Saturday, January 26, 2008

Winter Hiking

Tomorrow, I am hiking up into the mountains. This will be my first time this winter to head up into the high peaks and feel the cold wind and see the mountains all shrouded in white. I still have ten peaks unclimbed on the list of White Mountain 4000 footers and tomorrow will try and knock Mt. Willey off. I'm not an expert winter hiker by any stretch of the imagination but I do like to get up into the heights a few times each winter to test myself and treat my senses.

The first mountain that I climbed in the winter was Old Speck, here in Maine. Old Speck at 4180 feet is the third highest point in Maine. The day I climbed it, the thermometer never made it into positive territory. I hiked alone while A and two friends were ice climbing below in Grafton Notch--at the time it seemed like a reasonable idea. I managed to summit, going up wasn't the hard part. But coming down, my fingers were too cold and I was too inexperienced to strap on my crampons, so I fell rather painfully and dangerously several times. My water bottle froze solid, my power bar froze solid and my feet and fingers felt like they were frozen solid. When I reached the car, as the heater blasted, I figured out the missteps.

Since that first winter hike two years ago, I have only had good experiences including a memorable ascent of Cannon Mountain last winter with E and about 10 of his fraternity brothers who were in New Hampshire on a ski weekend and a 3-day trip into Carter Notch with A and two of his friends. Hiking with strong young men is a pretty good safety strategy.

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