Guest post: Vermont 4000 footers 12/2/19 – 12/4/19

Hey folks! I’m swapping things up a bit and starting a guest post series on the blog! This is to allow me to share the stories of my fellow hiking friends, provide new content and information about different hikes, and shine on new perspectives. First up, is my friend Nicole who hiked all five of the Vermont 4000 footers in three days this past December. Nicole will be hiking the AT this year and has now started her own blog which I’ll link at the end 🙂

Here’s Nicole:

Hey all, First real blog post! I’m Nicole, an internet (now in person) friend of Sarah! How cool right? Sarah and I met through a mutual friend Alyssa, who we met through instagram separately. Since meeting, Sarah and I have become really great friends! It’s so awesome!

Why am I writing this post for Sarah? Well, I recently decided to tackle the New England 67. Don’t know what that is? Well, it’s a list of the 67 mountains in Vermont, Maine and NH that are at least 4000ft and I want to tackle them! It seems crazy to think someone could hike them all, but having already hiked all 48 and NH and 1 in Maine, I felt ready to tackle Vermont.

The great thing about the Vermont’s 4Ks: There’s only five of them! I’ve been back and forth whether I actually cared enough to do them. I even posted on my instagram (@nurseonthetrail_at_2020) asking my followers if I should try to hike them in 3 days. My motivation was low because I didn’t want to do them all alone. Also, I had a couple friends tell me that the Vermont 4Ks were underwhelming. I am used to the incredible NH views, so why would I do something so underwhelming and less accessible? That’s when my friend Will came into the picture. He and I have talked on Instagram a couple times here and there, but never actually discussed meeting up. He writes to me “If the reason you don’t want to go is because you are alone, and if you feel comfortable, I will hike one of the days with you.” So here I am a young female agreeing to meet a young male from the internet to hike with. I thought maybe for a second I was crazy. Then again, I really didn’t want to hike alone for three days in a row. I decided to go for it.  What also helped is my friend Nate found me a free place to stay! So at this point I really had no excuse.

Day One: My plan was to hike two mountains: Mansfield and Camel’s Hump. I got myself up at 5 a.m. and went to the trailhead to hike Mount Mansfield by 7:30 a.m. Vermont had about 3 inches of snowfall overnight so there was a beautiful coverage. I spent the morning breaking trail. Thankfully someone had been on trail the day before the storm, (I am pretty sure it was an old friend of mine who I saw after had posted on his FB having just hiked this the day before.) So there was some semblance of a trail that I could follow. It was pretty easy going because of the light and fluffy snow. My wonderful MSR Ascents did the trick the whole way up. I took the Long Trail the whole way to the top. It was a beautiful and fairly easy trail to hike. Eventually I got to the point where you have two options to the top the normal route up the Chin or the bad weather route. Me, seeing as the weather was beautiful thought, “How bad could the Chin be?” Answer: BAD. As assumed, most of the trail from his point up was pretty easy until I got above the treeline.

If there was ever a time to use crampons and an ice axe, this was the trail. Of course, nowhere online said this so I assumed I would be okay. This was one of the scariest ascent and descents of my life. I truly believe the crampons portion of my MSR’s saved my life. It was so steep and icy, one wrong move could cause me to fall off the mountain or severely injure myself. Once at the top, I was so cold. I could only manage a silly picture or risk frostbite on my already icy hands.

Pro Tip: Open your hand warms prior to starting your hike and put them in your bag, your hands will thank you at the top of the mountain!

Once I got off the Chin, it was an easy hike to the bottom. I ran the entire way and completed hike number 1! Mansfield was done! Yay!

I had a 45 minute drive to the next trailhead, but I ran into an issue. The road to the Burrow’s trailhead was closed because it was washed out. “Great, what am I supposed to do?” I had to do a twenty minute detour and go to the Monroe trailhead, adding about 2 miles to my hike. My motivation leading up to Camel’s was dwindling. I was tired from Mansfield, so I was a little slow to start. I also got some weird looks from two ladies coming down the hill who watched as I was approaching the first mile of the hike at 1PM. 

You know, those hikes where you look ahead to the next blaze and think “I just need to make it to there?” Yeah, that’s how I was feeling. At this point, I realized that I needed a pick-me-up and ate my snack: gummies and applesauce. (These two are my go-to snacks, they are so refreshing.) Then I was on a roll. I was determined to get down the mountain before full on darkness. I managed to catch the beautiful sunset as I reached the top of Camel’s Hump and it only became dark 30 minutes prior to arriving at the trailhead. 

