My son and I got out for a wonderful few hours this past Monday and really got to experience what is going on with these crazy trails this winter! We went up the south side of Chocorua about half way using the Hammond Trail. The AMC White Mountain Guide says that the approach road is not usually plowed in the winter so we were happy to find it open and usable! We parked our car and used our Microspikes from the very first step. The trail wound around the valley a bit at first, crossing over Stony Brook a few times. The brook was open but there were no issues with the crossings. Eventually we started heading up the slope and the snow began to recede from everywhere except the path where we had the wonderful ribbon of hard snow called “monorail” for almost a mile. On steeper inclines this ribbon turned into glare ice. Boy were we happy to have our Microspikes! Up top near the ledges we were heading to we actually could have even used full trail crampons! The snow came back to the woods with the elevation increase and the ice on the trail got even thicker. The sun on the ledges had obviously been melting snow on a daily basis, causing minor waterfalls over the edges and certainly on to the trail.
Each night this meltage had refroze and created huge bulbs of ice perhaps 10-12 inches thick! We managed with our Microspikes very very carefully, staying to the edges, watching each other, and holding on to trees. The lesson here is no matter where you go right now, be prepared for serious ice!!! Coming down is much more difficult for light traction to help you on so be thinking of that as you climb! Consider turning back at places on the trail such as these and if you choose not to, be sure you are working with your hiking partners and thinking of all possible contingencies! Gabe and I made it up onto the sunny ledges and turned back at the junction with the Weetamoo trail. We had a nice break before we headed down again and then exceedingly slowly and carefully undertook the descent.
Many of us are beginning to give up on snow but not completely on winter. Cross country skiing is pretty minimal…we understand there are still some doable spots within the Jackson Ski Touring Facility and over in the Bear Notch area. Backcountry Skiing lower than Tuckerman Ravine has never really gotten off the ground. There have been folks venturing into the Bowl on Low Avalanche days and skiing the lower slopes. I’m not sure if there’s been safe fun runs from the upper slopes yet. The downhill ski areas are remarkably holding their own despite all sorts of weather obstacles. If you still want to come up and focus on skiing, we promise to work with you and gather as much available information as we can to send you in the best direction for a fun day!
Ice climbing is a different story. Whereas it might be getting a bit questionable down in the valleys, there are still doable pitches up in the higher ravines and the crowd is enjoying itself! The lack of snow is making the approaches a bit more difficult but the climbing clearer. Look to NE Ice or NE climbs for more pertinent information in that field!
Snowshoers are still praying for snow! You could use them on some lower slope trails that are rarely used but frankly, I’m not recommending them. Wherever you go, just bring your Microspikes! Ice ice ice!!!
We are eagerly awaiting your phone calls for trail information up here in the Notch, whether you are still dreaming of winter or are giving up and refocusing on spring! As always you can check AMC conditions first or simply call us at (603)466-2721 any day from 6:30 AM to 9:00 PM. Or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Consider a base camp trip to come up and make your decisions once you get here. To make reservations at our AMC Lodges or our Backcountry Self Service Huts, please call (603) 466-2727 available Monday through Saturday 9am-5pm.
AMC Backcountry Information Specialist