We did not linger on Dial's summit for long. Clouds had started to move in ahead of a change in weather and that particularly chill wind that we had encountered on Nippletop seemed even stronger here. Also, it really was getting on in the day and we wanted to be back down at the Lake Road before sunset. We still had some significant ground to cover, and it was time to move on.
In our increasingly tired state, the walk down from Dial was slower than we would have liked. Matters were not helped by having to climb over the slight hump of Bear Den mountain (another subsummit along the ridge), and then down into a fairly prominent col and then steeply up and over a shoulder of Noonmark mountain. One cool thing about the area in the vicinity of that shoulder is it had been the location of a fairly intense forest fire in 1999, and now, even 25 years later, there was an observable result - the forest here was almost 100% composed of young birch trees, lending the area an open and unusually homogeneous feel. There were also a couple of really nice open ledges on this shoulder, giving us some great views of the increasingly gloomy skies and of various nearby peaks.
We crested the shoulder and started the final descent to Lake Road at around 5pm. My feet were becoming somewhat sore (I think Brian's were, too) and our downhill speeds were most definitely not at their optimum. We knew at this point that we'd be unlikely to make it all the way down to Lake Road before sunset, but on the other hand we'd likely make it most of the way.
Light sufficient for trail navigation stayed with us until we got down to about the 2000 foot level, at which point we got out headlights. Down here on the lower portion of the H.G. Leach trail, the deep snowpack from the ridgetops had dwindled back down to barely a dusting. This in itself was not a big deal but what remained were intermittent patches of ice on the ground, and even though we had microspikes on, the trail was still steep enough that you wanted to really know what it was you were hiking on so you could properly and firmly place your feet. Hence, the headlamps.
A short bit more of careful down-hiking in the dark brought us to the Lake Road. From here all difficulties ceased, and it was a straightfoward (if a bit sore on our tired feet) walk back to the gate and trail register.
Beyond the trail register the road was paved and bare and we ditched the microspikes, which improved the comfort of walking a touch. It was a straightforward walk back from here across the AMR lands and down to the hiker parking lot adjacent to route 73. We arrived back at Brian's car just before 7pm, making it an almost-but-not-quite eleven-hour outing. That's an hour off the pace from my last run at this loop, and it clearly demonstrated to me that we needed to do a few more of these longer outings to revive the trail stamina we were going to need to help Brian tackle some of his harder remaining winter 46R peaks. Still, today was a great success, and congratulations to Brian on his winter 23 and 24 peaks! Twenty-two to go!
Interactive trackmap with photo points - Nippletop-Dial Loop - click map to view
Nippletop and Dial Mountains - Hike Data
* : +/- 75 feet
Total Elevation Gain:
Total Elevation Loss:
* : +/- 75 feet