Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Moosefeathers: A bluebird day on the Moose 2/11/15

Working title: Days like this

Peak: Mt. Moosilauke (4802')

Trail: Moosilauke Carriage Road

Mileage/time: 10.2 miles, 3293' of gain, book time of 6:30, actual time of 5:01

New redlining miles: 2.7

Continuing on with this snowy month of February, and the endless shoveling that's accompanied it, the forecast looked prime for last weeks plan. I caught some great sunrise color on my drive from Portland, hit the trailhead and got myself together. Brilliant blue filled the skies above, that kind of deep blue you only get in the winter. There were tracks in the snow, but they were covered in an inch or so of fluff.


View up to the Moose from Breezy Point

My chariots

Within five minutes of leaving the car, I had to take off a layer. Even though the temperature hovered around 10 degrees, I found myself in a t-shirt on this sunny and windless February morning. Wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't been there! I was alone with the bright blue of the sky, the white of the snow, and the squeak of my skins. The first 1.3 miles of the trail undulates, only climbing about 400 feet to the junction with Hurricane Trail, but with the great conditions the distance passed quickly.

Heading in



In order to make it through the next few sections of the trail, I got to lying to myself. "It's only a mile and 1000 feet to the next junction", I kept telling myself... though I knew it was more. My boots began to bother me as the real climbing began, and when I checked my pack, I noticed that I not only brought the wrong socks for the job, I'd also forgotten the tape that would have solved the issue. Typical. This season I've become very weight conscious (of my skis), and am realizing just how damn heavy they are! At nearly 7 1/2 pounds per ski, they are far from featherweight, and today they felt like lead weights. Sweating it out up to the Snapper Trail junction, I enjoyed the untracked trail ahead of me, the base firm underneath.

Switching back

A pretty area to tour through

Will yield good turns

Getting more conifery...

Where my single skintrack came up from below, there had been traffic down to the Snapper... but not all was lost. Powdery bits hung out on the margins, and all was quiet, barely a breath of wind. The higher I climbed, the more I looked forward to the descent. Catching some glimpses up to the summit and out to the east, I hit the Glencliff junction, and pushed on.



Oh, there it is

Easterly view to Washington and the Hancocks

This last stretch to the summit was painful, there were many small ups and downs on a broken but very drifted in corridor, and my heels screamed as the trail pitched up. I ran into a solo snowshoer and two ladies on light tele gear heading down, it was good to see others out enjoying the day. Breaking treeline, the trail turned to ice, and the skinning became, shall we say, interesting. Avoiding a few of the rocks, and stepping on others, I got it done, and reached the summit just ahead of a solo hiker, and two others with a very friendly pup. The t-shirt wasn't going to cut it, though I was still very warm from the climb, so on went the layers. This was some of the calmest weather I've ever experienced on Moosilauke, a far cry from the whiteout and 60mph winds Jake and I experienced last March when we skied here! I could even pick out some of the Great Range peaks in the Adirondacks, 100 miles distant.

West view into Vermont

Summit ahead

Car to summit on the boards

South Peak, Smarts, Cube and beyond

Franconias, Bonds, Presidentials

Some of the Pemi, some of the Sandwich

Southwest toward Killington

Taking my leave of the top, I got headed down. Skittering along down the icy sections, I tried to stick to the left margin, where some firm snow lent itself to slow my descent. The skins stayed on back to the Glencliff junction, where I locked it down, and got to the real meat of the day... the turns.

Great lighting headed back down into the trees

Vermont summits looking blocky

The beginning of the descent

The upper section (to Snapper) skied nicely, short quick turning was the name of the game, though in the narrow upper part more powder would have been appreciated. I skied around one guy skinning up, and stopped short of his partner (on a splitboard) a bit lower down. He chuckled about his friend in front, saying that he was the more sporty of the two, while he was usually couch-bound drinking scotch. I took another break at the Snapper junction, and gathered myself for what would prove to be the best turns of the day. While narrow, there was plenty of room to flit side to side, dancing in the powder that graced the edges. The switchbacks were the extra fun icing on the cake! Tearing through the Hurricane junction, I soon came to the slight uphills, several of which I was able to keep some speed on and pole my way through. The others, not so much. I ended up taking my skis off twice for short stretches and walking, but made it out to the car on the boards.

At the trailhead, I was greeted by a nice lady and her two dogs. One of the dogs (a beautiful white husky) was blind (like no eyes blind), but her owner told me to talk to her, and within moments she was up in my face being massively friendly. It was a great way to end the tour... now if only that 3 hour drive wasn't in front of me!


Not even a week after this gorgeous day, tragedy struck a solo hiker on the northern Presidentials. Kate Matrosova succumbed to the extreme cold and wind near Star Lake on the flanks of Mt. Adams. There has been a tremendous outpouring of support among the hiking community, but arguments have broken out, with people saying she was negligent (for being solo and going out in those conditions), followed by much speculation about what happened. The fact is this: a fellow hiker lost their life. Should she have been solo? Should she have been out in those conditions? Likely the answer is no to both, but that's easy for any of us to say, sitting comfortably in our homes. People can speculate all they want, but we'll likely never know the events that ultimately led to her demise.

As someone who hikes and skis solo a fair amount, I take exception to the arguments I've seen about not hiking alone in winter (or ever). I can't say that my solo adventures have been without mishap, but no matter how much experience you have, there's always that chance of being caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. It's a risk we all take every time we go out, solo or not.

We've suffered a blow as a community, and lost one of our own. Let's honor her life, and learn from what happened. Getting bogged down in arguments and mass speculation keeps us at a stand-still, instead of moving forward, with renewed respect for our "small" mountains and just how serious they can be.

Be safe my friends.

1 comment:

  1. Great writeup and pictures; per usual. Your addendum is very well put.