Franconia Ridge

Franconia Ridge

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Monroe and Washington on the Last Day of Winter

There was spectacular weather in the mountains yesterday and I was hoping for a repeat today. The forecast was looking like a great day to hike above treeline. This would be the last hike on the last full day of Winter. The summits for today's hike would be Mount Monroe (5,372') and Mount Washington (6,288). I would be joining fellow hikers Mark and Jill. These two summits would complete Mark's Winter 48 4,000 footers!

The hiking route for today would be up the Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail to Lakes of the Clouds Hut and then the best and safest path up to Mount Monroe. We would then hike back down and over to Mount Washington on the Crawford Path. Leaving the summit of Washington we would take the Gulfside Trail to the Cog railway and then follow alongside the tracks on the way down. We brought our buttsleds and the plan included buttsledding down to the bottom as soon as conditions permitted.

We planned on meeting at the Marshfield Station for a hike time of 8:00AM. When I arrived at the parking lot I saw Mark and pulled in beside him. While waiting for Jill I saw a couple of cars pull in with some familiar faces. It was Amy, Pete, Robin and Kally. I have hiked with Amy and Robin. Their group was hiking to Mounts Jefferson, Adams and Monroe today, a 13 mile traverse. Jill arrived and we all geared up.

We brought all of our traction starting out with snowshoes and carrying microspikes and crampons. There was a lot of snow that had fallen in the last storm. The trail was well broke out and firm. The bridge just before Gem Pool was completely covered and the handrail could barely be seen. Gem Pool was almost completely covered with just a small opening under the snow-covered waterfall.

It's just after Gem Pool that the Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail starts a steep climb. The televators on the snowshoes came in handy up this section of trail. As we got closer to the Lakes of the Clouds Hut any loose snow had been swept away leaving behind crust and ice. We arrived at the hut to find a huge snowdrift had completely buried the backside of the hut up to the roof. We dropped our packs at the hut for the hike up to the summit of Mount Monroe and swapped our snowshoes for crampons.

There was more of the same crusty snow and ice on the way up to the summit. At some point we lost the actual trail and took the easiest and safest way up. Many hikers were coming and going. We timed it just right and had the summit to ourselves for a few moments. A few photos at the summit and we began our descent back to the hut. I didn't take the same route down and soon found myself on a steep open snow field and was very glad that I had changed into crampons. I carefully made my way across and back down the actual trail to the hut.

We took a short break to eat and were soon on our way to Mount Washington on the Crawford Path. There was another snow field that needed to be crossed but not nearly as steep as the one on Monroe. At some point along the way we had a varying pace and we were all hiking solo with Mark up ahead and Jill far behind. There were many hikers along this trail so we were certainly not alone. Jill fell in with two other hikers and the three of them caught up to me, we all continued on to the summit.

Mark was waiting on the summit. We took a well deserved break for lunch and photos. There was a cool wind blowing but certainly not intolerable. In the sunshine and out of the wind it was quite warm and comfortable. There were many hikers enjoying the summit weather today. We were anxious to get going and try out the buttsleds so we started our descent. I still had my crampons on but microspikes would have been sufficient.

We took the Gulfside Trail down to the Cog Railway and turned left when we got to the tracks. We crossed the tracks a couple of times in order to get to the best side for safe hiking. It was past Jacob's Ladder that we were able to get a few initial buttsled runs in. As we dropped down further the runs got better. I had my webcam strapped to my head and was able to get some video shots. The sun was warm and as we were sledding down our feet would drag and kick up the snow completely covering us. My mouth was full of snow and sunglasses were covered so it required an occasional stop to clean off and see where I was going. When I got to the bridge at the bottom I had enough momentum to keep going across the bare wood and stopped on the other side. That was a lot of fun!

After two 4,000 foot summits, great trail conditions, an awesome buttsled finish and spectacular weather we were back at Marshfield Station. That completed our loop hike today. Congratulations to Mark for finishing the Winter 48 4,000 footers on this last day of winter!

Enjoy the photos!

A view of Washington and Monroe on the drive to the trailhead


The summit of Mount Washington from Marshfield Station

A group of familiar hikers at Marshfield Station ready to hike three summits 

Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail starts here

Herbert Judson Young plaque

Ammonoosuc Ravine

Bridge is covered in snow with handrail barely showing

The same snow-covered bridge above without snow

A snow-covered Gem Pool

Gem Pool without the snow

A short break after the steep section

More up just before the hut

Lakes of the Clouds Hut and Mount Monroe

Mount Washington

Ice on the final approach to the hut

Looking back on the way to Mount Monroe

Mark on a steep section of Monroe

Jill heading up

The summit of Mount Monroe just ahead

Mark on the summit of Mount Monroe

Jill on the summit and Mark on the way down

South view from Monroe

North view from Monroe

On the way back down to the hut

Snow up to the roof

Snowdrift on the hut

Frozen lake

Mount Washington cone up ahead

Crossing a snow field

Looking up the snow field

Clouds roll in but quickly clear

Mount Lafayette in the distance

A look back at Mount Monroe and Lakes of the Clouds Hut

Bretton Woods ski area

Towers on the summit

Southern Presidentials

On the summit

Starting our descent

A look back at the summit

Northern Presidentials

Mount Madison

Hiking down beside the Cog railway

Mount Monroe through the track trestle

Jacob's Ladder

Waumbek water tank

Let the buttsledding begin

Back at the parking lot soaking wet

Mount Washington from Marshfield Station

Having Fun in the Great Outdoors!

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