|Hiking Trail Conditions Report|
||Mt. Jefferson, NH|
||Caps Ridge Trail, The Cornice, Randolph Path, Edmands Col Cutoff, rockwhack, Gulfside, Six Husbands Trail, Jefferson Loop|
|Date of Hike:
||Sunday, July 3, 2022|
|Parking/Access Road Notes:
||Parking lot for Caps Ridge Trail was about 3/4 full when I got there just after 8. When I got back at 3:45, it had clearly overflowed onto Jefferson Notch Road, with a bunch of vehicles parked along the road. Jefferson Notch Road, at least from the south (Base Station Road), is in good condition, and any car should be able to drive it. |
||Dry Trail |
|Water Crossing Notes:
||None on this route. |
|Trail Maintenance Notes:
||No blowdowns on Caps Ridge - all other trails are above treeline and so wouldn't have blowdowns anyway. Gulfside Spring flows across Edmands Col Cutoff, making it a bit wet in that section. All signs were in place, however the sign at the junction of Caps Ridge Trail and Cornice only points to Cornice going toward Mt. Washington. Someone etched a small arrow into the sign to point the other way as well. The junction is right there, and Cornice going north is fairly clear from that point, so don't get turned around. Major issues on Edmands Col Cutoff - see below. |
||Caps Ridge Trail is NOT a dog-friendly trail, and neither are the above-treeline trails around Jefferson. The only dog I saw was a small one that was in its owner's backpack (with its head sticking out) - they probably realized that their dog couldn't do the trail. Also, when starting the hike, there was another group I saw in the parking lot that had brought two dogs. I never saw them again, so I'm not sure how far they got. |
||I applied 25% DEET at the parking area, and wasn't bothered on the way up. Above treeline, the wind was enough to keep them away. They started to get a little annoying in the final half-mile back to the trailhead. |
|Lost and Found:
||If strenuous, above-treeline rock-hopping is your idea of fun, then Caps Ridge, the Cornice, the upper part of Six Husbands, and Mt. Jefferson Loop are the trails for you. The idea here was to not only complete the uppermost part of Six Husbands, which I needed for the Terrifying 25, but also complete my redlining of all the above-treeline trails in the vicinity of Mt. Jefferson.|
Caps Ridge is fairly mellow up to the first viewpoint a mile in, and then steadily gets steeper and rockier as it approaches and breaks treeline and scrambles up to the Lower Cap. It stays extremely rough the entire rest of the way. I expected this, since I've done Caps Ridge twice before, and that climb went smoothly. I then hung a left on Cornice to begin redlining that trail. I'd read in reports and blog posts that this section is extremely rough and basically constant rock-hopping, and so it proved to be. It was very strenuous, but everything was certainly doable, and following the trail was not difficult. I wouldn't want to hike Cornice on a cloudy or wet day, though, and leave plenty of time for it - I managed maybe 0.8 mph on it.
From the end of Cornice, I took Randolph Path to Edmands Col, and then turned onto Edmands Col Cutoff. That's when the interesting part began. Past Gulfside Spring, Edmands Col Cutoff is extremely rough, with lots of oddly shaped boulders (kind of similar to Cornice), and was also somewhat brushy. I was going slow but doing fine until I reached a very steep rockslide area that the trail crosses. I crossed it, making sure to be very careful not to dislodge any rocks, and reached the other side... except there was no sign of a trail on the other side. Absolutely none. Just very steep scrub. And no cairn on the other side to mark the trail either. I went down the rockslide a bit, but didn't find anything, and then went up a bit, but still didn't find anything. I didn't feel like trying to re-cross the rock slide and find the trail to go back the way I had come, but I had another option - the rockslide area seemed to go up for quite a ways. I decided to climb up the rockslide and try to reach Gulfside Trail, which my map said was only 0.2 miles away. So I climbed up - this part was a bit precarious, as a lot of the rocks were very loose and the slide area was extremely steep, however there were nonetheless plenty of handholds and footholds for climbing. Eventually it got less steep and then the rockslide petered out, however there were other rocky areas nearby, and I climbed (more moderately) up them toward where I knew Gulfside would be. I tried to avoid stepping on alpine plants whenever possible, but unfortunately there were a few places where I had no other option. Ultimately, I got within sight of a cairn on Gulfside, and bushwhacked the remaining short distance through a small patch of scrub (it was thick, but the distance was very short). I breathed a sigh of relief when I finally stepped out onto Gulfside Trail.
This location on Gulfside Trail was probably about 0.1 miles from the northern junction with Mt. Jefferson Loop, and 0.2 miles from Six Husbands Trail. I made sure that I had redlined the whole section, and then climbed up Six Husbands Trail to the summit of Jefferson. This section was fairly steep and very rocky, but nothing too bad. There were plenty of other people on Jefferson when I finally made it there. On the way down, I took Mt. Jefferson Loop, Gulfside, and Cornice back to Caps Ridge Trail - this was mostly just more rock-hopping, though not quite as strenuous as that of the northern section of Cornice. My descent on Caps Ridge was slow and careful.
The moral of the story here is that I STRONGLY DISCOURAGE ATTEMPTING TO HIKE EDMANDS COL CUTOFF. Honestly, I was lucky - I didn't try to bushwhack Edmands Col Cutoff, as that would've been through some very steep scrub, and it would be easy to get caught and trapped in terrain like that. And my climbing up the slide didn't cause any major new rockslide. But either way, I still had to trample a little bit of alpine vegetation in the upper part of my rock-whack, and this is something that we should all try to avoid. So that's why I discourage attempting to hike Edmands Col Cutoff. Honestly, in my opinion the trail could easily be abandoned except for the spur to the spring from Edmands Col. It was meant as a bad-weather escape route from the col, however Six Husbands Trail is so difficult (and in bad weather, dangerous) to descend anyway, that IMO there's really no point to the trail.
On the bright side, everything else worked well, and the weather was excellent - dry rocks, perfect visibility and wind that was cooling and refreshing but not too strong. Everyone else seemed to be enjoying themselves - I saw a whole bunch of people on Caps Ridge, a few on Gulfside, and several on Mt. Jefferson Loop, but no one on Cornice, Six Husbands, or (fortunately) Edmands Col Cutoff.
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.