Late winter on Moosilauke

2014-03-29-06188Only two days left in March, but Moosilauke still has 2-3 feet of snow at the base, and 4-5 feet along the ridgeline. Andy (12) and I hiked to the summit via the Glencliff trail today.  With sunny weather in the forties at the trailhead, the snowpack was soft and wet, eager to swallow any foot that strayed from the trail packed by hundreds of hikers before us. The warm March sunshine allowed for a comfortable hike, no hat no gloves. High on the slopes of south peak we finally caught some views to the west; indeed, I had a great view down into the Tunnel Brook valley and even spotted a person standing on Mud Pond where I’d skied just six days ago.

2014-03-29-06200As we reached the Carriage Road trail junction and the ridgeline, we climbed into the clouds. The temperatures were still above freezing, though only barely, and as we crossed the ridge and climbed above treeline the wind picked up and the ambient temperature dropped. We could barely see from one cairn to the next, but Andy was so enthralled by the rime ice that we took our time.  We met six backcountry skiers at the summit, and explored the cloudy terrain for a while before heading for home.

2014-03-29-06258The soft wet snow, four feet deep along the upper reaches of the trail, provided great opportunities for butt-sledding and made for a quick descent. Four hours up, less than two hours down. Great day!

See a few of my favorite photos.

Tunnel Brook

David skis across the ponds along the Tunnel Brook trail.
David skis across the ponds along the Tunnel Brook trail.

One of the classic ski tours on Mount Moosilauke is the Tunnel Brook trail, which climbs over a low north-south valley along the west flanks of Mount Moosilauke.  It follows Tunnel Brook upslope for several miles, continuing straight as the brook heads left up into the steep-walled Tunnel Brook Ravine.  (Last summer I completed that classic bushwhack route to the summit, discovering an incredible slide created by Tropical Storm Irene in 2011; see trip report.)  Today I had the good fortune to ski this route under a sunny sky and with fantastic ski conditions. Continue reading “Tunnel Brook”

Lafayette

I decided it was high time I climbed Mount Lafayette, having bracketed it on the previous three Sundays. Three weeks ago I skied the slopes near Moosilauke, to the south; two weeks ago I skied and climbed to the summit of Owl’s Head, to the east; one week ago I hiked to Lonesome Lake, to the west. (Not to mention hiking the Kinsmans last October.) Each time I looked longingly at Lafayette, the queen of Franconia ridge all white with winter splendor, I felt the urge to get back up there before winter ends. Continue reading “Lafayette”

Owl’s Head Mountain

Roundtrip distance: 18 miles. Elevation gain: 2900 feet.  View: none.  Why does anyone hike to the summit of Owl’s Head, deep inside the Pemigewasset Wilderness of the White Mountain National Forest?  Perhaps, as Sir Edmund Hillary once said, “Because it is there.”  More likely, however, because it has resisted millenia of weathering to keep a little piece of itself above 4000′.  Shave off 26′ and nobody would visit this peak. As it is, everyone hoping to “bag” the list of 4000-footers must climb this knob that is encircled by far grander peaks in the Franconia, Twin, and Bond ranges.

Near the summit of Owl's Head
Near the summit of Owl’s Head

Seventeen years ago I set out to climb Owl’s Head in the summer.  Daunted by an 18-mile hike, I made it an overnight, which turned out to be a wonderful adventure (with a mysterious ending, but that’s another story).  As I walked the long 8-mile approach trail, which is largely flat by White Mountain standards, I imagined that it would be far better to do this mountain in the winter when one could ski.

So when my friend Lelia suggested that we attempt Owl’s Head this winter, I recalled those thoughts, considered the recent deep cold that would have frozen up nicely all those the brook-crossings, and the deep snow we’ve had in recent weeks (check out my photos from a ski tour on Moosilauke last week, where we found 4 to 6 feet of base).  Sure, let’s do Owl’s Head. Continue reading “Owl’s Head Mountain”

Happy New Year

David at the summit.
David at the summit.

To welcome in the new year, as we have done so often before, I headed off with a group of friends to a cabin on the side of Mount Moosilauke in the core of New Hampshire’s White Mountains. Great Bear Cabin is a cozy log structure nestled along the Appalachian Trail as it heads northward up the slopes of Moosilauke, and has become somewhat of a traditional winter outing for me and my kids. Although my kids were unable to attend this time, our party included three children and eight adults – friends for over thirty years – including one of the original builders of the cabin. With the woodstove roaring, and the woods frosted from a recent snowfall that glazed the trees and blanketed the nearby meadow with 10″ of fresh powder, we were cozy indeed.

Continue reading “Happy New Year”

So long, 2013

Andy, David, John, Mara Kotz, and Pam Jenkins
Andy, David, John, Mara Kotz, and Pam Jenkins

Last year was a busy and exciting year for us. Mara graduated from Crossroads and began 9th grade at Hanover High School (HHS), while Andy entered 7th grade at Crossroads and John entered 11th grade at HHS. David continued as Associate Dean at Dartmouth and Pam took a year off from medicine. We traveled quite a bit: we began the year in Bangalore, India, spent a February week along the continental divide in Costa Rica (photo above), and spent lots of time outdoors in both New Hampshire and South Carolina. I hope you enjoy the year-end slideshow of highlights, including some of my favorite photos from 2013.

Regards and best wishes for the new year,
David Kotz

Eagle photos

Bald Eagle along the Connecticut River.No sign of “my” bald eagle on this morning’s row upriver.  Tonight I hopped in my kayak at sunset, armed with a tripod and my camera, and paddled downstream toward the site of last week’s amazing moonrise encounter with the eagle.  Within a few moments I could tell I was in luck: the eagle was clearly visible on the same tree.  The eagle watched me as I paddled around, seeking the best angle, shooting a hundred photos.  Gosh, this bird is big. When I came close, apparently too close, he became nervous and took off for a different roost.  In the photos (Smugmug gallery) I can tell that he (she?) is wearing a metal band on the right ankle.  I’ll try again in a few days, before sunset, when there is more light.