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.
After 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.
I’ve probably hiked Moosilauke over 60 times – I just love this mountain. For 2015 I decided to “grid” Moosilauke by climbing it at least once per month (some people are crazy enough to climb all of the 48 of the NH 4,000-foot mountains every month of the year, aka, “The Grid“). To avoid too much repetition, I also decided to “redline” the mountain by traveling all of its trails at least once. I had not visited some of these trails in over 20 years! It was fun to get up there in all seasons and in a huge range of conditions from nasty winter white-outs to glorious sunshine. Today I finished, on one of those gorgeous blue-sky days on which you can see all of the Vermont and New Hampshire peaks. See all 12 months and more photos here.
Only 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.
As 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.
The 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!
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.