Mount Kinsman in fresh powder

A late-winter snowstorm triggers my itch to get up into the mountains.

A massive winter storm blew through New England yesterday – starting as a light drizzle, but turning to wet snow as the temperature dropped. Here at home in the Connecticut River Valley, I was disappointed by the heavy, wet, two inches we received despite hours of snowfall. I knew, however, that there would be more – lots more – at higher altitudes, where the storm may have been an all-snow event and where the cooler temperatures would brew light, fluffy powder. As the photo below shows, I indeed found great powder conditions. Read on!

Deep drifts along the Kinsman Ridge Trail.

The forecast for Mount Washington called for a high temperature of oºF (yes, zero degrees) and 100mph winds. Even the Franconia Ridge peaks, a thousand feet lower, were forecast to 15ºF and 50-75mph winds, and a good chance of being in the clouds. So I chose North Kinsman Mountain, yet another thousand feet lower. The Kinsman Ridge forms the west side of Franconia Notch, so I thought I might get some great views of Franconia Ridge if the clouds stay off; I was thinking of my incredible views here in 2013 and 2015.

The day was sunny and the skies were blue as I drove through the forested foothills toward the White Mountains, with the wet snow covering every branch and twig. Before I’d even reached the trailhead, I was snapping photos.

Snowy trees along NH 116 after a spring snowstorm.

The snow was powdery even at the trailhead, about 3″ deep. The lower section of the trail had barely any snow cover, due to the heavy tree cover. At the midpoint, there was about 4-6″ of fresh snow on an older snowpack. I was fortunate that another party had broken trail ahead of me – one reason I’d chosen to make a late start (11am).

Scene along the Mt Kinsman Trail, on the west side of Kinsman Ridge – White Mountains.

High on the trail, as it approached the ridge, there was 8-12″ of fresh powder, but it was heavily drifted due to strong upslope winds that shaped the snow into deep drifts… I measured one drift to be at least three and a half feet deep.

Deep drifts along the Kinsman Ridge Trail.

When I finally reached the ridgeline, I was pleased to see a fine view of Franconia Ridge, despite some clouds, and was surprised to see no tracks coming up the trail on that side. (The trails out of Franconia Notch are usually heavily traveled, which is why I chose to come up the opposite side.) The conditions looked pretty harsh over there, and I was glad to be over here!

View of Mounts Cannon (in sunshine with tower); Lafayette, Liberty, and Lincoln – from North Kinsman mountain.

I turned around at the summit of North Kinsman, skipping the opportunity for a side-trip to the South Kinsman summit. I had the time and daylight and conditions, but my legs had run out of energy. Some other day!

More photos in the gallery.

Hike stats:
Distance: 12km
Elevation gain: 954m
Time: 4h30m round-trip (2h50 up, 1h40 down)

Author: dfkotz

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

4 thoughts on “Mount Kinsman in fresh powder”

  1. Wow! I thought you would be excited by the snow fall! Sure hope you carried your satellite emergency thingy. Did you go by yourself or someone along?

    Wasn’t sure if you had a Zoom thing at 7. We were at a concert.


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