November hiking November 18, 2008Posted by Jenny in hiking, Uncategorized, White Mountains.
Tags: crampons, hiking, microspikes, White Mountains
Bob won’t even consider hiking in November any more. Or in April. The trouble is, he’s so knowledgeable about trail conditions at different times of year that he writes those months off completely. Most of the time he is quite right about what it’ll be like. In November, just as I described in my recent post , the rocks were covered with a thin coating of ice that made the going very difficult. I am waiting now for my Kahtoola microspikes to arrive via UPS so that I can go out again and mount my assault on the mountain ledges of New England.
It’s the transitional months that turn out to be such a problem. In November, there’s lots of ice, but the streams haven’t frozen over yet, so instead of sauntering across on thick snow and ice, you’re desperately bounding across icy rocks. On the trail, the ice doesn’t have any nice cushiony snow underneath that crampons can sink into. In April, you will start your hike among the early spring wildflowers, but then as you go higher you will encounter increasing amounts of old, dirty, icy snow. Sometimes on the really beaten-down trails, you run into what gets called the monorail—the snow in the center of the trail has gotten so compacted by snowshoes and general traffic that it’s melting very slowly, while on both sides the softer noncompacted snow is completely gone. This is entirely a manmade phenomenon, and it is very strange and inconvenient.
When Bob and I first met, one of the first hikes we did together was a November climb up Mt. Mansfield in Vermont via the Long Trail from Smuggler’s Notch. Very short hike, but we had to turn back at the “Nose” because of those classic November conditions, thin ice on smooth ledge.
Basically, Bob regards November hiking as a pain in the ass. I tell him that I know he’s right, but I still think I might get something worthwhile out of the experience. He tells me, “Go ahead! Have fun!”