Winter hiking

Posted on January 30, 2007 by Chris Lumens in .

Well, look who forgot to update the blog for a whole month? Yes that’s right, it’s me. Since it’s been so long, I don’t think I am going to try to cover all the Christmas and New Year’s activities. Maybe I will do a quick review of those later in the week if I keep up the writing again. Since this is the first entry in a long while, I will just cover the latest big thing I did. I’ll cover the smaller events tomorrow I think.

Pictures from this hike

Last Saturday, Lon and I decided to finally take all our gear for a test with some winter hiking. We chose Cannon as the destination because it’s relatively short at 5.6 miles round trip, it’s not too long of a drive away, and it’s a ski mountain so there’s a restaurant at the summit. Despite all that, it’s still hiking in the winter and it’s a 4000’er. It’s nothing to laugh at.

Saturday I got up at 6am, put on all my cold weather gear, and drove over to Lon’s place. It was 3 F when I got out of bed and not really any warmer by the time I got to his house. We were on the road by around 7:30am due to having to turn around and such. A couple hours later we were in the Lafayette Place campground parking lot with little wind, single digit temperatures, and several other cars. Lon got his new plastic boots on while I finished getting my gear together. With those quick preparations, we were off.

I was really cold just starting off, but within 10 or 15 minutes I was unzipping my heavy North Face coat, taking my mittens off, and taking the hat off and on every several minutes. It took a while to really get into the rhythm of the hike. The trail was fairly well covered in snow and while it was pretty much broken out, we still had to find a pace of quick short steps to prevent sliding. We just kept going up very slowly to prevent getting too hot and because it was such hard work. The views were pretty good over to Lafayette and down to Lonesome Lake especially once we got above the ladder on the Hi-Cannon Trail. Several times, I remarked how I was glad we weren’t up on Franconia ridge since it looked like that’s where the serious weather was. Over on Cannon, we were just dealing with a light snowfall, very cold temperatures (though I couldn’t really tell under all that stuff), and little wind.

After about three quick hours (a very slow pace - I can do about 1.5-2 mph in the summer) we got to the radio tower on the summit. We quickly ran up to the top into the real wind and snapped a few quick pictures, then headed down. I don’t think we were at all ready to get above the trees. Back down at the base, we ran into some hikers who had been right behind us the whole time and discussed the nearby buildings with them. Lon said, “If you don’t see us in five minutes, it’s a restaurant and it’s open.”

Well, it was a restaurant and it was open. The ski area was in full swing with a constant stream of people riding the chair lift up to the top, so we just walked right on over to the restaurant. Everyone seemed pretty amazed that we’d braved it up to the summit as we found a table and got rid of all the excess winter clothes. On the other hand, I was a little envious about how quickly they’d be able to get back down to the bottom. I bought a seriously overpriced - but good - cheeseburger and cup of hot chocolate, and we just sat around for an hour or so. While I ate, I let all my clothes air out and spent a little time running them under the hand dryer in the bathroom.

Finally it was time to go. We put all the stuff back on and stepped back out into the single digits outside. I set a much faster pace on the way back down since it wasn’t nearly as hard as climbing up. It was also nice to move faster because doing so much less work meant I was getting cooler than I had been on the way up. What would have really made the trip down nice would have been a cafeteria tray or frisbee or something else to sit on and just slide down the trail. But I didn’t have that, so I had to slide on my boots or pants. As is often the case, the way down wasn’t all that memorable so I won’t really describe that too much. By 4:30 we were back at the truck for the coldest part of the day - changing into dry clothes and getting into a vehicle that hasn’t moved recently. Anyway we did that and then went to the Common Man in Ashland for our traditional post-hike meal and beer. I was exhausted so I fell asleep on the way back. Good thing I wasn’t driving.

So what did I learn from all this? Pack extra food, because you never know when you’ll get stuck. Do something to make sure the contents of your Camel Bak don’t freeze. Try not to get too hot so your hair won’t freeze when you take your hat off. Smaller steps are better. Bring extra socks just in case. Hiking in the winter is slow and much more of a workout than summer so take shorter trips because they’ll take all day.

I think I might even do this again, though I’m not going to do any of the big hikes we do during the summer. Five or six miles is probably going to be the limit unless it’s not too tall and we get to the trailhead even earlier.