North and South Hancock

  • May 4, 2013 · 8:00 AM
  • This location is shown only to members

Note: Please take a moment to answer the RSVP questions when responding. It's for safety reasons this information be provided. Failure to furnish the requested information may result in removal from the activity.

Update: Please note that the date of this hike has been pushed to May. Thus, some of the gear notes, etc. may no longer apply (and I'm too lazy/busy to update it all). It depends on the weather between now and then, but please know that I will provide last minute information at the, well, last minute :)

Introduction: The Hancocks (North, #21, at 4420' and South, #26, at 4319') can be fun in the spring as there are several crossings, but I'm hoping it'll be fine by the time this hike happens. This is a popular hike for many peakbaggers. It's very accessible and has good parking. There are steep, challenging sections, as well as the crossings, but on less busy days it does have a remote, long-walk-in-the-woods feel to it. For more information about these mountains, please refer to the AMC's White Mountain Guide or The 4000-Footers of the White Mountains.

Notice: We start as a group, hike as a group, and finish as a group. Our pace will be that of the slowest hiker. This trip isn't for you if you are faster than the group and don't want to stay with us, if you want to head off on your own, or if you are slower than the group and expect us to constantly wait for you (in the cold winter months this can be particularly dangerous for the entire group if we have to wait around, getting cold). Please read the entire TRIP SUMMARY, below, before you RSVP. It is important, not only for your safety, but that of the entire group.


This is a MODERATELY-paced, MODERATE-distance 9.8 mile hike (round trip) with an INTERMEDIATE 2700-feet of elevation gain. The approximate hike time is around 6.5 hours based on "book time" math. It may take more or less time depending on crossings, trail conditions, snow depths, etc. Always plan for spending more time on the mountain than expected. We will be taking a series of trails, as follows: Hancock Notch Trail, Cedar Brook Trail, and the Hancock Loop Trail... on which we will travel clockwise, hiking to North Hancock first. Hancock Notch and Cedar Brook Trails are fairly flat. The majority of our elevation gain will happen on the Hancock Loop Trail. Both ends are fairly steep and require caution! There are limited views on these mountains: a great southerly outlook near the north summit, a few glimpses on the saddle, and a westerly slice and decent east outlook near the south summit. The mountains are both below treeline, thus will be limited exposure. Trail conditions will probably be snowy and may be traveled by bareboot, microspikes, crampons, and/or snowshoes. As we get closer to the date I'll know better as to what specific conditions we'll likely encounter and what you'll be expected to bring or able to leave behind and I'll be in touch.

Environment: Mountain weather is subject to rapid changes and extreme conditions so be prepared. If conditions will be or become dangerous on the trail (i.e., elevated likelihood of lightning, blizzard, dangerous winds, downpour, or dense fog, especially above treeline), I will cancel or terminate the hike - I will post an update and/or send an email to all confirmed participants a day or two ahead of time. We will assess travel and weather conditions during the hike and make changes to our planned trip as necessary. While reaching the summit is always our goal, we will not succumb to "summit fever" and risk our well-being in the process. The mountain will still be there another day.

Weather:, also check out

Gear Info: This gear is critical in the shoulder months. Like winter, there is no cheating here. If you mess up you put everyone in danger. Below is a list describing the minimum required items to participate in this event. Hiking safely is about being prepared so that you can respond to an emergency situation or spend a night in the woods if you have to. Do not rely on others to have extra items to share with you at the meeting spot or on the trail. You should know how to use all of your equipment - test and adjust it prior to this trip.

