On this day, very nearly the last day of November, the forecast was for a purely sunny day with temperatures well above freezing – weather decidedly un-November-like – so I decided it was high time I went back to Moosilauke. Yesterday it rained much of the day, even at altitude, so I was concerned the Moosilauke summit may have been glazed with ice today. But I was pleasantly surprised, as I climbed the familiar Glencliff trail, to find the muddy conditions of the lower sections giving way to a dusting of snow and, higher up, nearly an inch of fresh snow on the ground and trees decorated with fresh powder and rime ice, backed by a deep blue sky. Read on, and check out the photo gallery.
I got a late start – purposely aiming for the warmer, clearer weather forecast for afternoon. I hit the trail at noon, decidedly late for this season (the sun sets at 4:13pm and it’s pretty darn dark by 5pm). My body quickly reminded me that I’ve been far too idle for the past month, and I was moving more slowly up the trail than I expected. The trail was muddy for the first mile; some corn-like snow appeared early, and transitioned into shallow powder at 3800′. Several other groups passed me on their way down; counting them (and recalling the cars in the parking lot), I realized I would be the last one down this trail today: not a status I normally seek as a solo hiker. Still, I made it to the South Peak junction in 1h44, giving me 15m for a quick lunch and layer break before crossing the ridge to the main summit. I set a turn-around time at 2h30 (or 2h45 at the outside), and needed to move along.
The ridge traverse was beautiful, windless and sunny, but with little snow cover to give me a boost, the views were obscured by the tunnel of trees. [One of the perks of winter-hiking on Moosilauke is that a deep snowpack raises the trailbed several feet and gives hikers broad views over the stunted trees.] So I was glad to emerge on the summit cone, strolling uphill through clear skies and a light breeze. I had the summit to myself, with grand views of the spectacularly white summits of the Presidential and Franconia Ranges, and distant (though hazy) views across Vermont.
I turned around at 2h36 and made a quick descent, enjoying the back-lit trees on the upper section.
I took care with the slippery rocks and a few icy patches, arriving at the now-empty parking lot 4h16 after my start time: exactly 4:13pm, the nominal sunset time; the sun was now only an orange glow hiding behind the hill to the west. Good timing!
It was startling to see so little snow – none at the base, and not quite an inch at the top – on a date when there should be a growing base of snow. Let’s hope for colder temps and better snowfall ahead!
See the photo gallery.
Today’s route is in purple, out and back; my route from July is in red.