Peaks: Monroe (5384', NH4K), Washington (6288', NH4K)
Mileage: 9.1 mi
Elevation Gain: 4000ft
Book Time: 6hr 35min (actual: 8hr)
Ian (and Marlie), Theresa, and myself met early at the Cog Railroad parking lot for this hike. The weather was for the skies to clear by mid-morning, the temperatures to be near freezing above treeline, and the winds to be manageable. The skies were indeed hinting at clearing as we started off, putting the snowshoes on right off the bat at the start of the spur trail to the Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail. The snow depth was not terribly deep, but sufficient, at the start, but it quickly increased in depth as we progressed.
The first stretch into Gem Pool was easily traveled, but now we were in for the real climbing! I'd only been on this trail once before, on the descent in winter, but recalled that it was pretty steep above Gem Pool. In fact, it is really steep, and the climb is fairly relentless! We also noticed as we climbed that the skies weren't looking like they were going to clear anytime soon. When we reached treeline a short distance below the Lakes of the Clouds Hut (closed this time of the year of course), visibility was very limited, and it wasn't until we were 100 feet or so away that we finally saw the hut!
|The base of the Cog Railroad|
|Gem Pool in winter|
This of course meant that finding our way up to Monroe, which has only a few cairns to mark the way, could be a bit tricky. Since we all had been up here several times before, we were familiar with how the trail first skirts the base of the cone to the junction with the Monroe Loop, before steadily and mostly directly ascends to the false summit. We also had a GPS track if need be, but we walked right up to the trail junction without any trouble. From there it was easier, because you just need to ascend. We got a little offline, but recognized our mistake and swung around to the trail corridor, and then up to the actual summit as the clouds thinned a little bit.
|On Monroe - in a cloud!|
|The Monroe Loop junction|
|Snow cat tracks!|
|Monroe in a sea of clouds|
|Freaky-looking cloud looks like it is sucking up something from the valley|