Wednesday, March 4, 2015

A Finish on Moriah - Feb. 8, 2015

Route: Stoney Brook Trail, Carter-Moriah Trail
Peaks: Moriah (4049', NH4K)
Mileage: 10.1 miles
Elevation Gain: 3450ft
Book Time: 6hr 45min (actual 7hr 15min)

A couple winters back, I did this exact hike towards the end of February. It was chilly that day, and it even lightly snowed part of the hike, and I had no views from the many great viewpoints along the trail. When I was invited along on Mike's New Hampshire 4000-Footer finish (it's about time dude!), I hoped for a nice day for him. Instead as the day approached, it looked like it was going to be a repeat of my only winter visit to this peak. I jokingly apologized to Mike for being bad luck, but he didn't kick me out of the hike party despite that.

Mike, Phillip, and Ryan had headed up the mountain the day before to camp in the snow near the Stoney Brook/Carter-Moriah Trail junction. The rest of us, not crazy enough to sleep in the snow (haha), met at the trailhead around 7 and headed up a little while later. There was a couple of inches of new snow on the trail that fell overnight, and we enjoyed a terrific and easy snowshoe up to the ridge. The Stoney Brook Trail starts off fairly flat until a stream crossing about a mile in, and then slowly begins to climb on old logging roads until reaching the base of a ravine where the real climbing begins. The trail never gets excessively steep, but it does have a few steeper pitches near the top. We timed our hike very well however, reaching the junction, our designated meeting point, at exactly 10AM, the designated time.

After the usual pleasantries and chatting, we began the climb up the ridge to the summit. There is a series of ledges in the first mile from the junction with tremendous views into the Wild River Wilderness, over towards the Presidential Range, and back towards the Carters. Today, however, the views were limited to barely seeing North Carter once or twice, and the wind was whipping pretty good on the first couple of ledges, enough that we put facemasks and goggles on though the goggles really weren't necessary.

On one of the early ledges - not much of a view to be had today!

The best view of the day, looking at the trail-less Southern Ridge of Moriah

North Carter, just barely visible

Middle and Shelburne Moriah from Mount Moriah
We made our way over the ledges, having to find our way as all previous tracks had been blown in, but we actually had little trouble finding the route. I was even ready for the turn on a flat open ledge nearing the summit that I initially missed on my first winter trip, and made sure that we made the turn (a cairn is really needed here...). The final steep pitch up to the summit was nicely filled in and was a fairly easy snowshoe up. Once on the summit, we formed a trekking pole tunnel for Mike, took a few pictures, and ducked back down to the junction with the Kenduskeag Trail for a short celebration.

Celebration time!

Popping the cork

It was too chilly to hang around long, so after some champagne, brownies, and other goodies, we charged out of there pretty quickly. Our tracks on many of the ledges had already blown in, but we had a blast charging through the drifts. Once down onto the Stoney Brook Trail again, we butt-slid down the steeps and charged through the rest of the trail, even going off-trail in a few spots to get short stretches of fresh powder snowshoeing. It was a blast, and even with limited views, the company was great and we all had a blast. The drive home in the snow that began shortly after the hike was less fun however, but what can you do. Congrats again to Mike, who is now about to head off to spend the Spring and Summer hiking the Continental Divide Trail!

Awesome snowshoeing conditions today!
Mike looks back to see why the butt-sledding has stopped!

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