Still winter on Moosilauke

It may be 60 degrees in Hanover, with only the vestiges of snowbanks left to remind us of winter, but this morning on the summit of Moosilauke it was clearly still winter.

2017-04-09-36864After my disappointment on Couchsachraga three weeks ago, and no good opportunity to return there this winter, I felt a deep need to get into the mountains – and Moosilauke is always soothing to the soul.  Yesterday’s light snowstorm followed by today’s blue skies and strong April sunshine were the cue that today is the day. Read on, and see the photos.

2017-04-09-36831I got an early start and made first tracks up the Glencliff Trail.  Although other hikers had clearly been up and down during yesterday’s snowfall, the only fresh tracks were those of a coyote commuting a couple of miles along the trail. His tracks were crisp and fresh in the inch of fresh powder.  With the trailside trees decorated with snow, and the sun just beginning to peek over the South Peak ridgeline, my mood rose with the elevation.

The snowpack deepened.  While there was only a crusty inch or two left at the base, as I approached the ridgeline it deepened to three feet, then four feet, obscuring the trail blazes.  I had to crawl the last dozen yards of the Glencliff trail, under the overhanging  rime-coated trees, to reach the junction with the Carriage Road.  Wow!

2017-04-09-36847In 35 winters on this mountain I have never seen this much snow on Moosilauke. The signs at the junction were nearly covered, and a snow drift raised the usual rest spot several feet above the sign.  I pressed on, along the ridge, where deep snow had drifted across the ridge. It appears that a heavy snow must have arrived on an east wind, building up drifts in the krumholz to the east, and (where there was any gap in the trees) deep drifts and cornices to the west. I paused at one point and looked down ten feet from the trail to the base of one drift.  I’d guess the snowpack base was five to six feet, with sporadic drifts adding another four to six feet in places.

2017-04-09-36896The upside (pun intended) was that I had excellent views east and west, over the top of the trailside krumholz.  The new Moosilauke Ravine Lodge, under construction, was readily visible.  The fresh powder was 3 inches deep, and I’m still making first tracks. As I climbed the summit cone, crusted in rime ice, a stiff west wind confirmed the “breezy” forecast.

I reached the summit at about 10:30am, and from the tracks, I was the first of the day.  Thirty seconds later a woman arrived from the Gorge Brook trail, turned around, and left.  As I soaked in crisp, clear views of the Whites, the Greens, and perhaps even the Adirondacks, three others came and went.  On such a beautiful day, it was hard to leave.

I passed several other groups ascending as I skidded back down the trail.  Descending, the air warmed and the snow softened; the trees were dripping with meltwater.  As I walked out of winter and on into spring, was pleased that I started at sunrise while the beautiful new snow was fresh.  What a day!  Check out all the photos.

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About dfkotz

David Kotz is an outdoor enthusiast, traveller, and father of three. He is also a Professor of Computer Science at Dartmouth College.
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