Hiking Trail Conditions Report
Peaks South Hancock, North Hancock, NH
Trails: Hancock Notch Trail, Cedar Brook Trail, Hancock Loop Trail
Date of Hike
Date of Hike: Sunday, March 27, 2016
Parking/Access Road Notes
Parking/Access Road Notes: I was the second car in the lot in the morning, and it was still only half-full in the early afternoon, and many of those cars were folks checking out the view during afternoon drives. 
Surface Conditions
Surface Conditions: Ice - Blue, Mud - Minor/Avoidable, Snow/Ice - Monorail (Stable), Snow - Wet/Sticky, Snow - Spring Snow 
Recommended Equipment
Recommended Equipment: Light Traction, Traction 
Water Crossing Notes
Water Crossing Notes: Cedar Brook Trail is down to just one (the last) crossing, thanks to the new reroute that opened last year. This crossing, as well as the handful of other ones, was easily rock-hopped. For the most part, the rock tops were ice-free on the larger crossings, while the smaller ones still had a little bit of ice bridging in places. None were of any trouble. 
Trail Maintenance Notes
Trail Maintenance Notes: 2 blowdowns, both on the ridge link. One ~6" blocking the trail just South of the main col with a short bypass established, and one large 8-10" leaner just below the North summit that is a duck-under right now. This was my first trip on the new reroute on the Cedar Brook Trail, which is well-done. It uses pieces of the herd paths used to skip those 2 crossings, but goes up a little higher to avoid the boggy section in the middle. The badly-damaged (from Hurricane Irene) section is now left to the forest to reclaim as it wishes. 
Dog-Related Notes
Dog-Related Notes: I would not bring a dog on this hike right now, at least not on the loop trail. There is a huge amount of ice, much of it hard flow. 
Bugs: Still frozen in? 
Lost and Found
Lost and Found: I found a folded newspaper page at the North Hancock overlook. Normally I wouldn't mention it, but it was folded such that it showed only the portrait of a fallen soldier, with a lengthy article about the individual contained within. I got the feeling it was important to someone who had been hiking up there recently. It hadn't been up there long, I'd say it was probably from Saturday given it showed no water damage from the Friday rains (I could be wrong), but was dated back to October. It looked like it likely fell out of a pocket? If you were carrying it and would like it back, contact me and I'll happily mail it to you. 
Comments: This hike can be summed up in one word: ICE. I expected it to be somewhat icy, and boy was I not disappointed. The ice starts very quickly on the Hancock Notch Trail and becomes nearly constant shortly thereafter, but light traction handles it all just fine up to the fork of the Hancock Loop Trail. A few bare patches of ground, and some exposed rocks around some of the crossings. At the loop fork, I opted to ascend the South Link and descend the North. The South Link was a mix of hard and styrofoam-like ice, but mostly the latter. A few hard ice flows to negotiate, but ascent in fairly sharp Hillsound spikes was fine. The ridge link had softened in the sun and was easy cruising in the spikes as well, little ice at all in there. Once at the North summit, I put on the Hillsound Trail Crampon PROs that I'd brought, which are about a 3/4-crampon. They were exceptionally helpful during the descent of the North Link which was by and large all hard flow ice. All of the step-like sections were filled in with thick, hard ice, so it was just a steep, icy straight down hike. There was still a lot of tree-surfing despite the aggressive traction; it took nearly as long to descend the North Link as it took to ascend the South Link. Switched back to the Hillsound spikes once back to the loop fork and motored my way out.

Snow/ice depth was rarely more than 2-3" up to the Hancock Loop Trail, and only increased by an inch or two on the ascent/descent. The ridge was deeper, but I'm still not sure there was more than 10-12" at any time along the ridge, and generally far less than that. Right now the base is quite solid, and even if that changes, the depth isn't enough that I think snowshoes will be needed at all until next winter, barring a massive new storm. I only saw 2 other hikers, though there was at least one more duo who started shortly after I did but I never saw them - must have done the loop the same direction. The 2 I saw both had spikes only, and each managed the loop fine in opposite directions. I think I would advise ascending the harder ice of the North Link and descending the slightly more grippy South Link, but neither is pleasant right now.

The views, however, were nice at both viewpoints. Some (illegal?) viewscaping has occurred at both outlooks in the last couple years. But this was the first time I really stopped at the South outlook. There was an undercast at about 3000ft starting roughly in the Sawyer River Valley and extending East as far as one could see. It looked like a great day to be on Chocorua or Tremont. From the North overlook there also appeared to be some undercast extending Southward, starting roughly around Waterville Valley. All in all a beautiful day.  
Name: madmattd 
Date Submitted
Date Submitted: 2016-03-28 
Bookmark and Share Disclaimer: Reports are not verified - conditions may vary. Use at own risk. Always be prepared when hiking. Observe all signs. Trail conditions reports are not substitutes for weather reports or common sense.

Copyright 2009-2024, All Rights Reserved