The winter trails in the White Mountains are in prime condition, so whether you’re skiing, ice climbing, mountaineering, or snowshoeing, grab your gear and enjoy the great outdoors this weekend! As the photos from my recent hike up Old Speck in Grafton Notch on Wednesday, February 13th show, the snow on unbroken trails is DEEP! If you’re breaking trail, expect one to two feet of light, sugary snow on top of a solid foot of snow and glare ice. I experienced drifts up to three feet in protected areas, with predominantly rime ice conditions on windblown terrain. Snowshoes are essential tools for traveling on any trail in the White Mountains that is unbroken, and the deep snow even warrants the use of snowshoe tails if you have them. For broken trails, snowshoes or skis are still recommended, although light traction (Microspikes or a similar winter traction device) is sufficient on the well-packed Tuckerman Ravine Trail up to the Lion Head Winter Route or to Hermit Lake Shelters at the base of Tuckerman Ravine.
|Old Speck Trail 2.13.13|
|Ice stalactites on the Old Speck Trail 2.13.13|
|Mahoosuc Trail Junction with the Old Speck Trail 2.13.13|
The higher summits forecast for this Saturday from the Mt. Washington Observatory (http://www.mountwashington.org) calls for White Mountain peaks being in and out of the clouds under mostly cloudy skies with a slight chance of afternoon snow showers. Temperatures will be in the upper single digits, but wind chill will be 15-25 degrees below 0 Fahrenheit, with winds decreasing from 25-40 mph to 15-30 mph with higher morning gusts. Sunday’s forecast for Mt. Washington from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) (www.noaa.gov) predicts snow before 12 pm with cloudy skies and temperatures reaching a high of 14 degrees Fahrenheit. Winds will be strong from the northwest, increasing from 55-65 mph to 80-90 mph with gusts over 100 mph possible. Goggles will be invaluable above treeline given the predicted winds, while covering up all exposed skin to prevent frostbite is imperative if heading into the alpine zone. Crampons and an ice axe are highly recommended on the Lion Head Winter Route if heading up to Mt. Washington, while checking the Mount Washington Avalanche Center (http://www.mountwashingtonavalanchecenter.org) website, or with AMC Front Desk staff, is strongly advised to be aware of the most current avalanche conditions if you are heading into Tuckerman or Huntington Ravines.
Conditions below treeline will be much more temperate this weekend, with the Mt. Washington Observatory calling for cloudy skies and a chance of snow on both Saturday and Sunday, with temperatures predicted to rise above freezing on Saturday and drop to the lower 20s Fahrenheit on Sunday. Outdoor opportunities abound in the valleys, including Nordic skiing and tubing at Great Glen Trails (www.greatglentrails.com), and Nordic skiing at Jackson Ski Touring Foundation (www.jacksonxc.org) and Bretton Woods (http://brettonwoods.com). Ice climbers will find great conditions throughout the Whites, while alpine skiing at Wildcat (www.skiwildcat.com) or Attitash (www.attitash.com) should be fabulous with good snow coverage and lots of newly-opened terrain.
Stop by AMC’s Pinkham Notch Visitor for more trail information, trail maps, or any last-minute gear you may have forgotten, or give us a call at (603) 466-8116 from 6:30 am to 9:00 pm for the latest conditions updates. Have a great weekend, be prepared, and be safe! I’ll see you in the mountains…
Cormac N. Griffin
Backcountry Information Specialist
Pinkham Notch Visitor Center
Appalachian Mountain Club