Monday, February 19, 2007
This morning Nathan and I went up to Peterborough, NH to do some winter mountain climbing. We decided to attempt Pack Monadnock and North Pack Monadnock, in Miller State Park. Though we've done some hiking in Franconia Notch in early spring and late fall, this was our first real winter excursion.
At quarter of seven this morning, the weather.com reading for Peterborough was four degrees Fahrenheit, with a wind chill of -16. When we reached the trail head a bit before 9:00AM, the temperature was about the same. To our surprise, there was another hiker in a pickup truck preparing for the climb.
Shortly after beginning our ascent, we noticed that our gear was actually sufficient! Though the temperature was very cold, we were quite comfortable. Through the day I came to decide that the most crucial piece of gear I was missing was gaiters, which prevent snow from getting one's boots, socks, and pant legs wet.
It was a beautiful day! The sky was so clear that we had no problem at all immediately seeing Boston from the fire tower atop Pack Monadnock. After a short break there we continued on down the saddle that separates this mountain from North Pack. To our surprise, a few minutes into this leg of the hike we came to the end of the packed snow. No one had attempted to traverse the saddle since the last snow fall, early last week. So the next and longest part of the hike was spent taking turns in the lead, breaking the snow and taking care to follow the trail blazes.
So we continued on to North Pack Monadnock, ate some snacks and some hot coffee, and then circled back the way we came. It was surprising how challenging the snow made the ascending portions of the hike. It felt like we had experienced quite a bit more elevation gain than we actually hiked. Going down, though, was a blast. It is so easy to run down with a cushion of snow to break your fall, should you slip.
On a whole it was a great experience, and a decent benchmark to teach us about preparedness for future, more serious winter hikes.
Time: approx. 5 hours. Distance: 8.3 miles. Elevation gain: approx. 2030 feet. Lowest temperature observed: -4°F (approx. -25°F wind chill with 20 mph wind gusts).