Franconia Ridge

Franconia Ridge

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Snowshoeing the Imp Trail

I bought a new pair of winter hiking boots and it had been three weeks since my last hike so I was anxious to get out on the trail. Pinkham Notch seemed to get the motherlode of snow from last week's storm. The plan was to drop off my son and his friends at Wildcat and I would go hiking on the Imp Trail. Was not sure if I would do the entire loop not knowing what the trail conditions might be. Weather forecast called for cloudy skies, temps in the low 30's and no precipitation.

Imp Trail - North Trailhead

There's a brook under all that snow

After dropping off the boys at Wildcat I drove back north to the Imp Trail first stopping at the southern trailhead. I found this to be well packed as it is the preferred trail to the Carters. Driving on to the northern trailhead I found the trail condition to be a much different story. This trail had been postholed by a couple of hikers within the past couple of days. It looked to be a tough go. I decided to hike up to the Imp cliff and back, a total of 4.4 miles.

Carefully crossing a brook

The snowshoes went on right away and never came off for the entire hike. I was also breaking in a new pair of hiking boots, Merrell Norsehund Omega Mid WP Winter Boots. A couple of thin layers went under my fleece. While this helped with the sweat factor it would prove to be very wet from the snowy branches that I would have to hike through. I climbed over the snowbank and hit the trail.

Bareboot postholes all the way up...and back!

The snow had a hard crust on top and I was able to walk alongside the postholes without breaking through. It was only as I climbed higher and the trail narrowed that I would have to walk onto and into the frozen postholes as the snow broke away. It was turning into a very challenging and arduous hike. There was a good two feet of snow on the ground under the crusty surface.

Moving through icy and snowy branches

I was beginning to feel very out of shape from three weeks of no hiking. It was very slow progress as I stopped to rest frequently. As I plodded along I met my first and only hiker of the day. She was making her way down, without snowshoes, and stepped off the trail to let me by sinking in thigh deep. We spoke for a few moments, seems her plans were similar to my orginal plan, an Imp loop hike. When she reached the top of the Imp cliff the broken trail ended and she decided to turn around and go back down.

Snowy steps

Tree bent over from a heavy load of snow

There was still some tough trail conditions ahead of me and I pushed onward and upward. The other difficult aspect of this hike was moving through limbs, branches and trees bent over from snow and ice. At this point I was watching the time. I had to get back down in time to pick up the boys at Wildcat. My turn around time was 1:00 and it was quickly approaching that hour. A little bit further and I decided to begin my ascent having not made the top of the Imp cliff at the allotted time.

Semi-easy under

I found a spot where I could set my pack down on a fallen branch and keep it out of the snow. The upper part of my clothes were wet with sweat and snow so I changed into a dry layer and a waterproof shell. Both sets of my light-weight gloves were soaked so I put on some heavy water-proof gloves. I drank some hot tea, had something to eat and was ready to make my descent.

Crossing a snow bridge

The hike down was much easier even though I found myself breaking through the crust more often. I made it back down to the trailhead with some extra time to spare before picking up the boys so I drove over to Dolly Copp campground and walked in to take some photos of the Imp Face. It was this last short hike that convinced me the new winter boots would have to be returned. I was walking on a flat surface of broken snow and was slipping and sliding more than I should have. Up on the Imp Trail my feet were getting cold with temperatures in the 30 - 34 degree range. I am concerned that these boots would be very inadequate in colder and wetter conditions.

Snow spider

Toothy icicles

The Imp Face as seen from Dolly Copp

There were several factors that contributed to my unsuccessful attempt at hiking to the Imp cliff today - late start, time constraint, trail conditions, new boots, snowshoeing and just plain being out-of-shape after three weeks of no hiking. I've hiked the Imp trail many times and today's lesson once again instilled in me that one should never approach a short, modest hike with an attitude of easy success given the varying adverse conditions that may be encountered. Some of my shortest hikes have been very challenging. Even though I didn't reach my hiking goal it was still great to get out on the trail into that winter wonderland. I enjoyed the challenges that I encountered today and more importantly I learned from them.

Navigating through icy branches on the Imp Trail

Having Fun in the Great Outdoors!


  1. Lovely photos and blog. Imp is one of my faves.

    1. Thanks! Have hiked up to the Imp several times but given the snow/trail conditions this time it was the most challenging...and I turned around before reaching the top.

  2. As I sit here in my warm cozy sun room looking at your blog and saying to myself. "It sure looks pretty", but really thinking, "Oh, all that snow going down my neck". What a challenge! Don't get me wrong, I admire your determination to hike in the winter time. I do hike in the summer time and obviously put on weight this time of the year. My fix for this is hiking and biking in Key West, Fl after the holidays. Great photos and keep trail breaking.

    1. I did in fact have my share of snow down the back of my neck, it was a tough hike but I enjoy winter hiking!
      You've got the right spot for warm weather winter hiking and biking. Made Key West port calls during the winter while in the Navy on a salvage ship, it's one of my favorite tropical places to go! Have a great time down there!

  3. I just read your comments. I don't check my gmail account as often as my acct. Christy said that Rick came up from Florida for Christmas... A family get together at the holidays is a good "Indoor Diversion" and maybe a family hike will also be an "Outdoor Diversion"