Squam Range Traverse via Crawford-Ridgepole | 5/9/23
The Crawford-Ridgepole traverse takes on the whole Squam range in about 12 miles, traveling from Sandwich Notch Road to the Cotton Mountain trailhead on 113. The traverse (North to South) naturally takes on Doublehead Mountain, Mt. Squam, Mt. Percival, Mt. Morgan, Mt. Webster, Mt. Livermore, and Cotton Mountain. However, easy bushwhacks can be made to 500 highest peaks including Northeast Doublehead and the true summit of Mount Webster, via short and relatively open bushwhacks. Today’s core purpose was to train for an AT section hike, which was highly delivered upon as this unassuming route packed sufficient challenge for us!
Liz and I dropped a car at Cotton Mountain at about 7:10 am, then proceeded to Sandwich Notch Road, where we were unsure what the road conditions would be. The 20-ish minute drive made for a good car spot and getting directly up to the Crawford Ridgepole trailhead was entirely possible in my midsized vehicle with moderate clearance. There was one car in the single parking spot, but I was able to use the pull-off next to it just fine. However, I imagine that as more people realize mud season is over, parking at Beede Falls will become more of the standard due to the limited space and difficulty of turning around on the narrow road.
Right out of the gates, C-R gained with a purpose. The “Squam feel” I expected dissolved as I felt I was climbing the steeper sections of neighboring Sandwich Mountain rather than the elevation-modest Squam range. We gained the first piece with hands on the ground, but it wasn’t too bad. Soon (before we even hit half a mile), we came up on a piece of wood bolted to a ledge, for which we had to move over before squeezing through a chimney. We felt squished between the rocks and both pulled ourselves over without packs. I maneuvered mine off in a tricep press while wedged in the chimney, which I ultimately got over by straddling the rock and pushing my body over with my inner thigh. Liz did the same after I hauled her pack up from above.
Past this surprise technical bit, we gained ordinarily for some time. At our first true plateau, we ventured off trail to Northwest Doublhead (cairn) and then continued on Crawford Ridgepole towards Doublehead, affording some restricted views. My favorite view of the day came from an open ledge between Doublehead and Squam. The outlook afforded views towards Black Mountain (I would recognize those ledges from anywhere!), Sandwich, Dickey, and even the Kinsmens and Cannonballs further back. There was also a puddle/pond with lots of unhatched frog eggs! Frog count is back baby.
Squam was accidentally passed without recognition and soon enough gave way to another light scramble up Percival, where there was yet another view of Squam Lake. On my first familiar territory of the day, we headed a little way to Mount Morgan, where I enjoyed a smoked sweet potato and a nice full-body sprawl over the viewpoint rocks. We did not visit the true summit today, as we’d both been six years ago… yup, I was 14 the last time I stood on Mt. Morgan.
From Morgan, we descended around the ladders via Crawford Ridgepole and then had a long way of rolling until we reached our next waypoint. The stretch that leaves Mt. Morgan trail immediately appears less utilized, and requires some tree clearing and a couple of bog bridges across some sections that looked forever muddy. As we got closer to Webster, the trail was considerably drier. The section that passes Mt. Webster does not summit the mountain, so we left the trail parallel to the summit at an elevation of 2020 feet and then climbed another 50 feet to the true summit of Webster (cairn). This bit was nice and open, but a tad steep.
After scratching my legs up one more time, we sailed over to Livermore, enjoyed a beautiful benched outlook on the way, and then descended well into the col between Livermore and Cotton. Right as we started to gain Cotton, we had the unfortunate realization our tired legs were to gain another 300 feet, which felt much harder than the obviously worse climb we’d done to start our day hours prior. The Cotton Mountain summit was wooded but marked with a cute sign. Coming down Cotton Mountain trail was my least favorite part of the day, solely because it was dry-leaf central, and trying not to slide on shakey quads was challenging. Despite this, the section went by super quickly, and soon we were going through the “sandy plains” before the car.
I strongly recommend this traverse to those looking to train for objectives with rolling elevation or just ordinary lakes region lovers! Do note, this area is not camp-friendly (alpine vegetation, lack of stealth sites, also could not find any sources stating it's allowed), there is almost no water until Livermore, and it is extremely busy across the center peaks on weekends in peak season. Now is the time, we saw a staggering five people all day!
Total time: 8:06
Ascent: Just under 3000, including bushwhacks
...2280 according to my Gaia, nowhere near the reported 2850 in the WMG (thank you GN for the comment saving me a search in the book)
Liz’s said closer to 3000, which we are leaning towards.