It took less than a minute for my fingertips to freeze, but I could tell I had a problem right away from the pain. We’d stopped to put on goggles and facemasks when we encountered strong easterly winds and blowing snow on Mt Moriah, a 4000 footer overlooking the Wild River Wilderness in the White Mountains.
Easterly winds in the Whites often signal the arrival of bad weather from the nearby Gulf of Maine, either heavy rain or heavy snow, called Nor’easters in Winter.
I had to take off my softshell gloves to put on my goggles and facemask. The temperature outside was four degrees and I guess the windchill from the 20 mph winds got to me.
There’s no cure for frostnip, a cold injury that freezes the skin of an extremity. My fingertips felt very cold so I got them back into my gloves to warm them up, and we got moving again toward the summit, snowshoeing in several inches of fresh powder. Eight hours later, my fingertips are still numb and a bit painful, but frostnip is not a long-term injury and the pain should pass in a few days.
I was climbing Mt Moriah with a bunch of friends, including Mike (Hikerbox) and Ryan (Guthook) after backpacking in the previous morning to camp out and practice winter survival skills in the Wild River Wilderness. Camping conditions had been excellent, with several feet of fluffy white snow. Pam, Matt, and Siren had met us halfway up the mountain the next morning, and we’d all completed the climb to the summit together.
This climb up Moriah was Mike’s 48th four thousand footer, a right of passage for most White Mountain hikers.
Conditions for this hike and our backpack couldn’t have been better. While the trail up Mt Moriah had been broken out, we’d had enough fresh snow to warrant snowshoes for the entire 10 mile hike. I can’t remember the last time I’ve hiked a 4000 footer wearing snowshoes for the entire hike; usually trails are so well packed out that microspikes are the most traction required.
Despite the cold (and my fingers), this was a very pleasant hike up Moriah, one of my favorite peaks, with good friends.
Stay tuned for tomorrow’s post when I’ll talk about the winter fire starting practice we engaged in during our first night on the mountain.