Fred Knight, Mike Pineault, Steve Sawyer, Steve Smith
From the list of possible hikes that I proposed, Mike chose the Hancocks to get two more peaks for his personal list. We had a good trek with a gentle up-hill trail, only 1300′ over 3.6 miles or 7% grade, until the loop with the peaks starting at the third junction. There, we chose the CW route with North peak first. That’s where the going got steep: 1200′ in under 0.7 miles, down 100′ then up 1100′—that’s steep, a ~40% grade. At the outlook from the North Peak, we stopped for lunch. Then we did the 1.4 miles to South Hancock, passing the only other group we saw; they had passed us at the loop junction and took the CCW route. There are two outlooks at the peaks, but the entire trip never gets above treeline. The way down off South Hancock was also steep, but the snow made it bouncy. I took twice as long as the others, a usual situation. The trip back was easy and quick. We arrived back at the trailhead after 6 hrs 7 minutes, just under book time according to the WMG (9.8 miles, 2600′).
The trail was well-traveled throughout—microspikes all the way—but 3 of us carried snowshoes. Tall Steve and I left our snowshoes at the loop junction; Mike kept his and never used them (except to catch overhead branches); Small (smart) Steve left his in the car! Temperatures in the 20s all day; little wind; skies with some high clouds and sun breaking through at nice moments; some haze; very pleasant all around.
Steve, Steve, and Mike drove home, but I stayed overnight at the Hancock Campground so I could drive to Limmer Boots the next morning to get my custom boots altered. Nobody else in the campground, but its roads and parking areas were well plowed. I shoveled a tent site. The night was a cozy one with my triple nested sleeping bags, consisting of my 50-year-old Sears red bag on the outside, my down Marmot Never Summer down bag in the middle layer, and my parka/bag-bottom on the inside. When weight is not an issue, this is a delicious combo. Had Thai Chicken for dinner and Spaghetti with Meat Sauce in the morning. In between, 12 hours of blissful sleep (ahem, with one call of nature in between). Drove to Intervale in the morning, visited Limmer where I left my boots for alteration, then drove home.
A brisk, 6-hr 10-mile jaunt on well-traveled trail. Mainly clear skies with some good views near the peaks.