The Call of the Dark!

Mt Washington from Black Mountain Cabin
Driving back home from Concord yesterday in the snow was quite the adventure!  All the way up I93 and through Franconia Notch there were several inches of snow, much of it coming down on the edge of rain.  North of Franconia and all the way through Randolph however, there was no snow at all and the skies were even partially clear!  It wasn't until I drove over Randolph Hill into Gorham that I found the snow again and we were right back to the several inches, this time however without the edge of rain and with higher winds whipping it around.  The upshot of all this is we received 2 new inches here at the stake in Pinkham Notch yesterday and 3 inches on the summit of Mt Washington!  At least for the week, the colder temperatures seem to be here so bundle up and be PLENTY prepared if heading north to join us this week!  Our ground is definitely frozen.  The rivers have thick edges of ice growing.  Our bog here at Pinkham is iced over and many of the ponds I passed yesterday on the drive are as well.  It's not necessarily thick ice but it is much closer to crossable than it was several weeks ago!  No matter where you are heading for your adventures, still make sure you have the traction but you have a much stronger possibility of making successful river crossings now!

USFS Black Mountain Cabin
My own adventure this week was exploring the Black Mountain Ski Trail out of Jackson (before yesterday's snow).  In keeping with my pattern of Saturday afternoon excursions, I am getting more and more comfortable with after dark hiking.  (If following my lead, please make sure you keep your flashlight and batteries WARM!!!)  I got out on the trail probably around 2:30pm.  The Ski Trail itself is nice and wide, just like Tuckerman's Ravine so it was not one I expected to get lost on.  It climbs from 1260 to 2757 feet.  There were plenty of water and ice flows across the trail and I'm glad I had my traction with me even if I didn't put it on!  I passed Black Mtn Cabin with a great view of Mt Washington and proceeded to the summit just around sunset, then returned via the loop with the East Pasture Trail. 

I had a lot of fun with two different aspects of the hike.  First of all I'm reading Tom Wessels book, Reading the Forested Landscape and although I couldn't remember enough skills from the book to make any conclusions, I had a BLAST staring at the forests and noticing clues as to its history:  blowdowns, basal scars, age discontinuity, and pillows and cradles!    What Tom does with his extensive forestry knowledge is to help you identify markers in the natural environment to be able to decipher not only what has happened within a forest previously but how it happened and even when!!!  Too much fun!  If you have never read this book, I couldn't recommend it turns you into the Sherlock Holmes of the Forest!  His companion guide book Forest Forensics is available at Pinkham Notch Visitor's Center and the Highland Center so you can make use of your AMC membership discount!

I also had fun envisioning whether I as a moderate backcountry skier could actually ski this trail and the answer unfortunately for me is 'no' but if you are a backcounty skier it is definitely worth looking into!  You can find an awesome write up of it in David Goodman's book Best Backcountry Skiing in the Northeast and for either skiing or hiking it is a very very pretty trail!  The upper part above the cabin travels through an evergreen forest and the summit views although limited are unique!  The biggest drawback of the darkness for me was not being able to enjoy the views longer!

I layered up and secured my headlight for the descent and was able to pass up the Black Mtn. Cabin again before I hiked into full darkness.  The wind picked up for just a bit as the sun went down and then that wonderful stillness of winter nights came around, descending around you like a comfortable blanket.  After dark hiking takes some extra precautions and skills, but it is a wonderful way to experience the woods in winter!  You can find this hike listed in our very own AMC White Mountain Guide and on our AMC Map #5 for the Carter Range and Evans Notch.

View North off of the summit at sunset.  Can you gues the peaks in the distance?

We are in full full winter conditions right now even without the snow so please please please be prepared for whatever you set out to do!  Err on the edge of could save your life!  There were two rescues this past week (both successful) but we would prefer to have NO rescues!!!  So get out your gear and place it in your trunk.  I'd carry at least Microspikes everywhere and we've had quite a few calls for full crampons and ice ax above treeline now!  So far there is no call for flotation but I'd recommend having snowshoes in the trunk just in case!  Go on for the latest weather conditions and be sure to check in with for avalanche bulletins as we now have general advisories in effect!  As always you can check AMC Conditions for the latest report from the snow stakes and/or call us here at Pinkham to see what we're seeing out our windows and for the best trail advice we can give you! 

The AMC also offers clinics and group trips for ice climbing and winter mountaineering. All of our programs for the '13/'14 season can be found on our Activities and Events Page. For any general questions, conditions information, or trail advice, please feel free to contact us here at the Pinkham Notch Visitor Center front desk.  We are available by phone at (603) 466-2721 every day from 6:30 AM to 9:00 PM or by email at To make reservations at AMC Lodges and Huts, please call (603)466-2727 available Monday through Saturday 9am-5pm.
We also offer ski and stay packages at our Joe Dodge Lodge and the Highland Center

Happy adventuring!

Backcountry Information Specialist
 AMC Pinkham Notch Visitor Center
(603) 466-8116 

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