Monday, March 21, 2011

Mt. Moosilauke - March 20, 2011

Approaching the summit of Mt. Moosilauke
Did anyone really think that the official end to winter hiking would slip past without another NH4000 summit report from DMOutdoors? I didn’t think so. On March 20, 2011, my brother, Sean and I took advantage of one of the best hiking days I’ve seen thus far on my quest. The original plan was to hit South Peak, and then Moosilaukee, however it’s always great to have options when hiking a particular area. After studying the trail maps during planning, it was noticed that we could do a loop and take care of a few other mountains that are on some other peak lists, not just Moosilauke. This hike was approximately 12.5 miles.

Asquam Ridge Trail
From the Ravine Lodge, instead of hitting the Gorge Brook Trail, we opted for the Asquam Ridge Trail. The first part of the hike up the road to the lodge and mostly all of the way up to the intersection with the Al Merrill loop was gradual and easy going on the nicely packed snow. Ravine Lodge Road is closed, so this part included 1.7 miles on Ravine Lodge Road. Snowshoes were not needed, and we were glad to make the right guess to save on weight before heading up the trail. The Asquam Ridge Trail will get you to three trail-less peaks in the whites. The first peak is Mt. Waternomee at ‘3940. We could not find a packed out trail leading to a true summit, but after bushwhacking for a few a hundred feet or so from the trail, we figured it would be sufficient to say we bagged Waternomee, which is on the NE 3700-foot peak list and NH 3500-foot peak list.

Bill & Sean, taken from Mt. Blue
Not very far up the trail from Waternomee is Mt. Jim at ‘4172. There was a short right from the trail that led a short way to a higher point of land. Continuing along the Asquam Ridge Trail, we came to the intersection with the Beaver Brook Trail, and jumped on that as we proceeded in the direction of Moosilauke, but not before coming to Mt. Blue, which was quite interesting. It’s not like skipping any of these three mountains would have been a big deal, but when faced with a challenge, its tough to turn these things down. We headed up from the Beaver Brook Trail onto a path that had been made before us. It appeared as if two hikers summitted Mt. Blue before us, most likely the day before. The path led us steeply up the side of Mt. Blue through thick trees, making it very difficult. Furthermore, it was after 12pm and the snow was becoming noticeably softer causing us to post hole every few steps, and often up to the waist.  There is still easily 5 feet of snow on the mountain tops, so with the snow melting and uncertainty setting in, it proved to be an intense challenge. We did make it to the top we were able to catch some views through the trees towards Moosilauke. We noticed the path loop around and head back down. I was not aware that bottles marked the summit, but once we noticed the loop going down, we needed to get back down the trail before someone got hurt. The anxiety of what step was going to send you 5 feet waist deep was a bit too much to be hanging around.

9th 4000-footer of 2011, Washington waits in the distance
Believe it or not, the hard part was now over. The Beaver Brook Trail comes to an end is it reaches the Benton Trail and ascends Mt. Moosilauke. The trees start to fade, and then quickly they are gone as the we came to the first cairn, and the first time Bill and Sean surpassed treeline. Moosilaukee is a different experience as the summit is wide open, almost like a huge field. With nothing to hide the summit sign in the distance, we traversed the flat but icy summit to get to the official summit. Mt. Moosilauke is ‘4802 feet and is my 9th 4000-footer in this quest for all 48 in 2011. Bill has now summited 5 with me, and Sean has summited 3. The views were spectacular all around from the summit, and Mt. Washington sat beautifully in all white in the distance.

View from South Peak summit
Leaving the summit via the Carriage Road, we came to the intersection with the Glencliff Trail, where there is a thin path (about 5-10 feet onto the Glencliff Trail) that is the South Peak spur. It was funny how defined this little path was as it leaves the Glencliff Trail, but since it proved to not be anything reminiscent of Mt. Blue’s fiasco, we proceeded, and we were quickly at the summit of Moosilauke’s South Peak at ‘4523. The views from South Peak were just as amazing and we were able to see the traverse we had done all the way from the lodge. Looking up at the beginning, Moosilauke has a well defined ravine between it and South Peak, and the seeing the view of the ravine from below, up top, and all around was great. After taking some pictures and enjoying a few more minutes above treeline, it was time to head down.

Late afternoon view
The hike back was very easy via the Carriage Road, Snapper Trail, and a short section of the Gorge Brook Trail. The Snapper Trail is 1.1 miles between the Carriage Road and Gorge Brook Trails, and we did that section in exactly 20 minutes. The hike out, although boring in some respect, was pleasant and meaningful. As we walked down the road to the car around 6pm, the sun was quickly fading and winter was just an hour from being a thing of the past. As we walked, sometimes to only the sound of our crunching footsteps, it was hard  to look at the glowing purple mountain majesty, and not think of the things going on in the world today, and realize how lucky we are to have the freedom to go out into nature and do things like this. With 9 summits down and 39 more to go, I look forward to some exciting days and nights ahead on my quest.

Hike Stats
Trails: Asquam Ridge Trail, Beaver Brook Trail, Benton Trail, Carriage Road, Snapper Trail
Miles: 12.5
Elevation Gain: 3000 ft
Book Time:

Don't forget to view my album of select photos from this trip.