Climbing Mt Tremont in January

Greens Cliff and the Sandwich Range from Mt Tremont
Greens Cliff and the Sandwich Range from Mt Tremont

Mt Tremont (3371′) is a picturesque 3000 footer in Crawford Notch overlooking Sawyer Pond, Greens Cliff, and the Sandwich Range to the south. It’s a relatively short (2.8 mile) but steep hike (2550′ of ascent) up to the summit viewpoint. You can also approach the peak from the south on the Brunel Trail, climbing a NH200 peak called Owl’s Cliff, with a short detour. But that’s a hard trail to hike in winter because it has a major stream crossing at the very beginning.

Mt Tremont Trail Profile
Mt Tremont Trail Profile

I’ve climbed Tremont many times before, but this time I was interested in checking out the stream which runs along the base of the trail and seeing if I could find an old logging road that intersects the trail part way up. There are all kinds of things marked on White Mountains maps which are out of date or plain wrong. I figured it would be fun to follow this logging road sometime in the future if I could figure out where it was. I’ve also teaching a few map and compass classes this spring and wanted to scout this area as a possible spot to run some class exercises. It’s not in a Wilderness Area, which means you can bring more than 10 people into it at a time. I’m a hopeless romantic, I guess, and still adhere to those rules.

Mt Tremont Trail Map

I quickly put on my microspikes at the bottom of the trail and hiked up to the intersection of the logging road. It was overgrown and obviously out of use, but you could still see where the track is despite the fact that the trees have grown in on top of it. I can understand why that road is still on this map: it’s an old USGS map published before 1990 back when all USGS maps were drawn by hand, making updates very difficult (so they didn’t). Who knows? Maybe that forest road was is service 30 years ago when this map was considered reasonably current.

This is just another example of how you can’t trust all of the human structures you find on maps. Topographic contours are pretty reliable because the shape of landscape changes quite slowly. But backcountry bridges get swept away in spring floods, logging roads fall into disuse and return to the forest, trails are rerouted around avalanche zones or to control erosion, and so on. But I digress.

Nearby hikes

After the logging road, the trail got wet and muddy before dropping down to a stream crossing across Stony Brook. I switched to snowshoes and started climbing the final mile to the summit. The snow was the consistency of mashed potatoes in the warm weather. The trail was also heavily postholed (sigh) by people who hadn’t been wearing snowshoes. I can never understand this. It’s dangerous to posthole in deep snow because you can easily break a leg. It ruins the trail for others and it takes infinitely more energy to climb a mountain while postholing.

Cursing the postholers, I climbed up that last mile and approximately 1500′ of elevation gain at a slow but steady pace. I hoped my snowshoe tracks would pack out the trail for people following me. The top of the Mt Tremont Trail is so steep that it has switchbacks, which are quite rare in the White Mountains. I topped out finally and met to other hikers on the summit, who has also been wearing snowshoes. Good thing that, because I’m not sure I could have held my tongue if they’d been postholers.

We chatted briefly, the way that people do at a viewpoint. I drank some hot tea and headed down again fairly quickly since there was a cool breeze above treeline. My snowshoes had in fact filled in most of the postholes on the narrow trail, which I found satisfying. The descent was much less arduous than the climb and I scouted Stony Brook a little bit more closely on the way out. There’s definitely excellent trout habitat there.

Total distance: 5.6 miles with 2550′ of elevation gain.

Written 2018.

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9 comments

  1. Great article, and thank you for the ride!

    I’m envious of you at times since you have true winter. My wife bought me a pair of snowshoes but I live Iin the southeast. NC, to be exact. I have not been on a pair since I was a teen!
    Gotta find a place to do this, nearby.

  2. The logging road heading north east leads to the old Livermore lumber mill site on Sawyer River road. I never followed it in the other direction.

    • I’ve meaning to follow the logging road as it drops back to Stony Brook in the southeast direction. Caltopo’s Mapbuilder Hybrid layer, which is based on open source track data, shows a trail that connects the logging road to an unpaved forest service road off Bear Notch Road. I want to verify that…since a lot of those open source tracks can be kind of sketchy in their accuracy. It’s certainly not a WMNF trail, so I’m curious what it is.

      • The trail may connect to the Bartlett Experimental Forrest. During my last bushwhack in that area I stumbled across all sorts of lightly used trails that connected monitoring stations. In fact on two occasions in Forrest Experimental Areas I have stumbled across this type of trail network, devices and once even PhD candidates doing research. The trails are often flagged with survey tape for the students to follow (a good reason not to pull tape), you can see some leaving Bear Notch Road south of the height of land, but more often now are laid out on GPS track. Two big themes in the whites for this study is a species of bird and bat that I am told are good indicators of the general health of the ecosystem. I think they were “green throated warblers” if memory serves. One bushwhack I found some folks banding the warblers. We both stumbled one one another bushwhacking thinking the other was a bear!

      • If you look at AMC guides from the 1920s and 1930s, they have trails the WMNF called “Class 3 manways” on the maps. Even then, they were not well marked but could be followed. Unless some researcher kept them open, I’m guessing the are not detectable today.

  3. We have a similar situation in southern Indiana, although we’re hiking on hills and not mountains. Lots of old CCC roads and old farming lanes connecting with trails, not of which are well marked on maps. Great fun to explore and create new loops. We’re never lost, although we don’t always know where we’re at! Also dig that terrain statistics view on CalTopo. Use it all the time in trip planning for our out West backpacking trips.

    • I always tell my navigation students…”I know where I am approximately.”
      That’s all you really need.

      • Exactly. Thanks for all the hard work you do in running this site. The amount of work it must take to come up with fresh content, backed with data and experience, is amazing. The site is one of my “must” morning reads.

      • I wonder sometimes if the “well” will run dry. That’s when I go hiking for a few days..I always come back with more to write about.
        Thanks for reading and commenting.

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