Member Trip report

Kinsmans & Cannon Hike

04/07/2019

Trip Report/Photos from shep5

Featured Photo

Sunday was forecast to be a pretty nice day after some cloudiness in the morning, so I headed up to Franconia Notch to hike the northern Kinsman Range from South Kinsman to Cannon Mountain.  I was encouraged as I drove up, that while it was a fairly gray start to the day, the peaks were mostly out of the clouds with a slight undercast.  I arrived at the Lafayette Place trailhead parking at roughly 7AM.  Even though it was early, there wasn't much free parking.  With the southern lot still closed, there were only some spaces along the drive in front of the ranger cabin.

I quickly got ready and walked over towards the Lonesome Lake Trail at about 7:15AM.  Before heading up the trail, I put on my microspikes (I carried my snowshoes as well, but I knew that at least this trail up to the hut would be well-packed).  The climb up this trail was fairly persistent and reached the junction for the Cascade Brook Trail at 7:50.  Rather than take the trail around the lake, I just hiked across Lonesome Lake towards the hut.  Almost immediately there were great views of the northern most Cannon Ball, the arm of Cannon Mountain and of the Franconia Ridge across the notch.  I got to the AMC Hut just before 8AM and took a break.  Breakfast seemed to be wrapping up and the caretaker was trying to get me to have breakfast as he made too much!  I wasn't really all that hungry having eaten on the way up.  I headed back out for the Fishin' Jimmy Trail.  It had been awhile since I had ascended this trail, but it seemed easier than I remembered.  As I climbed there were some views of Mounts Liberty and Flume through the trees, but the rest of the ridge was becoming clouded over.  At 9:10 I reached the Kinsman Ridge Trail and turned south onto this.  As I climbed there were some limited views, but clouds were starting to obscure the Kinsmans.  There were also patches of trees which were covered in rime ice, but at higher elevations there was no more rime.  At 9:40 I was standing on the summit of North Kinsman (4293').  As there were absolutely no views I didn't bother descending to the ledge.  I instead just continued on to South Kinsman.  With the rocky ledges all covered with snow still, the descent was very easy.  In the col there seemed to be some fresh blowdown, but again this was easy to get around.  There was also a hazy view looking over Lonesome Lake along the way.  I was hoping that the skies would clear again by the time I reached the southern summit.  As I began to climb up to the summit there was once again rime ice on the trees.  I emerged out of the woods onto the false summit and made my way over to the actual summit and its cairn.  I reached the summit of South Kinsman (4358') by 10:20.  It was unfortunately densely clouded with no views.  I turned around and backtracked to North Kinsman...returning to its summit again by 10:55.  On my way back and during the descent off of the Kinsmans, I ran into a few other hikers, but it was still really quiet on the trails.  Just prior to passing the junction for the Kinsman Trail, the clouds began to lift and I could see the summit of Cannon Mountain and the Cannon Balls.  This was encouraging!

At 11:20 I once again reached the Fishin' Jimmy Trail Junction.  Since my plan was to head over to Cannon Mountain as well, I stayed on the Kinsman Ridge Trail.  This portion of the trail doesn't always see much foot traffic, but there were clearly tracks on it.  As I started along the trail, the snow was fairly stable (I was only periodically sinking into the snow...no serious postholing though).  The views were still a bit hazy, but they were improving.  Even the Kinsmans were starting to clear up now.  By about noon I reached the summit of the southern most Cannon Ball and took a short break.  Afterwards I descended this and climbed over the middle Cannon Ball.  This was still fairly good.  The trail skirts around the summit of this peak, but the snow was also alot softer and I postholed a few times along here.  By the time I descended off of this peak and began to climb up the northern Cannon Ball, the sun was starting to make an appearance.  The trail emerged from the woods in a couple of spots where there were great views looking back along the ridge...by this time the Kinsmans had cleared up.  I reached the summit of this more porminent Cannon Ball by 1:20PM (this is the highest and is included in the 100 Highest New England Peaks).  Descending off of the peak it was steep, but there were also great views of Cannon along with the Franconia Ridge, which was partly cloud-covered still.  In about 10 minutes I was in the col, where the Lonesome Lake Trail intersects the ridge trail.  I stayed on the Kinsman Ridge Trail and after a bit it began to climb...moderately at first, but it became very steep...at one point very difficult with the ice as well.  I took my time getting up this as traction became an issue.  Finally, by 2:15 I reached the juntion with the Hi-Cannon Trail and turned towards the summit.  I reached the summit of Cannon Mountain (4100') at 2:30PM and I climbed the observation tower for the views.  Luckily, Franconia Ridge had just emerged from the clouds with mostly blue and sunny skies now.  I also had a great view back towards the Cannon Balls and the Kinsmans.  I descended the tower and returned via the Hi-Cannon Trail.  By 3:15 I made it to the ledges overlooking Lonesome Lake and in another 15 minutes I reached the ladder.  The ladder was difficult to get to with only a thin strip of snow and ice around the rocks near the top.  After descending the ladder, it was also difficult to get around the rocks as the trail turned...there wasn't much to hang onto and the trail was very narrow.  Having gotten around this, the trail then began to descend steeply and then crossed over a couple of ledges.  These ledges didn't have much of a snow ledge for the trail and it was a steep drop-off on one side.  I was a little uncomfortable crossing these.  After this, the trail continued to steeply descend with periodic level areas and some switch-backing lower on the trail.  I finally reached the Lonesome Lake Trail again at 4:30 and descended via this trail back to the parking lot, which I made again 10 minutes later.

Despite the clouds and lack of views on the Kinsmans, it turned out to be a nice early spring hike and the views did improve through the day.  I've done this hike a few times in the past, but always in the opposite direction, so it was nice to get a different perspective for this trail.  For this early in spring, all the trails (even across the Cannon Balls) were generally real good...I had done this same hike last May and postholed alot across the Cannon Balls.

Total mileage and elevation gain:  13.1 miles with approximately 4500 feet in cumulative elevation gain.

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