Objective: Mt Mansfield (4,393’) – VT Rank 1
Date Climbed: June 29, 2007
Route: Laura Cowles (up), Sunset Ridge (down)
Elevation Gain: 2700’
Total Distance: 6.2 miles
Participants: Jim & Karen Ohl, Dan Farnham, Diane Irwin, Eric, Becca, Peka
Weekends have meant one of two things for us this summer – a hike or a wedding. This weekend, we were back on the east coast, in the beautiful Vermont countryside for cousin Steph’s wedding. We kicked off the trip with a heinous 28-hr marathon en route to the Green Mountain State – summer thunderstorms with a layover in Chicago’s O’hare airport – ‘nuff said. Good news, the worst was over by the time we touched down in South Burlington. Better news, the wedding was on Saturday and today was only Thursday – how about a hike on Friday? Inspired by SummitPost’s own “shknbke” we made the Vermont state highpoint, Mt. Mansfield, our destination.
It was nice not having to wake up before sunset for once and we stopped for breakfast at Friendly’s (I’ll take bacon and eggs over a granola bar for a pre-hike breakfast anyday) before heading off to Dan and Diane’s house. Dan’s old college roommate Eric, his girlfriend Becca, and her dog Peka (sp?) would be joining us today and after a quick tour of the house we were off. Dan suggested that we hike from Underhill State Park via the Laura Cowles trail and we gladly followed his lead. The park was minutes from their house in Essex and I enjoyed the ride through the quiet towns along the way. We were on the trail just after 11am, following a cut-through that bypasses the forest road that extends beyond the parking lot. After a mile of easy hiking we came to the register and signed in before crossing a bridge that marks the start of the Sunset Ridge trail.
Karen at the Sunset Ridge trailhead The well-marked junction leading us to the Laura Cowles trail
0.1 miles up the trail we came to the well-marked junction of the Sunset Ridge and Laura Cowles trails. Laura Cowles was shorter but steeper, and we made tentative plans to return via the Sunset Ridge trail. The weather was pretty much perfect and the lush forest offered nice shade as we progressed up the trail. But by halfway up I was sweating like a mule – the dry climate of Colorado has spoiled me, welcome back east Jim!
The forest was lush and the shade was welcome Do east coasters believe in switchbacks?
Steep hiking eventually gave way to a fun scramble as we broke treeline and headed up to Mansfield’s summit ridge. Peka, the Burmese Mountain Dog, did not disappoint, as she impressed each of us with her climbing ability.
The scrambling starts here! Peka stays true to her breed, what a champ!
After gaining the ridge we stopped to take in the beautiful views of Lake Champlain and the Adirondacks to our west and the White Mountains to our east. The last hundred feet or so along the ridge to the summit were easy and we there were about 10 people waiting for us when we got there just after 1pm. After a quick snack and obligatory summit pictures later, we needed to head down. We decided to stick with the original plan and descend via Sunset Ridge hoping Peka would be okay on some of the larger slabs along the way.
Cheers from the top of Vermont! Lake Champlain and the Adirondacks were visible to the west Becca negotiates a large step coming down Sunset Ridge
Sunset Ridge was scenic as it stayed above treeline for almost a mile below the summit – I could see why this would be a great route for a full-moon hike. Peka was a champ on the way down, only needing help in one spot. It took us just over an hour to cover the 3.2 miles back down to the car, and we were out by 2:30pm. All-in-all a very enjoyable hike and a great way to spend a Friday afternoon in Vermont!