Trip PlanningThis climb is supposed to be shakedown climb for when I plan to attempt Mount Washington April 8th. I picked the Long Trail due to the fact that it is very popular and the fact the mountain is likely to be very well marked (not the case towards the top). I brought all my winter gear on the trip including an ice axe, crampons, gaiters, and trekking poles and prepared for temps to be very cold and windy (it turned out to be in the 40's and sunshine WITH NO WIND!!!). I made sure the pack weighted at least 25 pounds before I went on the trip so I could build strength for Mount Baker in August. Even with all my planning though I ran into a few surprises.
The Beginning TrekEven the best planning has it's surprises. This trip was no exception. I got to the beginning of the trail around 11:30 (road closed had to hike a quarter of a mile to the trail). I read books stating that the Long Trail is very challnging throughout, but there was little in the early going. The Long Trail turned out to be no different than any of the other trails I had been on. Actually this trail was YDS Class One all the way to the Taft Lodge. The only thing I had to worry about was all the backcountry ski tracks in the woods. Often times these tracks made it hard to follow the trail. Even with these tracks this trail was nothing more that a class one hike.
Which way up?I took a small break at the Taft Lodge a little past 1:00. With only .6 miles left how hard could it be. I discovered it would be A LOT HARDER THAN I EXCEPTED! The Long Trail past the Taft Lodge was not marked well. Apparently despite a rather weak winter this section of the trail contained quite a heavy snowcover. Added to this first difficulty was the fact that there very few tracks in the snow. I climbed this trail up to the junction to the side trail to summit of the Adam's Apple. I took one look at the Chin and saw that the rest of the trip up was going to be very streneous. By this vantage point it looked like YDS Class 3 and 4 with lots of snow and ice. I decided to get to the summit of the Adam's Apple instead and take some time to evaluate rather it was worth the risk. After ten minutes I decided to head back to maybe give the Chin a shot. I had an ice axe and crampons but didn't have a rope. Luckily when I make it back to the trailhead I ran into a nice skier who told me about an easier way to the top, the Profanity Trail.
After talking to him it was clear that this section would be much safer to climb. He even guided me to trail through the snow. Though the Profanity might have been safer it still was very steep climb up. Yah, I cursed up thing like many others. And like others I had to make many quick stops on the way up. Once I broke the ridge though the Chin was mine. It was easy to reach the top from that side.
The views were unimaginable. The alpenglow from Washington and Lafayette could be clearly seen from the summit. My only regret was that I didn't get a good picture of it. They looked like distant Cascade volcanoes more than eastern United States mountains. And the shot over Lake Champlain and the Adirondacks was unbeatable. This mountain clearly left an impression on me that I will never forget.
Heading DownHeading down Profanity was interesting to say the least luckily the snow was decent enough to sink the crampons in for leverage. It was slow going decending the steep areas but the snow was good. The trail looked to be a good ski trail and was in decent condition or just that. As soon as I reached the Taft Lodge I realized that I was going to be competing with sunset. Even though the trail down from here was relatively easy my legs were starting cramp up and the snow was getting soft from the heat. Heading down became more of an adventure then I was hoping.
Once I got past the evergreens the snow began to give way and started to posthole. It got so bad that in one my postholing adventures both of my feet gave and I ended up having one crampons go into my leg. Still though I trekked on trying beat sunset. As the sun lowered and lowered I became more worried. The gash and cramps were real acting up. Then I saw the ice covered road ahead and was relieved. Despite horrible legs and and a painful gash into my leg, I made it down at 5:15 pm roughly forty minutes before sunset.
Though my legs were cramping bad and I had a new gash in my inner leg I will carry great memories of the mountain. I won't ever forget the views from this mountain and the beautiful weather that I blessed with.