Are you surprised to see I went hiking yesterday? No? Ok, good because I’m not.
Lawn and I decided to embark on an interesting adventure of trail-breaking 6-24″ of fresh powdery snow up (and down) Mt. Jackson! The White Mountains are surely living up to their name as of late, with the snow just seeming to keep on falling and piling up the accumulation total. It’s not even technically Winter yet, and this is the most “wintery” hike I’ve done to date. The sheer amount of snow we witnessed yesterday was mind-boggling and a total blast all wrapped in one.
Meanwhile, down here on the Seacoast I’m looking forward to a 40 degree Sunny day tomorrow and taking my bike our for an hour or more! There is snow here too, but maybe a 20th of what currently exists up North.
I’m honestly rather stoked about all of the snow because it means snowboarding season is here and I’m super looking forward to riding next week! As a previous “winter hater”, I must say, I’m already digging this one and I still have three weeks until the season even begins!
Hike details: Mt. Jackson, NH. 5.2 miles and 2,150 ft. elevation gain via the Webster-Jackson Trail.
The book-time for this hike runs around 3:40, a time I’ve substantially “beat” each time I’ve previously hiked this peak. Yesterday was different, quite different. I think there should be a snowshoe through 2 feet of fresh snow book time. I kid, I kid. Kind of. As Lawn put it, the two of us likely set a record for “slowest known time”. And you know what, it was the most interesting/exciting winter hike to date.
It was a full snowshoe day, alike the hike of Mt. Cabot last Saturday. The only difference is last week there was maybe an inch or two of powdery snow on the trail at times and the snowshoes were primarily for traction/not post-holing whereas this hike they were essential for walking in general.
I really am finding myself enjoying snowshoeing and am even looking at running a snowshoe race this Winter! Hiker Dad recently bought some running snowshoes and I’m excited to give them a whirl. Don’t you all worry, I’ll recap this and report back on how many times I fall over 😉
We initially expected to reach the summit by 1:30pm, but soon realized this was just not happening. With increasing elevation came increasing amounts of snow to pack down. It honestly amazes me how much snow there currently is in the mountains. I’m not sure I saw this much last winter ever… never-mind before it was December. The first mile and change was fairly consistent pace wise.
Following a junction where it splits for Mt. Jackson summit or Mt. Webster summit is when we began to find increased snow amounts and a more inconsistent pace. Trail breaking is HARD work, and this is especially true when it’s two 105ish lb humans doing the work, one of which who is 5’0″! While only a 5.2 mile hike it felt more like 10 by the end of the day. After the junction we knew we weren’t hitting our 1:30 guesstimate as it was fast approaching this time with 1.4 miles to go. We loosely picked a turn-around time of 2:00pm as we both had headlamps with us and knew the last 3/4 mile or so on the way down was relatively flat.
2:00 hit and we found ourselves with approximately a half mile remaining. After a few minutes of debating we choose to go until 2:30 and re-evaluate if we hadn’t reached the summit by this point. The amount of time this hike took is very humbling to me. I know I (and Lawn) are good and strong hikers, so it was mildly unexpected but also not. The constant motion of snowshoeing through deep snow isn’t only leg muscle taxing but it gets your heart rate high. I personally found I could easily ignore the leg muscles but just struggled with breathing at a normal rate which then threw me off.
At this point of 2pm onward Lawn was doing the first pass of trail breaking and I was trekking behind while working to step on the tail of her snowshoe path so that my tail would pack down the powder hers missed so we had a smoother track headed down. Her 7ish inches of height on me seemed to be useful?!
Right around 2:30 we hit a section very close to the summit and found 20-24″ of snow and proceeded to have a grand time trying to get up some rock sections. Pro tip: if you’re 5’0″, send tall friend up first and then have them help you up 😉
At this point we called it good. We were happy to have our “summit” for the day as that last section likely would have taken a considerable amount of time for the short distance that it was. We took some pictures of the stellar views aka snow covered trees and headed down to a spot which was denser with trees where we stopped to add a layer, grab hand-warmers, and drink some water.
Hiking down in the fluffy snow is a true blast. You step, slide a bit, and repeat. Snowshoe skiing if you will. It’s also much much faster than step, lift leg up a foot, repeat.
Mental note to self for future reference: it feels lighter than it really is in the woods when it’s so snowy.
All the white counteracts the darker sky as when we finished it seemed much darker than when we were on trail a few minutes prior. We also noted just how quickly it went from dusk to dark – legit under a half hour. While we could have reached the summit and added 30 or so minutes to the hike, I think we were both happy with our decision and also happy to reach the car before it was truly dark outside.
Overall, I’m beyond happy Lawn and I got outside yesterday and explored this snowy peak. Winter has always been the least comfortable hiking season for me, mainly because of getting cold easily and the fears associated with that. This hike was a good comfort zone tester and pusher – it let me see how I react to modifying turn-around times, deep snow, it getting dark in the Winter and still on trail, ect. As we head into the true Winter hiking season, I’m happy to have this hike under my belt.
“Come. Come with your light. Your shadow. Soft curves and sharp edges.
I will show you the beauty of you, in all that you are.
Come with your steady breath. Your shaky breath. Your messy movements. Your courage to try again. The key to practice is just keep showing up.
Come with your highs. Come with your lows. The mountain you’ve climbed. The mountain you’re carrying. Just as you are.”