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Climbing Mt Field – Trip Report

In addition to climbing Mt Cabot last weekend, I bagged a second Trailwrights 72 peak, another 4000 footer called Mt Field, in wintry conditions with about 6 inches of loose, unconsolidated snow. I hiked this one solo, starting from Crawford Depot at the AMC Highland Center in Crawford Notch, and hiking 6.4 miles round trip with 2,500 feet of elevation gain. My total hiking time was about 5 hours, in 20 degree temperatures with a light wind.

Mt Field and Surounding Peaks
Mt Field and Surrounding Peaks

For this climb, I hiked up the A-Z Trail to the junction with the Willey Range Trail. I was able to bare boot this stretch  except for a few icy patches where I put on microspikes to get over ice covered rocks. None of the stream crossings were bridged, but the water was running fairly low and they were easy to cross without incident.

I was equipped with full winter gear for this trip, including plastic mountaineering boots. In addition, I was carrying emergency gear because I’d had one close call on nearby Mt Avalon, when I was almost caught in a pine trap on a solo hike last winter. But that’s not the only reason, I’m carrying more gear: I’ve reconsidered what’s worth carrying for safety reasons in winter and have decided to be a bit more conservative on solo and small group hikes.

So, in addition to my winter layers and above treeline gear, I was carrying a SPOT II PLB, a lightweight sleeping bag, bivy sack, sleeping pad and a liquid gas stove & fuel. As it turned out, I was glad to have the extra gear because I had to break one mile of trail myself from the A-Z Trail up to the summit of Field. This wasn’t terribly difficult, but it meant that no one hikes up this trail very often, so some extra precautions were warranted.

Once on top of Field’s summit I had pretty good views of neighboring Mt Tom, Franconia Ridge, Mt Washington and its shoulders. This was unexpected because Steve Smith’s excellent 4000 Footer guide said the view was occluded by trees: someone has obviously been up there with a saw and cut a few down at the viewpoint.

I lingered for a bit at the summit cairn and had a bite to eat. There’s a small clear area surrounded by trees at the summit that would make an excellent pick-nick spot in warmer weather or a nice camp site, once the snow depth reaches two feet deep – the minimum depth required for a non-hardened winter camp site in the White Mountains. I bet the stars would be grand from this vantage point.

The light was fading, so I about faced and hiked out the way I’d come, and headed for the Highland Center for a hot cocoa. Climbing Mt Field had been a good spot of exercise and confidence boosting for my longer hike up Mount Cabot the following day.

6 comments

  1. As usual, great report Phil. Field is on my list of potential hikes when we visit the Whites later this month. Can you explain what exactly is a "pine trap"? Is it something we need to be mindful of?

  2. Sure. They're also called Spruce Traps. When it snows heavily, the snow piles up around the tree and on it's branches. As it gets deeper – say 6- 8 feet – an air space or void forms around the base of the tree trunk. If you step too close to the tree, you can fall into the void and have a very difficult time getting out, particularly if you are alone. They are a real winter hazard.

  3. Wow. Definitely something to be mindful of, thanks. I'll have to monitor the weather for the next couple weeks to see if there's any major snow accumulation before we arrive.

  4. I believe that they are also know as tree wells

  5. They're probably called something else by the folks who fall in them.

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