Bretton Woods to Mt. Deception (November 21, 2020) - 8 hours

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Cherry Mountain Road   National Forest boundary marked by a signpost

This was my third bushwhack to Mt. Deception with Peter Wyatt. The first started from Cherry Mountain Road and was an easy affair. The second started from our homes in Bretton Woods, up over Little Mt. Deception (LMD) and heading straight NNE to the peak. We made it but it turned out to be a very messy affair of thick spruce. This time we started from the east end of Dartmouth Ridge road in Bretton Woods ("Bode's house"), to bushwhack up the ridge of LMD instead of taking the regular trail up. This was an easy bushwhack in fairly open woods at a steady grade along a well-defined ridge (left). The National Forest boundary was marked by a signpost a little more than halfway up in the middle of the woods (right).

Mt. Deception   Hiking route to Mt. Deception

Within 1h15 minutes of our start we were at the top of LMD, from which we looked north at Mt. Deception (left). Our plan was to approach Mt. Deception from the north as in our second climb but then tack to the left and climb Mt. Deception from the west where the going is easy. Our eventual route (right, as recorded on my watch) did not quite achieve that.

West side of LMD  Mildly swampy area at the base of Mt. Deception.

We started by going down the west side of LMD on the recently restored trail (that's another story) and soon left the trail to head north across a flat shelf with a ridge on our left and the drop-off to the Dartmouth Brook Valley on our right. This is the same route that we had taken on our second climb. It was easy going on flat terrain and an open forest (left). We got in that way to a fairly open and mildly swampy area at the base of Mt. Deception, against same as last time (right). In the middle of nowhere was an abandoned logging road (below left). It was heading west but we wanted to go north, so we didn't follow it. In retrospect we should have.

Wall of spruce  Views south to the Rosebrook Ridge

So we kept pushing north and started on the climb, angling left whenever we saw a wall of spruce blocking our way, reasoning that this would eventually get us to the favorable conditions of the climb from the west. This sometime took some doing, but we had climbing stretches in nice open deciduous forest with views south to the Rosebrook Ridge (right). The problem is that we were enticed to climb northeast when possible because that was the straightest way up and as a result we didn't go sufficiently to the west.

Thick and mossy spruce forest  Messes of blowdowns

In this manner we got to the southern end of the Mt. Deception ridge (see map) and that turned out to be a mistake, because the route along the ridge was then an up-and down affair of thick and mossy spruce forest (left) punctuated by messes of blowdowns (right). The way to the peak was often not even obvious because there was open sky through the trees all around us.

The peak emerged guarded by a wall of thick impassable spruce.  Views of the Twins and Lafayette

Finally the peak emerged ahead of us guarded by a wall of thick impassable spruce. We angled to the left through blowdowns looking for an opening but there was none. At some point we got to a nice open spot with views of the Twins and Lafayette (left and right). We could have battled our way through the wall of spruce to the top 200 feet above but that would have been hard going, we had conquered the top before, and it was getting late. So we took a brief lunch break and started down, staying in open areas and angling southwest as much as we could.

LMD trail

Our plan was to eventually get to Cherry Mountain Road but as we got down to 2700 feet we saw a hulking mountain to the south of us and figured out that it had to be the northern end of the ridge that we had to our right on the way out. So we changed our plans and decided to go straight south and to the left of the ridge, with the goal of heading back to LMD. That worked out well and we eventually had the ridge to our right, the Dartmouth Brook Valley to our left, heading south, and eventually the LMD peak came into view. We met up with the LMD trail, back up to LMD (left) and down the regular trail to Bretton Woods. In the view from the top of LMD you can see the Mt. Deception ridge that we followed. Next time we will know to tack further to the west!    

See also: 2020 Hikes