As we drove toward Mount Moosilauke on New Year’s day, we caught a glimpse of its summit, brilliant white under the high cloud deck, and thought eagerly of our plans to hike to that summit the next day. Lelia and Andy and I hiked in past the Ravine Lodge, finding the going easy on a shallow but firm snow cover, with the last of the deep-pink sunset fading as we reached John Rand cabin. In a couple of hours the cabin was cozy and warm and we welcomed the arrival of friends Jen and Lars. After a wonderful pasta dinner and conversation, we settled in for a cozy first night of the new year; all in all, a great foundation for a big hike the next day.
The morning dawned with a light snow falling. Home-made cinnamon French Toast for breakfast – thanks again, Jen! – fueled our start as we returned to the Lodge to cache our overnight gear. As we headed up the snow-dusted hard-packed Gorge Brook trail, we found the footing tricky and most of the party quickly donned their boot spikes. The burbling Gorge Brook, icy but not hidden, was our companion for the next mile.
As we climbed into the higher elevations, past the Jobildunc overlook, the snowfall became heavier and the trail was covered with perhaps 2-3″ of incredibly light powder on top of a crunchy hard base. A persistent and energetic post-holing hiker, who must have visited during a warm spell two weeks ago, left two-foot-deep surprises into which our feet would suddenly slide. Still, the peaceful snowfall, lack of wind, moderate temperatures (mid-teens), and friendly conversation made for a pleasant hike. Andy led the way, setting a steady pace for the whole climb.
Two descending hikers, whose footsteps we’d followed all morning, passed by and warned that the summit was shrouded in white-out and we’d best not venture beyond the trees. We geared-up before the balcony, and again between East and North peaks, as the strong southern wind began to make itself known. With ambient temp around 10 degrees, and the wind already blowing 20-30mph, we needed all the gear we could get.
Leaving a pair of crossed ski poles to mark the trail’s exit onto the summit cone, we pushed forward into the white-out. The trail was still recognizable, in places, and we reached the summit without incident. Andy, the lightest, seemed determined to keep himself well-rooted to the surface as the 60mph gusts strived to blow him off the mountain (see video). After a couple of wind-blasted minutes on the summit, we made our way back, thankful to see our ski-pole X marking the trail in a sea of white rime- and snow-covered trees.
The trip down is always longer than one expects, especially with a long road walk after the trail’s end at the Lodge. We reached the cars at sunset, windburned but happy for another great outing on The Mountain. A dozen other photos will give you a sense of the day.
Happy new year to all!
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