The plan was to take the Long Trail from Route 108 to Taft Lodge, and from there take the steep but not-ledgy Profanity Trail up to the summit, and retrace those steps on the way down. Having done the ledges on the Long Trail North of Mansfield this past summer, I was not looking to try those in winter, figuring they'd be tricky and likely icy. In winter Route 108 is closed from the Stowe ski area (on the side of Mansfield) through the notch, but there is ample parking at the end of the plowed road and it is about 4/10-mile from there to the summer trailhead for the Long Trail up Mansfield. I put snowshoes on at the car since the area received a nice snowfall mid-week.
|Trailhead for the Long Trail|
|Nicely established snowshoe trench|
|This guy passed me early on, apparently to snowboard his way down part of the trail|
I had heard that skiers tended to criss-cross the Long Trail in this area, and that was clearly the case from the start, with ski tracks everywhere crossing the trail. The trail is blazed with white blazes, which is normally a problem in winter (snow is white after all), but there were plenty of blazes visible and so determining which trench was the actual trail was not a problem. The ascent to Taft Lodge went smoothly, though I did notice that for the most part the sunny skies predicted for the day were not coming true. A little way below Taft Lodge I found myself out on the side of a ski trail, which I did not remember coming to this past summer when I was here. Still, it was a good spot for a short break, before I turned around and found the filled-in snowshoe trench that continued the actual trail.
|Some blue skies here and there, but overall it was cloudy.|
|Lots of ski traffic here!|
|Ski trail (Chin Clip I believe)|
|Unbroken trail approaching Taft Lodge|
|The summit of Mansfield. Um, I should be a lot further to the left if this was the Profanity Trail!|
|Note the amount of snow, compare to the below picture from this summer.|
|The same spot from above this past summer - I estimate close to 3 feet of snow depth was needed to cover the lower signs.|
|The scrambles North of the Chin in summer (July 2013)|
|The scrambles on this hike - note the trees are almost buried, which are 6+' tall!|
|The Adam's Apple from partway up The Chin|
There were a few more short tricky spots, but the crux came a little further up where I got to a long, steeply-angled section that I had to get up to reach the summit ridge. At this point I was thinking of aborting, but looking down at some of the very steep sections I had already come up, getting back down wasn't going to be easy either (though I still could if I was careful). I determined based on how the snow had behaved so far that I would be OK to continue on this section, which had a bit of a drop off down the slope should I slip too far. The snow had been compacting down well with multiple stomps before shifting my weight, and there had not been any hidden ice thus far, so I continued along, making sure each step was secure before transferring my weight onto it. The snow was very deep; even after compacting it the snow was usually over my knee. But slowly and surely (3-4 steps at a time!) I made it up to where the grade eases shortly before the summit, and reach the summit I did. It took me roughly 50 minutes to go the 3/10-mile from the col to the summit! It is hard to convey just how tough and tricky this ascent was, but take my word for it when I say it was probably the toughest 3/10-mile of trail I have ever done in winter! That's not something I want to do again, not in such conditions at least!
The sunny skies predicted for the day still weren't coming true, but there were still some near-by views and the clouds were mostly above me, so I enjoyed those views until the wind became too much to hang around comfortably. I made my way South to the upper junction of the Profanity Trail, but had to spend a few minutes figuring out where it descended off the ridge. There was one blaze I stumbled across that gave me a clue, but a few cairns would have made it much easier. It basically heads down a gulley below the summit proper, a bit North of a cut-over to the ski trails that several skiers were hiking up in order to reach the summit themselves.
|Summit! New England 4000-Footer #49 in winter!|
|The Stowe Ski Area|
|The Mansfield Ridge, leading to The Nose (which has all the antennas)|
|Faintly in the distance I could see the pointed peak of Camel's Hump, my goal for the next day.|
Getting back to my car, I headed into Stowe to where I had a room reserved, took a shower, and relaxed for the rest of the afternoon (a nice change, usually I'm out all day and I had originally thought about doing Camel's Hump the same day as this before deciding several days before to take it easy instead, why rush?). This was a tough climb on what was supposed to be a pretty easy hike. Just goes to show you, you never know what might happen on a hike!
|A peek to The Nose from the Long Trail|
|Now there is more blue sky...always my luck|
Route: Long Trail (to summit), Profanity Trail
Peaks: Mansfield (4393', NE4K)
Mileage: 5.5 miles
Elevation Gain: 2850'
Book Time: 4hr 10min (actual time: 4hr 40min)
|The lower half of the loop is the Profanity Trail, the less-exposed route to the summit ridge from Taft Lodge|