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27 February 2013

A Winter Trek to Mt. Monroe in the Presidential Mountain Range

This was a conventional winter hike to a conventional place.  Usually, I don't include this type of adventure in my blog since it seems pointless to do so.   Rarely do I find anything to say about these types of hikes that hasn't already been said by others.  And seldom do I capture a photo from these commonly visited places that is significantly different from what has been posted countless times on various websites, forums, and blogs.

But having said all that, here I go reporting on a typical winter hike to Mt. Monroe (5,372 ft elevation)!!   Although I'm uncertain, I think my rationale for including this report in my blog is because of the minimal effort required to write a report for which there is so little to be said!

My motivation for doing this rather unremarkable trek was quite simplistic.  I had ventured out the day prior to this hike, and due to above freezing temperatures, the snow conditions were lousy for XC-skiing and snowshoeing at the lower elevations.  Since the temperature was predicted to be even warmer on the day of this hike, I decided to do a trek to higher elevations where conditions would make it less likely that snow would cling to footwear.  As to why I chose Mt. Monroe as my destination, the trailhead is less than a half-hour drive from home.  Plus, it had been over 3 years since I'd done a winter ascent of this mountain.

From the outset of this adventure, I had no great expectations of experiencing any stunning views.  Some forecasters had predicted that the higher summits would be in and out of the clouds; whereas others had forecasted that a cloud cover would linger for the entire day.  However, there seemed to be general agreement among all the weather gurus that the wind would be minimal, and there would be no precipitation.  The lack of wind and precipitation was all I needed to hear.  It was of no concern that there might not be any views since I've seen the views in-person, and seen numerous photos posted by others.

I used the Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail to launch my trek to Mt. Monroe. The photo presented below shows the Presidential Range as viewed from the trailhead parking lot at Marshfield Station.
Presidential mountain range as viewed from the trailhead parking lot at Marshfield Station
As is often commonplace at this time of year, the trail's footway was a well-consolidated "sidewalk" created by the many hikers and backcountry skiers who use this corridor.  The snow depth was respectable.  However in prior winters, I've seen a much deeper snowpack where oftentimes the trail-blazes (such as seen in the next photo) are about even with the top of the snowpack, or are completely covered.
Typical scene along the Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail
The next snapshot shows what would be my last truly clear view of the day.  The photo was taken high up on the ravine at about 2.0 miles from the trailhead where the trail crosses a brook that eventually becomes the Ammonoosuc River.
Last clear view of the day (looking westward from high up on Ammonoosuc Ravine)
Shortly after leaving the viewpoint shown above, I was in a thick cloud cover for the remainder of the journey.  Perhaps this can best be illustrated by the next photo which shows the "view" as I was approaching the summit of Mt. Monroe.
The "view" when approaching the summit of Mt. Monroe
And shown below, is one more photo that demonstrates the dense cloud cover.  Seen here is the Lakes of the Clouds Hut. It presented a rather ghostly image on this particular day.
Lakes of the Clouds Hut surrounded by dense cloud cover
It might be mildly interesting to contrast the view shown above to a similar photo of the hut which was taken a few years ago when the day was clearer, and the snow was deeper. (The people in the photo are backcountry skiers who stopped by the hut on their way down the mountain.
Lakes of the Clouds Hut as seen on a winter trek taken several years ago
And finally, the following snapshot is solely for the benefit of anyone who might be unfamiliar with locations mentioned in this report.  This photo (taken in late Spring) shows the Lakes of the Clouds Hut resting at the base of Mt. Monroe.  If you look closely, you can see the trail winding its way to the top of this mountain.
Photo showing spatial relation between Mt. Monroe and Lakes of the Clouds Hut
To sum it up, this was a rather ordinary winter hike to Mt. Monroe.  Nonetheless, it was still a fun adventure.  From my perspective, the cloud cover caused no particular angst.  It just added an interesting element to the overall experience.


Steve Smith said...

Sounds like you had a fine trek up Ammonoosuc, John. Never done that trail in winter. Was it feasible to snowshoe the whole way to Monroe? Love the contrasting photos of the hut!


1HappyHiker said...

Hi Steve,

On the particular day that I did this trek, yes it was feasible to snowshoe the whole way to Monroe.

From the hut to Monroe, snowshoes were really unnecessary, but there was enough of a snow cover such that you weren’t grinding your snowshoes on bare rock. Since I had my snowshoes on at that point, I opted to keep them on. As mentioned in a Trail Conditions report filed on VFTT, I had already changed footwear a few times earlier in the day while doing some experimenting lower down on the trail. And so, I really didn’t relish the hassle of doing yet another change for the final ascent to Monroe! :-)

Thanks Steve for your comments! Very much appreciated, as always!


Ellen Snyder said...

Hi John,

Looks like a good hike to do in winter. What was the distance and how long did it take you? I assume you could drive all the way to the Marshfield Station from 302?

We got a mix of rain and snow down here, so now I'm looking forward to Spring!


1HappyHiker said...

Hi Ellen,

The hike to Mt. Monroe from Marshfield Station is one of my favorites at any season of the year. There is one very steep section between Gem Pool and the point where the trail crosses over a brook high up on the ravine. On the ascent, it usually takes me about a half-hour to negotiate that steep section. All the other portions of the trail are relatively mild-mannered (by White Mountain standards!).

You asked about time and distance. It took me just under 5 hours of actual hiking time. I probably spent another hour overall with a lunch break and assorted dilly-dallying. In terms of distance, it’s about a 6 mile round-trip trek to Mt. Monroe from the winter parking lot at Marshfield Station. And yes, you can drive all the way to Marshfield Station from Rt. 302. The road is routinely plowed.

Thanks for your comments, and please feel free to ask any other questions that might come to mind.


One Day in America said...

Hi John,

I've been away from my computer (and my blog) for awhile and I just noticed this post! As someone who IS unfamiliar with your territory, I enjoyed this "winter trek to Mt. Monroe" report. Your mountain pictures—even the ones in the gloomy clouds—are always stunning.
On the February day of your hike the Lake of the Clouds hut looked like a building in one of the west's ghost towns. Is the hut open for use during the spring, summer and fall? The hut is in an amazing location and looks like a wonderful place to spend a few days!

1HappyHiker said...

Hi Rita,

Hope all is well with you.

Thanks for the kind words about this report!

Regarding your question about the Lakes of the Clouds Hut, it's generally open from the first week of June until about mid September. And yes, it is indeed in a truly amazing location. All of AMC’s huts in the NH White Mountains are in terrific locations, and so it would be difficult to choose a favorite. But if “push came to shove”, probably I’d choose Lakes of the Clouds as my favorite, in terms of location. If you’re interested in reading more about the huts, below is link that you can ‘cut and paste’ into your browser.