Over the past week I was beginning to think that winter was a bust – with just a handful of great winter outings to show for it. Today proved me wrong. With Mount Mansfield as our goal, Lelia and I set out for Stowe, Vermont and soon met up with Jen and Lars. The parking lot was nearly full of hikers, backcountry skiers, ice climbers, and others eyeing the pure-blue sky and crisp views of the snowy peaks. Heading south on the Long Trail, we climbed steeply up a well-packed treadway smoothed by several groups of skiers skinning their way up ahead of us, and criss-crossed by the carved turns of skiers and snowboarders who left the groomed trails of Stowe for the hardwood glades of the Long Trail. The snow was fairly fresh, with perhaps six inches of powder on top of a firm but not icy base. We reached Taft Lodge for lunch, basking in the startlingly warm March sunshine with a group of three younger skiers, another group of four older Quebecois, all sharing the happiness that comes from bright sunshine, blue skies, soft powder, and fresh air. More below the break.
After lunch the trail quickly climbed to the col between the “Chin” and the “Adam’s Apple” of the Mansfield ridgeline, with deeper drifts of snow awaited. Turning south to ascend the Chin, Mansfield’s high point, we left behind the krummholz and scrambled up some remarkably steep and exposed sections of wind-packed or ice-crusted snow between the boulders and ledges of the summit cone.
The summit was gloriously pleasant, with a faint breeze, strong sunshine, and 360 views to the Champlain Valley, New York Adirondacks, Vermont Greens, and New Hampshire Whites. A light haze had settled in and some high cirrus clouds skimmed overhead. As a result, I think, we were treated to an unusual spectacle, a 22° halo around the sun.
It turns out that the group of younger skiers were also chubbers like us, a coincidence that I encounter frequently on Moosilauke but never expected here on Mansfield. Fun!
More photos on Smugmug. Below are the happy hikers on the summit!