Trip Report: Moosilauke via Beaver Brook

I haven’t posted in a while mainly because I haven’t been hiking, but also because for a while I was avoiding writing about the Long Trail attempt I made back in the fall.  I’ll get to that soon, but to break the ice (hehehehe…) I wanted to write about my latest winter hiking excursion.

View from Beaver Brook Shelter

I’m not a winter hiker, but my friend Mike is more of one and I love the mountains and hiking in general so I’ve started to dabble a bit with him.  Last year we had a grueling crampon ice climb up the Flume Gorge as my first taste of winter hiking.  This year we decided to attempt Moosilauke via the Beaver Brook Trail.

During planning and this morning, I was expecting to deal with high winds (70 mph) and low temperatures (-15F), but the day had other surprises in store for us.

Trip stats

Distance: 4 miles
Elevation Gain: 2400 ft
Total time: 5.5 hours
Weight: 10-15 pounds
Peaks: Moosilauke (failed)

We started off at the Beaver Brook parking lot which was pretty unplowed at 9am when we got there.  It was also around 4F and with a biting wind that made it feel much lower.  We suited up and started up the trail, right after a snowshoer.  He was clearly experienced and broke a lot of the trail for us, which made our passage much better particularly since we didn’t have to find the trail.  You can see his trail report here (I’m actually the only one who was barebooting but I probably made enough postholes for two people).

I think we had expected 6-12 inches of powder and a generally packed trail.  Or at least I had.  The trail generally had 1-3 feet of powder depending on where you stepped and what the steepness of the terrain was.  I was wearing plastic mountaineering boots and had crampons in my pack, which was the gear that had been very useful the year before.  While I had attempted to buy snowshoes for this trip, most stores around Boston were completely out that week so I had been unable to acquire a pair.  And honestly, I was not expecting them to be completely necessary based on my one previous data point.  They were.

Mike at the point we turned back

We made it a couple hundred yards onto the trail before Mike decided to strap on his snowshoes.  While I was waiting and worrying about the depth of the snow, suddenly I didn’t feel so hot digestively.  Like really not hot.  I won’t go into details.  Suffice to say that if you have to have sudden digestive issues, a deep snowy area isn’t that bad of a choice.  And if you pack down snow, it actually cleans a butt pretty well while keeping you clean.

After that, I felt much better and we plowed on following the trail of the earlier trailblazer.  Occasionally he did not actually follow the underlying trail and I would fall deep into the snow.  Where the trail had been packed down, I would only sink half a foot or so but if off the trail it was easily up to my knees.  I began to really wish I had found snowshoes.

When the slope grew steeper, after we passed the “you’re going to die” sign on the trail, the footing actually became better for me.  The steeper the slope, generally the easier I thought the trail was.  Particularly compared to Mike who on flat stuff could almost walk normally while I was crawling along.  Sometimes very literally crawling.  But the wind went away because of the sheltered approach, which is an awesome blessing in the winter.

Even with the slighty better footing however, this was my most grueling climbs ever in terms of effort for distance.  By the time we made it up to the trail junction with Asquam Ridge which is half way and a little under 2 miles, more than 3 hours had passed.  We realized at that pace we really couldn’t make the summit in time for our schedule so we decided to just go to the next viewpoint and turn back.  I was secretly hoping the trail would magically improve.  It did.  For Mike.  Most of the snow after the junction was really fresh and I was up to my thigh and/or waist constantly while he was walking mostly on top of it.  I finally got frustrated and agreed with Mike we should turn around.

Beaver Brook shelter

The downhill was relatively fast with the snow being more broken and the sliding we did and the 2 miles it took us 4 hours to go up only took 1.5 to go down, which included a stop at the Beaver Brook shelter which was pretty snowed in but looked cozy.

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