Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Mt. Moosilauke (WINTER 4K 7/48) March 8, 2014

Mt. Moosilauke  (4,802') via Glencliff and Carriage Road trails, 3/8/14.

Mileage:  7.8 miles RT

Elevation gain:  3,300'
Trailhead:  Rt 25 north to Warren, turning right onto High Street.  The trailhead parking lot is 1.2 miles on the right.

Hiked with Rich today.  This was to be our last winter 4k of the '13-'14 season and we wanted it to be special.  Rich was in charge of the particulars and he decided on Mt. Moosilauke via the Gorge Brook trail. 

I hiked Mt. Moosilauke in 2008 (see previous report) and remember it being quite windy at the top. Apparently we hadn't the desire to revisit the peak until now. 

We'd have to hike the 1.6 miles down Ravine Road to the trailhead but I didn't mind. Gorge Brook trail is considered the most moderate winter route at 2,800' elevation gain (400' of it gained during the road walk). And, it's in the trees longer - protection from Moosilauke's windy bald summit. 

After a tough week, I longed for a sweet walk in the woods.

How we wound up at the Glencliff trailhead I'll never know. Rich started flip-flopping between the options about twenty minutes into our ride.  Seems trip reports were favorable for Glencliff and promise of a steeper, more challenging route won out by the time we got to Warren. 

Steeper, more challenging route.  For me, it conjured up visions of icy cliffs and harrowing vertical ups.  I was hoping to end the winter with a fun snowshoe.  "I'm fighting a cold, my legs are tired," my insides whined.  I wondered just how much fun this would be. I should have researched this trail.  Still not really confident in crampons, I imagined Rich having to talk me down from a ledge...... 

Of course it was nothing like that. It was an fantastic hike, not soon forgotten.

The parking lot is small but one side of High Street allows for overflow. We saw seven cars in the lot.  Microspiked, we walked through the gate at the end of the parking area onto a road that intercepts the Glencliff trail.  It was a beautifully clear, crisp day and the forecast promised warmer temps as the day progressed. 

The beginning of the trail is mellow.  Looking down we could tell that snowshoes, crampons and Microspikes were the footwear of choice of hikers before us - with a post hole here and there. 
Trail starts out mellow.

Intermittent steeps and flats meander through the first two miles. The surface was packed snow with just a small area of ice to get around at 3,000'. 

After a few miles the trail steepens.
Steeper than it looks; Rich dug in to stay still for the photo.

The trail continues its steep ascent, getting even steeper just before the Carriage Road trail junction.

Steeper still. Trees getting shorter.

Sure, it's steep but footing is good. I kept waiting for the hard part, you know, the icy ledge or slushy scramble - something to warrant this trail's reputation of being "challenging."  It never came. Soon we were at the Carriage Road trail junction.

So far, we hadn't met a soul, very unusual for such a beautiful Saturday. It seems now that they were all at the trail junction!  We stopped to change our shirts and met about a dozen hikers in the short time that took.

Carriage Road trail junction.  A flat area out of the wind.

Met Neil and Erica - this is Erica's first winter 4k.

We were pumped - couldn't wait to hit the summit in .8 miles!  And, best part, the Carriage Road trail is almost flat!......

Rich heading up Carriage Road trail (.8 miles to the summit).

The Carriage Road trail to the summit isn't almost flat.  It rolls and pitches. 

Trees are falling back.....

It doesn't take long to be totally out of the trees and soon we were battered by the wind (where were those warm temps forecast?).  North Peak sat sparkling in the distance.  

It looked far away. 

Cairns dot the North Peak.

But .8 miles is .8 miles, no more, no less and I kept reminding myself that it always looks longer than it is.....  So, hoods up and heads down we followed the cairns on the scoured, crusty path.

Poor little cairn battered by rime ice.

As we approached Moosilauke's orange summit sign the wind tore our heads off (I'm not above a little exaggeration).  It was so exciting!

On last summit rock the wind pushed us backwards - we braced for a photo.

And it was so busy up there!  A lot of people fought the wind to tag the summit, get a photo and head to the old summit house foundation or duck behind a rock for shelter.

Getting a break from the wind.

As soon as we started our descent the wind lessened.  The view was breathtaking!

Hikers following the cairns to the summit.

View from the old foundation.

South peak in the distance. Not an official 4k but it's on the Trailwrights list.

In no time we were back at the Glencliff trail junction.  The steeps invite sledding and glissading, which makes for an interesting descent on foot.  Some areas looked like a luge track but I never felt the need to put on my crampons. In fact, I used existing post-holes on the sides to get down some of the steeper areas.  We flew down the rest of the trail, jumped in the car and turned the seat heaters on.

It was one fantastic day!  We found some dinner and a beer and gushed over the photos, talked trash about the summit winds and relished our experience.

The change in me after a challenging hike is palpable; it's like pressing my reset button.  It's so very clear why hiking saved me and I've become so obsessed. Each time I summit, each long, invigorating hike, I've won the lottery.