On Sunday, I finally got to climb Mt Monadnock (3,165) in New Hampshire or Grand Monadnock, as it is also known. This mountain is the second most climbed peak in the world with 125,000 visitors a year, second only to Mt. Fuji with 200,000. For that reason, I've always avoided it until this year when I got hooked on winter hiking and backpacking. If you want to beat the crowds, winter is the time to climb New Hampshire's peaks.
Setting out this morning from Boston, about 100 miles southeast, I was worried that all of the snow around the peak would have melted in our recent thaw. We're getting to that stage in the season when it's not clear what clothing or gear to bring on a hike and I couldn't make up my mind about whether to bring my plastic boots or just bring my leather ones. In the end, I looked up some pictures of the climb on the web and saw that the trails to the summit were quite rough and full of boulders. I figured that if there was any ice left, I'd want my step-in crampons so I brought my plastic boots and an ice axe. That turned out to be the right call. There was a lot of ice on the climb up and slush on the way down, so having crampons really helped with my traction.
A lot of the trails on Monadnock are closed this winter due to a very heavy ice storm that did extensive damage in December of this year and we ended up taking the White Cross Trail to the summit and back. This is apparently the steepest trail to the summit requiring a 2.1 mile hike and 1,800 feet of elevation gain. Given the warm conditions, most of us stripped down to our base layers. We were making good time and I was sweating freely on this stretch of the climb.
Along the way we encountered a lot of water on the trail, under the ice we were walking on, or running beside the trail in picturesque streams. In the distance, we could hear the roar of a stream as it tumbled down the mountain.
The views from the summit were really spectacular. We could see the sequence of peaks along the length of the Monadnock-Sunapee Trail as well as the ski runs on Mt Wachusett, 50 miles to the southeast. The wind at the summit was a bit brisk, so we donned shells and had a snack, sitting in a windbreak in the hot sun. Ah….
On our descent, we encountered a lot of slush as the sun melted the snow and ice on the trail. This made the going difficult for my companions who were wearing stabilicers (mini crampons), but I just motored through it all with my Black Diamond Sabertooths. This was really a great hike. Next weekend I'lll be in the Whites, backpacking.