  • Footwear: Proper, well-soled winter-rated hiking or mountaineering boots with heavy synthetic or wool socks with a spare pair in your pack, gaiters to keep snow out our your boots, and Microspikes/Hillsounds. You should also be prepared to bring crampons in case steep ice floes are present and full-crampon steep ascent snowshoes (talk to your EMS/REI rep). This stuff is essential. That said, as previously stated, I'll know better as to what specific conditions we'll likely encounter and what you'll be expected to bring or able to leave behind and I'll be in touch.
  • Hands and Head: A synthetic or wool cap that covers your ears and warm, non-cotton waterproof gloves as well as -0-rated mittens are critical. Your rain gear/shell, should feature a hood.
  • Face and Eyes: If the hike is above treelin: A face mask, balaclava or some other form of face protection. And for the eyes, glacier glasses with blinders and/or goggles with lightly tinted lenses (I find yellow is a good compromise color). I suggest splurging on "TurboFan" goggles (ESS is one brand) as the integrated fan effectively keeps fogging at bay. Also on the topic of eye protection, I find a pair of shop glasses in the pack a good addition in case we encounter an unexpected bushwhack.
  • Clothing: Dress in layers with "wicking" synthetics next to the skin and wool over to easily regulate body temperature (clothing designed to deal with sweat during exertion and insulate even when wet). Also, it can be windy at the summit and it will typically be much colder at higher elevations so please be prepared. Make sure your layers fit comfortably over each other. DO NOT WEAR COTTON! While cotton is a great insulator when it's dry, once wet it doesn't dry easily and it rapidly conducts heat away from the body. Also consider bringing an extra layer in your pack just in case.
  • Outerwear: Windproof/waterproof shell (with hood) as well as windproof/waterproof pants. Again, also consider bringing an extra layer. like a down or synthetic "puffy" just in case or if conditions above treeline warrant it.
  • Food and Water: Bring high-energy snacks making sure you have plenty of salts and sugars (this will help you make better use of your water), your choice of food for lunch, and pack extra just in case. Again, bring enough water to stay properly hydrated during the trip (2-3 litres is what I suggest, even when it's cold). Use at least two Nalgene bottles or a hydration bladder to carry your water. If using a hydration bladder like a CamelBak or Platypus, and if the weather is very cold, and especially if the tube is uninsulated, you will need to clear the tube after drinking, also pinching the valve while upright, "twanging" it, and keeping the bite-valve in your shirt. I also know of other trail remedies that can save your day, but do consider bringing spare some water in another container. It's a good idea to have a hearty meal the night before followed by a good night's sleep. Also, try to begin the hike well hydrated.
  • Shelter: Be prepared to spend a night in the woods if you have to. Minimal options include an ultralight tarp, a bivy sack, or an emergency space blanket (which packs small and weighs just ounces). A pad or some way to get off the ground is also highly recommended (though pine boughs can work).
  • Other Essential Gear: Map and compass: don't just bring them, know how to use them. Also, a plastic whistle, headlamp with spare batteries (required, forget and you can't come), a first aid kit containing any medications you may need personally (please let me know if you have any applicable allergies, medical conditions, and special medications you may be carrying), a small knife or multipurpose tool, matches or wind-proof lighter and fire starter, a toiletries kit (e.g. hand sanitizer, toilet paper and a zip-lock bag to pack out your used personal hygiene items), sunscreen, lip balm, sunglasses, and a waterproof pack cover.
  • Optional Items: Stowable trekking poles (recommended) and camera.

Trailhead: Take Rte 93 North to Exit 32. Take a left at the end of the exit ramp to Rte 112, the Kancamagus Highway, East. Proceed several miles to the hairpin turn, parking is just after that. Contact me if you have questions. Elevation: 2129'

Disclaimer: As a condition of your voluntary participation in this activity you acknowledge and agree to the following: this activity involves inherent risks that can cause property damage, injury, illness, disability, and/or death to participants and/or others; You agree not to hold the Organizer, Event Organizers, Assistant Organizers, or any other members responsible for any injuries, mishaps, or any other situation that may happen at a planned event. You are responsible to research the event, know the area, and bring the proper gear and agree to know and follow the Hiker Responsibility Code described at

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  • Amy D.

    Thanks Mike for a great day! Not sure what hurts more this morning, my ankles from all the post holes or my butt from falling on it so much.... Jim, hope you made it back home in time....

    May 5, 2013

    • Amy D.

      Very funny

      May 5, 2013

    • Jim M.

      Must have missed that click

      May 7, 2013

  • Jim M.

    Amazing weather, great group of people and Imade it back in time for my date. Not a bad day!

    May 6, 2013

    • yvonne

      We were rooting for you. Glad you made it!!

      May 6, 2013

    • Jim M.

      Thanks, Yvonne. She was very expensive, though. :)

      May 6, 2013

  • yvonne

    Awesome hike, Mike. Thanks so much for leading. A beautiful day, great people!

    May 5, 2013

  • Amy D.

    Just finished packing! I'm stoked...ready to swim at those crossings..(not really) .....

    May 3, 2013

  • Kathleen M.

    See: for report of Hancock Notch Trail, Cedar Brook Trail, Hancock Loop Trail

    April 30, 2013

  • Amy D.

    Whoah!! Weather is looking great so far for Saturday... I'm super excited! And with all this dry weather, here's hoping the river crossings are low...

    April 30, 2013

    • Kathleen M.

      Here is a trail report from today: Bare trail at start for less than half mile. Then it was classic messy spring conditions - monorail, rotten snow, high water at the stream crossings (but they were doable with wet boots). Cedar brook trail in particular has lots of rotten snow. Wore light traction most of the way in. Switched to snowshoes at the start of the steep climb up North Peak and wore them most of the way out. The luge track coming down South peak is gone - just monorail remains.

      Trails are definitely seeing signs of spring - things will surely get messy the next few weeks. Beautiful day to be out.

      1 · April 30, 2013

  • Amy D.

    Mike I am assuming that you don't think we will be in need of crampons on this hike, correct?

    April 24, 2013

    • Amy D.

      We didn't need them last week on the Carters and with this warm weather, my guess will be bareboots ...

      April 25, 2013

    • A former member
      A former member

      I hope so. Last time I was up there, last month I think, the snow was deeper (5-6') than I had ever seen it in the Whites all winter so a deep, soft monorail could possible. But hopefully it's all gone.

      April 25, 2013

  • Amy D.

    I am really looking forward to this hike!!

    April 19, 2013

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