Belknap 6: Straightback, West Quarry, Rand, Klem, Mack, Anna | 1/2/23
Updated: Jan 11
“Don’t expect to be setting any speed records today.”
Liz set the tone early on, and could not have been more on point.
After a year-and-a-half hiatus from the Belknap range, I returned today to get in some training before the next several days of rain that’ll doom me inside and at work.
Using some loose guidance from the AllTrails track titled “Mount Mack, Mount Klem, and Mount Rand Loop,” Liz and I parked at the end of the paved portion of Alton Mountain Road to complete far more than the three peaks the title lists. From the parking kiosk, which could park cars right a-front and slightly further down the road to accommodate about 10 of them, we began walking down Alton Mountain Road which was just plastered in packed-down ice and snow. As we neglected to put our microspikes on, in hopes of the ice easing as we got off the snowmobile portion, we scrambled and slid downhill for about half a mile before finding refuge on the purple-blazed Precipice Path East.
Relatively soon, we were greeted with water crossings and falling water. Which, I was massively confused by the sign pictured below. I was confused why the waterfall arrow would be pointing away from the waterfall but after a quick backtrack… we decoded the sign. Sort of embarrassing but I still think it’s gotta be a common mistake.
When we turned away from the waterfall, we found another that we were lucky enough to cross. We didn’t get wet though!
In addition to water crossings, the way up Straight Back was so incredibly eroded. Actually could not have side hilled more. So, reaching a cruising altitude of around 1,420 feet was such a dream. Other than some tricky iced-over bogs, we weren’t presented with any more obscurity before our first summit, Straightback Mountain. In all ways, Straightback was Mt. Major’s lesser-known brother. There was a view, but the regular tree cover made it a bit challenging to pick out the lakes.
Onto Quarry! The journey to Quarry had one tiny eroded & steep descent, a couple of ice spots, and lots of tall pines. No view at the summit, so we persisted! Soon after, we got to a junction with a ledges bypass which was much needed. Even so, we dropped elevation super quick and I accidentally boot-skied down the dirt and had some “intimate moments” with the fallen trees. Eventually, we made it to Glidden Road and rose again to Mount Rand. We moved past the summit quickly and popped out at a great viewpoint over the range!
But the show simply was not over. Before earning Klem, we found a rock fall that was just laden with thick ice. To avoid the traction-requiring section, I placed my ass down on the thickest, wettest, mossiest moss I have ever seen. It was an unpleasant experience to be in my thin purple leggings this afternoon. But the cold only meant I needed to move faster so with the strongest down and up again in the whole day, we made it to Klem
After Klem, while Mack and Anna were longer to arrive at, they had less steep erosion and were notably easier than the others. The other difference between these two peaks was that there was snow on the ground as we switched from Dave Robert’s Quarry Trail to the more north-facing Red Trail. From the summit of Anna, we descended the Anna-Goat Trail, which looked far steeper on the map than it played out in real life. Other than my comical mud-slide fall at the base of the trail, the descent was uneventful and lesser used than many of the other trails we crossed in our Belknap Six Pack.
Before we got to the car, we noticed a cellar hole and an old billboard we somehow hadn’t seen on the way up and were shocked to find a packed parking lot and road despite only seeing one couple all day.
Overall, the hike was 9 miles with 2,314 gain and a slow but condition-necessary 6-hour and 26-minute day.