The most recent Next Century Hikes was up Cranberry Peak in the Bigelow Range. Cranberry (3,213 feet) is at the western end of the Bigelow ridge and is lower and more accessible than the higher, more rugged summits that mark the most prominent part of the range. Still – on a winter day when the temperature is hovering around 0 degrees and the winds are gusting, it feels like a much more rugged climb.
Our group set off at 10am for what we thought would be a five-hour hike. The winds were forecast to die down but as the day went on it remained breezy, especially up high on the northern side of the ridge. But the sun was out and all were in good spirits. A few of us had trouble with the hoses of our water bladders freezing up because it was so cold. We were moving at a slower pace than expected, despite only needing traction aids and not snowshoes.
We reached the ridge and headed east to Cranberry Peak. There were views through the trees to the south – Black Nubble, Sugarloaf – and to the north – Flagstaff Lake, the western Horn. We stopped for lunch just a few tenths of a mile below the summit of Cranberry Peak. After lunch we resumed and quickly encountered very difficult conditions. The trail followed a contour line around the summit cone but it was very steep and icy due to the trail angle (see photos). Moreover, the snow at higher elevations is still very deep and we were unable to find the blue blazes that mark the trail. With more robust equipment – crampons and ice axes at a minimum – the group could have continued. As it was, with the hour getting late and the shadows bringing the temperatures down on the northerly-facing ridge, it was quickly decided that we should turn back.
Though we didn’t make it to the top, we had a great day on the trail! Check our calendar if you want to come along next time – we’ll be having a few more winter hikes with all the snow on the way!