Previously, one of my hiking friends and I had set Feb. 10 as a day to hike with a few different plans depending on the what the weather was going to do. After carefully watching the weather all week, and seeing we were going to get a fabulous day, we went with Plan A: Moosilauke. Neither us of had hiked this one in the winter season, so it was perfect. With the carpool switched, I didn’t have to worry about being back in Concord mid-afternoon, either.
We arrived at the Glencliff trail around 9:00a and were quickly ready to head up the trail. After a quick survey of the trail to confirm prior research, we decided that microspikes were our best option as far as traction devices. This proved to be the traction of choice for the whole day, from start to finish, and was the choice of the other hikers we saw that day. While the traction was working perfectly, I was being a bit slow due to the fact that I had been sick earlier in the week and my body wasn’t quite cooperating with the idea of hiking. Mentally, I was totally in the game and very excited about the hike, getting my body to cooperate was a little harder. Not that the trail was exceptionally easy, because it does ascend at a steady grade and gets steeper as you get closer to the junction with the Carriage Road.
The trail conditions to the junction were good – nice and packed – although there were some incredible ice flows. The ice flows covered two sections of trail, fairly close together. Carefully, we surveyed the situation, noted where previous hikers had made some detours around the worst of the ice and then made our way over and around the ice back to the safety of the packed trail.
Once past the ice and up on the steeper sections, the views started to open up on the left and the sun started to appear over the ridge we were hiking up. Soon enough, we made it to the junction full of warm, brilliant sunshine – an ideal place for a rest break! After chat with another pair of hikers about the conditions they just encountered at the summit, we were ready to head up the Carriage Road to the summit. My body was finally cooperating and I was very ready for the most exciting part of the hike.
The Carriage Road was beautiful, the trees full of ice with a dusting of snow and the snow on the ground had large flakes of ice which glittered in the sunlight even more than just powder snow. The scenery was so spectacular, that you couldn’t help but hike with a smile on your face!
As we gained elevation, we marveled at the different types of ice we encountered. Some of the ice was smooth, like polished marble, and definitely solid, other parts of the ice was the feathery rime ice, deposited quickly right from clouds. Many of the cairns had both types, an interesting study in contrast of textures between the smooth, bubble-like glassy ice and the feathery, crunchy rime ice.
Up we went and eventually donned jackets before crossing the last icy section to the summit. With the orange summit signs in view and over the last little bit of ridge, I hurried my partner up so that he could see the panorama of the Franconias and Presidentials layed out before us. With their winter jackets of snow, we could pick out the Bonds, Guyot, the Twins as well as Kinsmans, Osceolas and Tripyramids, plus many others. With the temperatures were mild and the winds were so low (forecast for less than 20mph, low for Moosilauke!), we were able to linger at the summit, take photos, and marvel at the beauty around us.
After enjoying the summit, we moved back down the trail and were able to experience the scenery from a different perspective and in a different light. Quickly, we were back at the Carriage Trail and Glencliff junction, taking a break, and getting ready for the remainder of the hike out to the cars.
What an amazing day! We were truly blessed to have such a beautiful day in February, especially on a mountain known for being particularly windy. Being able to enjoy it with a good hiking partner was even more fun!