Overall 10/10 hike. Camel’s hump defeated. 

Day two took me to Mount Ellen and Abraham. I decided for this one that I was going to do a traverse. I asked my friend Nate to pick me up at the other end and bring me to my car. What a wonderful human. This day I was also meeting a random man (Will) from the internet to hike with. I’m smart, I know. Will and I pull up to the trailhead about the same time. We say our cordial hellos and I let him know my boyfriend and my friend Nate (who is picking us up at the other end) had all of his info: “Safety first.” To be honest, I wasn’t too nervous because I had thoroughly searched his instagram and his normal hiking partner was a young female. I did my research and felt pretty safe. 

Yet again there was about 3inchs of snowfall overnight, so we were breaking trail the whole day. Will was kind enough to go first and break trail most of the day, THANKS WILL!!!

Overall, this day was probably my favorite day of the three, great company and an awesome traverse. For real, do this one. I loved it. We went up Battell Trail, then followed the long trail and went down the Mount Ellen ski slope. 

(Beware, they do not like you to do this in the winter, we lucked out because the ski resort had not been open yet).

The view from Abraham was incredible and very cold! I was bundling up as fast as possible after we snapped some pictures.

We did get lost a few times as the trail was difficult to follow. At one point, we were following a ski trail and were unsure if we were on a hiking trail anymore. Thanks to the All Trails app for showing us our approximate location. I think we ended up bushwacking our way at times until we found the trail…whoops. Halfway through the traverse was a platform viewing area, which we got a beautiful view of where we came from!

We had a couple beautiful views along the way, but when we finally got to Ellen we had no view.

I was sad, but unfortunately this happens. Just when we were about to start walking down a wind came and blew away the clouds. Will managed to capture a silly photo of me so excited for the view.

Now that I got my view, it was time to head downward. Since we were going down the ski trail, it was fairly steep. Will and I had a blast slipping and sliding our way down. This was probably one of my favorite descents. The greatest thing about this day was meeting Will. He’s now great friend and I really look forward to more hikes with him in the future. Ellen and Abraham done!

Day three is here and it is now time to hike Killington! At this point, I am so excited. I am only one mountain away from finishing the Vermont 4Ks. But then it hits me; Killington is basically on the AT, right? I could just skip it for now and come back to it in 6 months when I’m back here for my AT thru-hike. Now it was the great debate on whether I really needed to go up this mountain. My motivation plummeted and I was trying to find every excuse not to go. I don’t even know what got me moving, but I got up and drove on over. I got to the trailhead and realized I had to again break trail from two days worth of snow. Ugh. Again I debated still sitting in my car. I knew I would be upset with myself if I didn’t go. The Bucklin trail starts off easy, about 2 miles of flat before you start heading uphill. (Sorry to whoever went after me. I totally went off trail a couple times and had to double back) Overall it was a pretty easy trail. There is even a cabin about 0.2 miles from the top that I was able to stop in and put hand and toe warmers in. There was an older guy and his grandson there and they looked a little taken aback when I walked in. (They were smoking weed and I think they were nervous about getting in trouble… whoops) We had a good little chat about hiking and skiing and then I was on my way to the top. At the top of Killington is a radio tower and not much else. No views. I was socked in.

At this point, I couldn’t complain. I had two beautiful days and was so excited to finish the Vermont 4ks that I didn’t care there was no view.

I took a picture and was on my way. On the way I ran into a poor skier, who had skied to far off trail and now had to hike back up. He looked so sad as he was hiking his way back up to the cabin. I tried to brighten his spirits, gave him some directions and was on my way. The way down was quick and easy. Killington defeated. 

Overall, these three days taught me so much about myself. I am capable of incredible things as long as I put my mind to it. Hiking is often a mind game you play with yourself and it often just takes a little push for you to reach your goals. It also showed me that, once I am able to start hiking I am so much happier and I want to continue. This was good for me to realize since I am about to embark on a 6 month trip along the Appalachian Trail. AT here I come!

If you’d like to follow Nicole on her AT journey and other adventures you can find her blog and social media here:

Instagram: @nurseonthetrail_at_2020

Blog: https://hamelhikingandtravel.com/

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