December 21st was the official start of winter. As I wouldn’t be able to get the day off, I decided to start off this year’s winter hiking on the first full day of winter. I decided on Mt. Moosilauke, the most Western 4000-footer with beautiful views of the Franconia Ridge and Presidentials to the east and the Green Mountains of Vermont in the west. My last visit to Moosilauke was spent in the fog after an October snow storm. I was hoping for views this time, but instead got a windy, snow filled day. And that was alright with me.
I decided to hike up the Glencliff Trail which is 7.8 miles long and has 3,300 feet of elevation gain. Last year I did the Gorge Brook trail, which is a more moderate hike (7.4 miles, 2,550 feet). Glencliff definitely kicks it up a notch.
Before the hike I looked at a couple of snow depth maps and weather reports (including this one) and it looked like snowshoes wouldn’t be necessary because of where Moosilauke was located. The beginning of the trail had very little snow and seemed to have mostly been washed away by the previous night’s rain.
There were about six blowdowns on the trail. Three are in the same spot (pictured above) and you need to go into the woods to get around them.
During the hike it was lightly snowing. At first the snow was formed like packing material. Later in the day, it turned into a more familiar formation.
As we climbed, the trail began to steepen and get rather slick. Microspikes are definitely useful for the Glencliff trail in winter.
The trail is steep almost the entire time until it joins the Carriage Road. Around the halfway mark there was about a foot of snow on the trail and we were breaking trail the whole way. Snowshoes are definitely needed for this hike!
Before we began on hike into the Alpine zone, I put on my balaclava as I knew it would be windy. Winds were probably between 40 and 50 mph on the summit.
|Ready for the summit!|
The cairns on Moosilauke are huge! I think they’re bigger than a lot of the cairns I saw on my presidential traverse! Once again, microspikes are useful up here as there was some black ice.
We stayed long enough to take a couple of pictures before heading down. I attempted to get a video as the wind was howling, but my camera took a one second video as the cold had killed the battery.
Once we got out of the wind, we took off a layer. At this point it was 10 degrees- and that’s without wind chill. The photo above is of the junction to Moosilauke’s south peak. It’s only 1/10 of a mile, but I visited that peak last year and was happy to descend without it.
The only other people we saw on the trail was a couple who got a very late start and decided to head down after a mile or so. The icy sections on the lower half were mostly snow covered on our way down and made for a much quicker descent.
I did a little butt sliding on one section. Some of trails are slanted towards the woods so there aren’t many sections that allow for a good ride.
Moosilauke is one of those peaks I will put back on my list to revisit as I still haven’t seen any views from the top!
Last modified: November 28, 2014
Looks awesome! Thanks for the heads up regarding conditions. I’ll be there New Years’ Day!
Thanks for the update. Looked like fun. I’ll be up there this week…
That’s one of my favorites! Looks like a great winter hike.