabot to the Notch, it was beautifully packed trail. Before and after that, it was all us.
From Bunnell Notch, we went up and over Terrace Mountain. It was a long climb with a lot of wayfinding. The descent was better, with some random recent blazes, which disappeared as we approached York Pond Trail. From there until Waumbek, there were almost non-existant blazes. The Weeks were all exhausting, with trailbreaking and navigation being distinct challenges. We kept dealing with massive postholes from moose, and even bumped into two pairs of moose between Bunnell Notch and South Weeks.
As we climbed up South Weeks and then the ridge of Waumbek, the wind began to pick up. The forecast was for 55 MPH evening winds, and that seemed about right; I was very glad we were below treeline, though I worried about branches falling a few times. We turned on our headlamps as we climbed Waumbek, and maneuvered the last few miles in the quickly fading light. We both took some hard falls as we snowshoed around all of the blowdowns along the ridge, and we were both exhausted to the point of near delirium when we finally emerged onto packed trail just north of Waumbek. I nearly cried with joy. We went a little further wearing the snowshoes, wanting to get into more dense tree cover before stopping to take off the snowshoes and switch to spikes. We tapped the summit of Waumbek on the way past and turned on what speed we had left on the hike over to Starr King. There were some 6″ drifts we had to step through, having been created by the wind since people last hiked through earlier. Then it was endless descent, trying to move our legs quickly, as the temperature started to rise into the 20s for the first time all day. We finally emerged at the summer parking lot and walked down to the winter parking area, where our car was waiting. We were both incredibly excited to stop moving and just sit down.
We headed back to Unknown Pond trailhead, stopping in Gorham for gas station snacks since it was the only thing still open, and then drove back to Lincoln from there, arriving at 11:15pm.