Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Monadnock After the Storm - February 10, 2013

Friday night through Saturday the Northeast got pelted with a blizzard. For once living up to billing, this storm dumped better than 2 feet of snow over most of Massachusetts and Southern New Hampshire, with lesser, but still significant, amounts further North.I was scheduled to hike Cabot on Saturday and Moriah on Sunday, but cancelled those plans once the scope of the storm became apparent mid-week. But Sunday was supposed to be a BEAUTIFUL day. A Presi-worthy day even. But I wasn't going to drive all the way to the White Mountains and back on Sunday. So I went to Monadnock Sunday morning instead, as it's less than 1.5 hours away from me, and still a hearty hike.

Unlike my previous hike to this mountain in October, I opted to go from the State Park side. My reasons here were two-fold: first, I figured that the State Park might be the only lot plowed so far, and second, I wanted to try to most popular trails on this mountain at some point, but not during the "regular" hiking season when it is a veritable conga line all the way up the mountain. (Note to those hiking from the State Park lot on Poole Road: there is a $5 per person use fee unless you have a NH State Parks season pass.)

With no one jumping on my somewhat last-minute call, I set off from the White Dot trailhead at 9AM. Not knowing what to expect for trail conditions (aside from expecting needing snowshoes most of the day), I was pleasantly surprised to find a well-broken 2-foot deep trench snaking through beautiful open woods right from the start.

Nice trail-breaking by someone(s)
Soon after starting, I saw my first person since leaving the parking lot, a guy snowboarding down the trail (very much under control and he went off-trail so we could pass without any problems). He seemed to be enjoying himself!

1/2-mile in, and only a moderate amount of climbing later, I reached the first trail junction with the White Cross Trail, which I intended to take down the mountain later. I was pleased to see it was broken out, though it clearly had only seen one or two people through it since the snowstorm.

White Dot/White Cross lower junction

Lightly-broken White Cross
The White Cross parallels the White Dot for a little over 1 mile before they re-merge, but the White Cross is a tad bit longer and allegedly avoids the steeper sections the White Dot climbs. I soon ran into those steep sections, and let me tell you, I was surprised at just how steep it was. I've seen worse before, but this was definitely a lung-and-leg-burner. There is really 2 steep pitches with a short more moderate section between. Making progress up the steeps was tough in the new snow, especially since the snow wasn't very compressible. Apparently this area got 2 feet of pure powder, while where I live there was several inches of denser snow at the bottom. Therefore, a single step, even in snowshoes, in fresh powder resulted in the snowshoe bottoming out maybe 1" off the ground at best. Bottoming out on the uneven rocks below that is!

Still, progress was made, and I was in no real hurry on this beautiful day anyway. Somewhere near in the second steep section I caught up to another solo hiker and we leap-frogged each other up to the summit from there. Around 1.5 miles from the trailhead, the White Dot Trail begins to hit some open ledges, providing nice views to the South. Easily visible on this day was Wachusett Mountain of course, but also the Berkshires, and even the Boston Skyline. In fact, I was just able to make out the Blue Hills a little South of Boston.

Also present on these ledges was the wind, probably 25-30mph gusts in fact. Nothing crazy, but since it was still early and so it was still fairly cold, definitely noticeable, so out came the facemask, goggles (blowing snow stings the eyes), and a windproof layer. The ledge sections were by and large bare of snow (since it was so light a snow, the wind easily blew it off the day before), so I decided to try bare-booting from here since rock-hopping on snowshoes is not a ton of fun. Before maybe 100 feet, I found where the wind had deposited a LOT of snow, and sank up to my hip in one drift. OK, back on with the snowshoes it was for the rest of the hike. The rest of the climb up consisted of these open rocky areas intermixed with deeply drifted sections, until the last 100 vertical feet or so, which was pretty clear of snow.

Heading up under clear blue skies

Over a shoulder of Monadnock to the Pack Monadnock ridge

Same shot from slightly higher

Looking South/SouthWest

Panoramic shot from high up Monadnock looking East and SouthEast. Can't really see it in the picture, but the Boston skyline was visible 65 miles away.
Myself and the other hiker summitted to an empty summit. Anyone who has hiked Monadnock knows how rare this is. Monadnock is reputed to be the 3rd-most climbed mountain in the world, and it certainly was busy at 4PM on a late October afternoon on my last trip. While the very summit top was quite windy, I enjoyed looking around at the 360-degree views. Everything from the ski slopes in Vermont, to Boston, the Berkshires, and more was readily visible. In fact, I pretty easily picked out snow-capped Mount Washington, clear as could be, over 105 miles away! I also saw another snow-capped ridgeline up there that had to be either the Twins/Bonds or Franconia Ridge, I'm not entirely sure which it would be.

Pano from Monadnock to the North and NorthWest

Pumpelly Ridge - some day!
After ducking out of the wind for a short break, I began to head down a little, as people started to arrive at the summit. I went the 3/10 mile down to the upper junction of the White Dot/White Cross Trails, and went a short distance down the White Cross to an open ledge near the Smith Connecting Trail for a longer break out of the wind.

After a while, I got moving again, and aside from following the Smith Connector a little ways before realizing my error (it was broken out better than the White Cross, which looked like one person's random wanderings), it was a nice descent. The powder was deep and only lightly tracked, and so I was sinking very deep again into the deep drifts. When the shoes didn't hit the edge of a rock way down and try to roll my ankles badly, it was a nice soft descent through deep powder. I did see a number of people heading up as I neared the lower junction with the White Dot, so I imagine by the end of the day it was in great shape.

The trek out back to the car was uneventful, though I was saddened by how many were bare-booting. We had just had 2 feet of snow and probably half the people I saw in this last half-mile (around 2 dozen) were in boots chewing up the trailbed...not sure what they were thinking. But hey, what can you do? I just enjoyed the day, one of the most beautiful I've ever had in the mountains.

Peaks: Monadnock (3159', 52WAV)
Trails: White Dot Trail, White Cross Trail
Mileage: 4.1 miles
Elevation Gain: 1800 ft
Book Time: 3 hours

No comments:

Post a Comment