This page discusses my quest for the AMC New Hampshire 4000-footer list in winter. The same 48 peaks are on this list that are on the "anytime" list, but all ascents have to be done in calendar winter. The rules are essentially the same as well. There is no requirement for snow on the ground, temperatures, etc. All hikes must simply be done in calendar winter. The catch is that you have to watch your start and end times on the shoulder days:
"It is not simply a matter of dates on your household calendar (e.g. Dec 21st to March 20th). The criteria established by Miriam Underhill, the inventor of the Winter Four-Thousand-Footer Game is more exact: trips must begin after the hour and minute of the beginning of winter (winter solstice), and end before the hour and minute of the end of winter (spring equinox)."
(excerpt from the AMC 4000-footer page )
Winter hiking is a different animal from summer hiking. Winter in the North-East can be rough to begin with, but in the mountains, winter is even rougher. Winter wind speeds on Mount Washington AVERAGE over 40mph during the main winter months. The wind speeds are often quite a bit higher, with plenty of 100-mph sustained winds during the winter months.
And of course there are the colder temperatures. While the valleys below may seem cold on their own when it is 20F outside, the higher summits are probably at or below 0F. Couple those temperatures with the wind speeds: wind chills of 40 below and more are common. Frostbite of the skin will occur in mere minutes if exposed to such conditions. This makes effective layering a must. Goggles (such as ski goggles) and facemasks/balaclavas are a must-have above treeline in winter, though there is the rare day where they are not needed.
But winter also means that all of the rocks, roots, and other walking hazards common-place on the trails in the main 3 hiking seasons are buried under snow. In that respect, winter hiking CAN be a lot easier (if you are breaking trail through deep snow, well, not so easy then) than in other seasons. Carry a light sled up the mountain with you, or just slide on your rear, and you can get back down in a hurry! (Just watch out for other hikers on the trail, they usually don't take kindly to being used as bowling pins!).
The views are also unbelievable on clear days. Little to none of the haze that often ruins otherwise gorgeous summer days is present, and it is not uncommon at all to get clear views to places over 100 miles away. There is nothing quite so peaceful as hiking up a trail after a recent snowfall, with the trees still coated with snow.
|Mount Washington, from Mount Jackson, January 22, 2012|
In early January 2012 I decided to give winter hiking a try. I had hated all things winter since the wonder of snow wore off around the Middle School days, and had never done winter sports (skiing, snowboarding, etc). On January 21, 2012 I did my first winter hike, a 9.8-mile trek to Mount Hale on a cloudy, lightly snowing day, and thus knocked the first winter 4K off of my list. I was hooked, despite the lack of views from this summit (which doesn't have any on a clear day anyway...)
By the time the calendar winter of 2011/2012 ended, I had hit 27 of the 48 peaks, most solo, and purely with weekend hikes (with 2 3-day hiking weekends thrown in there along the way). It probably helped that that winter was one of the mildest ones on record in the North East, but there were still plenty of cold, windy days and a couple instances of trail-breaking. 2013 was a real New England winter, with a series of storms leaving ample opportunity to use the snowshoes and even break trail. But I finished as planned in early March, with an awesome 23.5-mile trek from Route 302 to Lincoln Woods, hitting the final 4 peaks on the list on one of the most outstanding weather days of the winter. But I'll be back for more!
|On West Bond for Winter 4000-Footer #48!|
Trip reports/dates are linked on the New Hampshire 4000-Footers page, a winter ascent is denoted with a (W).