Eric has finished dog racing for the year and I didn’t have anything planned for the weekend so we came up with a plan to traverse the Worcester Mountain range. It looked like a cool and interesting run along the spine of the range which has six summits over 3,000’. Eric had only been up one of the peaks (a decade ago) and I wanted to bag the most prominent peak in the county (Washington county high point is Mount Putnam at 3,642’). So off we went!
White Rock Mountain (3,194’) – We parked on Bear swamp road and due to a wet icy lead in had to park ½ mile from the trail head. We started the run at 1610’ and after a couple of minutes changed into our Kahtoola traction devices. Eric’s dog (Murdoch) went naked, he is hardcore. The 1600’ of climb was pretty easy (50 minutes). It was chilly but not super-cold (30 degrees) and for the most part we were sheltered from any wind. Most of the trail had ice and up to 4” of snow in spots. We didn’t spend more than a moment or two on the summit as we had a long way to go and there wasn’t much in the way of view due to the snow showers.
Mt Hunger (3,539’) – We continued on the ridge trail, dropping 150’ into the col before ascending 500’ to the top of Mt Hunger. Again we didn’t spend much time on top. We were now 1:12 into our run and both of us were comfortable except my hands were a bit cold from getting them damp on some of the rock ledge. Murdoch seemed full of like, dashing all over the place and easily doubling the distance he was running.
North Mt Hunger (3,586’) – From Mt Hunger we dropped 100’ to the col and then up a little over 100’ to the top of North Mt Hunger. Basicially this was just another bump along the way…we were ticking off “false summits” along the way and looking forward to reaching the trail junction for Mt Hogback and the Stowe Pinnacle. That would give us a good indication of how far along we were.
Mt Putnam (3,642’) – After North Hunger we dropped a little over 300’ into the col and then climbed 400’ to the top of Putnam. This also didn’t really register as anything other than another (albeit big) bump along the ridge.
Worcester Mtn Middle peak (3,477’) – From Putnam we dropped over 500’ into the col, knowing full well that most of that descent would need to be re-climbed for our next peak. Things didn’t really make a lot of sense here and for what its worth I thought we were on our final summit (Worcester). We knew there were no side trails but we were pretty surprised to be climbing again after what we thought was our final peak.
Worcester Mountain (3,293’) – So after the last bump (3477’) we dropped over 500’ and then climbed up nearly 400’ to reach the top of Worcester Mountain. This was the final peak on the trail but we had some issues on the summit. We were now a bit over 3:15 into our run and looking forward to heading down. Unfortunately the rocky ledges on the summit were all snow covered making it very difficult to locate the trail. We backtracked a bit and then started considering a LONG run back the way we’d come. It really came down to that or bushwhack east off the mountain and back to our car. Neither option seemed all that great. We decided to try to circle just below the summit and see if we could pick up the trail. 20 minutes later I saw someone off in the distance. It turned out to be a guy standing on the trail about to abandon his climb due to “sketchy” footing. Even following his footprints down was not easy, that section of trail must be something to follow! 58 minutes later we completed the 1900’ of descent and made it back to the car.
In all the 11+ mile traverse took us 4:34. This wasn’t Murdoch’s longest run, but it was his longest time out running. He seemed no worse for wear. That is one tough dog!