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Climbing Black Mountain in Winter

View of Mt Washington from Black Mountain (Jackson)
View of Mt Washington from Black Mountain (Jackson)

Black Mountain (2757′) is a 52-with-a-View peak located in Jackson, NH with good views of Mt Washington on a clear day. The trail up to the summit follows the Black Mountain Ski trail and passes the Black Mountain Cabin, just below the summit. This is a primitive log cabin managed by the Forest Service that you can rent out for $20/day.

The ski trail is steep and narrow. It was fairly well packed out when I hiked it, but with the recent thaws and rain, the snow was consolidated and icy. I have no idea how people can ski down this trail and live to tell the tale. The narrow run is hemmed in by woods and there are drainages with flowing water that transect the trail. Maybe there was more snow in the old days and those codgers knew how to control their wooden skis. Hard to say.

As I climbed, I passed two young men dragging a gear-laden pulk coming down the trail, their frying pan threatening to jump from the sled and make a solo descent down the hill. They’d spent two nights up at the cabin and had brought in an axe and saw to cut firewood for the cabin’s tiny wood stove.

Black Mountain Cabin, just $20:night
Black Mountain Cabin, just $20:night

They were wearing heavy-duty Carhartt overalls, not part of the spandex-set at all, and I wondered whether they worked in trail crew for the forest service. We chatted for a while and they compared their experience at the cabin with the Doublehead cabin which they liked better, another rentable cabin, a short distance away. I’ve been meaning to drag some friends there on a winter cabin trip, so I filed that away.

I reached the cabin and took in the views of Washington across Pinkham Notch before climbing the rest of the way to the summit, looping around the cabin and up the back way, up an unmarked side trail that leaves from the path to the cabin’s water source There are lots of occluded views visible through the winter forest, Sable and Chandler, the Baldfaces, the Doubleheads, but the woods have grown in since the 52-with-a-View list was first created, so Washington is only peak you can see completely from the mountain.

Still I had Black Mountain all to myself on a fine winter morning. This is a easy-to-moderate hike in winter, 3.9 miles round trip and definitely worth hiking if you want some exercise without having to put in an entire day.

Black Mountain Ski Trail
Black Mountain Ski Trail

Written 2017.

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  1. Philip, I generally don’t do cold, following moderate temps around Australia as an itinerant artist. At the moment I’m in Tasmania for four months as artist in residence. BUT, I have to say, you make COLD sort of attractive and I am fighting to hold myself back. Your writing makes this such an inspirational place to visit. One day m8, one day.


    • The cold is manageable with the correct clothing. While hiking, I usually have to take care, in the Winter, to prevent sweating while I’m hiking. Humans are very adaptable and the cold becomes uncomfotable and one gets used to it. Like extreme heat, one adapts and dresses appropriately to the temperature and weather.

      You know what they say, “that which doesnt kill you makes you stronger.”

      Hiking in Winter is sublime and harshly beautiful.

    • The serenity of hiking in winter is well worth the extra exertion. The beauty always gets me. Many northeast hikers think it’s the best time of year to hike.

      • Earl & Philip, Mmmm, I have fond memories from the 70s, working in Saas-Fee, Switzerland, as a ski mechanic. You are both right, I should get back to the beauty of a snowy winter. Think I’ll have to join some sort of club/group to learn good winter hiking skills. Thanks for the encouragement.


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