Saturday, January 1, 2011

Mt. Monadnock - New Year's Eve - December 31, 2010

After a stressful, but short week at work, I was wanting to take advantage of having Friday off (and it had been too long since I've hiked). After all, it was New Year's Eve, and it was a great morning for this hike to Mt. Monadnock. I read the most recent trail condition report and was aware that the area around Jaffrey did not receive as much snow as we did in MA. I got the Kahtoola MicroSPIKES for Christmas and I knew it would be the perfect place to try them out.

I left my house around 7AM, and broke trail from the parking lot on Route 124 exactly at 9:15am. There were a few cars in the lot, and a group of hikers getting ready to set off. I started up the trail, which parallels the Old Toll Road for a short distance, then goes into the woods. It travels over rolling terrain before there is any significant ascent. Along the trail, I guessed the snow to be anywhere from 6-8 inches. The path was packed pretty good, but it was not as flat or defined as it would be further up. I have hiked this trail twice before and recently in December, but the snow seemed to make the trail unfamiliar. There was a big group using snowshoes that approached as I took a water break. It was the group getting ready in the parking lot. I lessened my pace and benefited from them packing it out for me. I hiked behind them for about 10-15 minutes until we came to the junction, and then I darted up the trail to where the Old Halfway Trail joins the road halfway up and took another quick water break.

After I passed the open area and connected with the White Arrow Trail, I stopped to put on the micospikes. From here the trail begins to ascend quickly. This was the first time using the microspikes, and let me tell you these people are geniuses. The grip on them is amazing, and the pace I had going up the mountain was awesome. I was testing the grades of the ice and getting a feel for what kinds of ice and steps were too much for them. The reason they're genius is because every hiker on the mountain had them. The path on the White Arrow was packed out pretty well and was easy to follow. When there is no snow, a lot of the trail requires large steps and some rock scrambles, but the snow really made it interesting because I knew I was hiking well above the rocks that I scrambled over last month.

I stopped at the outlook for a few minutes to put on my REI Thermal Fleece and winter hat. It was warm so I was sweating and quickly felt the wind begin to cool my back, but the fleece kept me comfortable all the way up including while I sat at the summit. The climb from the outlook to the summit on the White Arrow was awesome in the snow. Along the way, I noticed many deep holes where a hiker's foot went 6-8 inches down between rocks. The microspikes were working awesome at the top of the mountain, and the pace I had going up was much faster than a pace I would have if there was no snow.

Once again, the summit was spectacular. The mountain seems so commandeering over the flat land below. I could see the northern mountains, Wachusett, and the Berkshires much better than in December. The low clouds made it feel a bit different, as if I was up higher. I enjoyed the summit for about 10-15 minutes while I woofed down a BLT I picked up at a local store along with some water. I posed for a couple of self-timed shots on the mountain, while another group of 3 were crackin' some beers for New Year's Eve. The wind on the summit was steady and chilly, but nothing drastic.

I knew that going down was going to be easy, despite what one would think. There were many hikers coming up on my way down to the outlook from the summit. I was so glad that I beat the crowds. I was plowing down the mountain at a very good pace. I left the microspikes on all the way down to the trail head. The warmer temperature made the snow softer than when I broke trail, so my gaiters certainly helped on the way down a few times when my foot went into deep snow, but they were not necessary at any other time. The good pace I had kept both up and down clocked this round trip in at exactly 3 hours. I had arrived at my car at 12:15pm. The climb was great, I was down early, and I was able to peacefully close the book on a fantastic 2010 of outdoor experiences. I am fortunate to have spent the last day of 2010 on top of a mountain, and then later on, ring in the new year hanging out with family. It's on to the next in 2011. I wish everyone a Happy New Year.

The video below shows the last six minutes to the summit and a 360 degree view. Enjoy!

Hike Stats
Trails: White Arrow Trail
Distance: 4.4 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,800 ft.
Actual Book Time: 5hrs

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