Ascutney

A fine hike in fine winter conditions.

The snowstorm five days ago brought us a sudden beginning for winter, laying down deep powder across the mountains and trails. I’ve been out every day to enjoy the snow, prime conditions for skiing and snowshoeing. With bad weather looming for tomorrow and the next day (Christmas Eve and Christmas Day), Andy and I set out today to make the most of the snow before the rain spoils it.

Tracks in deep snow on Mount Ascutney’s Windsor Trail.

Although we were interested in a return to Moosilauke, the favorite, the forecast showed morning sun with increasing clouds and I feared we’d simply climb into the clouds. So I selected Ascutney; it has lower elevation but 360-degree long-distance views. And heck, it’s been more than four years since I was last there in winter.

The Windsor Trail is very popular, so it was not surprised to see it broken out. Indeed, it had clearly seen a lot of traffic… skiers, snowshoers, and bare-booters. Andy and I made good time in bare boots for the first half of the climb, passing only three other hikers, and then switched to snowshoes as the snow became deeper and softer.

Andy hiking up Mount Ascutney on a snowy winter day.

Soon we were at the summit, climbing the observation tower. There’s really no way to capture the scene with a mere smartphone camera, but the 360-degree views span nearly all of Vermont and New Hampshire.

Andy surveys the wintry view from Mount Ascutney.

Clouds were moving in, pulling us under an overcast sky… but to the northeast, the summits of Moosilauke, Franconias, and Presidentials were blindingly white in the afternoon sunshine. (No wonder the range is called the White Mountains.)

Our descent was speedy, boot-skiing down the trail, passing only two other hikers. A fine hike indeed. A few more photos in the gallery.

Hike stats: 5.6 miles (per the guidebook), elevation gain 2,800′ (per Apple Watch). 4 hours.

The Windsor Trail begins at Parking in the upper right and ends at the summit (the middle yellow peak).

Ascutney and Gerry Falls

This winter has, so far, been pretty much a bust.  Virtually no snowfall, with plenty of warm weather and rain to ensure that the little snow doesn’t stick around. I decided to head for one our closest big-mountain neighbors, Mount Ascutney, an hour down the Connecticut River, because the trail passes some nice waterfalls.  If there’s no snow, at least there will be ice.  I spent about an hour at the falls, enjoying the indirect lighting as the rising sun illuminated the open woods to one side of the stream. One nice feature of an icy stream, I discovered, is that you can stand on the ice in mid-stream and explore many angles you might find to be too wet in summer. Got some nice photos!  More to say below.

Gerry Falls, along the Windsor trail up Mount Ascutney.
Gerry Falls, along the Windsor trail up Mount Ascutney.

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