We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
In the American Northeast, winter hiking is not very popular. Winter walking, and cross-country skiing are popular, but 6 hour hikes are not. It's not so much the cold as it is because snow and ice do not make good footing for slopes, especially steep ones.
Still, I had a friend who hiked/climbed Mt. Washington in January because it was the most macho thing to do that he could think of. Kudos to him, because I do not think I could do that. Wish I could. (He had also enjoyed clearing tunnels and caves of Viet Cong back in the day, so he is a different sort of person.)
"Hiking - I don't like either the word or the thing. People ought to saunter in the mountains - not hike! Do you know the origin of that word 'saunter?' It's a beautiful word. Away back in the Middle Ages people used to go on pilgrimages to the Holy Land, and when people in the villages through which they passed asked where they were going, they would reply, 'A la sainte terre,' 'To the Holy Land.' And so they became known as sainte-terre-ers or saunterers. Now these mountains are our Holy Land, and we ought to saunter through them reverently, not 'hike' through them."
The problem with climbing Mt.Washington in the winter is the amount of gear you need to carry. As you climb higher, you can go from skiis to snowshoes to crampons.
It's quiet. No bugs, heat or people... Perfect hiking ;-)
Interesting to learn the history of the word “saunter.” The Muir quote reminds me of this quote from Ethan Allen: “The gods of the valley are not the gods of the hills.” See also 1 Kings 20:28.
The Switchel Blogger
Nevertheless, when hiking, the best day in winter is better than the best day in summer! By far. Yesterday was such a day here in northern Vermont. Alas, I could not get out into the hills, but my wife did. She said she could clearly see Mount Washington from the top of Madonna Mountain. Of course, she cheated. She did not climb Madonna, but took a chair lift at Smugglers Notch Ski Area. Nothing beats being on top of a mountain in winter on a clear, sunny day if the temps are in the 20s and there is no wind. Especially if you got there on your own power.
The Switchel Blogger
I climbed some of the mountains on the Lafayette range (Liberty and Little Haystack maybe?).
It felt like two different hikes - one below the tree-line wearing relatively light clothes, and one above the tree-line wearing everything I had been carrying in the pack to deal with the wind and cold.
Yep. I had a September hike turn into a winter one above Greenleaf Hut in the 1990's. I had teenagers with me, which was the only reason I had the sense to say "I'm supposed to be the adult here" and turn back before the summit. You need equipment, especially for traction.
One of the boys I took, my nephew, took to hiking and did all 48. He now wants to do all of them in winter, but he lives in Atlanta and is stuck at 24 these last few years.
Assistant Village Idiot
It is also true, when hiking, that the worst day in winter is worse than the worst day in summer. It is best to stay at low elevations on those days. Or stay home and read a good book by the fire, and leave the mountains for another day.
The Switchel Blogger
The REI article is good. A classic book on this topic is Mountaineering: The Freedom of the Hills by The Mountaineers of Seattle. REI is also headquartered in the Seattle area. Notwithstanding the northwest origin, I found Freedom of the Hills to be a useful resource for winter hiking in New England and New York. I see that it is now in the ninth edition. My days of winter peakbagging in the northeast mountains were in the 1980s and 1990s, and I have the fourth edition (1982).
BD, I was reviewing your excellent post Mount Mansfield from last July. I tried to add a comment there, but apparently comments on old posts are disabled. Here’s what I was going to say there:
“One can’t really ski from the ridge of Mount Mansfield to Madonna Mountain. Smugglers’ Notch is in the way (nearly 1000’ cliffs on both sides). However, it is true that one can ski between the Stowe ski area, which includes Mount Mansfield, and the Smugglers’ Notch ski area, which includes Madonna Mountain. The trick is to ski from Spruce Peak (part of Stowe ski area) to Sterling Mountain (part of Smugglers’ Notch ski area).
“Spruce Peak and Sterling Mountain, both just over 3000’, are really two bumps on the same mountain. Nestled between those two bumps is a pretty mountain tarn: Sterling Pond. The pond is frozen in winter, of course, but it is a popular hiking and fishing destination in the summer. A moderately rugged 1-mile trail leads to the pond from the height of land on Vermont Route 108 through Smugglers’ Notch. (VT-108 through Smugglers’ Notch is not plowed in winter.) The elevation of the trailhead on VT-108 is 2120’. The elevation of Sterling Pond is 3000’. For comparison, the summit of Mount Mansfield is 4395’.”
The unplowed road through Smugglers’ Notch is a popular destination in winter for hikers, skiers, snowshoers, snowboarders, sledders, and occasionally a snowmobiler. Some people hike to Sterling Pond in winter. A few enthusiasts (not me) enjoy ice climbing on the cliffs in the Notch.
BD, if you and your wife would like to hike Mount Mansfield or Sterling Pond, please let me know. My wife and I would be pleased to hike with you.