I have two short sections of the Appalachian Trail left in New Hampshire and had hoped to complete one of them this weekend, a 2.7 mile stretch (requiring 14 miles of hiking) from the Skookumchuck Trail at the northern foot of Mt. Lafayette (5,260 ft) to Mt Garfield (4,500 ft). To hike this section, I had to hike in to the Garfield Ridge Trail (AT) up the Skookumchuck Trail, a distance of 4.3 miles with about 2,700 feet of elevation gain. Unfortunately when I got to treeline and the AT, the trail was really iced up and shrouded in dense fog.
I put on a pair of microspikes, but it quickly became clear that the risk of going any further without full traction (crampons) was too great. I was hiking solo and there is nobody up on this ridge at this time of year. I knew I'd have to ascend Mt Garfield at the other end and didn't feel that would be safe without at least one partner and the rest of my 4 season kit, including a heavy down jacket. So I turned around and hiked out. I'll be back another day.
Despite this, climbing up the Skookumchuck Trail today was good fun. It's a challenging and picturesque trail that parallels a beautiful stream for a few miles, before relentlessly climbing up to the northern foot of Lafayette. Skookumchuck is a Chinook word for turbulent falls or rapids and must describe this watercourse during spring thaw.
I also got to work on heat management during my climb today: I spent a lot of time experimenting last year with layering and different clothing combinations for winter hiking. My body composition has changed since then and so have my clothes, so it was good to get a little practice in.
Winter is definitely here above treeline.