I celebrated First-Hike yesterday by climbing Mount Moosilauke (4,802 ft), the westernmost 4,000 footer in the White Mountains. This was a 3,300 foot climb from the trail head up the Glenncliff Trail, which I haven’t been on since 2007 when I climbed Moosilauke for the first time.
Moosilauke in winter can be a challenging peak to climb because the summit is completely bald and very windy. There’s good cover up until treeline, but the last 0.2 to 0.3 miles (on the south side) are fully exposed. We definitely had some wind today, as you can see in this video which I shot at the summit, but the temperature was a balmy 10 degrees and I wasn’t cold despite the 40-60 mph winds in the Higher Summits Forecast from the Mount Washington Observatory.
Although most of 4,000 footers I climb in winter are day hikes, they’re actually fairly high consequence climbs that take a fair amount of preparation to pull off safely. For example, I’ve been on Moosilauke before in winter and know that the summit is often shrouded in cloud, making the cairns difficult to see.
Those are the conditions we found today when we got to treeline, so I took a compass bearing that I could use to backtrack if our visibility got too bad. It seemed doubly prudent, because one of my partners on this hike had been driven back off the summit on his last attempt because he couldn’t see the cairns.
Despite the cloud, the visibility was fine, although there was deeper snow on the final ascent than we’d encountered on the entire 3.6 miles mile climb. The wind was definitely blowing however and I found myself a bit short of breath: I’m not sure if it was cold-induced asthma or fear-induced, as we climbed out in the open to the summit ruin. We hung out for a few minutes for photos and then about faced down the way we’d come, into the relative safety of the krumholz.
This was a good hike with a few hikers I’d never hiked with before. Despite that, we climbed well together at a reasonable pace and stuck together, which is especially important in winter. I also came away from this climb feeling good about my winter conditioning program so far. This is the highest single day ascent I’ve done so far this winter and I think I’m on track for my 4,000+ foot hikes next month. It’s a new winter and a new year.
Recommended Guidebooks and Maps:
- Appalachian Mountain Club White Mountain Guide
- AMC White Mountain National Forest Map Set
- Exploring New Hampshire Map from the Wilderness Map Company
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